Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
- Speaking up in meetings came up a lot today, and handling the extemporaneous parts of a meeting--the discussion or Q&A session after your presentation--was of particular concern. I always recommend using time-buying phrases (instead of ums and uhs) while you're thinking of an answer on the spot and don't know what to say. Also check out my recent post on graceful ways with Q&A for handling difficult questions, and this post on how to listen to audience questions. For more general background on speaking up in meetings, see this post about a book on the topic, and this post on how speaking up affects your image in a group.
- Speakers feeling breathless came up, too, so check out "when the speaker needs to catch her breath" for the information we discussed on breathing and the relaxation response.
- Getting started as a speaker--ways to ease into and find opportunities--also was a question today. Look at my 4 stepping stones to get speaking practice. (This crowd was full of questions, my step number one, so it's well on its way to becoming a roomful of speakers!) A few participants mentioned that they want to get back into speaking after a hiatus, and these stepping stones offer experienced speakers a way to edge back into practice.
That's not an exhaustive list--we covered a lot of ground today--but I welcome prompts and comments from participants and others!
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Have you looked at speaking as something to overcome? Share your experiences in the comments.
I’m most proud of the fact that I got out of being afraid of giving speeches. You have to be out there and you have to be up there, and you have to be the leader. It was something I needed to overcome. I did everything. I was the oldest person at Dale Carnegie. I could have had private lessons in my office. But I wanted to go there.
Friday, July 24, 2009
This isn't to say that the visual doesn't count. It does. But your word choices matter, too--perhaps more than you've been told. Enjoy the video!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
While that's uncomfortable, it's not unfixable. That's because, to my mind, public speaking is a learned or acquired skill, not a native one. Your interests and profession may help you appreciate it more or require more of the skills involved. You may have stronger introverted preferences, or be more of an extrovert. But none of that, in the end, beats practice and training.
On the other hand, practice and training can help almost anyone improve (a willingness to learn is essential, however). And, as reader Sarah Milstein noted in our recent roundup of reader's tips, "Ironically, the practice will help you seem spontaneous."
So don't let that "I should be a natural-born speaker" barrier get in your way. If you are in a profession where speaking is considered an essential skill, you've got a built-in argument for making speaker training part of your professional development.
Don't forget: There's just over a week to enter the "Step Up Your Speaking" contest to win a Flip Mino HD camcorder and 15 weeks of free online coaching! Details at http://bit.ly/15weeks.
Related posts: 7 readers' tips on the best speaking advice they've used
Memo to boss: 6 reasons I need training
What to ask a trainer
Factor in your speaker personality type
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
- Beth Schachter says: "Show up early and introduce yourself to a few audience members as they arrive. Often this gives you new information to use in your presentation that will be tailored to the particular group."
- Germaine Palangdao suggests you "bring in the human element - give examples from your own personal life. It increases the connection with the audience. You could see how the they (the audience) are mesmerized."
- Mary Fletcher Jones says she's been advised to "LISTEN to the question before you answer it next time!" And you may want to ask a question of your questioner before answering, if you're not quite clear on what's prompting the question.
- Dave Ryan says, "Contrary to most intros & presentations, don't talk about your background first...rather, engage the audience with a question, and slip your bio in later."
- Sarah Milstein urges you to "practice, out loud, 5 - 10 times, with your slides, and time yourself. Ironically, the practice will help you seem spontaneous."
- Nancy Carr offers: "Put [stop] and [breathe] into your note cards at appropriate intervals."
- Tiffany Lohwater shares "1) slow down 2) find ways to involve the audience 3) leave time for Q&A."
Related posts: Graceful ways with Q&A
Monday, July 20, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
It had a very industrial client base in male-dominated industries. After one presentation to a board, I recall the client in charge saying, “I guess you have to run home now and make dinner.” The funny thing is, I don’t cook.Granoff goes on to describe how speaking up advanced her opportunities and furthered her career, leading to the CEO position she holds today--great inspiration for women speakers, whether you're addressing a major audience or just piping up in a meeting.
