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Ep. 52: Public speaking for beginners with Mary Snyder

Ever wonder how to secure public speaking engagements as a beginner?  Or maybe you know you should speak, but you just can’t get over the fear of speaking.  We all have to start somewhere is not real helpful advice, even though it may be true. So today my special guest is someone who’s coached some of the most influential speakers of our time.  

Mary Snyder is a speaker, speaker coach, author, event planner and tour producer with over 20 years in the Christian events industry, And she shares her knowledge and experience with those looking to start or grow their speaking career. 

Mary’s weekly podcast, Take the Stage, is one of the places you’ll find her sharing insights and tips of speaking.  She is also the founder of Activate Your Speaking Career – a digital course that equips speakers to go from overwhelmed and intimidated to confident and equipped. 

Something else I love about Mary is that she’s real and down to earth. She’s somebody who knows her own unique brand voice, and that’s why I’m excited to share her with y’all today.  Get ready for some down home fun and straightforward advice for how to get started taking the stage.  And now, listen in.   


*This episode contains either affiliate links or links to my products. Should you choose to purchase, the show will go on! Woo hoo!

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Public speaking for beginners

Ruthie: Welcome to the show, Mary. 

Mary: I’m so excited to be here!

Ruthie: I admire your stage presence and how you teach people to take the stage. I just wanna ask you right off the bat. When did you first become passionate about public speaking?

Mary: I think it was indicated on my conduct grades in sixth grade.I was always got the little note on my report card “she enjoys visiting with her neighbor too much.”

But when I got the call, I really felt the call in my life that this is what I want to do. This is where God was calling me. I was in my thirties, which was a minute ago. I know it’s shocking to everyone, but it was more than a year ago. And I literally spent so many years just waiting on God to send somebody to my door, to invite me to speak, but nobody ever came?

Ruthie: So how did you gain traction then? How did that start? I think speakers and writers are a lot alike in that. We just think, oh, here’s my website. Everybody come and then they don’t.

Mary: This is not the field of dreams, for those of you who need a little reference point.

It’s a movie where he says where a voice says to him, if you build it, they will come. And they do, but that is a movie. It does not happen in real life. And this is what I always reference. If God has called you to be an accountant and he calls people to be accountants, our teachers, our doctors, y’all, didn’t go home and sit down by the phone and say I’m now a doctor.

Patience is important!

God’s gonna bring me some patience. He said, no you’re gonna go get educated author, speaker, doctor accountant, teacher. The difference is there’s no school to go. That says I’m gonna go to this school and I’m gonna walk out and be an accomplished writer or an accomplished speaker. We have to learn to school ourselves.

That was the biggest thing for me. It was not waiting by the phone. It was when the Lord said it’s up to you, sis. You’re gonna have to go do something. 

Ruthie: Yeah. We have to actually get out there and be willing to do the thing. It sounds like this great dream when we’re dreaming it.

But then we realized, oh, I have to actually do the work. It’s work. It’s like anything else we do in life.  don’t know who decided that you needed 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert, but someone somewhere said, if you do something for 10,000 hours, if you play the violin for 10,000 hours, you will be an expert.

Practice to exercise, not to be an expert

I feel like I have cleaned my house for 10,000 hours, but I’m still not an expert. Nor do I choose to become one. But as a speaker, it is all about doing it. Exercising the muscle, same thing with writing. If you’re a writer, write a blog post, write a post on Facebook. If you’re a speaker, go live.

Record yourself. Watch yourself. Know your listener, right? The end. When I said record yourself and watch yourself, she cringed. So I’m gonna give you an out, just listen the first time. Just listen to what you sound like. And listen to the words coming out of your mouth. You’re gonna be surprised at how much you say.

Ruthie: I remember when I started my podcast, I was like, oh, this is terrible. No one is gonna listen to this, but. I knew God had called me to it and guess what they did and here we are. So I am assuming then that’s what you started doing was putting yourself out there. Tell us how you did that.

Public speaking tip: Put yourself out there

Mary: I did it all wrong. I’m gonna go ahead and tell ya. Because, and that’s one of the things I teach, don’t do it the way Mary did it, do it the way Mary learned to do it.

What I did is I would mail out flyers all about what I had to offer the five or six different topics I had. I had a website, none of those topics were developed. I need you to hear me.

Not one of them was a developed crafted message. People would call me and say we would love for you to come do this. Or they would have a topic and I would go. I would craft a brand new message, it was not well done. There would be an out of context, verse of scripture. I would try to say something in the Greek or the Hebrew.

None of which I was equipped to do, but I went and that’s how people found out about me is I started reaching out to them and I said, I want to come and share with your people. Today, I teach people to craft one message, make it incredible. I still teach you to reach out because even in the day of websites and social media, you’re gonna have to go.

The good thing is you have email and you have voicemail and you can send a video. 

Ruthie: We have so much opportunity now at our fingertips.

