Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jump into June's top tips

Summer got off to a great start with these, our top 10 tips on the Eloquent Woman blog for June. Readers jumped into posts about speaking as a tour guide, research for blushing speakers, great storytelling, and our new contest. Check out this winning team of tips from June:
  1. You love a contest: Hands down, the new Eloquent Woman contest, 15 Weeks to Step Up Your Speaking, topped our most popular posts this month. You have till July 31 to enter yourself (or a colleague) to win free speaker coaching and a great Flip camera!
  2. The tour guide as speaker intrigued dozens of readers this month, with a post focusing on a woman sander at the Martin Guitar Factory who served as my tour guide in June. Read about her training and what worked for her audience.
  3. Our top current women speakers series continued to draw a large audience--it features video examples nominated by readers. In June, a guest post added thoughts about women commencement speakers.
  4. Developing a message by using the rule of three--from a post on the SixMinutes blog--
    attracted lots of readers looking to put their eloquent content together.
  5. Storytelling's a basic speaker skill. But telling a story on yourself is tough. Learn from a master storyteller in this popular post.
  6. Inspiration from learning the guitar helped one speaker get over her fear of public speaking--and led to a new web site for music makers, too.
  7. The blushing speaker is the focus of new research. It may send a helpful signal to your audience--or distract you.
  8. Dance helped inspire another speaker, who once worked as a bellydancer and shares two posts with us about what it taught her as a speaker. Go here and here to see her insights.
  9. Will you speak as a moderator? Before you start that panel, check our tips on "everything in moderation."
  10. A radio tour survivor shares her tips with us for what speakers can do to get through lots of successive interviews in a short time period.

Monday, June 29, 2009

help teenage girls with an eloquent video

UPDATE: Submit your videos to Nina Simon at nina[at]museumtwo[dot]com. I know I've already asked you to make a short video of yourself to enter the Eloquent Woman's contest to win 15 weeks of free coaching to step up your public speaking. But while you're at it, make another video -- this one to help a camp for young girls interested in technology. I'll let Nina Simon, who created Museum 2.0, tell you more about what she's looking for in these videos:
I'm developing a camp for teenage girls (rising 9th graders) with the Girls Math and Science Partnership about expressing yourself through technology. It's a weeklong camp, with the pilot happening this summer at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh and then spreading next year to several science museums around the country.

As part of the camp, we want to give the girls access to videos by inspiring women who express themselves uniquely through technology. I'm particularly looking for women from diverse backgrounds (a lot of the girls in these camps are immigrants, African-American, and Hispanic, and we want to reflect that women like them can be successful in tech). These girls are at the point where they don't even know the range of possibilities of where tech can take them professionally, and while we'll be introducing them to several cool avenues in camp (electric fashion, codebreaking, circuit-bending, game design), we also want to expose them to real adults doing this stuff every day.

Would you consider making a short (3-5 min video) for us? It would be internal to the camp website and would not be publicly available. I'd want you to share your name, city, and age, and cover some subset of these topics:

- what career do you consider yourself? how do you name it?
- where did you start?
- how do you express yourself through technology?
- what do you use as inspiration?
- how do you solve tough problems?
- what are your big dreams
- how do you think differently?

What do you think? I know the girls would love to hear about your work. I'd be hoping to receive final videos by July 10.
Please contribute if you can to this important project...a wonderful way to show young girls how eloquent women use technology to express themselves.

many interviews at one blow

Editor's note: Seven at One Blow is an old Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a tailor who killed seven flies in a single strike...and went on to be king. Nowadays, in order to rule her own publicity, an eloquent woman might well find herself doing something like a lot of live radio interviews in a morning or over a week...a true test of her speaking skills. I asked Sarah Milstein, reader of this blog and co-author of a popular new book about Twitter, to share tips from her recent "radio tour" of interviews with you. Keep in mind that on radio, you'll need to describe what might otherwise be seen. Here it is.)

