- I took a seat in the audience for a change, to come up with this month's most popular post, "Persuade me: 21 ways speakers can." Persuasion's a key element in eloquence. What's on your list of persuasive tactics? This post got kudos from audience members and speechwriters.
- For novice speakers, how do you get practice without doing a big speech? I've got 4 "stepping stones" that will give you the practice you need--and let you start small, then move up in terms of length and level of difficulty, while building a reputation for good, solid delivery.
- Am I too old to learn good speaking skills? Age bring pluses and minuses to older speakers who've never been trained, but, in my experience, it's never too late to learn. Check out my advice on what older speakers need to keep in mind.
- Caring for the speaker is a job for...the speaker. Read this summary of my tips for "the healthy speaker" to make sure you're boosting your speaker-power. Then focus on your state of mind when speaking as a key element in your success. Check out Olivia Mitchell's post on varying states and how to use them to advantage, before or after you speak.
- Pride goeth before a fall, they say. But here's a new view from psychologists who suggest that a healthy level of pride can help you in social situations like speaking.
- Women still have trouble getting on the program at professional conferences. I've started to highlight speakers' bureaus that feature women speakers to raise awareness for program planners and help women speakers put themselves forward. Please, send me your entries for bureaus that collect and promote women speakers!
- Lucky enough to have lots of speaking gigs? Then remind yourself to cover these bases, backups and breathers when you're a frequent speaker.
- Young speakers have their own version of American Idol in the UK. Check out the BBC website for the show "The Speakers" for ideas, tips and advice.
- There's a new online "Public Speaking Community" where you can find lots of advice from this and other blogs on public speaking. Let us know how you're participating in this social network!
- Women, anxiety and speaking were considered in this Diane Rehm Show interview with the author of a new book on anxiety and why women differ from men in approaching it. The post mirrors topics we've discussed on the blog before, so share your reaction.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
NPR's Diane Rehm Show this morning will feature the issue of women and anxiety in its second hour, with Jerilyn Ross, director of the Ross Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders and CEO of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. The show's promos say the discussion will focus on whether and why women are more anxious than men, so I'll be tuning in to listen and will post links to the audio and transcripts once those are available. Ross also is the author of Triumph Over Fear: A Book of Help and Hope for People with Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Phobias and One Less Thing to Worry About: Uncommon Wisdom for Coping with Common Anxieties. You also may want to check out ADAA's site, which includes some simple self-tests for various types of anxiety disorders.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Finally, reach out to your audiences. Invite their followup questions, suggest a meetup after your talk and listen to their feedback. The chance to speak to -- and listen to -- many audiences is a gift. Use it. If you're where I'll be speaking this month, let me know!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Not ready for a keynote speech, big presentation, commencement address? Finding it hard to get booked for a speech or get on the program at a conference? No worries. If you're not ready for a prime-time slot as a speaker, but still want to get some practice, try these smaller stepping stones on your path toward public speaking:
- Ask a question when someone else is speaking. As an audience member asking a question, you have the goal of getting the speaker to speak more, rather than yourself. You can plan your question ahead of time, whether that's hours before or while the speaker's talk is happening. Stand up, ask it, sit down and listen. Easiest speaking role ever, but also a good way to stand out--albeit briefly--at a major presentation without having to give the talk yourself.
- Offer to be master of ceremonies or event chair: Unless you're Ellen DeGeneres hosting a major awards show, this tends to be the most scripted and brief role at an event. You'll open and welcome the group, make any housekeeping announcements, introduce presenters or speakers, thank them when they're done, perhaps note there's just time for one more question. This role offers great visibility without requiring a long talk, and you'll be thanked roundly if you limit your remarks and keep the trains running on time.
