Connect Better by Fast-Focusing on Listening

Many, if not most, leaders consider themselves good speakers. The basics are simple: leaders speak, their audience listens, and then they act on what was said.

Leaders also know that rarely happens, and that there’s really much more to it than that. While it may be easy to speak to groups of all sizes and on many diverse topics, one critical question remains: “Are we connecting with our audience?”

To fully connect with an audience, leaders need to understand “empathy.” While you may not equate the word empathy with excellent communication skills, it actually is the secret to connecting with your audience. 

When you are able to put yourself in another person’s shoes, and try to see things from their point of view, their world, and their perspective, you will have a greater chance at both reaching and connecting with them.

THE QUICK SUMMARY

You made a great point — but did anybody hear it?

Probably not, warns high-stakes communication expert Paul Hellman. The average attention span has dropped to 8 seconds.

So whether you’re presenting to a large audience, meeting one-on-one, talking on the phone, or even sending an email, you’ve got to engage others fast, before they tune you out, maybe forever.

Your challenge: to get heard, get remembered and get results.

Through fast, fun, actionable tips, You’ve Got 8 Seconds explains what works and what doesn’t, what’s forgettable and what sticks. With stories, scripts, and examples of good and bad messages, the book reveals three main strategies to get heard in a noisy world:

  • FOCUS: Design a strong message–then say it in seconds.
  • VARIETY: Make routine information come alive. 
  • PRESENCE: Convey confidence and command attention.


A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

People discover unseen opportunities when they have a personal and empathic connection with the world around them.

Dev Patnaik

How easy is it for you as a leader to imagine yourself in the place of those you lead? Do you intuitively understand the lives and stories of your audience? That may be made easier by the fact that your audience most likely “looks” like you in many areas – socially, economically, and spiritually to name a few. But what if your audience is different than you?

How can you connect with people who aren’t like you?

Yes, it is easier to connect with other people who are like us, but that doesn’t mean leaders can’t understand – and communicate – with people who are different from us.

Most messages, spoken or written, are designed from the speaker’s point of view. That’s upside down. Imagine you’re the audience. What would capture your attention?

The point is, your audience is probably not thinking about you. But to capture attention, you need to think about them. Be the audience.

Your audience, whether you are talking to 100 people at work or one person at home, has three questions, always the same.

Why should I listen (or read this)?

What exactly are you saying?

What should I do with this information?

To fast-focus your message, answer these three questions.

First Audience Question: Why Should I Listen

Fast-focus with a purpose statement.

A purpose statement is like a present. You immediately hook people with something they value. It’s a great way to state what you’re going to talk about and, more importantly, why. Why answers the audience’s question: “Why should we listen?”

Second Audience Question: What Exactly Are You Saying?

Fast-focus with your main message.

Third Audience Question: What Should I Do with This Information?

Fast-focus with a call to action.

A call to action spells out the next step. It’s usually about doing something. But if that doesn’t fit, the next stop could be to think something or feel something.

Paul Hellman, You’ve Got :08 Seconds

A NEXT STEP

Draw the following chart on a chart tablet.

With the chart and the following suggestions from author Paul Hellman, prepare your next presentation/message/communication with the Fast-Focus concepts.

  1. The Opening – The purpose statement is the hook that entices the audience to pay attention. The agenda statement that follows says how you’ll accomplish the purpose.
  2. The Body – If your audience could only remember one thing, what’s the one thing? Use a limited number of key points to develop the message.
  3. The Close – Close your presentation on a powerful note. What’s the next step? What should the audience do? If there’s nothing to do, then the call to action can also be what to think or what to feel.

Following the delivery of this presentation, pull together two-three associates and ask them to critique this presentation in terms of previous presentations on a similar topic. Listen with an open mind for possible areas of improvement.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 129-3, released October 2019


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

Broadcast Attention by Knowing Your Thread

When Thomas Davenport and John Beck wrote the book The Attention Economy, they brought a very important message to church leaders. The book argues that information and talent are no longer your most important resource but rather attention itself. People cannot hear the vision unless we cut through the clutter.

The principle of attention requires church leaders to be bold and relevant as they integrate vision into the internal communication of the church. According to Davenport and Beck, these are the most important characteristics to get attention:

  • The communication is personalized.
  • The communication comes from a trustworthy source.
  • The communication is brief.
  • The communication is emotional.

In other words, your communication should be telling stories.

And your stories start with knowing your thread.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Be Known for Something by Mark MacDonald

Pastor, communicator, ministry leader… listen to your community!

— 80% of evangelical churches are in decline or stagnation.

— A third of our communities have no perceived need for a local church.

— Many churches aren’t known for anything relevant in their communities.

The solution: Be known for something that will reconnect you to your community. Embark on an eye-opening journey to revitalize your church’s reputation, control your message, and create a communication strategy for reaching the lost for Jesus Christ.

Your church needs to reconnect with community. This book will help you to discover how.

Mark MacDonald, a leading voice in effective church communication, shares fascinating stories to help you discover your unique thread that will…

  • Revitalize your church’s reputation
  • Simplify your church’s messaging
  • Tear down your ministry silos
  • Attract people to your church

Be Known For Something is the answer to engaging your congregation while encouraging church growth from your community.

Discover your thread in this easy-to-read and easy-to-lead book. Learn how to control it, communicate it, and live it.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The sitcom “Cheers,” a hit for 11 seasons, may be best remembered for the refrain of its theme song: “where everybody knows your name.”

What about your church? Does your community “know your name?” Not the literal name of your church, but the “who” and “what” and “why” of your church.

Maybe that question needs to be preceded with another, more telling one: Do your members “know your name?”

According to “Be Known for Something” author Mark MacDonald, if your members and regular attenders don’t know what their church was known for, the community certainly won’t hear about it.

And if your community doesn’t hear about you, or “know your name,” are you really being effective in reaching them?

Why do thousands of churches fail annually while our communities have lost interest in our ministries? Perhaps, there’s a thread we can discover so that we can reconnect with our local community where God planted us…a thread that God will use to grow His Church and your ministry.