Related posts: How women negotiate and size up their audiences
Speaking up in meetings
Friday, July 17, 2009
When Senator Moynihan first told me that he would consider sending my name to Senator D'Amato for consideration as a district court judge, he asked me to keep it quiet for a little bit of time, and I asked permission to tell my mom and Omar. He said, sure.
So they were visiting and I told them. And Mom was very, very excited. And she then said, "How much more money are you going to earn?" (Laughter.) And I stopped and I said, "I'm going to take a big pay cut."
Then she stopped, and she stopped, and she said, "Are you going to do as much foreign travel as you do now?" Because I was flying all over the U.S. and abroad as part of my private-practice work. And I said, "Probably not, because I'm going to live in a courthouse in Lower Manhattan near where I used to work as a Manhattan DA."
Now the pause was a little longer. And she said, "Okay."
Then she said, "Now all the fascinating clients that you work with"—as you may have heard yesterday, I had some fairly well-known clients—"you're going to be able to go traveling with them and with the new people you meet, right?" And I said, "No. Most of them are going to come before me as litigants to the cases I'm hearing, and I can't become friends with them."
Now the pause was really long. And she finally looked up, and she says, "Why do you want this job?" (Laughter.)
And Omar, who was sitting next to her, said, "Celina, you know your daughter—" this is in Spanish "—you know your daughter, and her stuff with public service." That really has always been the answer.
Given who I am, my love of the law, my sense of importance about the rule of law, how central it is to the functioning of our society, how it sets us apart, as many senators have noted, from the rest of the world—have always created a passion in me. And that passion led me to want to be a lawyer first, and now to be a judge, because I can't think of any greater service that I can give to the country than to be permitted the privilege of being a justice of the Supreme Court.
- Emily Culbertson requested "Graceful ways to bring off-topic questions (sometimes relative, sometimes absolute) back to the body of the talk when Q&A veers off-course."
- Mary Fletcher Jones wants to know, "How do you handle the person who won't stop interrupting and commenting and asking questions, you know, to annoying degree (when you can actually feel the audience bristling). Every so often they pop up, and it can get kind of disruptive."
Let me just say you want questions--it's a sign the audience is engaged and expectant that you have answers to issues important to them. Managing questioners is important not just for staying focused on your topic, but also to create a level playing field for the entire audience. At the same time, shutting down questioners and refusing to engage won't win you fans, a key reason I like Emily's request for "graceful ways" to manage questioners. As with any extemporaneous part of your presentation, however, some forethought and planning are vital to your success. Here are some graceful options when you're handling a questioner:
- Create a bridge between the question and the answer. Especially effective with an off-topic question, this tactic works just as well with queries in line with your points. It's a three-point movement: Acknowledge the question, then affirm or rebut, and explain why. One example: "I know there's a lot of debate on that point among practitioners in the field right now. In my experience, however, that option limits our ability to measure our results. That's why I recommend...." Or a simple acknowledgement -- "That's a thorny issue, isn't it? Thanks for pointing that out" can do a lot to let the question stand as the point, instead of requiring you to respond. Using the bridge tactic also creates enough space to give you time to think--and gives the questioner some recognition of her issue, even though you're disagreeing.
- Remind the audience of your focus today. "I wish I could delve into that topic--it'd take another session or two to cover." "I know that's a big issue, but my focus today is a small one--what to do before that happens." Don't be afraid to point out how your topic is juxtaposed to the one brought up.
- Beware of argumentative questions...and deflect them. Sometimes, you'll have an outwardly hostile audience member whose questions aim to lead you into an argument. Don't bite. Instead, cultivate (through practice) a calm stance and a few graceful comebacks that help you acknowledge and move away from the fight. "If I could answer that, I'd be a millionaire," for example, is a mild but humorous way to deflect a question that asks you to define or fix something unknowable. "Where are the data you're basing that on?" helps to narrow down a question full of exaggerations and low on facts.
