How I Set Up My First Speaking Tour

It was 2012. I’d been working a 9-5 job for four years while getting my master’s degree, writing a book and speaking once a month at conferences and colleges. I’d just finished my degree, self-published my book and quit my job, when my dad said, “Tiff, why are you working full-time? Why don’t you quit your job and try traveling and speaking, and just see what happens? After all, you have nothing to loose–you’re single!”

It was the craziest idea. But it felt SO RIGHT.

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Social Media Tips

This week I had SUCH a fun opportunity — and one I hope to have many more times!! I got to share about my journey in growing “The Insatiable Quest for Beauty,” and specifically how social media has helped me grow & market my brand. You can watch it here. If you’re starting a ministry or if you’re an entrepreneur at heart, I hope this can help you as well!! 🙂 ❤

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How to Start Speaking (for an Audience)

A friend and I spent the last two hours here at my high-top table (feels like Starbucks in my apartment, praise Jesus!), sipping tea and coffee and munching on gluten-free pina colada cookies. (Yes, they have rum and coconut in them. Delish!) For years now, God has been putting on my friend’s heart a desire to speak about suicide and the healing process when a loved one commits suicide. But she hasn’t known where to start. So she asked:

How did you start speaking?

I’ve had several other people also ask me that question, and I always feel a little strange answering, because I don’t have a “normal” answer. My journey has been so unique. I love that, because God has an individual journey in store for each of us, which helps us rely on Him more fully along the way.

But if something that’s worked for me can work for someone else, then I want to share it. So if you would like to start speaking publicly, here are some things I’d recommend from my own experience. And I hope they can help you as well. 🙂

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A different kind of “more”

I’ve spent so much time asking God for more, instead of thanking Him for what I have.

My prayers often center around this American mentality of “more, more, more.”

  • Please, God, more YouTube followers.
  • Please, God, more speaking engagements.
  • Please, God, more Instagram followers.
  • Then I can glorify You more. (Or, at least, that’s the reason I give. Even if it’s not the truest motivation of my heart.)

There’s nothing wrong with asking for more; in fact, God often challenges us to ask for more — to ask for something so far beyond our own strength that obviously we could never get there on our own. Then we obviously need Him, and only He can fulfill that crazy huge dream. I really believe He delights in that.

But sometimes my heart is full of selfish ambition when I ask for “more.”

  • Sometimes I want more because I want to feel more important.
  • I want to feel seen.
  • I want to feel like what I’m doing matters.
  • And I think that bigger numbers will help me get there.

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How to love public speaking

All I had to do was dance; why did I feel like throwing up? 

My little 7-year-old self marched through the parking lot, red tights and Christmas sweater catching snowflakes. “Dad, I’m so nervous!”

“Know what you do?” he asked, marching alongside me.


“Picture everyone in the audience as if they’re in long john underwear. Then you’ll laugh instead of get nervous.”

It didn’t work. I’m sure no one even saw me since I was in the back row of a 30-person dance troupe performing in the middle of a mall (so random), but I was petrified.

I’ve heard it said that people are more afraid of public speaking than of dying.

That night, I understood.

IMG_20130307_181946Fast forward twenty years, and public speaking is my livelihood. For months out of the year I’m traveling cross-country speaking at churches, high schools, colleges, and treatment centers.

And I love it.

That’s not to say I don’t get nervous. Those twenty minutes before going up on stage my body gets nervous, even if my mind doesn’t. I feel that familiar twisting in my stomach and urge to run to the bathroom, but once I step on stage, pure bliss takes over. There’s this feeling of effortless flow, the most incredible high in playing off the audience.

Okay, okay, there are times that aren’t so good. Times when it feels like running uphill rather than effortlessly flying. Times when I trip over my words and make no sense. But overall, it’s fun. I love it. Why?

Because I’ve learned a few things I can do to actually enjoy public speaking.

#1: Be over-prepared. 

Research + practice = calm. At least sort of.

When I don’t know exactly how I’m going to start, when I haven’t thoroughly practiced how I want to say what I want to say, and when I don’t have my outline memorized, that’s when I get nervous.

The more I know my stuff, the more research I’ve done, and the more practice I’ve had, the less nervous I feel.

#2: Practice in a mirror. Or videotape yourself.

I make the weirdest faces known to mankind. I seriously don’t know what’s up with my facial muscles, but they are programmed to look ridiculous.

I also pace like a caged tiger — but at world record speeds. It’s like time has frozen when I’m on stage, but my brain is going twice as fast. So what feels like slow, easy walking across the stage every few minutes looks in reality like a frenzied girl outrunning a crocodile.

Practicing in a mirror or videotaping myself helps me see these quirks so I can reprogram my muscle memory and be aware of my movements.

#3: Know your first lines.

I always want to tailor my first lines for that specific audience, to get a connection going. That’s the most important thing. Not only does it connect with the audience, but it also sets the stage (no pun intended) for the rest of the evening. Those first few moments are crucial, so I want to know exactly what I’m going to say.

#4: Chant: “It’s not the end of the world.”

I get nervous when I think something is a huge deal — when thoughts flit through my mind like, “Your life will be ruined if this doesn’t go well.” When I start to get nervous I pause and ask myself, “Will the world end if this doesn’t go well? Will your life be forever ruined?” I have to honestly answer “no,” and that calms me down.

Strangely enough, sometimes my mistakes touch people even more than the really strong parts of the message.

At one event I tried to say “God doesn’t love us because we’re good enough, but because we’re His daughters.” Instead I said, “He doesn’t love us cause we’re His daughters, but because we’re good enough.” I immediately realized my faux pas and burst into laughter along with all the women in the room. Afterwards a group of ladies came up and said:

“Everything you shared tonight was great, but what touched us more than anything was when you made a mistake and were able to laugh about it. That’s what we most needed to see.”

#5: Think of it as therapy.

Weird, I know, but public speaking is one of the only times in life that people have come to hear you talk about yourself. Most times I assume people don’t care to hear me talk (though you’d never know it from the volume of my words) but when I’m speaking, they’ve come to hear my story. This is your chance to shine. Just like interviewing, think of it as a therapy session. Enjoy it!

These are the things that have helped me enjoy public speaking.

Now dancing in a mall like my 7-year-old self? Well, can’t help you there. I’d be nervous for that too; I can’t dance!

Phase One: Prep Work

ImageWell, I’m back at my parents’ house in Albany, NY! I have now entered Phase One of The Coffeehouse Tour. From now until 9/29/12, I will be contacting places, making spreadsheets, meeting with youth pastors, speaking and doing book tables in Albany, and overall…scheduling and getting everything ready to go for this year!

To catch you all up, since everything’s happened SO quickly, I graduated with my master’s degree in music therapy, left my job, and decided to travel fulltime with my newly released book. I want to get a buzz going with the book. I will be staying with friends and family across the country, for two weeks in each location, speaking, letting pastors know about The Insatiable Quest for Beauty book and small group workbook as a resource for their youth ministry, and overall just getting the word out about the book. I’m calling it “The Coffeehouse Tour.” And it officially begins in October!

ImageSo in the meantime, I’m chained to my computer. (Well, not really.) I’ve also done some fun stuff. Like my sister and I went and worked a book table at the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) walk for charity in Syracuse. I got to meet some awesome people, make great connections, and visit both my sisters.

This is definitely a step of faith. I’m not sure how everything’s going to work. I don’t have everything booked yet. But I really believe this is what God has in store for this year. As my dad said, “What do you have to lose?” So I’m going for it!…and I’m super excited!! Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, California, Colorado, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia…here we come! 🙂