Do you know what your thread is? Here are the criteria to weigh your ideas and create a successful communication thread:

It needs to be simple.

This short statement (1-5 words) needs to be a simple concept that people will embrace and remember.

It needs to be somewhat “open” in thought.

The more specific the statement is, the harder it will be to “roll it out” across your ministry.

It needs to be emotionally charged.

Consider the emotion someone will have when he or she experiences the benefit. Make sure this emotion is the feeling you or your church exudes.

It needs to be benefit-driven.

The statement should refer to a solution and, therefore, a prominent pain or a path to a goal.

It needs to feel like your congregation.

Be biblical, genuine, authentic, and real.

It needs to be unique.

The more unique you are in the communication thread, the easier it will be for you to break through with it.

Your DNA scarlet thread is woven within everything you’re doing. Get your thread embedded into people’s long-term memory.

Mark MacDonald, Be Known for Something

A NEXT STEP

Use the following discussion questions by author Mark MacDonald in your next leadership team meeting to focus on discovering your church’s “thread.”

  • If our people were to go and live our mission statement, how would their lives attract non-churched people in our community?
  • If we are “being” our mission statement, what benefit would speak directly to someone in our community?
  • What’s the biggest benefit for attending our church? What would the average regular attender say it is?
  • If there’s more than one thing, do we think we could decide on the thing? The answer we want to hear regularly to this question, “so why do you attend this church?”. Would the answer encourage someone else who doesn’t attend a church now to attend?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 118-2, released May 2019.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

 

Sharpen Your Presentation to Fuel Transformation

Do you think people care about what you have to say? The truth is that the average person doesn’t know you. It’s not that you’re not likeable or smart; it’s just a matter of survival for people in today’s world. There is simply too much out there and not enough time to take it all in.

These words by communications expert Kem Meyer succinctly point out the dilemma for communicators today: for many people, the last thing they are looking for is unsolicited information, or someone to tell them to change their ways.

And yet many, if not most, of the sermons preached by pastors attempt to do just that.

However, many people will take the time to read or listen to something that reinforces an opinion they already have or speaks to a real need in their lives. If they are not looking for it, they won’t hear it. But, if you take the time to learn what they’re looking for, you can get in on a conversation already in progress in their minds.

How then, can a leader understand their audience in such a way to make their message more receptive? How can you connect, communicate, and influence your audience toward life-long transformation?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Five Stars by Carmine Gallo

Ideas don’t sell themselves. As the forces of globalization, automation, and artificial intelligence combine to disrupt every field, having a good idea isn’t good enough. Mastering the ancient art of persuasion is the key to standing out, getting ahead, and achieving greatness in the modern world. Communication is no longer a “soft” skill―it is the human edge that will make you unstoppable, irresistible, and irreplaceable―earning you that perfect rating, that fifth star.

In Five Stars, Carmine Gallo, bestselling author of Talk Like TED, breaks down how to apply Aristotle’s formula of persuasion to inspire contemporary audiences. As the nature of work changes, and technology carries things across the globe in a moment, communication skills become more valuable―not less. Gallo interviews neuroscientists, economists, historians, billionaires, and business leaders of companies like Google, Nike, and Airbnb to show first-hand how they use their words to captivate your imagination and ignite your dreams.

In the knowledge age―the information economy―you are only as valuable as your ideas. Five Stars is a book to help you bridge the gap between mediocrity and exceptionality, and gain your competitive edge in the age of automation.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

If your great ideas are locked in your head they are useless to you, your team, and your audience. You have to be able to explain your ideas efficiently and persuasively.

Mastering the ancient art of persuasion is the key to thriving in a world of rapid change. Developing superior communication skills is no longer an option; it’s fundamental for success. Being able to communicate persuasively and entertainingly makes a compelling case for communication as the crucial differentiator – even in this digital age.

In a world where everything and everybody is competing for the attention of your audience, the ability to communicate is becoming more important than ever.

How can you get better at transporting your thoughts and emotions into the minds of other people?

Mastering the ancient art of persuasion – combining words and ideas to move people to action – is no longer a “soft” skill. It is the fundamental skill to get from good to great in the age of ideas.

The TED stars all practice five presentation habits.

Replace bullet points with pictures

People love pictures because they are a communication tool that dates back as far as humans roamed the planet – back to the cave drawing. Study after study confirms that pictures are far more impactful – and, ultimately, memorable – than text alone.

Make the audience laugh

Humor almost always leads to engagement because it’s one of our most primal and engrained emotions. While you don’t need to be a stand-up comedian to be a hit on the TED stage, a little humor will help you stand out. If they’re laughing, they are listening.

Share personal stories

The ancient brain is wired for stories. Today neuroscientists in the lab are using science to prove what we’ve know for thousands of years – stories are the best tool we have to develop deep, meaningful connections with those we wish to persuade. Facts don’t launch careers; stories do. Facts don’t launch movements; stories do.

Make presentations easy to follow

Skilled TED speakers use humor, tell stories, and structure the argument so that it’s easy to follow and easy to remember. They rely on two specific techniques to do so: headlines and the rule of three.

Promise your audience that they will learn something new

Learning is addictive, thanks to that part of our brain known as the amygdala. When you receive new information, the amygdala releases dopamine, which acts as your brain’s natural “save” button. The need to explore, to learn, something new, to be attracted to something that stands out is wired deep in our DNA. Give your audience something new and delicious to chew on.

Carmine Gallo, Five Stars

A NEXT STEP

While preparing for your next communication opportunity, take the time to review the five ideas above, using them to sharpen your presentation skills.

On a chart tablet, write the five key points listed above, leaving space below each one.

With an outline of your topic in hand, go down the list and write in ideas and actions that can be used for each of the points. After you have finished, review the list and choose at least one from each of the five areas to implement.

Prior to your presentation, enlist the help of a close friend or colleague who is familiar with your communication style. Tell them you would like for them to listen to your presentation, taking notes on not just the information being presented, but also the style and methods used.