- Acknowledge the persistence of the persistent questioner. You think you're distracted by the five-time questioner? So are the audience members trying to get a word in edgewise. I don't mind taking more than one question per person, but if you suspect you have someone wanting to dominate the conversation, it helps to say, "I'd like to give others the chance to participate. Let's talk afterwards--it's clear you have a lot to say." That acknowledgement helps the audience know YOU know there's a problem!
- Breathe, smile and stay calm.That's your mantra during Q&A time, as you want to seem welcoming of questions as well as in control of their flow. Even when a pointed question comes up, your lack of over-reaction will help the entire audience sense that you're in calm control.
Related posts: How to listen to audience questions
When you don't know what to say: Thinking while answering
If you want to compete for 15 free weeks of speaker coaching and a Flip HD camcorder, enter our 15 Weeks to Step Up Your Speaking contest!
Thursday, July 16, 2009
- "How to keep that voice from shaking initially?" asked Terri Ash. I always think it's important to plan your opening thoroughly--scripting it, even if the rest of your talk is extemporaneous, just to be sure you take advantage of the heightened attention you'll receive. But for a shaky voice, breathing's the cure you need. Take the time to do some deep breaths about 10 minutes before you speak, and before you ever get to the venue, practice the relaxation response so you can take control of your breathing. You're trying to counteract the normal fight-or-flight response that kicks in when you're in a threatening situation; knowing that and preparing for it will help bring that shaky voice under control.
- "What about when your attempt at a joke/ice breaker doesn't get a response?" asked Gwen Haynes. She continued: "Complete silence, no laughs. Do you acknowledge it or just get back to the topic and keep rolling?" Or perhaps worse, your opener can become an unintentional joke, as happened here to Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign. Again, here's where planning out that opening makes a lot of sense, including running that joke past a few trusted colleagues in advance. But if it falls flat--as audiences are unpredictable--you need to make a short acknowledgement and move right into your speech. Don't forget: Jokes are among the toughest aspects of a speech to pull off, and the start of your speech is when the stakes are highest. You may want to save the jokes for a later moment, and come up with a different opener.
Related posts: The joke teller's memory problem
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Related posts: Testing the Kindle on the lectern
Features on the new Kindle that aid speakers
Get the Kindle at the new lower price
Monday, July 13, 2009
- Even the most technically savvy audience welcomes clear speaking: You can't go wrong with terms that any listener can understand--and there's no need to think of it as "dumbing down" or "condescending." If you catch yourself thinking that way, it's time to reexamine your motivation for speaking to this group. No audience will know everything you know, and that doesn't mean they're dumb. Nor should your words be.
- If you're not sure how to calibrate your talk, ask. Ask the organizers, if you don't know the group, and listen for cues that will tell you more about the audience. What do they want to hear about? Some organizations ask for audience input before a presentation, so be sure you get access to it before you begin. Failing that, take a poll of the audience at the start, and ask them what their levels of experience are with your topic.
- Use message techniques to make your words memorable and clear. If you can help me follow your points with useful analogies, an outline that follows the rule of three key points, and other message techniques, I'm more likely to understand you.
I hope you'll enter the 15 Weeks to Step Up Your Speaking contest so we can work together on priorities like this one!
Related posts: All our posts on audience considerations
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I want to give presentations that encourage people to ask questions. My audience usually says that everything is explained well and they don't have any questions but I would like for the presentations to become more interactive.
I've got a few questions for you to ask yourself to assess how to address this problem:
- Have you left them nothing to ask? If you're too exhaustive in covering your topic, your audience may have nothing left to say. In that case, think about focusing your talk on just one aspect of your topic--or one broad enough that you can't exhaust the topic, leaving room for questions.