I recently wrote a book, and to help promote it, my publisher sent me on a "radio tour." Set up by Newman Communications, the tour involved approximately 30 radio interviews over the course of a week. Most of the interviews were jammed into two marathon days, and they were all conducted on the phone, in calls that ranged from three to 30 minutes.

In doing so many interviews, I've hit on a few tips that eloquent women may find useful:
* If your interviews start early in the morning, as many do, make sure you wake up in plenty of time to make coffee and exercise your voice. I chatted with my dog and read the headlines out loud to warm up.

* To give your voice more energy, sit up straight on the edge of your chair or stand.

* Practice answering likely questions and end your statements with a tone of voice that suggests you've concluded that answer. That usually means bringing the your intonation down (the opposite of upspeak).

* Radio moves fast: keep your answers short but don't speak too quickly (practice helps!).

* Do spell out any oddball URLs or search terms you share.

* For most interviews, the station calls you at a prearranged time.
There's a slim chance you'll be going on live when you answer, so I trained myself to pause before saying anything, and then if there was no sound, I simply said, "This is Sarah."

* Be prepared to promote your book/site/show/whatever. Often, at the end of the interview, the DJ will ask where listeners can go for more info. In my case, the answer was, "Head to Amazon and search for 'The Twitter Book.'"
What tips have you hit on for interviews?

Buy The Twitter Book

Improve speaking skills with improv

Editor's note: I'm delighted to repost with permission this guest post from the excellent blog of speaker coach Angela DeFinis, who works in California's Silicon Valley and Bay Area. When I read this post, I thought, "That's just exactly what I wanted to say about improv skills!" (I've added links and some boldfacing to emphasize a few points.) So here it is. You can find out more about Angela here--please do check out her blog, full of great ideas and inspiration:

You show up to your speaking engagement only to realize that your PowerPoint presentation isn’t opening, the A/V system is down, and there’s a car alarm blaring right outside the window. There’s a full room of people eagerly waiting for you to begin and there is no turning back now. So what are you going to do?

Situations like this one happen all too often, and they require quick thinking and creative problem solving with little or no guidance. Improvisation is a must-have tool in the public speaker’s repertoire. Without it, speakers often find themselves in what I call “The Big Freeze”—that paralyzing moment of fear, physical immobility and mental shut down that leaves them unable to act. But if speakers utilize the teachings and techniques of improv, they can learn to overcome this fear and actually enjoy flying by the seat of their pants.

In his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, author Malcom Gladwell explains that improv requires split-second, spontaneous decisions and hours of highly repetitive, structured practice. Think of a play in basketball. The players on the court all have defined positions, and they’ve spent hours practicing in order to execute properly. But often the play breaks down. Maybe the defense switched a match-up or there is an injury. Do they just stand there, paralyzed? Of course not! Now the play becomes an adaptation. Because they’ve practiced so much, they’ve experienced the variables and can alter the play. The point-guard thinks on his toes, makes an extra pass, and the team ends up with a jump shot instead of a layup. As Gladwell puts it, “How good people’s decisions are [made] under the fast-moving, high-stress conditions of rapid cognition is a function of training and rules and rehearsal.”

The paramount improv rule, according to Gladwell, is the notion of agreement. As you can see in the video above, the comedians accept everything that comes their way. The key to their hilarity is the speed at which they “go with the flow.” There is a full commitment to agreement. All of a sudden, the issues that would normally hold a situation hostage due to incompatibility are accepted and incorporated. The answer is always “yes.” Gladwell notes, “Bad improvisers block action…Good improvisers develop action.”

So envision yourself as a basketball team or comedy troupe of one. When you find yourself presented with a public speaking distraction, limitation or challenge, think of it as just one more tool to make your presentation stand out.

With these lessons in mind, what would you do if the PowerPoint is down for the count, the microphone is on the fritz, and the Jeep outside your window just won’t quit?