Within a day after the event, arrange for a “debrief” with your friend or colleague. Bring out the chart tablet, and make notes from the debrief on it in a different color.

Use the debrief time to sharpen your presentation skills by adding the ideas and actions that worked to your regular preparation and presentation methods.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 104-3, released October 2018.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

Do You Approach Communication as a Negotiation?

Do you think people care about what you have to say? The truth is that the average person doesn’t know you. It’s not that you’re not likeable or smart; it’s just a matter of survival for people in today’s world. There is simply too much out there and not enough time to take it all in.

These words by communications expert Kem Meyer succinctly point out the dilemma for communicators today: for many people, the last thing they are looking for is unsolicited information, or someone to tell them to change their ways.

And yet many, if not most, of the sermons preached by pastors attempt to do just that.

However, many people will take the time to read or listen to something that reinforces an opinion they already have or speaks to a real need in their lives. If they are not looking for it, they won’t hear it. But, if you take the time to learn what they’re looking for, you can get in on a conversation already in progress in their minds.

How then, can a leader understand their audience in such a way to make their message more receptive? How can you connect, communicate, and influence your audience toward life-long transformation?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

A former international hostage negotiator for the FBI offers a new, field-tested approach to high-stakes negotiations—whether in the boardroom or at home.

After a stint policing the rough streets of Kansas City, Missouri, Chris Voss joined the FBI, where his career as a hostage negotiator brought him face-to-face with a range of criminals, including bank robbers and terrorists. Reaching the pinnacle of his profession, he became the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. Never Split the Difference takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and into Voss’s head, revealing the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: saving lives. In this practical guide, he shares the nine effective principles—counterintuitive tactics and strategies—you too can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal life.

Life is a series of negotiations you should be prepared for: buying a car, negotiating a salary, buying a home, renegotiating rent, deliberating with your partner. Taking emotional intelligence and intuition to the next level, Never Split the Difference gives you the competitive edge in any discussion.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Mention the word “negotiation” in a conversation, and the likely mental image involves police in a hostage situation, or maybe a high-powered business deal.

While those would be technically correct, at it’s very basic, negotiation is a method by which people settle differences. It is a process by which compromise or agreement is reached while avoiding argument and dispute.

In any disagreement, individuals understandably aim to achieve the best possible outcome for their position (or perhaps an organization they represent). However, the principles of fairness, seeking mutual benefit and maintaining a relationship are the keys to a successful outcome.

As a leader who is communicating a message, you are negotiating. Your listeners may be neutral toward your topic, or even against it. Even if they are “for” it, you would like to bring them on board even more.

It’s important for leaders to understand how urgent, essential, and even beautiful negotiations can be. When we embrace negotiating’s transformative possibilities, we learn how to get what we want and how to move others to a better place.

Negotiation serves two distinct, vital life functions – information gathering and behavior influencing – and includes almost any interaction where each party wants something from the other side.

Negotiation is nothing more than communication with results. Getting what you want out of life is all about getting what you want from – and with – other people. Conflict between two parties is inevitable in all relationships. So it’s useful – crucial, even – to know how to engage in that conflict to get what you want without inflicting damage.

Great negotiators are able to question the assumptions that the rest of the involved players accept on faith or in arrogance, and thus remain more emotionally open to all possibilities, and more intellectually agile to a fluid situation.

Learning the art of negotiation will help you get over the fear of conflict and encourage you to navigate it with empathy. If you are going to be great at anything – a great negotiator, a great manager, a great husband, a great wife – you’re going to have to do that.

You’re going to have to embrace regular, thoughtful conflict as the basis of effective negotiation – and of life. Your adversary is the situation and that the person you appear to be in conflict with is actually your partner.

More than a little research has shown that genuine, honest conflict between people over their goals actually helps energize the problem-solving process in a collaborative way. Skilled negotiators have a talent for using conflict to keep the negotiation going without stumbling into a personal battle.

Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference

A NEXT STEP

According to author Chris Voss, “negotiation is primarily a language of conversations and rapport: a way of quickly establishing relationships and getting people to talk and think together.”

Here are a few key lessons from Voss as you begin the journey of learning to be a negotiator.

  • A good negotiator prepares, going in, to be ready for possible surprises; a great negotiator aims to use her skills to reveal the surprises she is certain to find.
  • Don’t commit to assumptions; instead, use them as hypotheses and use the negotiation to test them regularly.
  • People who view negotiation as a battle of arguments become overwhelmed by the voices in their head. Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible.
  • Put a smile on your face. When people are in a positive frame of mind, they think more quickly, and are more likely to collaborate and problem-solve (instead of fight and resist). Positivity creates mental agility in both you and your counterpart.

Every negotiation, every conversation, every moment of life, is a series of small conflicts that, managed well, can rise to creative beauty.

In preparation for your next communication opportunity of any kind, review the quotes from author Chris Voss above and the four key lessons. Using those key lessons, prepare ahead of time how you will approach the communication.

After the communication, review how it went, what the impact of using one or more of Voss’ key lessons had on the conversation, and what you would do differently next time.

If applicable, ask a trusted friend or colleague who was present during the communication if they noticed anything differently in how you conducted the conversation.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 104-2, released October 2018.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

 

How to Leverage “Pre-suasion” to Gain Attention

Do you think people care about what you have to say? The truth is that the average person doesn’t know you. It’s not that you’re not likable or smart; it’s just a matter of survival for people in today’s world. There is simply too much out there and not enough time to take it all in.

These words by communications expert Kem Meyer succinctly point out the dilemma for communicators today: for many people, the last thing they are looking for is unsolicited information, or someone to tell them to change their ways.

And yet many, if not most, of the sermons preached by pastors attempt to do just that.

However, many people will take the time to read or listen to something that reinforces an opinion they already have or speaks to a real need in their lives. If they are not looking for it, they won’t hear it. But, if you take the time to learn what they’re looking for, you can get in on a conversation already in progress in their minds.