- Have you asked them about their questions first? Opening with questions is a great, dynamic way to energize an audience (and it helps you learn what they want to know). This isn't foolproof, but with popular topics, can help you get the questions on the floor early.
- Are you inserting audience involvement throughout your presentation? You may need to think about incorporating a warm-up exercise that involves the audience; pause to ask questions during key moments of your presentation; and wind up with an ample Q-and-A session. Using all those steps in one talk gives your audience a strong signal that you want their involvement...and, over the course of your presentation, lets them warm up to those opportunities.
- Is your topic addressing what they want to know? Your speech may give me new and complete information, and fill in blanks for me. But if it doesn't make me curious, address my issues or questions or relate to me, I'm less likely to want to engage or know more from you. Again, thinking about your focus--an unusual angle or a special emphasis--can make all the difference.
Enter our contest to work on your top 3 speaking priorities; find the contest entry details here.
I want to be more dynamic and memorable when I speak. I tend to stick to the facts. I'd like to be more entertaining and humorous, without getting off topic or sounding unprofessional.Sounds like this reader is ready to branch out from the basics and into the sphere of speakers with an impact...a goal to which we all should aspire. The good news: You don't need to be a superheroine of speaking to become dynamic and memorable. And, even better, there's no need to drift from your points or get unprofessional to be entertaining and humorous in your speech or presentation. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Get energized by joining the audience: Our tips for speakers who've lost the audience also work well for those who haven't--but want to reinvigorate their approach to speaking. They offer a mix of physical movement in the room, gestures and engaging the audience to enliven any talk or presentation.
- Make one change at a time. Give every improvement a tryout, then add more enhancements to your speeches once you're comfortable with the first change. You might start by opening a talk with audience questions...then figure out where to add humor...then layer in gestures...or practice how to react to the audience in ways that are more energetic or engaged.
- Plan your humor. The best way to keep humor professional? Plan it enough so that it's relaxed and real, but appropriate. (Hint: You'll need to rehearse jokes in particular, as they're tougher to recall for most speakers.) Always keep in mind that humor that makes others uncomfortable isn't funny to the audience--whether those who are the subjects of it, or those observing. Check out all our tips on humor, from pratfalls that work to pitfalls, here.
- Lose your safety nets. I'm working on a post about this to come, but if you lose your prepared text, your place behind the lectern or your serious tone, you'll gain an audience that sees you as increasingly dynamic and entertaining. Be the surprise they're hoping for!
Related posts: Enter our contest 15 Weeks to Step Up Your Speaking to work on your priorities
I wasn't surprised that these readers mentioned pacing in the same set of concerns, because pacing often can help you achieve better clarity and enunciation. Here are some tips to get you moving toward better enunciation, clarity and pacing:
- Practice with a text: While my goal as a coach is to get you off the page and into the extemporaneous as a speaker, this is one area where practicing from a written text can help you improve. First, read through a text while recording yourself on audio or video. Play back your reading with the text in hand, marking areas where you hear slurs, combined words, stumbles or just too-fast reading.
- Adjust the text: Once you've heard and identified your stumble areas, mark the text to alert yourself to the need for pauses, and underscore specific letters or syllables you need to pronounce more clearly. If need be, prepare a version of the text with phonetic spellings for hard-to-say words--or, rewrite the text to work around words difficult for you. (In my journalism days, I once had to rewrite a radio script because the on-air announcer popped her P's...a real problem when the script described "pickpockets" and "purses." We went with "robbers" and "handbags" instead.)
- Know your problem words. Use these exercises--and any public speaking experience--to note specific words or phrases that trip you up, and repeat the adjustment exercise, above, until you find the right solution.
- Slow down! For many speakers, words running together are a symptom of too-fast speaking. Stop yourself mid-phrase, if need be, to make sure your audience can hear you clearly. (You can say, "I want to make sure I don't rush through this, so you can hear how important this point is," and then re-deliver your line--or pause and ask, "Did everyone hear that?" with a repeat, slower than the first delivery.)