NPR: Breathe Like a Baby

If you've focused on your breathing when you speak, as many of our readers do, you may have found that over-thinking your breath trips you up more than anything else. That's part of the message in an NPR story out this morning, "Baby Steps to Better Breathing," which features several vocal coaches helping singers and others to relax and, well, regress, to baby-like breathing. The difference, in part, is breathing naturally versus breathing as a stress response, something we've covered before. Here's what the story says about stressed-out breathing, that sharp intake of breath you make when an accident nearly happens, for example:
The quick inhale brings more oxygen in and sets off a flood of hormones that heighten our senses and help us respond quickly. "It helps us survive."

The trouble comes when chronic stress sets in. Under stress, a lot of interactions start to feel like near-collisions. "It becomes a part of us and we never release out of it," says Bilanchone. When we're stressed we may cheat the exhale or even hold our breath for moments. As adults, we can develop these bad habits that interfere with the natural rhythm of breath.
Spending time re-learning how to breathe should become part of your speaker practice, and you may find you'll benefit by excusing yourself about 10 minutes before a speech (a handy stairwell or restroom will do for this) so you can get in some long, slow, calming and deep breaths. Want to see your physiology? NPR offers this link to a page about how the diaphragm works and to how respiration works and how it applies to performers (like speakers).

Related posts: Speakers: 7 Reasons I Want You to Talk Less

When the Speaker Needs to Catch Her Breath (with relaxation response tips)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

organizers: get women on the program

Shireen Mitchell, whose Twitter handle is digitalsista, here offers useful tips for conference organizers about how to ensure their panels include women speakers--she's speaking in response to a Wired magazine conference which caused a stir by fielding a tech panel without women speakers. (Technology's one of several professions where women are noticing all-male speaker rosters.) In addition to these tips, an online petition was started. A similar protest was launched here against a MediaBistro conference without women on a critical panel.

You also can help ensure women get on the program by contacting your professional membership groups and asking them to write letters of complaint; letting conference sponsors know you'd like to see more gender balance on panels; and volunteering to serve on conference committees that select speakers. In this case, the worlds of tech and media responded to the rise of complaints on Twitter and other web sites: Both conferences vowed to correct the error. Make sure you let conference organizers know you want to see diversity--particularly women speakers--in every session.

Related posts on getting women on the program, including history, tips, and resources

contest: step up your speaking in 15 weeks

UPDATED: See below for new entry details!

Are you wishing you could step up your speaking game to a new level--or just step up to speaking as a beginner? Enter The Eloquent Woman's new contest, and you'll have the chance to step up your speaking in 15 weeks, right on this blog. You'll get direct coaching from me via posts and videos on this blog, and you'll be posting, too--in video questions and sessions. The 15-week program will allow you to choose your top three priorities for improving your speaking--the things you most want to address--as well as 12 other essential steps that will help anyone improve as a public speaker.

Of course, just one lucky winner will be participating--but the rest of you will get to watch and learn alongside her. And here's the program our winner will follow: Every week, for 15 weeks, she'll submit a short video that asks questions about the week's topic, and she'll get coaching from me via video and written posts on the blog. The winner must agree to post once weekly for 15 weeks, and to do the exercises provided. The 15-week program for stepping up your public speaking includes:

  • Week 1: Sharing your concerns about public speaking, and your three priorities for what you want to improve. I'll share what we can accomplish together.

  • Week 2: Creating a message you want to convey. You'll submit your ideas about the 3 points you want to convey, and I'll do a message makeover to help you get your message across.

  • Week 3: We'll address your number-one priority. You ask questions, I'll share answers.

  • Week 4: Every speaker hesitates a bit when facing the audience, some more than others. We'll work on building confidence and reducing stress in speaking.

  • Week 5: Are there really gender issues related to public speaking? We'll talk about your experiences and the history, psychology and social issues related to women and public speaking.

  • Week 6: Your second priority comes to the fore: Your questions, my answers.

  • Week 7: Where's the speaker? We'll cover positioning yourself when you speak: Using a lectern, sitting, standing, moving around will be our topics.

  • Week 8: Connecting with the audience is the key to any speaking opportunity. We'll talk about how to connect with and persuade your audience -- and help them pay attention to your talk.

  • Week 9: Your third priority, along with its questions and answers.

