Sunday, July 5, 2009

Speaking Your Way to a Bestseller

Sheila Wray Gregoire Shares some "Getting Started" tips with us, from her blog, Christian Woman Speaker. The best way to get you book out there, the short term, is to find venues where people can hear your heart and engage themselves in the topics you present.

That First Speaking Engagement

by sheilagregoire

What do you do when you want to start speaking, but no one seems to be asking you? How can you get that first speaking engagement?

That’s a tricky one, but I think there are certain steps that one has to take that make it easier.

1. Figure out what your story is. The mistake many new speakers make is that they want to seem like an expert, and so they try to throw too much teaching and too many “facts” or Bible verses into their talk. It is so much better just to learn how to tell your story well. People relate to you on a personal level, and so it’s important to share who you are and what God has done for you. More on that here.

2. Once you’ve figured out your story, it’s easier to figure out what the main message God has for you to deliver. My main message, for instance, is different from the message of other speakers I know. Joanne Goodwin talks about seeing God in the midst of depression. Shannon Ethridge talks about seeing God as our husband. I talk about getting rid of the guilt society lays on us and just learning how to be real before Him. They’re all valid; and they all end up at the same place. But we come to that point differently because of the nature of our stories.

And it’s okay to have a different theme than other speakers. In fact, you should! As long as everything leads to the cross, you’re on the right track. But what is your unique angle? If you choose something that doesn’t fit with your story, you’re always going to be struggling with the structure of your talk. But if you choose something that flows smoothly, then you’ll be much more at ease, you’ll make more sense, and people will be able to relate to you and follow you better.

3. Once you have your story and your main message chosen, start to look at small venues that need speakers. Think about who your natural niche is. I write for moms, and so my natural niche is moms and tots groups. Now that I am more established I speak for a whole variety of groups, but when you’re starting out, head to your natural niche. It’s easier to get an engagement, and easier to craft an appropriate talk.

A senior should not aim at moms & tots, even if you have wise words to say. A young woman should not aim at a seniors’ group. A single shouldn’t aim at couples. You get the picture, I’m sure.

4. Contact some people you know in that group and ask if they may be interested in you sharing your story. When does your niche meet? Do they have regular Bible studies? Christmas outreaches? Sunday School classes? Could they meet in libraries or at the gym?

The launch of a new ministry year or a new term is often a great time to do this. Try for your own church, or for a church where many of your friends go so that you already have a natural connection.

Be prepared to do it for free, too. One day you’ll be able to charge, but the important thing at the start is to just get an engagement so you can get practice.

5. Record yourself. Buy a digital voice recorder so that you can record your talk. You never know when you might say something interesting! Even if you don’t like how you sounded for the whole talk, there may be a portion that you can pull out and use as a demo to give to other groups that might be interested in booking you.

One of the first things I did was ask ten of my friends to come to a room and listen to me give a 45 minute talk just so that I could get a recording. We had a lot of fun, they did me a big favour, and it all worked out well.

6. Collect email addresses and contact information of those who are there so you can follow up. If you can remain in touch with people, it is more likely that they will think of you when their group needs another speaker.

The best way to build a speaking career is through word of mouth, and to do that you need to get out there and speak. So prepare your story, tie it in to your natural message, and then find groups that relate to that message. And pray that when you’re prepared, the opportunities will come!

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