Mary: Yes. It’s so much more accessible and more affordable. 

So you want to get booked?

Ruthie: Wow. yeah, that’s a while back. Okay, so let’s talk about when new speakers come to you. What’s their biggest hang up about speaking on stage? 

Mary: I think the very first thing they wanna know is how do I get booked?

Everybody wants to know how I get booked. The thing is the getting booked part is not where you wanna start, because you have to know your message before you can get booked and here’s the secret. Your message is for one person. Just one. If you craft a message directly to the person, God has called you to serve, and you help her solve the problem that keeps her up at night. 

You show her the transformation God did in your life. That can happen in her life. Then you’re gonna be that relatable speaker. 

That event planner is gonna immediately know that you understand her because she’s not looking for a speaker that is gonna wow people. That’s great, but she’s looking for someone to take care of her women. Someone that is gonna help them in their walk with Jesus. 

Ruthie: What was their biggest hangup? Which you really answered because they wanna get booked.

Mary: They wanna get booked, but they don’t have anything to tell people why to book them. And if you don’t know your message, then no one can book you or they can book you and it’ll be like me and you’ll just be bad at it.

Ruthie: I could say the same for a lot of things. At least you did put the foot forward and you went forward so that’s what we have to start doing too.

Whether we’re writers or speakers or both. Usually if you’re a writer, you have to be a speaker too. or if you’re a speaker, you’re a lot of times you’re a writer, but, okay. So you’ve already given us a lot to chew on. 

What would you say your top three tips are for getting better at public speaking?

1. Know Your Audience

Mary: My top three tips. Number one, know your audience, understand who you’re speaking to. 

Case in point, I recently was at an event and I did exactly what I tell people not to do! I didn’t understand my audience. I assumed my audience. And when I got there, it was completely different. I thought it was gonna be all women who were just well established in the church that were my age, or maybe a little younger, but it was women who were unchurched and completely didn’t really know, or have a deep relationship with Jesus.

My message was not for them. So know your audience, ask the question who is in. Who will be at this event? Is it women from the church? Is it women from outside the church? How old are they? What kinda walk would Jesus do? They have know your audience? 

Ruthie: Okay. Know your audience. All right. What about tip two?

2. Know the problem you solve

Mary: Tip number two is know the problem that you solve. What’s the problem you solve, maybe you have gone through and overcome an incredible just trauma in your life. And God has walked you through the storms and you can speak to overcoming. Maybe you don’t have that big traumatic story and that’s okay.

Maybe you’re someone like one of my speakers, who is someone who loves Jesus and loves hospitality. She teaches women how to be hospitable, how to use their home when maybe that’s not their first calling. Additionally, teaches women who are afraid to open their home. She teaches ’em how to do it and do it with grace and comfort.

Know the problem you solve. I solve the problem of women who know they’re called by God, but they don’t know what step to take to step into the speaking arena. That’s the problem I solve. 

Ruthie, you solve the problem of I need to understand my Instagram, and I’m just trying to figure out what a Reel is.

You helped me solve that problem.

3. Know who you serve

And then number three is, know who you serve. And that is you serve primarily Christ. You are here as his servant. And he has called you to this. Listen, if you don’t listen to anything else I say in this podcast, I want you to hear this only you can deliver your message.

You and I can stand shoulder to shoulder and have the exact same message we can use same Scripture. We can use the same stories in the Bible. We’re gonna have different personal stories because you and I are different. We’ll have different delivery because you and I are different.

Your message reaches YOUR audience

Your message will resonate with a group of people that mine will never reach and vice-versa because you are the only person that can deliver this message. And God has entrusted this message to you. He’s not just said, Hey, maybe if you have time. You might get around to this one day in this life, short life you have on earth.

He has said, this is what I have for you. Now you can choose to walk in it or not.

Ruthie: Because then we’ll go back to that. 

Mary: Those are in no specific order. Actually the order would be 3, 2, 1 , but. You have to, just because you’re gonna doubt. I doubt every day, Ruthie, I get up every day and go are you sure Jesus, I’m gonna, I’m gonna check in. I’m gonna check in. Cause I feel like maybe this call was for someone else.

I’m just gonna check in and every day I check in and every day I will and I do this, I’ll say, Lord, I know you it’s mine. I am fully believing and trusting in that, but I, but today I’m feeling like, maybe I need a little affirmation. Could I get a little affirmation today? Yeah, he is faithful every day to show up and remind me.

When public speaking, you are serving

Sometimes that is a sweet accolade from someone and sometimes it’s a whack upside the head it’s whatever I needed in that day. But it’s, we all doubt. And it’s the verse that God, I believe forgive my unbelief. Just continue to stand in this calling. Ruthie I think one of the biggest problems for speakers and for authors is we’ve been told not to make much of ourselves we’ve been told.

