Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May's top 10 public speaking and presenting tips

(Editor's note: I welcome the BlogHer readers directed here--but the post that directed you implied that this article was about tips for commencement speakers. Not so! However, you'll find good commencement examples, inspiration and tips in these posts. Enjoy your visit to The Eloquent Woman.)

It's commencement season, which means lots of speaking...and these 10 posts went to the head of the class with readers. From Twitter and Skype to colors, memory and credibility, here are The Eloquent Woman posts that caught your attention this month:
  1. 3 unexpected things Twitter can add to your next talk -- from audio and market research to creative taglines and descriptions -- was far and away this month's most popular post.
  2. Why speakers should use the invisible visual reminds you that the most memorable and powerful visual is the one in the mind's eye of your audience members. Here's how to create it and use it as a key speaking tool.
  3. When you're speaking, what colors should you wear? takes what might seem like a frivolous question and helps you think it through when you're on camera or a variety of backdrops. Tips for choosing colors based on your coloring are included.
  4. Do you over-explain? 5 speaker tricks for using data, details wisely was a late-April post that continued to draw readers this month. From speakers with too many slides to those that do themselves in with excessive explanation, this post's for you.
  5. Why speakers (and listeners) remember 3 things best looks at modern research on why three's the magic number for being memorable--and to avoid forgetting your points.  
  6. The all-in-one on credibility for speakers: 12 respect-building resources gives you a dozen posts on topics from introducing yourself without bragging to handling a tough crowd while remaining credible.
  7. 4 tips for better speaking on Skype or video conferences takes its cues from reports about how these meeting and conferencing options are changing, cueing you about everything from HD quality cameras to where you should look when speaking on video.
  8. Famous Speech Friday: Helen Keller "I am not dumb now" and "Strike Against War" is a February post that's still going strong. I'm glad we can extend her voice in this way--and you can hear her speak in a recording in the post.
  9. Famous Speech Friday: Susan B. Anthony, "Is it a crime for a U.S. citizen to vote?" stirred a lot of responses, and no wonder. Learn about this speech following her arrest for attempting to vote--and the alligator bag she used to carry her speeches.
  10. The speech I wish she'd given: The messy side of women's issues shares a chapter from a top chef's memoir where she tells how she punted on a panel about women's issues in her profession--and why. You get to read about that speech I wish she'd given, all prompted by a female student's question about whether it was okay to cry on the job.
It's a great week to sign up for the newsletter, which will be out next week. See the links below, and thanks for reading this month!

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Closed for birthday

For U.S. readers, today is the Memorial Day holiday...and it's my birthday. So no posts from The Eloquent Woman blog today! Enjoy your Monday. We'll be back tomorrow with our end-of-the-month top 10 post roundup, and this is a good time to sign up for the newsletter, below, as it will be out next week.

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Famous Speech Friday: Margaret Sanger, The Children's Era

Her convictions about the need for birth control resulted in all sorts of efforts to silence Margaret Sanger, from arrest to taking her name off the program. But her speaking, and speaking out, continued over more than a half century. One of 11 children in her own family and trained as a nurse, Margaret Sanger worked with poor families in New York City's East Side slums, where mothers begged her for ways to control unwanted pregnancies. She began a lifelong research effort into methods for birth control--a term she is credited with creating.

Sanger first used a newsletter to spread the word about her findings and views, and was arrested and indicted for sending obscene material via the mail. Her speaking career began after those charges were dismissed, in 1916. By the 1920s, she was traveling to spread the word internationally and opening clinics to record women's medical histories and distribute information about birth control, the precusor of the International Planned Parenthood Federation she later founded.

