Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Building a Speaking From Bottom Up Part 1

Angie here:

Last Saturday Vince asked, "I’ve read that it is almost impossible to publish Christian nonfiction without a platform. Did you build a platform from your speaking? I think this would make a very interesting blog post."

I agree, Vince.  It's an interesting process that I think would be a good blog post so here goes...

There are two camps on non-fiction. One says you have to have a platform and the other says you have to have a platform and be a certified formal expert in your writing field. Both can be daunting as they take years to put into place through education and experience.

But I've found a third way lest you be discouraged. It's in writing devotions and free lance articles. You can establish your expertise by writing about the same topic and getting published over and over.

For the purpose of this blog post, I did all three. I've been writing free lance since about 2000. Not every day or even every month. But when I had something I felt I had to say. I kept each published article for my clipping file and sometimes used them when I sent in other article submissions. I've been published in Group several times (including in a compilation book in 2006 that I found out about three years later, lol), Guidepost book compilation, newspaper, blogs, and quite a few online ezines. I did this because I had something to say and I knew I wanted to be a writer. I began a focused, systematic attack on my dream.

As I grew in my writing, I began attending conferences. I'd already done a lot of sales positions and held supervisory positions in a few major companies like AAA and America West Airlines. So I'd built confidence in speaking to people and in my own business skills. But what I'd always dreamed of becoming was a speaker/writer, not just a writer. I learned I needed a website and a blog and ways to reach people through those media forms. I built as I went along adding another website as my platform developed and this group blog.

I didn't know how to speak in public and I really feel sorry for a few of my first groups ;-) I didn't know about timing and I didn't know how to connect with my audience. People have to want to listen to you :-)

A dear friend of mine, Julie Cowan of Cowan Creative, suggested that I try joining her Toastmasters group. I did that and learned the skills to win a few speaking contests and how to plan a speech while connecting with the audience. Wow, for being a talker I really didn't realize there were skills needed to hone the natural talent. I became president and then a past-president of that club and competed more to move forward.

I tried speaking to some local groups and received some good feedback. People liked what I had to say because after a few years I'd found my voice. I began to emcee events and add to my resume'.

But I still needed to know what my burning passion was that had to be told. The thing that would make a difference in the world. As I spoke and wrote, a few themes were recurring. I am driven to help others overcome difficulty and use those challenges to help even more people. I was actually calling people to literally live Romans 8:28 and not just use it as a sweet platitude. I love to teach the concepts of God's wisdom in unique ways. I also love to layer significance in everything I do. My platform became Gems of Wisdom, helping people find the gems in their difficulties and use them to help others.

My life is driven by the desire to do what I was made to do by God and find that sense of fulfillment He intended for me. I want to please Him and feel His pleasure. I've learned that by leaning into who I am (someone who loves to speak, write, and inspire others) that I am the most happy and joyful even when rough spots hit. I've embraced me. I want to hear God say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." I want to see His smile sparkle at me. I want to dance for Jesus in joy for having done all I could do.

It's in embracing who I am that my platform emerged. Everyone has a purpose. I finally found mine and then the hard work of polishing the skills to let the purpose shine began.

It's taken me about six-seven years (I wish I knew the exact date I started the journey) to build a platform and hone my message. By the time my book comes out, it'll be nearly eight years. Three years were spent in Toastmaster training programs. During those three years I began the real process of learning to write book length fiction and non-fiction too. I began to win writing awards.

I stepped up my volunteerism. Not to build a platform, but to live more authentically what I believed. As I volunteered, I learned what I was passionate about. The platform began to emerge from the haze because I was finding my calling.

My dream is to continually inspire each person I have the opportunity to reach toward their life calling. I do this by helping them become more accepting and aware of the wisdom they've learned from difficulty. We battle negative beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes (the pirates) and discover the gem that will shine and overflow onto others. I don't want people to live as victims of circumstance. I want to empower them to live the full purpose that God knit into their DNA and all the things we think of as negatives are actually used by God to act as a bridge for others. He is strong in our weakness.

It's important to note that I started with one layer and kept adding more to my education and experience. I took classes as well. I'm now a certified Stephen Minister, a called assistant minister (this means I lead worship and prayer in my home church as a volunteer), a certified life coach, certified in Logos Youth Ministry, certified in the travel business in more ways than seem possible, and I'm certified in many, many business skills that I need to run my own business such as finances, supervision, and organizational programs.

Additionally I was a Full Legal Guardian for my schizophrenic mother. Add that to the pile and you have a very unique group of skills that God gave specifically to me. I competed for and won the Mrs. Montana International title. This gave me even more speaking opportunities and the experience of putting together special programs for differing audiences. But each person has different opportunities present themselves just like our talents and life experiences are different. You don't have to be Mrs. Montana to build your platform. That was my unique experience along the way. You will have them too.

I think it's important for each person to discover their passions by volunteering according to your interests. In giving, you'll receive some of the most precious gifts. You'll be led to your passion through volunteerism by following the God given gift of interests.

It's crucial to continue getting an education through out life, and it's inescapable that to succeed everyone needs to learn standard business etiquette and general speaking skills even if just for office presentations or accepting an award or even a promotion. Unavoidable. So it's merely a mindset. Make it a positive one.