  • Week 10: This week, we'll consider those double-edged swords for women speakers--appearance factors that can work for or against you--such as hair, makeup, jewelry and wardrobe.

  • Week 11: We'll build the skills you need for working with program organizers: What to ask them, what to tell them about you and your talk. In this week, you'll approach some speaking opportunities and tell us about your progress.

  • Week 12: You'll share a video of yourself conveying your message in a short talk, and get useful feedback on how you can improve your results.

  • Week 13: Learning how to followup after a speech is this week's topic, from handouts to thanks and recommendations.

  • Week 14: You'll share another video of yourself trying out your short message, using the feedback from week 12, with more pointers.

  • Week 15: Open season: You can ask three more questions--either as followups to what we've learned, or things not covered.

    That's a lot of coaching! But in addition to the 15 weeks of advice, the winner also will receive this custom-designed Flip MinoHD Camcorder, a $229 value. It's also the tool that will enable you to easily share your questions by video; all the software needed to edit, upload and store your videos is contained within the camera.

    Here's how to enter:
  • Make a 3-minute-or-less video of yourself, telling me your 3 priorities for what you want to improve in your public speaking skills. You can choose from such topics as your vocal skills, appearance, handling audience questions, gesturing, speaking extemporaneously, eye contact, and more. Be sure to check the list of what we'll be covering so you use your 3 priorities wisely! Then post your short video to YouTube.com, and tag it "eloquent woman contest" so I can find it.
  • UPDATE: If you're one of the Eloquent Woman's fans on Facebook, you also can enter your video on Facebook and skip the YouTube step. Find us on Facebook here.

  • Send me a short essay making the case for your coaching. What will coaching help you achieve? Why? Do this in 500 words or less. Email it to frays4755[at]mypacks[dot]com. Include your contact information, which will not be published, but is needed so we can reach you. Indicate your permission for your video and essay to be used in whole or in part on the Eloquent Woman blog. Entries without contact information or permission expressly indicated will not be considered for the contest.

  • Post and email your entry no later than midnight Eastern Time, July 31, 2009. Winners will be announced in August, with the coaching to start in September 2009.
  • Finally: Tell your female friends and colleagues about this opportunity--even if you don't want to participate, you may have colleagues or friends who'd benefit from this type of coaching. (And yes, while I coach both men and women to be effective public speakers and media interview subjects, this contest is open to women only--my own way of helping advance their chances to compete in a sphere that's often been closed to them.) Public speaking training's one of the best professional development skills you can acquire. Don't miss this chance to try! Leave your questions in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them.

    Related posts: Don't let video hold up your contest entry

    Put your contest entry on Facebook

    Friday, June 26, 2009

    more on dancing as speaker inspiration

    Katie Kemple's back with more ideas about how dance (or really, any performance art) can help you build skills that will serve you well as a speaker. Posting on the Women Grow Business blog, she offers us part 2 of her lessons-learned from her time working as a bellydancer. Once again, she does a great job tying her performing to concrete steps speakers can take to rev up their storytelling. Here's a sample from one of her key points, "Encourage participation:"
    I always knew I was having a good night when the audience got up to dance. It meant I had converted them from audience members to participants. That’s why as a speaker, I try to give the audience an opportunity to act. Whether it’s raising a hand, offering a comment, or demonstrating a concept, when you involve people, you win advocates. And that additional support is what often converts a presentation from mediocre to memorable.
    Kemple also includes tips on repurposing your best stories, strong starts and finishes, and communicating with heart. Enjoy this extended view from the dancer's stage to your stage.

    Wednesday, June 24, 2009

    share your public speaking disasters

    Over at the Speaker Confessions blog, author Scott Berkun wants you to share your own worst public-speaking disaster--and he's offering prizes, of course, as a lure. Any story can get you mentioned in his upcoming book on bad experiences for public speakers (whether newbies or seasoned), and three winners will get an Amazon.com $100 (first prize) or second prizes of $50 each. You may want to read the burgeoning list of disasters contributed in the comments, both as a reminder of what might go wrong and to feel better about your last speech!

