3 Communication Lessons We Can Learn From The CMB Momentum Event



Two weeks ago I had the privilege of serving at the CMB (Christian Music Broadcasters) Event, MOMENTUM, in Orlando, FLA. It was hosted at the Disney Yacht Club which was a real drag.

Someone has to do it.

It was an impacting, excellent, and vibrant event. It communicated a wide range of ideas in a short time. In short, I was impressed.

I’ve served as a keynote speaker, workshop speaker, and worship leader at a large number of events over the last 25 years, and this, in my view, was one of the best.

Why? What made it different? How did they do it? What principles can we learn from the CMB team?


1. LESSON #1 – Always Thank Supporters Before, During, And After Events

Before, during, and after the CMB event, in emails, Twitter, Facebook, and otherwise, the language of “thanks” and “appreciation” was flying everywhere. I noted it especially in my own communications with the CMB team.

My main contact was the award-winning Beth Bacall, an effervescent radio personality based in Atlanta. Every email we exchanged felt like she was there to 1) serve those attending the gathering, and to 2) serve me as just one of the voices they would hear. A sense of gratefulness for my participation seasoned our communications, and it simply made me want to give my best. Thankfulness does that.

As my primary “first contact,” Beth was communicating on behalf of the CMB team that I was of value to this year’s event. It wasn’t to stroke my ego; it was clearly authentic. Warm fuzzy.

Now, some thoughts for presenters on being thankful to supporters.

The presenters were the same. Appreciation to the CMB team was expressed, to the DJs, to the labels and artists, and to personal inspirations and heroes. A sense of comradery, of “peer-ness” permeated the atmosphere. While there was, most probably a Green Room (I sometimes miss these things), it didn’t separate the crowd. Music needs radio, radio needs music. If you think about it, every speaker needs his/her audience and vice-versa.

In other words, none of us communicates in a vacuum. We all need support – people who love us, pray for us, know our stuff, and still think we’re worth investing in.

Be Our HeroI learned from TED talks to send out audibles about heroes, and people who support you, mentor you, and inspire you to do what you do.

Behind the scenes, I seek to speak highly of many people, like my Lord, my wife, children, parents, family, and friends that help make someone with a skill or gift set like “me” possible at an event.

In front of the gathering, I chose Jesus (my Source), my wife’s grandma (inspiration), my grandfather (hero/mentor), my producer, Dave Senes (quotes), John Frost (inspiration), Keep The Faith (the team that leads it), and Jimmy Neil Smith (International Storytelling Center).

Frost Sharp Coy WiltWork hard to express appreciation to those enabling you to do what you do. Make it written and verbal. Then, at the event, overdo it, with authenticity.

IMG_5722I thanked some people before the event, some during the presentation, and I’ll even insert some thanks here – after the event.

Again, hundreds of DJs (mainly), radio folks, record label folks, artists and others had gathered to be encouraged, developed, and networked during this fantastic event.

Michelle Younkman, Beth Bacall, and the entire CMB team pulled off an extraordinary event cared for in the finest details. That matters to me, and they were remarkable.

They, as my “communication supporters” during the event, made us all feel ready to do what we do. Thank you, team CMB.

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Inspiring friends like John Frost brought the house down with wisdom, and other keynotes like filmmaker Steve Taylor (a long-time personal “quirky” hero) had me scrambling to take notes. They are communication supporters as well. Thank you, inspiring peers and friends.

Some of the “gravitas” worship leaders and faith-powered artist voices that I most respect (friend Matt Redman, Matt Maher, Stephen Curtis Chapman, and many others) were there leading, caring, and investing in the crew with depth of soul and experience leading the way.

Thank you, guys, for making music that shapes my soul and the souls of others.

And, thank you for praying for us while I was there. If you didn’t, thank you for reading this and joining in the experience.

Always thank supporters before, during, and after events.


LESSON #2 – Know The Part You Are To Play, And Play It.

My part was to teach on Thursday am at 9:55 (the second keynote) on “The Indelible Art Of Storytelling: How To Help Your Listeners Never Forget What You Say.”

IMG_1214I had a mission – give tools for better storytelling to radio DJs. I had 30 minutes, complete with a countdown clock, and it kept me on my toes. (Many speakers could use a clock like that. I’m going to start using one whenever I speak.

My job needed to be done in those 30 minutes. When I saw I had 12 seconds left, in my head, I asked “Did I just do my part?”

My answer, in my head? “Yes, yes I did.”

So, how long did it take me to prepare to play my part and to do it well?


  • write and research the notes,
  • hone the concept in my head,
  • write/re-write, solicit input, and edit the language,
  • practice it over and over at least 20+ times (memorizing the first 10-15 minutes, as it was the core story),
  • design a JPG based Keynote in Illustrator/Keynote (so no fonts are screwed up in transfer),
  • pre-record an audiobook version for later distribution (see above),


I guesstimate I put 40 hours into it – just to give that 30 minutes of storytelling reflection to these radio “influencers of hearts.” That is not uncommon for me, if I am building a new concept for a specific target audience. It’s an investment in a future piece of work (like an ebook, or for other events) so I give myself to it.