How then, can a leader understand their audience in such a way to make their message more receptive? How can you connect, communicate, and influence your audience toward life-long transformation?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini

The acclaimed New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller from Robert Cialdini – “the foremost expert on effective persuasion” (Harvard Business Review) – explains how it’s not necessarily the message itself that changes minds, but the key moment before you deliver that message.

What separates effective communicators from truly successful persuaders? With the same rigorous scientific research and accessibility that made his Influence an iconic bestseller, Robert Cialdini explains how to prepare people to be receptive to a message before they experience it. Optimal persuasion is achieved only through optimal pre-suasion. In other words, to change “minds” a pre-suader must also change “states of mind.”

Named a “Best Business Books of 2016” by the Financial Times, and “compelling” by The Wall Street Journal, Cialdini’s Pre-Suasion draws on his extensive experience as the most cited social psychologist of our time and explains the techniques a person should implement to become a master persuader. Altering a listener’s attitudes, beliefs, or experiences isn’t necessary, says Cialdini—all that’s required is for a communicator to redirect the audience’s focus of attention before a relevant action.

From studies on advertising imagery to treating opiate addiction, from the annual letters of Berkshire Hathaway to the annals of history, Cialdini outlines the specific techniques you can use on online marketing campaigns and even effective wartime propaganda. He illustrates how the artful diversion of attention leads to successful pre-suasion and gets your targeted audience primed and ready to say, “Yes.” His book is “an essential tool for anyone serious about science based business strategies…and is destined to be an instant classic.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Even the most well-planned communication opportunity often achieves lackluster results without the audience listening (and hopefully acting on your suggestions).

But what if the audience can be warmed up to your message before they even see it?

The best persuaders become the best through pre-suasion – the process of arranging for recipients to be receptive to a message before they encounter it.

Pre-suasion, a word coined by Robert Cialdini, is the process of gaining agreement with a message before it’s been sent. Although that may seem like some form of magic, it’s not. It’s established science.

That key moment is the one that allows a communicator to create a state of mind in recipients that is consistent with the forthcoming message. It’s the moment in which we can arrange for others to be attuned to our message before they encounter it. That step is crucial for maximizing desired change.

The answer involves an essential but poorly appreciated tenant of all communication: what we present first changes the way people experience what we present to them next.

The truly influential things we say and do first act to pre-suade our audiences, which then alters audience members’ associations with what we say or do next.

All told, there are any of a number of first steps besides establishing trust persuaders can take that will make audiences more redemptive to the case they intend to present.

The steps can take multiple forms, and, accordingly, they’ve been given multiple labels by behavioral scientists. They can be called frames or anchors or primes or mindsets or first impressions. I’m going to refer to them as openers – because they open up things for influence in two ways.

First, they simply initiate the process: they provide the starting points, the beginnings of persuasive appeals. But it is in their second function that they clear the way to persuasion, by removing existing barriers.

It’s because of the only-temporary receptiveness that pre-suasive actions often produce in others that I’ve introduced the concept of privileged moments.

The meaning of the word privileged is straightforward referring to special, elevated status. The word moment, though, is more complex, as it evokes a pair of meanings. One connotes a time-limited period: in this case, the window of opportunity following a pre-suasive opener, when a proposal’s power is greatest. The other connotation comes from physics and refers to a unique leveraging force that can bring about unprecedented movement. These yoke dimensions, temporal on the one hand and physical on the other, have the capacity to instigate extraordinary change in a yet third, psychological, dimension.

Robert Cialdini, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade

A NEXT STEP

Author Robert Cialdini believes that altering a listener’s attitudes, beliefs, or experiences isn’t necessary. All that’s required is to alter the audience’s focus of attention just before requesting a relevant action.

The factor most likely to determine a person’s choice in a situation is often not the one that offers the most accurate or useful counsel; instead, it is the one that has been elevated in attention (and thereby in privilege) at the moment of decision.

“Privileged moments” are identifiable points in time when an individual is particularly receptive to a communicator’s message.

The artful channeling of attention leads to potent pre-suasion and positive outcomes.

In his earlier work, Influence, Cialdini argued that there are six concepts that empower the major principles of human social influence. Understanding and practicing these concepts will help you “pre-suade” your audience.

Reciprocation – People say yes to those they owe. Those “freebies” given away in stores? Studies show they can increase the likelihood of purchase by over 40%. Requesters who hope to commission the pre-suasive force of the rule for reciprocation have to do something that appears daring: they have to take a chance and give first. The “gift” should be meaningful, unexpected, and customized.

Liking – It may seem so common sense, but it is true: people say yes to those who they like. Two specific ways to create positive attention get the most attention: highlight similarities and provide compliments.

Social Proof – People think it is appropriate for them to believe, feel, or do something to the extent that others, especially comparable others, are believing, feeling, or doing it. Two components of that perceived appropriateness – validity and feasibility – can drive change.

Authority – When a legitimate expert on a topic speaks, people are usually persuaded. Sometimes, information becomes persuasive only because an authority is its source. This is especially true when the recipient is uncertain of what to do.

Scarcity – We want more of what we can have less of. Our aversion to losing something of value is a key factor. Scarcity also raises the judged value of that item.

Consistency – Communicators who can get listeners to take a pre-suasive step, even a small one, in the direction of a particular idea or entity will increase our willingness to take a much larger, congruent step when asked.

Review each of the above concepts, along with their brief description, and commit to applying one or more of these concepts over the next two months. Examples could include: social media posts, sermons, vision casting moments, or staff meetings. At the end of two months, review the use of each to determine how effective it was in helping your audiences take a next step in their walk with Christ.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

How Are You Using Social Media to Tell a Bigger Story?

Communication today is real-time, all the time. Thanks to the continuing innovations in technology and the rapid rate of adaption, events that occur around the world – or across the street – are now capable of being seen by millions of individuals. And it’s not just the “viewing” that is important – it’s what effect those views have on the individual watching them.

The social media platforms that exist today, as well as those which are being developed and will be the next big thing, can have a far-reaching impact on the ministries of your church.