    Monday, June 22, 2009

    how dance helped inspire a speaker

    Right on the heels of hearing how music helped one woman overcome her public speaking fears is this great post by Katie Kemple on the Women Grow Business blog about how bellydancing taught her how to give a better speech. Kemple, who worked as a bellydancer in her 20s when her day job was managing PR for a nonprofit, notes that while she sometimes wrote speeches for her day job:
    ...as a bellydancer, I was performing at least 4 times a week. As such, my presentation skills improved faster as a dancer, and I began to discover why certain things work and other don’t. I had my bellydance successes — nights when the crowds were up on their feet dancing, cheering and throwing bills in the air. But, I also had my failures. The shows where my audience barely lifted a head from the dinner table to acknowledge my presence.
    So working in a cubicle couldn't compete for the practice she gained.

    Kemple breaks down her dance lesson for speakers in terms of props, improvisation, audience power (and why you should pay attention to it) and the concept of leaving them wanting more, too rare in many speakers. Enjoy this thoughtful and creative post full of a unique perspective on speaking, and let me know in the comments if other types of performance skills have helped you as a speaker, and how.

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    how music helped inspire a speaker

    Music, and learning the guitar for the first time, have been on my mind a lot these days. So I was delighted to learn that public speaking--or overcoming the fear of speaking--is among the inspirations for a new lifelong learning website about music, just launched by my friend and former colleague Leah Garnett. Music After 50 is about "learning and playing music in your 50s, 60s and beyond." Leah's a talented writer who learned music at an early age, inspired by her father, an adult learner of guitar. So where's the link to public speaking? I'll let Leah tell you, from the website:
    The first time I learned a three-chord song on the guitar, at age 11, my world expanded. To the outside world, I was a quiet, reserved, little girl, still grieving the death of her father. But when I played music, I felt ageless, passionate, confident, and happy....As an adult, music has enabled me to conquer lifelong fears, including a fear of public speaking and paralyzing stage fright. When I focus on expression, rather than on judging my own performance, my fear of failure diminishes.
    I'm excited about Leah's site, which launched this week at the perfect time for my own adventures with guitar. And I agree with her: Learning and mastering new skills (including speaking skills) can give you the confidence to tackle other new experiences. (Perhaps it's my long practice in public speaking that gives me the confidence to tackle the guitar without prior experience.) Have you found that learning another skill has inspired you to conquer public speaking issues? What helped you get started in public speaking? Share your experiences in the comments.

    Related posts: Am I too old to learn public speaking?

    Saturday, June 20, 2009

    storytelling: tell a story on yourself


    UPDATE (8/8/2009): I'm so sorry to see that the video on which this post was based has been removed by the person who posted it--but here is an audio podcast so you can listen to this great talk. Go here for audio. Telling stories is part of the art of the eloquent speaker, but telling personal stories resonates even more. A personal story guarantees that your audience is getting original material, heightening their interest, and if you choose the story right and tell it on yourself--with surprises, slip-ups and ironic twists--you'll have a winning formula for holding attention. Best of all: Stories you know that well are stories you won't forget in the telling, making it possible for you to work without notes and therefore be more animated, enthusiastic and appealling.

    Here's a compelling example of telling a story on yourself from Paul Nurse, a Nobel laureate and president of Rockefeller University, whose research in cell biology has helped advance understanding of how cancer cells work. Here, he's telling a story about his own family, an intensely personal story told in a personable way, to which any listener can relate. No spoilers here: You need to listen to the story, a remarkable, funny and very frank recounting, to learn how he spins a true tale.

    I'd encourage you to think about a story you can tell in this way, especially if it discloses something about you that's pertinent to your audience. Before you do, it's important to take time to think through how you'll tell the story, what you'll emphasize or omit, and where you'll wind it up, as well as what larger point you want it to underscore. In this example, Nurse skillfully works in mentions of his entire family, from his wife and children (whose family tree project led to a surprising discovery) to his mother, sister and grandparents--a simple way to ensure that any one who plays those roles in the audience will be able to see themselves in his story. That's important given his audience at the World Science Festival which aims to reach non-scientific public audiences. His own surprise and discovery emerge as the tale unfolds, and he draws it together at the end by noting the irony that, while he's "not a bad geneticist, my rather simple family kept my own genetic secret for over half a century."

