Monday, October 5, 2009

Bill Butterworth Has Peanut Butter on His Pillow...

...and I have egg on my face.

Years back I was homeschooling four kids, while trying to keep #5 from eating all the coloring crayons and markers and keeping newborn #6 full, happy and sweet-smelling. Wanting to encourage me, my mom sent me a book on homeschooling by Bill Butterworth, father of five. It was encouraging and funny, so I was excited when I learned I would have the opportunity to meet him in person.

After his motivational message tonight at Northwest Christian Writer's Association, I approached him at the book table. Instead of buying a book, I asked in my stuttering, I-don't-talk-to-grown-ups-often voice, "Do you still have peanut butter on your pillow?"

His eyebrows shot up, his smile blazing in a toothpaste-endorsing style, while his brain processed my question. For a moment, I was wondering how he could have possibly forgotten a book he had written over a dozen years ago. He recovered with warmth and laughter, and we enjoyed a few moments of pleasantries about homeschooling and children. I stuttered and stammered my way through what I thought was a compliment on his ability to progress from writing about homeschooling into the corporate world as a motivational speaker.

After I sidestepped my way down the book table so the next writer-in-waiting could meet him, I began blinding him with the built-in flash from my Nikon Coolpix. Since the settings were messed up and I didn't have time to fuss with the camera, I kept shooting like the mommarazzi I am, hoping one picture would turn out.

Binging the Internet tonight, I found out why he had displayed such a quizzical brow. I had quoted the title of his book incorrectly. It wasn't Peanut Butter on my Pillow, it was Peanut Butter Families Stick Together or Peanut Butter Family Home School. I can't even remember which book I had read. Wasn't he polite to smile and nod and not correct me? Probably the last time I remembered something correctly was when I remembered the way to the hospital to give birth to my first child. It's all gone downhill since then.

In his conclusion, he encouraged the writer to give the audience three things they will remember, rather than ten things they will forget.

I was impressed that he took his own advice. His motivational gift to us tonight had three points.

A. Audience Analysis - The more you know your audience, the better your presentation is going to be. You hook an audience by touching needs and offering incentives. You need to make it clear to your audience that you understand what they are dealing with and that you can offer something to help them.

A good communicator understands these two words - ASSUME INATTENTION. Don't assume everyone is dying to hear/read your words, create an amazing opening scenario that touches on a need so they are ready to devour what you have to say. You must earn the right to speak to your audience.

B. Be Yourself - The writing Institute he created is called "Finding Your Speaking Voice", emphasizing the your. They help each individual develop their own gifts and abilities, not form them into a copy of a standard formula. For years Butterworth was blessed to work for Chuck Swindoll, but his goal was never to become the best Swindoll imitator he could, it was to become the best Butterworth he could be. Be natural, be yourself.

"On using humor: funny communicates IF you are funny."

C. Content Clarity - Speak to children, even if writing to adults, speak to children. He urged writers to capture the power of the story by learning to tell stories in written and verbal form. The key is to RELIVE the story over just RETELLING the story. Retelling is the form the newspaper would use. Reliving gives the reader the information they need to place themselves in the setting and to feel the emotions.

"Illustrations are the windows that let the light use more windows and less lumber."

"Repetition is the Educational Glue." You should be able to consolidate your verbal presentation into one sentence that is introduced at the beginning, repeated often in the body and used in the conclusion.

While you're receiving a blessing in your blogging by reading my notes from Butterworth, I'll be in the bathroom, washing the egg off my face. But I should sleep soundly, because my pillow doesn't have peanut butter on it.

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