Are you taking advantage of them? Or, do you feel like they take advantage of you? Is social media creating communication traction? Or is it becoming a constant distraction?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Trending Up, edited by Mark Forrester

Every church has a story that can change the course of people’s lives but how do you share that story beyond your four walls?

Throughout these pages, you’ll find simple strategies for creating powerful content that can connect your church to the people who need the life-changing story of Christ. Leading church communications specialists break down complex social media themes, providing accessible, practical answers to questions that all churches face, such as:

  • What should I be posting based on my goals?
  • How do I use social media as a tool to foster community?
  • How do I get the people I’m trying to reach with social media?

With this book, your church will be ready to reach one of the biggest missions fields today: the billions of active users on social media. Topics include:

  • Why Social Media?
  • Content Strategy
  • Story: Your Church’s Story & God’s Story
  • Connecting with Your Church
  • Reaching Your Community

The book includes recommended books, websites, blogs, and other tools to help you develop your social media presence.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The power of story to captivate people and move them to action has been used by leaders for thousands of years. From the earliest oral traditions passed from generation to generation to cat memes that have a lifespan only as long as it takes to view them, stories can be a powerful communication tool.

The platform of social media can take the power of story and communicate it instantly to hundreds or thousands of people. With it, you can connect with people at work, at home, in the car, at the store – literally almost anywhere.

However, that same platform can turn off hundreds or thousands of people if it is not used in a way that aligns with the rest of your church’s story.

Your social media strategy should fit into everything your church communicates, which means it must fit into a bigger story.

The best way to bring social media into a bigger story is to use it to help tell the three bigger stories already happening around you: your church’s bigger story, your community’s bigger story, and God’s bigger story. Identifying each one is the first step in understanding how social media can complement – and not compete with – everything you do.

Connect to Your Church’s Bigger Story

There’s a good chance your church has boiled down its work into one simple mission statement. Everything you do as an organization – from program and marketing to human resources – should fit into this concise statement. That includes social media.

Every picture and video, post, and reply is aimed at furthering your mission,

Connect to Your Community’s Bigger Story

If you look long and hard at the community you live in, there’s a good chance you’ll see groups of people gathered around certain ideas. Your community is crawling with bigger stories.

Knowing your city’s DNA can help you use your social media efforts to tell your community’s bigger story. Find one or two of those stories and engage your social media efforts to tell it.

Connect to God’s Bigger Story

If your church incorporates Christian doctrine into everything you do, why shouldn’t you include social media? If we meet, pray, and serve because the Bible tells us to, may Scripture offers direction can be guided as well.

It might seem a bit trite, but the more you can connect your social media strategy to the words God has given us through Scripture, the better. Simply put, obeying God’s bigger story can help your social media to tell a bigger story.

Mark Forrester, Editor, Trending Up

A NEXT STEP

Make a chart tablet sheet for each of the three “bigger stories” listed above. Draw a vertical line down the middle of each chart tablet under the title.

In a team meeting, ask your team to review each of the three chart tablets and list social media actions that you are currently doing for that topic. Complete each of the three chart tablets in a similar manner.

Next, evaluate the lists. Are these actions effective? How do you know? How are you measuring effectiveness? Is there something you could be doing, but are not, to make the action more effective? If so, assign responsibility for someone on the team to ensure that is done.

Next, ask your team to review each of the three chart tablets and list social media actions that you should be doing for that topic. Complete each of the three chart tablets in a similar manner.

On another chart tablet, pull out the actions you should be doing, and group them under similar headings. For example, all actions under “Instagram” will be written under that heading. After you have grouped the actions by category, discuss as a team which are the most important for you to accomplish first.

Pull out the top three items, and assign responsibility, a timeline, and checkpoints for each. At a future meeting, discuss the status of each.

After the top three have been accomplished, measure their effectiveness, and review with the team how they need to be revised, left as is, or scrapped.

Follow the same process with all items on the list, three at a time, until all have been implemented.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 78-1, issued October 2017.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

> >Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

 

 

How to Communicate Your Message So It Catches Fire in People’s Imaginations

Every day, your church stewards thousands of moments of truth. Every time a member talks to a neighbor, someone drives by the church facility, ministry e-mail goes out, a pastor’s business card is left on a desk, some interaction on behalf of the church has transpired. Every time these events happen, the church’s vision glows brighter or dims in the tiniest little increments.

The leader’s role is to crank up the communication wattage. The visionary cares too much about the message to let it just blow in the wind, unattended. Rather, they grab the message and affix it to a kite for all to see. This can happen only with a tremendous amount of intentionality in the complex discipline of church communications.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Pop! by Sam Horn

Why do some ideas break out and others fade away? What causes people to become so excited about a product that they can’t wait to tell their friends? How can an idea be communicated so that it catches fire in people’s imaginations?

Popular author, consultant, and workshop leader Sam Horn identifies what makes an idea, message, or product break out, and presents a simple and proven process – POP! (Purposeful, Original, Pithy) to create one-of-a-kind ideas, products, and messages that pop through the noise, off the shelf, and into consumers’ imaginations.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

John 15 tells us that the Spirit of God is sovereignly convicting people of sin and righteousness and judgment. In other words, God is wooing men, women, boys, and girls to Him in your community. The question is, when they are ready to act on it, where will they go? Even though the primary mode of awareness happens through word-of-mouth advertising, the North American culture supplies other media to help broadcast your position.

By broadcasting your position, two things are intended. First, think like a retailer and let people know that you exist and where you exist. Second, position yourself in the sense of differentiating yourself among other churches in your community. In the kingdom economy, other churches are not competitors but collaborators. The best thing you can do is broadcast a clear, crisp message of what makes your Church Unique.

Remember that there are competitors to your mission—that is, anything else that distracts people from being the church under the Lordship of Jesus. These competitors, whether Home Depot, the local sports league, Old Navy, or 24 Hour Fitness, are doing everything to broadcast their position. Shall we stand by as nonparticipants in the game of PR, marketing, and advertising and let them take the day?