    Related posts: Speaker on ice: When you need to wing it


    UPDATE, July 11, 2009: This post was included in Andrew Dlugan's "Best Public Speaking Tips and Techniques: Weekend Review", a nod I'm always happy to have from his Six Minutes blog--another great read for those of you looking for news, tips and advice on public speaking.

    everything in moderation

    You may be asked to moderate a panel because you're an established speaker...or not. That's one of the beauties of moderating: You can be a beginner or a seasoned speaker. That's not the issue. When it comes down to moderating, here are the considerations you (and the inviting hosts) need to assess:
    • Will you add value? This may mean your reputation in the field, your ability to fulfill any of the expectations below, or some other "secret sauce" you can add, from provocative questioning of panelists to thorough handling of the audience's issues. This expectation means you should not view a moderator's role as something less or easier than that of a panelist--if you do, you'll miss a grand opportunity to show your skills.

    • Can you control the horses and the clock? Moderators exist to keep the trains--and the panelists--on time. In addition to paying attention to how much time is left, this may mean managing panelists' expectations ahead of time. I once arrived to a moderating session to learn that one panelist had insisted on bringing and showing video. Not only was this not an option for the other panelists, the venue's limitations meant that a projection screen could be used only if it were lowered in front of the panel, blocking any view of them. Invoking my moderator status, I said the screen and projector should be whisked away. "But what if he objects?" the organizer said. "Tell him to talk to me," I said. With three panelists and a tight schedule, I knew a video would mean the difference between his promotion and time for audience questions. Getting the equipment out of the way before his arrival helped--he never asked about it.

    • How will you manage the experience?Both the audience and the speakers will be looking to you to manage the speaking experience. Speakers caught by an awkward or persistent questioner may need a rescue; audience members desperate to get a question in, ditto. Those who need to leave on time will appreciate your saying, "We have time for just one more question" a few minutes before the close. Be sure to ask the speakers in advance if there are special needs they have, like leaving at a particular time or a desire to speak to a particular issue.

    • Can you be the essential fourth speaker? Moderation doesn't mean silence, particularly if you can add to the discussion--briefly. Don't outshine your panelists, but do chime in as you move from one speaker to the next, or after a question's been answered. And if you can answer a question the speakers can't, do it.
    Related posts: 4 stepping stones (including moderation) to get speaking practice

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    speaking situations: tour guide

    Could you talk me through your workplace? Meet your customers--your most avid customers--face-to-face and handle their random questions? Asking employees to serve as tour guides, particularly in factory tours, is a trend that's opening up public speaking opportunities for women. Last week, I made a pilgrimage to the Martin Guitar Factory in Nazareth, Pennsylvania--as thousands do each year--to see firsthand how these revered acoustic guitars are made. Debra Davidson, pictured at left, turned out to be a thoughtful and engaging guide to the factory, precisely because she's a line worker there, on the sanding line (see photo below). Here's what I noticed--and learned--about Davidson's tour delivery that makes sense for any speaker:
    • Listening to your audience should shape your speaking: At Martin, the guides learn to ask the audience questions at the start to establish rapport and gauge who's on the tour--much as I recommend any speaker do with a live audience. Davidson asked us whether any of us played guitar, owned a Martin or was attending a bluegrass festival in town that weekend. Then she made all that a shared experience, telling us that, while she didn't play, her father and son did; that she was a longtime "bluegrasser" with family members whose car had been stuck in the mud at the festival before; and which Martins her father favored and why.

    • Training helps you prepare and focus your delivery: Turns out Davidson and other employee-guides had gone through a theater improv training the week before my tour, according to Martin's training department. Martin sets competencies for tour guides that include interpersonal skills, knowledge of the process and corporate facts, and handling tour logistics, and would-be guides go through a variety of training experiences--including going on others' tours--before they're ready to lead one.

