I’d like to share three defining moments in my career. These moments have brought clarity to what I do and how I do it.
How to Have a Voice about Your Message
The first defining moment was when a friend of mine, who was a multi-published author and had worked with a particular publisher on other books, came to me with the publisher’s proposed cover for her new book. She was excited to show me! I was delighted to see it. Then she revealed it. I immediately knew I’d seen that cover before with a different title and a different author’s name. Yikes!
I asked if I could make some suggestions and if I could have a few minutes to pull my thoughts together. So, I went on the Internet searching for what was in my memory bank. I found that a well-known Christian comedian’s publisher/record company had used the same artwork a couple of years before on a CD cover. I went back to my friend and shared this with her. Now, we had a sticky situation on our hands.
Writers are thrilled to get that coveted publishing contract. To then go to the publisher and tell them they’d made a mistake is tricky. Since my friend’s book had not been printed or released yet, it was now or never to make the change…before thousands of copies were printed and on bookstore shelves.
So, I gave a copy of the other CD cover graphic to my friend. I also wrote out what I proposed the cover for her new book should look like. Armed with that information, she respectfully went to her publisher. They were thankful, and used this information to create a new cover design that more closely and accurately conveyed the message inside.
How to Focus on Your Core Message
I had been working with professional speakers for a couple of years when the next defining moment happened. I had a seasoned veteran, professional speaker in my car as we drove to a Christian writers conference at Glorieta, New Mexico. We were chatting away about updating her promotional materials when the topic of what the focus or core message was for her presentations came up. She quickly responded, “Oh, I can speak on anything.”
In my few years as a speaker services manager, I had come to realize those speakers who thought they could speak on anything and everything, lacked focus, passion, purpose and power in their messages. Harsh? Maybe. But, true.
Here I was in the midst of another sticky situation. I had been discussing this concept with event planners who booked speakers. They wanted speakers who were dynamic, with focus, and taught life-change from their own experiences. So, I asked myself, “Do I just let this comment pass? Do I share with her what I’d come to understand?”
I decided to share with her and said, “You can’t teach anything or everything because you don’t know everything. You don’t have life lessons about everything. You don’t have great personal illustrations for everything. You can only teach what you know, what you’ve lived, what you have learned from, and what God has taught you in the process from point A to point B.”
We drove along in silence for a few minutes. Finally, she exclaimed, “You’re right! I’d never seen that before.”
After the conference, she returned home and promptly re-worked her presentation titles and descriptions. She cut a few, added a few new ones, and had a clear focus on the purpose of her message.
How to Have Excellence in Delivering Your Message
While the focus of my audience has been mostly speakers, many of those same people are also authors. If you’ve ever been around an author with a new book, the excitement is almost palpable. They are like a new momma with a new baby. It’s fun and exciting! In their excitement, they whip out a copy of their new baby/book at every perceived opportunity.
While at a luncheon in Grapevine, Texas with a group of speakers and writers, such an occurrence happened…again.
I was talking with a friend sitting directly across from me when the lady sitting next to her interrupted our conversation and thrust a copy of a book across the table at me. As I took it and started thumbing through it, she began sharing that she’d self-published this book, had done the cover artwork, and was totally pleased with the outcome. Red flags started raising.
As she waited for me to respond, I realized I was in the midst of another sticky situation.
Let me first clarify…I am a fan of self-published books. I love when people are creative and skilled enough to do their own graphics. Yet, after managing many book launches and books tours for almost a decade, I’ve learned that not all books are created equally. The old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover is often true, but, you can judge it by the writing on the inside. Unfortunately, not always but often, a writer who has self-published does not always do the due diligence required to have a well-written book. They sometimes create their work of art in a vacuum. They allow their favorite English teacher from high school, their mother or their best friend to read the manuscript. These people, who are not professional editors, often miss typos and errors that need correcting. It can be worse when the writer does their own editing. No other eyes have seen this text until after the book is printed and released. YIKES!
In the writing process that leads to publishing a book, one of the most important steps is editing. It’s fine to let that high school English teacher, mother or best friend read through the manuscript. It’s CRITICAL to hire, or barter services, with a professional editor who has expertise in the genre of the book. This also applies to books that are going to be traditionally published.
As I continued thumbing through the book handed to me, I searched for the right words to tell this first-time author. I didn’t want to crush her spirit or her dreams, but I did want to be honest. That’s when the perfect response came to me. As I handed the book back to her, I looked her in the eyes, and said, “Nice LOOKING book!” It was true. She had done a great job on creating the cover and formatting the interior; however, my interest in reading this book dropped drastically at the knowledge that only she had edited it.
I shared this particular story later with an editor friend of mine. She laughed and asked, “Can I use that response too?”
How to Recognize Your Defining Moments
Defining moments don’t usually come with a choir of angels singing in the background, or a bolt of lighting. They often come when we are doing what we are passionate for, and when we are aware of the situations we’re in. Florence Littauer calls this, “being alert to life” to those Aha moments that stay with us, reveal to us, and shape us.
Out of each of these situations, I learned to share with more and more accuracy the core message I have for speakers and writers. I learned to process during the sticky situation, not just go with the flow of how things had always been done in the Christian communication industry, but to see what had changed or wasn’t working and share this information with my audience—speakers and writers.
The result has caused me to make cross-country moves to work with clients who are passionate about the purpose of their message and ministry. These moments have caused me to be able to clearly describe the requirements for the speakers on my speaker bureau’s roster. They have also shaped the content of the teaching programs I have developed for speakers and authors, and the other services I offer. While recently reflecting on these moments, my passion, purpose and direction have been clarified once again to reveal new paths…the next steps in my vision as an 11-year-old drummer.
Can you see the defining moments in your journey? Take a few minutes, grab a piece of paper and a pen (I’m old school, and it does have merit), and go to a quiet place. Turn off the TV, walk away from your computer, sign off from Facebook, or turn off your cell phone. Look back at your sticky situations along your journey, those times when you had to state what you believed in, stand up for a cause, or felt passionate for something at a deeper level. Write them down.
Do you see how sticky situations can become the defining moments of your life, business or ministry? How they can shape and define you to achieve the goals and do the vision God has given you? If you’re not quite where you want to be, you can make the adjustments needed. Reset and move forward. Just don't get stuck in the sticky situation.
Sticky situations...we've all dealt with them. How we deal with them makes all the difference!