(Note: That time doesn’t include the CD of audio stories I created and gave them as an example (thanks supporters) or the book that is available to radio DJs (thanks supporters))).

A number of participants connected with me later to say that it was the most practical and helpful training on storytelling for radio they had heard to date for their field. That made the prep work feel worth it.

My beautiful wife, Anita, said it was clearly organized and well-prepared, and that gave a fix to the communication-aholic in me.

Know the part you are to play, and play it.


LESSON #3 – Remember That Production Values Matter

As a visual learner (I’d rather be in an art gallery than almost anywhere), designer, communicator, and writer, I LOVE well-produced events. This was one of the best I’ve been to for its size and scope.

People were moved by sight, sound, and content. Significant resources were invested to serve the movement of the heart by encouragement that was the dream for the event organizers. Our generation, like it or not, has a sensitive palate nurtured by movies and music.

Hear me; I’m not a “go big or go home” guy; I like simple. I like real. I like a circle of people with good food in the middle. But, every event has a target purpose. Does the production investment match the target purpose – and are the right things being invested in?

For example, the cost of a bottle of fine wine may be a better production investment with one group than the aesthetics of the room. Knowing your goals, and knowing the expectations of those coming, matters in determining what you invest in for the event.

It wasn’t cheap, I know. Hey Church! Cheap and homespun is not ALWAYS the best, or most beautiful, answer. (I have a theology for that.)

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Great lighting, stages, personnel, a sound company (killer sound for the music), solid musicianship, banners, thoughtful gifts (my wife even got a massage at a ladies’ night), great meals, transportation, and moving experiences were cared for to the smallest detail.

And, for the first time ever as a speaker (and I’ve spoken at some big events), I was given a walk-through on the stage before I spoke – to get a feel for the space and the best areas for lighting and body direction. My theatre “blocking” world came rushing back to me. Its about having a comfort level with the space. As the band rehearsed, they let me walk on the stage and get it in my bones. It became familiar turf in a few seconds. I liked that, and it was a small detail that made a difference given the shape of the event.

It made it a privilege to speak knowing that all my visual elements (Keynote presentation), sound and more were being cared for in a way that matched my preparation efforts. Kudos to Jason Sharp, the CMB Education Track Chair, for making me feel like all would be well. I even got to mess with the clicker beforehand to practice. Nice touch.

A large crew behind the scenes painstakingly made everything shimmer and shine just a bit more – in sight, in sound, in visuals, in coordination. I remember Erwin McManus saying to a group of us that the church or ministry movement that doesn’t care about creating a rich, ongoing experience in gathered events would find their rooms emptying in this generation. I have come to agree.

IMG_5721The details are what I’m talking about. Informality is great, and resources are often limited – but sometimes that can be an excuse for a lazier approach to event experiences. I know people who show up hours before an evening church service to set up candles, fix lighting, tighten the sound, rehearse, and more.

It’s worth it – because people are worth it and the production values in the room affect them. I’m not talking about glitz; even “low-fi, family, and acoustic” can have good production values.

And the app worked seamlessly. Clearly, they had built and tested a solid app that covered all the bases. It guided me through the event. Well done, app cats!

The excellence in execution made the work leading up to my part seem worth it. The environment certainly helped me be on my game. The CMB team nailed it.

They knew what they were doing, and had professionals doing it. We can’t always do that, but when we can, it’s good form (I have a theology for that – it’s called creational theology).

Production values matter in impacting people.


Conclusion – Communication Matters

Communication matters, in all its forms and details.

It is how many of us find a bridge from one idea, from one attitude, to the next. Whether its on a Sunday morning, welcoming people to your backyard neighborhood barbecue, or presenting a business concept in 10 minutes – good preparation teaches us to communicate ideas more clearly.

Then, as we get good at doing things well, we become better in more spontaneous moments. When people have asked me how I’ve gotten stronger as a speaker, I say, “Speak hundreds of times communicating in front of people, seeking to do it a little better each time. Then, we communicate better when we have to be spontaneous.”

IMG_5726Regarding the radio world, in many ways, the program director of your local Christian music station has as much influence on affecting the lives of listening Christians in their area as many pastors.

Certainly, the personalities behind the microphone become a fixture in many people’s daily lives.

It was a gift to get into their world, into the hearts, and into their heads, to work with them in facing their challenges well.

To hear their struggles, support them in their storytelling on the air, and work alongside respected “greats” in radio (like John Frost), was a rich learning experience.


In short, I’m amazed it’s over and we’re on the other side. This has been months in preparation.

I’m grateful to God for the opportunity, and the engagement of those who attended. Really, it couldn’t have gone better.

Again, thank you for your part in reaching out to this tribe of leaders; I couldn’t have done it without your support.

Speak Hope at every turn,



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