If enunciation and clarity are among your top priorities, I hope you'll take the time to enter our contest, 15 Weeks to Step Up Your Public Speaking, by midnight ET July 31, 2009, and join our Facebook fans using the link above right. You'll get the chance to win free coaching around your top 3 speaking priorities, plus a Flip Mino HD camcorder.
Related posts: When the speaker needs to catch her breath
Saturday, July 11, 2009
- Using video lets me coach you wherever you are: I didn't want to limit entries to women who could meet me in person, so using video and uploads or emails makes sense for long-distance learning.
- Using video makes it easy to fit into our busy lives: You're busy, and I'm busy. Emailing me questions and practice by video will make it easy for us to get the coaching fit into our schedules.
- Nobody's looking. Seriously. Despite the great traffic for online video, you only need to look into your webcam/camera/Flip camcorder and talk to me, Denise. No need to play to an audience. Just tell me your top 3 priorities for what you want to accomplish.
- The judging doesn't involve production values. You don't need stylists, a professional-grade camera setup or even makeup. Just talk to me.
- Being able to get on even a short video tells me something....about your willingness to get up in front of an audience or even a coach. Again, no need for perfection here.
Got questions about how to do this? Email them to me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz or leave them as a comment here on on our Facebook page. Grab a pal to help you get it done! You have until midnight ET July 31 to enter, and I'm hoping you will.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
- Want to post a mini-Eloquent Woman on your website? Lots of libraries, speaker coaches, universities and companies do--it's an easy way to make sure your readers see our updates. Just go to the Eloquent Woman widget and follow the easy download instructions.
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- Become a follower on Google by scrolling down and to the right. Click on the button that says "follow with Google Friend Connect" and get your Google profile posted to the blog--and our posts in your Google Reader. Or go here to do the same.
While you're at it, don't forget to enter our contest 15 Weeks to Step Up Your Speaking by July 31--and share the information with other female colleagues. It's a great chance for one lucky would-be speaker to win a Flip Mino HD camera and 15 weeks of coaching right here on the blog!
Monday, July 6, 2009
Telling that story recently at the Hunter College commencement in Manhattan, Ms. Solis roared into the microphone that she, the daughter of immigrants, did become a secretary — the nation’s labor secretary. The crowd thundered with applause.That line--admittedly usable only by women who reach state or national cabinet posts--does one more thing only a woman speaker can do, and that's to underscore a disparity in titles that sometimes makes a secretary someone you address as "Madam Secretary." Do you have a similar laugh line that makes a point about women, their careers and aspirations? Share it in the comments!
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Ever wonder whether more famous women manage to avoid the pitfalls women face when they speak up in meetings? The short answer: They don't. In this USA Today interview, Ruth Bader Ginsburg gives a rare insight into the inner workings of the Supreme Court, focusing on whether women are heard in meetings. She:
recalled that as a young, female lawyer her voice often was ignored by male peers. "I don't know how many meetings I attended in the '60s and the '70s, where I would say something, and I thought it was a pretty good idea. … Then somebody else would say exactly what I said. Then people would become alert to it, respond to it'....Even after 16 years as a justice, she said, that still sometimes occurs. 'It can happen even in the conferences in the court. When I will say something — and I don't think I'm a confused speaker — and it isn't until somebody else says it that everyone will focus on the point."Ginsburg found herself--as the lone female justice--speaking up in discussions about the case involving the strip search of a 13-year-old Arizona girl during a school's search for drugs. The court recently decided in favor of the girl, but the interview appeared before the decision, which made it highly unusual. And it was an important time to hear a woman justice's voice, coming as the court awaits another female justice's confirmation.
Related posts: How speaking up in meetings affects your image
A book on speaking up in meetings for women
Signaling "let's get down to business" in a meeting
Photo of Ginsburg by Compton & Wright on Flickr