Thursday, April 25, 2013

Keeping Your Tank Full (Achieving Goals - Part 2)

Lovely London
Refresh your memory of the first half of these goal-achieving tips by scrolling down to my last post.

Done? Okay. Here are the rest:

#6. Get up. Get out. Seek inspiration. And don't feel guilty about it. Read what you'd like to write, watch film versions of your favorite books. Get your creative blood pumping. Expand your possibilities.

#7. Get smart. Go to workshops and writing conferences, join online and live writing communities. The goals and achievements of other people will fuel your own. 

#8. Read your own best stuff. Remind yourself of your God-given gift and watch the magic reappear. Remotivation will inspire bold new goals and give you a kick in pants to go after them.

#9. Get a writing buddy. Someone who understands the craziness of the literary life. Meet regularly to share your goals and encourage each other to stick to them. Keep each other accountable.

#10. Celebrate successes, however small. Make a big deal out of achieving short-term and long-term goals. Splurge on a Dove bar when you finally finish today's 800-word goal. Buy yourself a new hat when you complete that manuscript. Take Spouse out to his favorite restaurant when you get an article accepted for publication.

Celebrating goals that you've worked to achieve will keep your tank thirsty for more fuel. And that's what will propel you over the finish line!

So, writerly friend, what fills your goal-setting tank?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Keeping Your Tank Full (Achieving Goals - Part 1)

Looking up in London
Goals, goals, goals. The bread and butter of the writing life. Set them. Refine them. Achieve them. Set more. Repeat ad nauseum.

I think now and then it helps to receive a little creative input about the goal-setting/refining/achieving process. At the very least, it gives us a figurative wedgie to goad us into action. 

So here are ten ideas to get your literary goal-producing juices flowing. 

1. Ask yourself: Why am I doing this? What do I hope to accomplish today? Tomorrow? By next year? Then follow that question up with another: What do I have to do to make this goal possible? Jot down your answers and tape them to your computer desk just over the monitor so you can see them daily.

2. Assess your time management. Are you getting the most effective use of the limited writing time you have? Are you using your prime creative time to do your most important writing, or are you frittering that time away answering e-mails and doing busywork, leaving your primary writing project for when you're mostly-dead?

3. Schedule how much daily time you will allot to online activity, and STOP when the gong bongs. Don't let social media become the boss of you.

4. Scarf chocolate. Seriously. Chocolate triggers endorphins that can make you feel infatuated .. falling in love with your project is a surefire way to get it finished and promoted with the utmost enthusiasm.

5. Consider all the writing you do as skill-building fodder. Even e-mails and less-than-stimulating research. You can't change the fact that these are a necessary part of the writing life, so give them your best creative effort and make them the best writing they can be.

Stay tuned for #6-10 on my next post. See you then! 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hit Me With Your Best Shot (Improving Your Speaking Skills - part 2)

The day Deb learned not to stand behind a podium
In case you didn't notice, this is Part 2 in a series, so before you do anything else, scroll back to Part 1 to refresh your memory on the first five tips to improve your speaking skills.

Now we're ready to boogie on down the road ...

6. Focus on one theme per presentation. You may add subheadings or points, but don't muddy the water of your one central theme. Repeat it at the beginning, middle, and end of your speech.

7. Include humor to keep your audience awake. Mix it up. Boring is BAD. Use personal anecdotes, illustrations and props liberally. Sandwich seriousness between slices of humor so that the listeners will go away with plenty of meat but simultaneously feel entertained. 

8. Have the audience participate whenever possible. Use volunteers to demonstrate a point. Ask questions and respond to the answers. I like to throw in a funny sing-along song at the end of my women's presentations so that everyone leaves energized and smiling.

9. Prepare a list of what you need and give it to your host ahead of time: CD player, DVD player, lapel mic, small props table, large book table, small music stand for your notes (NOT a podium built for a 6'2" man - see example above), someone to run the AV equipment at your cue, etc. Also make sure you've discussed and agreed upon your fee ahead of time; payment after services rendered is customary.  

10. The close of your speech should be all about take-away. What truth did you want your audience to take home from your talk? In what way will this truth help their quality of life? Was self-application or follow-through expressed clearly? Come across as a friendly cheerleader eager for them to succeed, not as an unconcerned lecturer of dry knowledge. It's cliche but true: Nobody cares what you know until they know that you care.

So what do you think, speakerly friends? Is there anything else you would add?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Hit Me With Your Best Shot (Improving Your Speaking Skills - part 1)

Dynamic presenter. Effective communicator. Awesome speaker.

Are these how you'd like to be described after your next speaking gig?

Of course you would. That's the goal for all of us writers-turned-speakers. But sometimes it doesn't feel terribly achievable. After all, we didn't sign up for this. We only wanted to write ... to hang out in our bathrobes and curlers expressing ourselves on a nice safe sheet of paper without having to worry about our appearance.

Or fumble-tongue mistakes.

Or the judgment we perceive sleeting down upon our heads from unsympathetic gawking eyeballs.

We feel, like Sean Connery so eloquently expressed as the reclusive writer in the fine film, Finding Forrester, "Writers write so readers can read." I'll add another caveat to that: "...and so speakers can speak." Put another way, let someone else get up in front of people and leave poor timid writers alone to do their jobs in their dark, secluded writing caves.

But somehow it happened. The publisher considering the manuscript you've slaved over for-ev-er dropped the bomb: "We'll only seriously consider publishing your book if you'll seriously consider hitting the road as a speaker to promote it."

Gulp. And so it begins. Building your platform. One plank at a time.

I'd like to offer some nails to help hold those planks together and establish a firm foundation for your speaking platform. Some of my suggestions are adapted from the SCORRE Conference I attended last year, a fantastic training workshop for speakers put together by Dynamic Communications International president Ken Davis, and Michael Hyatt, platform-building guru, best-selling author, and former Thomas Nelson Publishers chairman. (I highly recommend you Google SCORRE Conferences and attend one if you're planning a reluctant speaking career). 

And some of my suggestions for improving your speaking skills are from my own experience gleaned from speaking to approximately 200 groups over the past four years.

1. Whatever you thought the point of your speech was, rethink it. The real point is to help each person in your audience in some way. Forget yourself; what can you do for them?

2. You need to know more about your subject than most of your audience does. That means preparation: research, knowing it, living it, and sufficient practice in sharing it effectively.

3. Practice in front of your own reflection; observe distracting mannerisms like swaying back and forth (many moms do this subconsciously), jerky head movements, unpleasant expressions, too few or too grand hand gestures, blinking or lip-licking that appears unnatural.

4. Tape yourself. Listen for gaps, awkward connective phrases like "uhs," "umms," and "okays." Beware of monotone delivery (vary your tone without sounding like a World Series radio announcer). Pace yourself (not too fast or too slow). Work on understandable diction.   

5. Clearly define your objective when preparing your presentation. What do you hope to accomplish?

For the sake of avoiding long-windedness, this list will be continued on my next post. Stay tuned ...