    • Speaking from your perspective beats a script, every time: As a sander herself, Davidson's perspective was useful when we got to this mesmerizing sight: A sanding robot. Someone wondered whether that displaced workers' jobs (we'd already seen round-one hand-sanding by her coworkers). She pointed out that the robot--which replaced a hand-held 9 lb. sanding machine wielded by workers--had saved a lot of people from carpal tunnel problems, a sliver of knowledge that an overly scripted speech wouldn't have allowed. Martin guides are discouraged from giving the same tour as their colleagues, and so your tour experience will vary depending on whether you get an expert luthier (guitar-maker), CEO Chris Martin IV (who sometimes gives tours), or someone from the sanding line.

    • Genuine answers work best with a crowd of questioners: Martin knows that many of its visitors, though not all, are owners, customers and aficionados, some of them highly skilled players and owners. In our group, a Martin owner noted that many guitarists wonder whether the strings have changed in quality since they moved that part of the operation to Mexico. Davidson offered to put that into the company's suggestion box. If she didn't know an answer, she'd say so--still the best approach for any speaker.

    Martin training manager Joan Zachary (who very kindly shared information on the company's tour training effort) noted that the factory has begun to recruit guides from all departments, to ensure it keeps up with its production goals. If you're offered the chance to do something similar at your company--from an outreach day or tours to school visits--it's a great way to learn public-speaking skills and build the experience that leads to eloquent speaking, one of the best professional development opportunities you can get.

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    dieting=public speaking?

    Had to laugh out loud when I came across this post by Kirsty Piper from a couple of weeks ago on Jane's List: Five Ways Public Speaking is Like Dieting. (Number one is "when you're finished, stop" and the post equates extra words with extra calories, a very clever analogy.) If you've got any other clever ways to equate public speaking with another common experience, let me know in the comments. Enjoy this good read!

    Saturday, June 13, 2009

    top women speakers: commencement

    Speechwriter and reader Vinca LaFleur sent us her recent post with 10 top women commencement speakers from 1983 to 2009, with links to the texts of these speeches. Included are performers like Meryl Streep and Melissa Etheridge; writers like Gloria Steinem and Anna Quindlen; first ladies Michelle Obama and Barbara Bush; executive Carly Fiorina, impresario Oprah Winfrey and playwright Margaret Edson. I'm delighted that LaFleur compiled her list after reading other reviews of commencement speakers and finding few women highlighted!

    Friday, June 5, 2009

    good speeches: message in threes

    Andrew Dlugan's excellent Six Minutes blog has a thorough look this week at why your speech should follow the rule of three when it comes to developing your message. Why three message points? That rule of three helps you remember what you want to say, and has the same effect on your audience, making it more likely they'll retain what you're talking about. It goes back to ancient storytelling (and Dlugan nicely illustrates that using children's stories, a great idea). Today, the rule of three works whether you're answering one question, giving a short talk or speaking for much longer. Check out Andrew's excellent tips and rationale.

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    new research for the blushing speaker

    Researchers analyzing how others react when you blush are reporting that blushing may serve as a type of visual buffer with your audience--and improve how they view you. From today's New York Times:
    People who become severely anxious in social situations often swear that the blush itself is the source of their problems, not a symptom...[but] a blush is far more than a stigmata of embarrassment. It is a crucial signal in social interactions — one that functions more often to smooth over betrayals and blunders than to amplify them.
    That's because a blush signals that you care about the relationship between you and the people with whom you're interacting, say the researchers. At the same time, however, some experts quoted in the article note that, for those with social anxiety, blushing becomes a distraction and may amplify feelings of embarrassment. (And, as you can read in the related posts below, blushes can be a symptom of social anxiety.) For speakers, it's important to analyze how you're feeling and what's happening when you blush while speaking, to determine whether it's a symptom of a larger problem or a momentary blunder.

    Related posts:

    The opposite of cool: speakers and social anxiety

    When the speaker needs to catch her breath: about the fight-or-flight response