I am just finishing up leading a communicators cohort retreat in Dana Point, CA the past few days. I wanted to share some of the things we discussed. One of the most common questions I get asked as a communicator is, “Where do I get my stuff!”
Translation – where do I find great content for communication?
I am not going to tell you what I wish I did. I am going to just tell you exactly what I do to curate content for my talks each week. In many ways I wish I was more methodical and original but this is what I do!
Here are my seven options for content …
1. The Bible
It doesn’t matter if I am talking to a Christian audience or not the Bible is the foundation of every talk. I do not know where every single verse or characters life story is located. So I use the free online resources Bible Gateway and Blue Letter Bible study tools almost daily to locate and study the Bible based content I need.
Podcasts are like the commentaries of our day. I remember back when I was in Bible College I marveled at my professors libraries that contained dozens or hundreds of thick commentaries. So much so that when I graduated and began my first student ministry position one of the few things I requested for birthdays and Christmas were thick volumes of commentaries. These commentaries were of course the written thoughts of wise men on certain passages in the Bible. Today, these thoughts of wise men on certain passages in the Bible are called podcasts. I don’t even really try to search for certain topics. I just listen to podcasts a lot. And as I am listening I keep my Evernote APP open to take notes.
The one caveat to this would be that I treasure my Warren Wiersbe “BE” books. They are a traditional commentary but they are also a constant generator of great content for my talks.
I keep what I call “5 Lists” on Evernote. I have been compiling these lists of 5 things for about three years and I now have well over 200 separate lists. (Many of which have far more than five items listed.) Whenever I need some relevant content for a talk there is usually a list that fits my subject. Here are just a few of my “5 List” topics…
– 5 Things About Being a Parent
– 5 Things About Starting A New Job
– 5 Ways To Make Memories
– 5 Things Great Leaders Do
– 5 Ways To Become A Terrible Leader
– 5 Truths About The Local Church
– 5 Things About Social Media
– 5 New Authors Everyone Should Read
– 5 Constant Battles For Communicators
– 5 Great Life Verses in the Bible
– 5 Things That Build Great Families
I also use Evernote clipper on my web browser. Whenever I see content that fits one of my upcoming message subjects I just clip it into my Evernote application.
4. Magazines and Papers
I read parts of the USA Today every day. There is always something in there I can either add directly to my weekend message or to one of my Evernote “5 Lists.” I also read the following magazines each month…
– Surf (This has nothing to do with messages but it makes my mind chill.)
I treat books differently in that I often try to read books that are at the very edge of my interest and intelligence. I like to do this because whenever I can read anything near the “edge” I am stretched. I have never written about this or even tried to describe this before so let me see if I can explain to you what I do.
A recent example of a book that stretched me and was at the edge of my interest was called “Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years.” I have a definite interest in social media but the world history part stretched me. The good new is I was interested enough in the subject of social media to endure the history part and allow myself to be stretched and learn new things.
An example of a book that stretched me and was at the edge of my intelligence was called “Beyond the Idea: How to Execute Innovation in Any Organization.” This book is a very intellectual look at innovation. I was at the edge of my intelligence quite often. I had to read slow. But my interest in the subject of innovation allowed me to stick with it and as a result my former edge of understanding and intelligence was expanded. I allowed my mind to be stretched because my heart was interested in the subject.
6. Social Asks
From time to time I have had the benefit of having either a full-time paid or several unpaid research assistants. I do not have that at this point in time and frankly in this world we live … I am not sure I need one. Because I feel like I have hundreds! One of the places I gather content is from my “tribe” on social media. For instance …
– If I am having trouble locating a specific quote … I can post or tweet and usually within minutes someone has sent the full quote to me.
– If I need thoughts on a book … I can post or tweet and get all kinds of thoughts and opinions.
– If I want to know what hurdles parents of toddlers are facing these days … I can just ask my social media tribe and they are thrilled to add their input to the content gathering process.
You cannot (should not) build a whole sermon off a crowd-source model but this is a great way to get relevant information and check the heartbeat of those to whom you will be communicating. You can test the dexterity and interest of an introduction before you ever get up to speak the message.
It is an amazing and scary day in which we live. By just typing a few words you can find hundreds of sites on your subject. This is a blessing and a curse. As it is way too easy to copy and paste a talk together these days.
The problem with a “copy and paste” talk is that it’s a surrogate talk.
What if God wants to work in you just as much as He wants to communicate through you? What if God has something fresh to say through you to other people? How will you know that? The only way is to spend more time with God than you do with Google.
I hope these things help.
How do you locate great content for talks?