- Step up to moderating a panel: Does this sound similar to emcee or event chair? Not really. For one thing, moderators often are treated as one of the panel and remain up front during the panelists' presentations, so this role may be a more visible practice opportunity. Moderators often are chosen for their own depth of knowledge on a topic, as well as the ability to make those speakers stay on time. Take it a bit further to show your expertise by weaving in your own observations--but do so only briefly--when making a transition from one panelist to the next. "Joe has just shared with us the first steps you take in this process, and in my experience, those are formidable. Now I'd like to ask Ann to take us to the next level: How can you excel at these tasks and advance your career?" Also remember that moderators lead the question and answer session, so you can practice moving your eye contact around the room to call on people in all areas of the space. You also can take the moderator's prerogative to sum up several identical questions, pose a question to the audience to take some heat off the panelists, or simply guide the discussion.
- Be a panelist: Think of being a panelist as a shared-speaker role: You're only responsible for one-third (or less) of the talking. This takes extra preparation, and you should ask your moderator to organize a planning call with the other speakers, or at least a clear idea of the role she wants you to play. Panelists always wind up with Q&A sessions, and you should practice joining in an answer, or leaving others to the other panelists--there's no need for everyone on the podium to respond.
Have you tried any or all of these steps on the way to a full-length speech? Share your experiences in the comments. If not, try each of these steps and use them to get comfortable (and noticed) as a speaker.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
- Legal issues are covered by the American Bar Association's Women and Minority Speakers bureau is a national U.S. clearinghouse for continuing legal education speakers;
- For women in business, the Women's Leadership Exchange focuses on women speakers who can address business and entrepreneurial issues;
- Trainers, coaches and consultant speakers can be found at the Professional Woman Speakers Bureau and Outstanding Women Speakers both offer female coaches, trainers and consultants--the Professional bureau has a global team, while the Outstanding bureau focuses on U.S. and Canadian speakers;
- Looking for a celebrity speaker? Leading Authorities, a speaker agency, fielded a high-level team of women speakers for its Women on the World program in 2008, and the Nationwide Speakers Bureau offers a team of Women Making Headlines;
- For students, Campus Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress that helps young people make their voices heard, offers a women's rights speakers bureau;
- In health, the Spirit of Women, a hospital network devoted to advancing women's health, offers a speakers bureau to support network members in their community outreach events, and accepts applications for new speakers, and the Society for Women's Health Research offers this team of women speakers on health issues;
- Statewide speakers bureaus also are a great resource. On women's issues, the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women offers a team of speakers, and if estate planning, financial or investment advice for women is your topic, check out the Colorado Women's Estate Planning Council speakers bureau;.
Remember: If you don't know where to find women speakers for your next conference or event, that doesn't mean they don't exist. Start your search with these resources and ask for more recommendations.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I often recommend to professional societies, membership groups, university faculty and other groups that they consider instituting speaker training for early-career members, for the reverse of those reasons. But there's no reason to omit training for seniors in your professional development tracks, and plenty of evidence suggests that using your "alumni" or seniormost participants as brand evangelists is especially effective. It's never too late to learn! Check my suggestions for what to ask the trainer -- 13 good questions -- before you hire her, and contact me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz for more information about group or one-on-one training options.
- The older you are, the more bad speaking habits you may need to unlearn. If you've been picking up tips here and there, but never had formal training, it's very likely that you've heard and incorporated bad advice into your routine as a speaker. The good news: this is not an insurmountable challenge, and no reason to bypass training now.
- Older trainees know their own foibles, fears and areas of focus better. You've had more experience--even if it consists of avoiding speaking opportunities--and typically have a better sense of yourself and your preferences. If you can articulate them, a good trainer can work with you to mold them to your purpose.
- You may be surprised at how things have changed. When I train people in using social media tools, I remind them that technology favors the late adopter, as they can benefit from new advances. That's also true of speaking styles. One senior trainee of mine was pleased to find out that his 1930s-era elocution training (which asked him to turn his Brooklyn accent into a more mainstream midwestern voice) didn't apply these days--and we used that story as an anecdote when he addressed a diverse group of 21st century teenagers to make a point about how far we've come in welcoming diversity in his profession.
