There is a question that usually rises to the surface quickly when I’m speaking to up-and-coming authors or speakers. It’s usually phrased, “How did you get here?” or “What do I need to do?” I know the question they are meaning to ask is more along the lines of What does it take to begin and sustain a successful career as a Christian writer or speaker?
One principle is at the core of my answer. If you find yourself asking these same kinds of questions, wondering where to start or what to focus on, here’s a pearl of wisdom.
Relationship building is essential.
Building relationships is one of the most important steps to creating and cultivating the space for your career in speaking, teaching, or writing. Focus attention on your craft development, but also spend the same amount of effort towards fostering quality relationships with others in the speaking and publishing community.
I can honestly look back through the years and see how each cultivated relationship helped weave threads of the books and speaking opportunities together. Many of my current ministry partners and supporters have been long time connections—people who watched how God was moving and celebrated with me.
A connected relationship with a mentor resulted in getting a scholarship to attend the Speak Up Conference. A professional relationship with an editor through ministry connections ended up in an opportunity to pitch multiple book proposals. Heartfelt relationships with the men and women in my community have brought about the support I need for the next stage of ministry in non-profit leadership. Relationships matter.
How do you start and build the relationships you want?
- Begin by being intentional. Attend writers and speakers conferences, network online, and start engaging in conversations with people in your sphere of influence. But here’s the key. Deepen the relationship through authentic engagement—not a pitch.
Pitching has its place, but not all interactions with new connections should involve selling your idea or perfectly positioning your pitch within the conversation.
So, what should you do instead? When you’re making new connections at events or while you’re speaking or teaching, here are a few of my favorite ways to connect on deeper levels and start the process of relationship building.
- Ask questions. Ask your new connection about their family or their ministry focus. Remembering these details can lead to more conversations and deeper connectivity.
- Share your heart. After learning about who you are connecting with, share your heart behind your speaking and teaching. Tell your new connection about who you speak or write for, what challenges your audience is facing, and why you care about them. By doing this, you’re not sharing a specific pitch or product, but giving your new connection a glimpse at your passion.
- Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. The follow up is the most important piece of the process. Don’t let an opportunity towards deeper connectivity get passed by because you forgot to or neglected to send a follow up email, text, or phone call. An old school tip that I always try to keep on top of is sending thank you notes. I usually have a handful of blank note cards in my purse or travel kit.
After beginning my journey into content creation and speaking nearly ten years ago, the relationships I’ve formed have been one of God’s greatest gifts to me. I love having a community of godly men and women who are committed to support me as I serve God. And, I am absolutely blessed by being able to celebrate life’s wins, and even life’s sorrows, with the people who have been on this wild ride with me.
Question: How have you cultivated intentional relationships with other speakers, authors, or leaders? I look forward to reading your comments.