Once, after I spoke at a women’s event, a woman came up afterward very anxious to speak with me. She wanted me to know that she, too, was a speaker. She said, “If you ever have schedule conflicts when you’re asked to speak somewhere—or if you get sick or need to cancel, I am available! I have my messages ready to go, so just call me! I will speak wherever you need me!”
I don’t think I saved her card.
Another time, after leading a breakout session at Speak Up, a woman named “Cathy” came up and spoke with me after the session. She was so encouraging and kind, and pointed out several ways she had found my content helpful. Then later, in the food line, I heard someone saying to Cathy, “I’m so excited to meet you! I heard you speak a few years ago and your book changed my life.”
I was surprised that Cathy had not found opportunity to mention to me that she was a published author with a wide speaking platform. But the fact that she didn’t caused me to admire her even more.
Here’s what I’ve learned in regard to networking: Pushiness often pushes others away. There is so much wisdom in Proverbs 27:2 which says, “Let another man praise you and not your own mouth.”
Asking For Opportunities
Am I saying we shouldn’t pursue networking with other speakers and writers? No. That’s not at all what I’m saying. In fact, I believe that endorsements and networking are biblical. Consider all of the times in the New Testament that one leader is either recommending someone to other leaders in the Church. Giving and relying on endorsements is one way for leaders to be protective of God’s people.
So how can we network—especially with more established writers and speakers—in a godly, not pushy, way? Here are five guidelines:
- Expect that most endorsements will occur naturally.
If you are gifted by God to communicate truth, you can trust that others will see and recognize your gifts. Pour yourself into the assignments that you have been given, no matter how small. Use your gifts in your local church and community. Trust that God will allow your ministry to overlap with others who can one day recommend you for more.
- Receive input.
It’s really hard to see ourselves accurately. We need others in the Church—especially leaders—to hold up a mirror and help us see what they see. Sometimes this means being encouraged to try a role we feel inadequate for. Other times it means being redirected away from a role that we aren’t gifted for. Choose someone you trust deeply, and ask them to be honest about what they see, and receive their input for what it is—a gift from someone who cares.
- Pursue mentoring.
Oh the gift of a mentor, who can encourage and support you on your journey! One way to pursue mentoring is to volunteer to help someone that you admire. You might say, “I’d love to learn from you. Could I volunteer two hours per week of service as you finish this next project?”
- Don’t dismiss input.
It is so easy to do this. We seek out advice, either by attending a conference, reading a book, or one on one. But then we dismiss the input we receive because we think of ourselves as the exception. Or we feel inadequate. Or we get sidetracked and forget to write things down or set goals. Rather than dismissing the input you’ve received, be humble and teachable. Pray and ask God to help you prioritize, then put the wisdom you’ve received into practice.
- Trust God’s providence.
Here’s the truth. God gave you your gifts. He has assignments prepared in advance for you to do (Eph. 2:10). And God has already been strategically putting your network in place. Maybe it’s the neighbor who just moved in next door, or the new couple in your small group, or your sister’s new boss. God has a million ways to put people in your life who will help you get where he wants you to go. You can trust him!
Should you pursue networking with other speakers and writers? Absolutely. But do so with these guidelines in mind. Remind yourself that it’s not all up to you to push open doors or widen your own platform. Your job is to obediently walk through the doors that God opens, and step onto the platform that He has already placed under your feet.
Question: What is the most helpful advice you’ve received from a speaker, teacher, writer, or leader about a godly way to build your platform?
About Shannon Popkin
Shannon’s book, titled Influence: Building a Platform that Elevates Jesus (Not Me), written with co-author Kate Motaung is designed to help you think about how to gather followers of Jesus and change the world—but not in the way the world says to. From the platform and page, Shannon Popkin invites you to open your Bible, drink deeply of God’s story, and live like it’s true. Shannon is from West Michigan and is happy to share life with Ken, who makes her laugh daily. Her books include Comparison Girl, Control Girl, and Influence, and she hosts the “Live Like It’s True” podcast. Shannon has been featured on Family Life Today, Revive Our Hearts, and Proverbs 31. Connect with Shannon at www.shannonpopkin.com.