Use of marketing should never replace the essence of a missional heart-beat: a life-oriented, conversation-driven, love-lavished pursuit of those whom Jesus misses most. Jesus’ famous sermon was not “in the valley” but “on the mount.” Jesus positioned himself to broadcast his message. If we propose to advance the gospel in and through the culture, we can’t afford to see the cultural use of communication as an enemy but as an ally. Use of marketing tools can be a powerful support to personal evangelism. These are exciting times to steward the most important message to be heard.

People today are busy, so bombarded with information, that we only have about sixty seconds to connect with them. If we don’t convince them in our one-minute window of opportunity that we’re worth their valuable time, money, and attention, they’ll switch their focus to something else.

The premise of POP! is that the best way to attract instant interest is to make our communication (in particular our titles, taglines, elevator introductions, and sales slogans) Purposeful, Original and Pithy. This is so rarely done, it makes what we’re saying and swelling incredibly appealing.

Here is a little more detail about the three components of POP!

P Stands for Purposeful

Communication that features brilliant wordplay doesn’t qualify for POP! status unless it does two things: accurately articulates the essence of you and your offering, and positions you positively with your target audience.

If people are scratching their heads after we’ve introduced our idea or invention, wondering what this has to do with them, we’ve just wasted their time and ours.

O Stands for Original

It’s almost a given that no matter what you saying or selling, you’re one of many. What is about you that distinguishes you from your competition?

One way to distinguish yourself is to be original and offer something unlike anyone or anything else. Instead of competing in a crowded niche, create your own. When you’re one of a kind, there is no competition.

People are yearning for something fresh. When we see or hear something original, we find it appealing. That product or business is no longer inanimate or boring. Instead of dismissing it, we feel compelled to try it.

P Stands for Pithy

The word pithy, which means concise and precise, may not sound very eloquent, but it’s an important part of POP! communication.

The human brain can only hold approximately seven bits of information in short-term memory. If our description of our offering is longer than seven words, chances are people won’t be able to remember it. And if they don’t remember it, our effort to obtain their attention, support, and money for our offering has failed.

Sam Horn, POP! Stand Out in Any Crowd

A NEXT STEP

Imagine that your team has taken over a local news station. Give the station new call letters – tell what it stands for. Be as cheesy as possible here.

Brainstorm story possibilities based on the announcements for this week’s worship service. Now select the top three stories that your team will produce for the news “broadcast.” Now assign members of your team to be reporters who would anchor the stories for broadcast to the team.

In preparation for the simulated “newscast,” have each Anchor and their reporting team answer these questions:

  • Why do people need to hear these stories?
  • How do they communicate our vision?
  • What would happen if we really could have these stories broadcast inside and outside the church?

As a team, think of how you can use a similar decision-making process, and filtering questions, to prioritize announcements in your worship service each week.

– Adapted from The Vision Deck

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 57-3, January 2017


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

How to Communicate Your Unique Vision

How can you more clearly communicate your unique church vision? 

Every day, your church stewards thousands of moments of truth. Every time a member talks to a neighbor, someone drives by the church facility, a ministry e-mail goes out, or a pastor’s business card is left on a desk, some interaction on behalf of the church has transpired. Every time these events happen, the church’s vision glows brighter or dims in the tiniest little increments.

The leader’s role is to crank up the communication wattage. The visionary cares too much about the message to let it just blow in the wind, unattended. Rather, they grab the message and affix it to a kite for all to see. This can happen only with a tremendous amount of intentionality in the complex discipline of church communications.

In other words, grab immediate attention.

THE QUICK SUMMARYThe Attention Economy, by Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck

This title identifies attention management as the new critical competency for 21st century business. This is a landmark book for every manager who wants to learn how to earn and spend the new currency of business argues that unless companies learn to effectively capture, manage, and keep attention – both internally and out in the marketplace – they’ll fall hopelessly behind in our information-flooded world. It is based on an exclusive global research study, with examples from a range of companies. It provides a revolutionary four-part model for managing attention in all areas of business. It presents a multidisciplinary approach to the topic of ‘attention,’ incorporating economics, psychology, and technology. It appeals to readers not only as representatives of an organization, but as individuals.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

When Thomas Davenport and John Beck wrote the book The Attention Economy, they brought a very important message to church leaders. The book argues that information and talent are no longer your most important resource, but rather attention itself. People cannot hear the vision unless we cut through the clutter.

The principle of attention requires church leaders to be bold and relevant as they integrate vision into the internal communication of the church. According to Davenport and Beck, these are the most important characteristics to get attention:

  • The communication is personalized.
  • The communication comes from a trustworthy source.
  • The communication is brief.
  • 
The communication is emotional.

Imagine the implications of these attributes for your church’s communications. Are you sending targeted, HTML e-mails to supplement snail mail and print communication? Are you delivering your most important sound bites via sharable social media posts?

It is important to keep good communications people close to the core leadership. They shouldn’t have to guess about your church’s DNA. Rather, allow them to be privy to all the conversations and dialogue that surround development and articulation of your vision.

Every organization is an engine fueled by attention.

In the farms and fields of primitive societies, and in the factories of the Industrial Revolution, physical manpower drove the economy. In the information era, knowledge was power – the more an organization had, the more successful it could be.

But now, as flows of unnecessary information clog brains and corporate communication links, attention is the rare resource that truly powers an organization. Recognizing that attention is valuable, that where it is directed is important, and that it can be managed like other precious resources is essential in today’s economy.

Let’s look at the word attention: Notice that its root word is attend. To attend to something is to tend it – to take care of it. A typical employee is today’s world is expected to take care of more things than a worker would have at any other time in history. So much information and so many activities, people, and places are vying for our attention today that the mere management of attention has become one of our most important activities. Attention involves understanding how to work within an overabundance of “information competition,” whether you are interfacing with customers, coworkers, or your own priority list.