- Been avoiding speaking as a chore? Training offers fast, focused help. Training isn't magic, but it does offer a private, personalized time in which you can learn simple solutions that can help you overcome your barriers to speaking. You may have been stumbling over and over a problem for which there's a simple solution--just ask.
- If your seniority goes beyond age, seek private training. I don't train leaders with their subordinates for a reason: Everyone needs a secure place to try and fail in training, and few people want to do that in front of their bosses--or their subordinates. Unless you are being trained with a peer group, ask for one-on-one sessions.
Monday, April 13, 2009
- Mind your voice and vocal cords: Read about what to do when you're losing your voice, and learn from Jane Fonda's recent voice lesson what you should know about dry environments and hydration.
- Calm your anxiety: Find out what to do when anxiety takes your breath away, find ways to care for yourself to stay cool and collected, and ponder whether vitamin C can curb your lack of enthusiasm for speaking.
- Pay attention to your hearing: Speakers may miss signs of hearing loss--in themselves. If you think your audience needs to speak up, consider this.
What else do you want to know about speaker health? From what shoes to wear to core exercises to help your posture, I'm ready to tackle your questions about mind or body health considerations for public speakers. Leave your questions in the comments, or email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
- Look at me. More than once, and hold my gaze a bit while you're at it.
- Let me share an idea.
- Let me ask a question--and not just when you're finished. Then answer it.
- Voice the questions I (or others) have, even if you don't agree with or answer them.
- Don't just preach at me: Tell me about the experiences that shape your perspective.
- Smile at me. More than once, and especially when someone is grilling you.
- Acknowledge the difficulties your audience may be facing, even if you don't agree with them or experience them yourself.
- Credit your competitors, opposition or enemies with something good.
- Don't skip over, dismiss or ignore audience questions and issues. Address them.
- Respond, but don't react to audience bullies. I'd rather see you keep your composure and handle them evenly.
- Don't be afraid to disagree, respectfully and with data on your side.
- Assume your audience is smart and come prepared. Know your stuff.
- Assume your audience includes beginners, but don't talk down to us.
- Tell me why you're excited and passionate about your topic.
- Spend less time talking than you're allotted.
- Share a professional secret you know that may make all the difference in my take on the issue.
- Tell me the three toughest questions to answer on your topic--especially if no one knows the answers yet. That helps me look ahead.
- Don't just interact with the vocal audience members. Speak to and encourage those who don't speak to you in front of the group.
- Make me laugh--in recognition, with the group and without being mean about it. Don't make fun at the expense of an audience member or opponent.
- Don't be a know-it-all. I'll be more swayed by what you know if you admit what you don't know...or tell me what you wish you knew (see #17).
- Plan ahead. Know what you want me to take away, and make it easy for me to remember it by focusing your talk on those key messages.
Persuasion comes up again and again when people define eloquence. What's on your list of what makes a speaker persuasive?
- Pride can help you thrive in a tough spot: The article quotes David DeSteno, a psychologist at Northeastern University: “...we are finding that pride is centrally important not just for surviving physical danger but for thriving in difficult social circumstances, in ways that are not at all obvious.” Psychologists suggest you make this a "social strategy" you use when facing such situations, which might include your next speech.
- Pride sends a strong, nearly universal signal to your audience: Despite other differences in how audiences in different cultures view body language, such as eye contact, the look of pride is remarkably consistent across cultures, the article notes. It also conveys power. Psychologist Jessica L. Tracy of the University of British Columbia, who's studied this effect, notes, "It’s the strongest status signal we know of among the emotions; stronger than a happy expression, contentment, anything.” Your viewers will associate a look of pride with higher status and importance.
- Pride is catching--in you and with your audience: The article describes experiments in which participants were praised and encouraged. They reported feeling proud, and others interacting with them ranked them as more likeable and dominant in a group exercise. The researchers note that this didn't come off as arrogance, an important detail if you're concerned about looking too full of yourself. A little pride, apparently, goes a long way.