We believe that standing up in front of a crowd is a place of honor when it really is a place of service to stand before a crowd of five or 5,000, you are serving those people. They are not there to clap and applaud you. That may happen.

It is tiring work, but work that I absolutely love doing. 

Ruthie: I have another question for you. You have certainly leveraged community well in growing your exposure for your expertise. Through your podcast and also by attending live in person events. In fact, you and I just finally met you at speakUP. That was so fun. And I can see how in person events really will broaden your exposure.

I want you to share with us, how did you make all these connections? How did you find these people and how can listeners take that? And reach out and grow their audience by leveraging community.

Leveraging community authentically

Mary: First of all, know the problem you solve and serve. A lot of the people you see me with is because I served as a volunteer.

I volunteered with Lifeway for years and I volunteered with extraordinary women. Eventually, I ended up being on staff with them and did their social media, like way back before we had smartphone y’all it was a whole situation. And we only had Twitter. But I did a lot of volunteering, a lot of showing up in the places I went to these conferences, Ruthie, as an attendee, I just went to a conference as an attendee, just a few weeks.

I wasn’t on the platform, but I knew that my people were gonna be there and I wanted to be there and I wanted to meet some of them and spend some FaceTime with them, invest in where your people are. Go where they are. And if your people are in a digital place, go into that digital group and offer to serve.

How can I serve in this group? Can I lead a workshop? I do it for several groups that I belong to. And every time I see where I can serve, I am there to serve and you’re right. It’s grown. I give God all the glory, but I will tell you. I work, everyone who comes in, if they make a post in my group, I do my very best to be the person that comments on it.

Now it’s getting to the point where that’s getting a little harder, cuz the group is getting larger. But I still want to be very involved. It’s a heart thing. It’s about showing. Being intentional.

Networking with truth

Ruthie: You have to get out there and be with the people that can not only be your cohorts and colleagues, but your potential clients.And that’s not wrong to go after that kind of thing. 

Mary: No, you do it with the right heart. You do it with the right heart to serve. I always tell people Ruthie. You and I are liking this. I always tell people, I would love for you to be a part of my course or whatever. I’m if I’m promoting my course at the time, but only if this is the step God has for you.

Ruthie: Commit it to prayer. Pray first before you say yes or no.

Mary, tell us a little bit about your course and how folks can access that. If they’re interested in having your help to Polish their public speaking.

Mary: I do have a course called “Activate your speaking career.” Go from overwhelmed and insecure to confident and equipped. And in that course, I take you from building a message, learning how to reach out to event planners with a really great one sheet and a really great video.

I know you just, everybody just gasp video. It’s not hard. I promise it’s painless, but, and not only that Ruthie, we do it in a cohort style. Like you do, where you get feedback from me, we’re in a private Facebook group. I open it twice a year. And if you’re interested, you can go to

Furthering connections

Click on activate. That’s the name of it. There’s a waiting, there’s a waiting list. And just click on that wait list. And the minute it becomes available, you’ll be the first to know.

Ruthie: Awesome. And I bet if they get on your wait list, they’ll also be on your newsletter where they can receive tips as well.

Mary: Absolutely. Newsletter goes out once a week with a link to the podcast, a fun find something. So where do you want people specifically to go to connect with you online? 

Mary: You can go to my website, But what I would really love for you to do join me in my Facebook group, it’s take the stage speakers, just search for that. It will pop up.

(Hayley reference Take the Stage Facebook group in resources at top)

Here’s why I want you to come. Number one, you’re gonna get on the email list over there too. But most importantly is this is a place for you to get personalized. 

Really deep questions. It’s a private group. It’s for people like you that are speakers. And what I love is you build your tribe in there. You build your community. So many of my speakers know each other from that community. I was just at an event speaking and eight or 10 of the women all knew each other from my Facebook group.

It was so fun to hang out with them. So yeah, absolutely. Go over there. I’d love to bring you. 

Ruthie: Yes. And Mary you’re so good at building community and fostering that I always say community grows opportunity. Yes, because it does in so many ways and especially for the kingdom of Christ. Yep. So thank you for taking the time outta your busy schedule and day to be with us and share your knowledge with our listeners.

I know they’re gonna just really soak up what you have to say. Go follow Mary! Get on her email list and her wait list and get in that Facebook group.

Mary: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it! 

mary snyder headshot public speaking podcast

Mary Snyder is a speaker, speaker coach, author,  event planner and tour producer with over 20 years in the Christian events industry.  She has been on the stage, behind the stage and booked & coached some of the most influential speakers of our time.  Tapping into her unique combination of speaker skills and event planner experience, Mary shares her knowledge and experience with  speakers who are looking to start or grow their speaking career. 

Mary’s weekly podcast, Take the Stage, is one of the places you’ll find her sharing insights and tips of speaking.  She is also the founder of Activate Your Speaking Career – a digital course that equips a speaker to go from overwhelmed and intimidated to confident and equipped. Find out more about Mary at  

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