Our simple definition is this: Attention is focused mental engagement on a particular item of information. Items come into our awareness, we attend to a particular item, and then we decide whether to act. Attention occurs between a relatively unconscious narrowing phase in which we screen out most of the sensory inputs around us (we are aware of many things, but not paying attention to them), and a decision phase, in which we decide to act on the attention-getting information. Without both phases, there is no attention.

Awareness become attention when information reaches a threshold of meaning and spurs the potential for action.

You can throw oodles of information into a person’s awareness. The problem is that everybody is doing it. Awareness is vague, general information, and doesn’t by itself catalyze any action. Attention is targeted and specific. It gets people moving. In a simple analogy, awareness is the target, and attention is the bull’s -eye.

Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck, The Attention Economy

A NEXT STEP

In your next leadership meeting, gather the last 4 weeks of Sunday morning bulletins. On a whiteboard, list every announcement made in the last month. Note recurring announcements.

Next rate the attentiveness to each of these announcements (from 1 to 5) in the following seven categories:

  1. Verbal Support (1 – no verbal support given to this announcement, 5 – this announcement got a sermon mention)
  2. Visual Support (1 – there are no bulletin or screen graphics for this announcement, 5 – this has it’s own logo and visual identity)
  3. Ministry Support (1 – this is a general announcement with no ONE ministry or leader giving oversight, 5 – this is directly connected to a ministry and/or leader)
  4. Next-Step Support (1 – there was nothing for the reader to actually do, just something to know, 5 – there was a clear next-step communicated)
  5. Vision Support (1 – we loosely connect this to the future, but in reality this is more connected to the past, 5 – this clearly points to God’s vision for the church)
  6. Emotional Support (1 – this announcement was likely to get only a small number of our congregation excited and engaged, 5 – everyone was excited about this)
  7. Scoreboard Support (1 – this will not likely lead someone to Jesus or grow them as a follower, 5 – this event will prayerfully change lives for eternity)

Now add up the scores for each announcement and discuss the following next steps:

Score of 7 – 14 – How can we cut or cage this event or announcement in order to prioritize more important and impacting activity?

Score of 15 – 28 – How can we combine or coordinate this even within our vision to bring greater impact?

Score of 29-35 – How can we catapult this to prominence across each service and communication channels?

Set your focus on a Sunday 2-4 weeks in the future and make the necessary adjustments as a team to grab attention with every announcement.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix #57, issued January 2017.

 


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

Make the Leap to Using Visuals Evoking Emotion

Does your team seem to be using more and more words, yet communicating less and less?

Today more than ever, we live in a visual society. Especially in the online world, everyone relies on the power of photos and engagement of video.

While researching a project recently, I was struck by three surprising data points from visual communicator Dan Roam:

  • Research from IBM found that 90% of all data collected in history has been generated in the last two years.
  • Research from Cisco found that 90% of all data transmitted online today is visual.
  • Roam’s experience indicates that 90% of leaders have no idea how to effectively use visuals in their business.

90%-90%-90%. We’re generating more data than ever, that data is overwhelmingly visual, and most of us don’t know how to use images. No matter what business you’re in, the future of your business is visual.

As a church leader, it is incumbent that you get better at using visual images in your communication.

Whether drawing them, looking at them, or talking about them, visual communication adds enormously to your listener’s ability to think, to remember, and to do.

Visual imagery is, in itself, another whole language. Being fluent in that language gives us mind-boggling power to articulate thoughts, communicate those thoughts, and solve problems in ways we otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

It’s time to make the leap and use visuals to evoke emotion.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Visual Hammer, by Laura Ries

The best way into a mind is not with words at all. The best way into a mind is with visuals.

But not any visual. You need a “visual hammer” that hammers a verbal nail. The Marlboro cowboy. Coca-Cola’s contour bottle. Corona’s lime.

The cowboy hammers “masculinity.” The contour bottle hammers “authenticity.” The lime hammers “genuine Mexican beer.”

A trademark is not a visual hammer. Almost every brand has a trademark, but fewer than one out of a hundred brands have a visual hammer. A trademark is a rebus which communicates nothing except the name of the brand.

A visual hammer, on the other hand, communicates the essence of the brand.

Visual Hammer is the first book to document the superiority of the “hammer and nail” approach to branding. Some examples.

  • The pink ribbon that made Susan G. Komen for the Cure the largest nonprofit foundation to fight breast cancer.
  • The Aflac duck that increased Aflac’s name recognition from 12 percent to 94 percent.
  • The green jacket which made the Masters the most-prestigious golf tournament.
  • The watchband which made Rolex the largest-selling luxury watch.
  • Colonel Sanders who made KFC the world’s largest chicken chain.

Why are marketing plans usually nothing but words when the best way into a mind is with the emotional power of a visual?

After reading Visual Hammer, you might want to tear up your current marketing plan and start fresh.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

In a typical organization – and that includes churches – there is a whole gang of smart people so overwhelmed by verbal data that they’re hard pressed to know what to pay attention to.

That’s where pictures come in.

The basics of visual thinking have nothing to do with being an artist, or creating impressive designs using the latest computer application. Visual thinking is learning to think with your eyes.

Everyone already has good visual thinking skills, even if they don’t acknowledge it. Visual thinking is a very powerful way to communicate information that will help solve problems. It may appear to be something new, but the fact is, we already know how to do it.

Visual thinking starts with understanding the power of the image.

When you live in a world of word, you tend to see the visual world as secondary to verbal reality. Yet nature is visual, not verbal.

Take a walk in the park. Scuba dive in the ocean. Climb a mountain. This is reality and there are no words in nature. Words are useful devices to communicate the reality of nature.

Photographs, illustrations and drawing are artificial, but they too are a more direct representation of nature than are words.

The Coca-Cola bottle is not just a bottle. It is a visual hammer that nails in the idea that Coke is the original cola, the authentic cola, the real thing. In a Coca-Cola commercial, the visuals speak louder than the words. That’s the work of a visual hammer.

That’s the difference between designing a trademark and designing a visual hammer. Almost every brand has a trademark, but few brands have visual hammers.

A visual hammer doesn’t just repeat your brand name; it hammers a specific word into the mind. For brands that can create and dominate a new category, that word is “leadership.”