In my opinion, to build a platform a person must live to their talents while learning the skills that those talents require, layer in continual education, volunteer, find local groups to learn speaking skills and to give talks as you hone them, and have a desire to really change the world with your message. It takes time to network and build trust in your abilities both inside yourself and with the public. Be willing to put the time into the dream.

Having a platform means that you have a lot of people that are interested in your topic, work, and areas of expertise. It's the numbers game, yes, but it's also about caring that you pour generously into the lives of others. That you add value and significance to their lives.

Next week I'll post part 2-What's Networking Got To Do With A Platform?

Angela Breidenbach


  1. Angie, I'm so proud of you! I've watched you evolve at different parts of this journey you've been on and I'm thrilled to see you step onto the next level.

    While I don't have as much experience as you do, I did take public speaking in college and I've been speaking locally in my jobs throughout the years. What I have found is that you can get rusty if you don't do it consistently. But then, it's like a bike, once I get up there and get going, it comes back to me an feels more natural.

    I've had dreams of me speaking in churches and praying for people, and speaking God's word over them. There were long lines and I was so weary. I've had quite a few of these dreams and in one of them my daughter was grown.

    You are so right about our journeys being so different.

    Congratulations on realizing your dream!

  2. Hi Angela:

    I think that what you are describing is what Maslow referred to as a ‘self-actualizing’ human being. These were the healthiest and happiest people Maslow could find in his study of healthy humans. (His theory was that psychology was based on studies of abnormal individuals and what was needed to balance this was a study of healthy humans.)

    I think Jesus built a platform with very little compared to today’s resources. I think a study of Jesus’ platform would be very insightful. He was speaking to thousands near the end.

    It might also be interesting if the Gems could be thought of as ways to help others go through their ‘spiritual passages’. I have found that there are many ‘coming of age’ events in an adult life.

    Wonderful post. I’m looking forward to part II. And really looking forward to your book!

    Warning: Toastmaster Moment.
    (There’s too much copy on that slide! Cut it in half. : ) ).


  3. Hey Jenn,

    I think your dreams are a prophetic possibility that can be changed. I think we are trying so hard to work and write and care for family that it gets exhausting and overwhelming. But you are working toward a better future. I believe you will achieve it and the exhaustion is just what you feel right now if you keep doing the full time work and writing. One day you will be called to release the full time work. In the meantime, I pray for your energy and support to come supernaturally from God.

    Thank you for walking through this journey with me!


  4. Hi Vince,

    You caught on right away to the self-actualization. I did study that pyramid in psych class too :-)

    Yes, that's a slide show that really does need to be updated. It was a good pic to show progression. I love Toastmaster tips! Thanks!

    I think you're going to like part 2 because it really fits more what happened to Jesus-word of mouth. With all the pockets of groups and technology, it's really the same basic action. Someone talks to someone that talks to someone. But for those of us that want to build a platform in all the cacophony, we have to be very intentional about it. The media of Jesus day included orators that traveled from town to town. Many became famous and drew huge crowds. The people were trained by society to go hear people speak for both education and entertainment. Huge debates were common and would draw people to hear them.

    Now we have TV, radio, movies, Ipods, cell phones, bill boards, and the like. Noise, noise, noise that we have to break through in order to have our voice heard. But we still do it the same way. Even leading a Women of Faith group last year with all the advertising, the ladies only signed up when they were personally invited and told about the event by someone they trusted.

    I love your comments on this blog, by the way! I look for them :-)

  5. Hi Angie:

    We speak marketing. I always look forward to your posts as well.

    You wrote:

    “Noise, noise, noise that we have to break through in order to have our voice heard.”

    The most direct way to break into a person’s mind is by positioning your product. Be the first to own a niche or a position in the prospect’s mind.

    Usually there is room for only two brand names. Often there is room for only one name. Many know who was the first human to break the four minute mile, but few can name the second person. We know Lindberg was first to fly solo across the Atlantic, nonstop, but who knows who was second? Who even cares? More up to date: Who was the second man to walk on the moon? Again, who cares?

    Jesus had a new message. Up until then most gods were impersonal and cared little for humans. Gods had to be placated and bribed with sacrifices and thus they favored the rich and powerful. Jesus stood on the other side of the ‘noise’ of his time with a clear message: God loves you and all humans are equal in His eyes. Jesus worked miracles for free.

    After the death of Jesus, Christianity had the only God who sacrificed Himself for his people instead of the other way around. This positioning was so powerful it grew to become the official religion of the Roman Empire!

    “Gems of Wisdom” has a lot of positioning potential. I am very interested to see what you do with it.


  6. Thanks, Vince! Right now I'm working on a fall speaking tour for the 2 cookbooks with a short overview intro to Gems of Wisdom. Next summer will be a much bigger speaking tour for women's seminars, retreats, and special events. I am looking forward to inviting one of my favorite praise and worship bands, Zecchariah's Song, to be with me as often as possible.

    There are other things in the works, but it's a little too soon to tell. I love great ideas too :-)