When you live in a world of words, you tend to see the visual world as secondary to verbal reality. Yet nature is visual, not verbal.

A visual hammer makes an emotional impact on the right side of the consumer’s brain which motivates the left side of the brain to verbalize the idea and then store it.

Your right brain doesn’t think in the normal sense of what we mean by “thinking.” It reacts emotionally and involuntarily.

To develop a hammer you need a narrow focus you can visualize in a dramatic way.

Don’t fret about narrow concepts not appealing to as many people as broader ones. Better to use a narrow concept to motivate a segment of the market rather than a broad concept that motivates no one.

Laura Ries, Visual Hammer

A NEXT STEP

Explore the power of visual images in solving problems with the following exercise.

Write down a list of at least four questions about a ministry situation or problem you team has recently faced.

Cluster the questions in four groups, giving each set a title.

Bring your team together around a table, and give them a large sheet of paper. Ask you team to create a quadrant by drawing two lines on their paper.

Place magazines, newspapers, precut pictures, fabrics, thread, color pencils, and glue sticks in the sender of the table. Provide plenty of materials in order for all participants to use simultaneously.

Each team member will use the materials on the table to visually answer their question. Designate a time limit for the exercise.

When completed, ask each team member to present and explain their collages. As a group, determine the single best image that represents the best answer for each question.

This exercise demonstrates the power of visual images in answering questions or problems you are encountering.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

Does Your Organization’s Home Page Welcome Everyone?

“If you’re not found in a Google search for churches in your area, you don’t exist to people moving into town.” That quote, by church planter and pastors.com editor Brandon Cox may be a painful truth to you, but it is a truth nevertheless.

The importance of a well thought out and designed website cannot be overstated. Today’s rapidly changing patterns of communication are founded within the digital world, and are only increasing in importance. Last year, the number of networked devices in the world DOUBLED the global population.

It is vitally important that you understand the way your viewers are viewing and using your website – not just your members and regular attenders.

THE QUICK SUMMARYEverybody Writes, by Ann Handley

Everybody Writes is a go-to guide to attracting and retaining customers through stellar online communication, because in our content-driven world, every one of us is, in fact, a writer.

If you have a website, you are a publisher. If you are on social media, you are in marketing. And that means that we are all relying on our words to carry our marketing messages. We are all writers.

In Everybody Writes, top marketing veteran Ann Handley gives expert guidance and insight into the process and strategy of content creation, production and publishing, with actionable how-to advice designed to get results.

These lessons and rules apply across all of your online assets — like web pages, home pages, landing pages, blogs, email, marketing offers, and on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media. Ann deconstructs the strategy and delivers a practical approach to create ridiculously compelling and competent content. It’s designed to be the go-to guide for anyone creating or publishing any kind of online content — whether you’re a big brand or you’re small and solo. 

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

At Auxano, we believe that every church is unmistakably unique and incomparably different. God doesn’t mass-produce His church. Your church has hundreds of current stories, represented by its current participants, and thousands of past stories, represented by those who have come before you.

How are you telling those stories?

This is not just true of your church in general, but it applies to your church’s home page as well. As noted above, your website is the digital doorway to your church.

Is it a welcoming doorway for all, or only a few?

Your home page is a metaphorical threshold to your organization.

It’s apt that we use the very human word “home” to refer to the main page of a website, because that word evokes warmth and belonging.

That’s exactly the mindset to get into when you create content for your own organization’s home page – the Web page that is rendered when your organization’s domain name is typed into a Web-enabled device.

Just as in your own actual home, you want visitors to feel welcomed as soon as they step in – to feel comfortable, to sense that you’re happy to see them. And because this is our organization, you want them to get a sense of their surrounding in the blink of an eye: an idea of who you are and what you do – and this is critical – why it matters to them.

Here are seven guidelines for creating home page content:

Speak to your audience. All good content is rooted in a clear understanding of your audience.

Communicate a focus on them. Part of understanding your readers is know what motivates them. When you know what that is, you’re able to communicate how you can help them.

Keep it simple. Don’t be tempted to fill space with lots of copy and graphics – especially above the part of the Web page that first appears in browsers when it’s opened.

Use words you audience uses. You don’t need to embellish who you are and what you do. Use familiar words.

Use you promiscuously. On your home page, use you more than you use us or we.

Now what? What do you want the reader to do next?

Convey trust. Your home page should include elements that suggest others trust you.

Ann Handley, Everybody Writes

A NEXT STEP

Brandon Cox, church planter and editor of pastors.com, has developed a very helpful “audit” for your church website. Using this audit at your next leadership team meeting will be a helpful start to conversations about your website’s home page.

To prepare, set up a large screen with Internet access. Also, make sure your team members have their mobile phones or pad devices. Do not tell them of the specific purpose of this session.

At the beginning, ask the following questions, recording answers on a chart tablet. Ask the team NOT to look on their devices for the answers.

  • Is our website responsive and mobile-friendly?
  • Is our most basic information easy to find on our main homepage (location, service times, etc.)?
  • Do we use imagery that tells people that we’re human, we’re alive, and we’re welcoming?
  • Can people easily know what we believe? What we value? And how we function?
  • Do we have links to our Facebook page and other social media profiles on our website?
  • Is there a way for people to reach out and get in touch with us without leaving our website?
  • Can people easily know how to pursue next steps such as baptism, joining a small group, or volunteering in an area of ministry?
  • Do we have a page dedicated to our staff and/or key leaders so that potential visitors can know who we are?

Now, ask one half of the group to pull up the church website on their mobile device, and the other half to look at the website on the large screen. Display a chart tablet sheet with the seven guidelines suggested above.

Go back through each of the nine audit questions again, this time answering them as they really are. Note any differences between initial perception and reality, making sure both screen and mobile platforms are covered.

At the completion of this exercise, create a top five action list of the most critical website revisions you need to make, along with assigned target completion dates and individuals responsible.


Excerpted from SUMS Remix 40-3, May 2016.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.