Her 1925 speech, The Children's Era, addressed the results of overpopulation and a lack of birth control options: Children who were "unwelcome, unwanted, unprepared for, unknown," with poor health, hunger, abandonment and abysmal living conditions. It's a spirited speech. After asking why so little progress had been made in helping children, despite good intentions and philanthropy, she used this analogy to answer:
Before you can cultivate a garden, you must know something about gardening. You have got to give your seeds a proper soil in which to grow. You have got to give them sunlight and fresh air. You have got to give them space and the opportunity (if they are to lift their flowers to the sun), to strike their roots deep into that soil. And always -- do not forget this -- you have got to fight weeds. You cannot have a garden, if you let weeds overrun it. So, if we want to make this world a garden for children, we must first of all learn the lesson of the gardener. So far we have not been gardeners.
Later in the speech, she answers critics of the birth control movement, noting how they use subtle but sexist comments to attempt to sideline her:
When we protest against this immeasurable, meaningless waste of motherhood and child-life; when we protest against the ever-mounting cost to the world of asylums, prisons, homes for the feeble-minded, and such institutions for the unfit, when we protest against the disorder and chaos and tragedy of modern life, when we point out the biological corruption that is destroying the very heart of American life, we are told that we are making merely an "emotional" appeal. 
Just two years after this successful speech, Sanger organized and spoke at the first World Population Conference in Geneva--and ran up against a stunning effort to discourage her work by erasing all public acknowledgement of women's role in the conference:
Despite almost single-handedly putting the conference together, Sanger was asked by Sir Bernard Mallet, president of Britain's Royal Statistical Society and conference chairman, to remove her name and those of her (female) assistants from the official program on the grounds that "the names of the workers should not be included on scientific programs." Despite Sanger's insistence that all of the women involved were as much participants as the scientists on the program, and even a protest strike by the clerical staff, Sanger realized the intensity of the opposition she faced. To salvage the conference, she convinced her assistants to accept the situation and allowed the program to be printed without mention of the women's names (including her own).
Here's what you can learn from Sanger's 1925 speech:
  • Alliteration helps you make a compact, memorable message:  Describing the children as "unwelcome, unwanted, unprepared for, unknown" helped Sanger and her listeners recall those words, and underscored the negative conditions into which they were born.
  • Focusing on the children helped her make the case for the mothers:  Knowing women would be blamed for their conditions and the repeated pregancies they faced, Sanger appealed to her audiences -- audiences she hoped would supply funding and political clout to change anti-birth control laws -- using the stories of children to unite her listeners and forge support for the services for mothers. It's a tactic still in use today.
  • Analogies help persuade and create images in the mind's eye:  From comparing her listeners as poor gardeners, or when describing the chaos of social services as a busy train station, Sanger made analogies a frequent tool in this and other speeches. As a result, she was able to summarize complex policies and social concepts in ways any listener could appreciate, and later repeat.
What do you think of Sanger's speech? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why speakers should use the invisible visual

You've heard that visuals are critical to getting your spoken point across, and that a picture's worth a thousand words. But there's one picture that's more valuable, stronger and memorable than the rest--and you can't download it, crop it or put it on a slide.

That's because it's the picture in the mind's eye of your listeners. If you succeed in putting it there, you'll drive your point home and keep it in their memories, long after your presentation's over. Helping them "see" what you're saying aids understanding and can help you persuade, without over-explaining or preaching.

Why do the mental pictures the audience members create work so well as visuals? Noted biographer Robert Caro says "the places in your mind's eye" help because you "will have succeeded in bringing the reader closer to an understanding of the character without giving him a lecture, will have made the reader therefore not just understand but empathize with a character, will have made the readers’ understanding more vivid, deeper than any lecture could.”

How can you make sure your audience has a mind's-eye picture as a takeaway? Here are some tactics:
  • Give us the detail:  Too much detail on a slide can cause the audience to check out, but details make the descriptions that create mental pictures. Tell us what the orphans you help are wearing when their adoptive parents pick them up, or share what the candy you manufacture tasted like when you first sampled it. In this TED talk about research on ice cores in Antarctica, we find out that the scientists have to keep the lab cold enough to keep the ice samples from melting--so they wear gloves heated in an oven to keep their fingers working, a detail I can picture, and remember.
  • Make it concrete: This is no time for jargon, buzzwords and flowery adjectives. Use concrete nouns and active verbs, shapes, colors, temperatures, size, distance and whatever else will make that invisible visual seem more real to us. Help us smell those loaves of bread baking or hear the truck noises.
  • Don't forget gesture: You can underscore a mental picture and make it memorable with a gesture. You don't need to act anything out, but a simple hand angling up to the ceiling can help us "see" a rocket take off, for example. Just don't overdo the gesturing. Your words count here.
  • Plan where the picture belongs: As you're planning your presentation, give thought to the moment or moments when you want to create a mind's-eye picture. Does it arrive during a story? As an example supporting one of your key points? Are you explaining some data? Introducing yourself? Building sympathy for your cause? Starting a relationship with the audience? Make the invisible visual work, rather than just toss it in.

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New: Subscribe to the RSS feed for The Eloquent Woman on Facebook

Last week, a reader on Facebook wanted to know where to direct her friends--to the blog? to the Facebook page? I'd be glad to see readers at any of our options, but the Facebook page does include all the blog posts as well as unique discussions with readers, your posts, and some material that appears before it appears here on the blog. Now there's a new option: Check out the new RSS feed for The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. You can subscribe to it in the RSS reader of your choice.

Looking for other options? You can stay up-to-date with The Eloquent Woman in your email inbox, with our free monthly newsletter, by liking the Facebook page, and by subscribing to the blog's RSS feed. Go here to see all your subscription options. And thanks for reading and contributing!

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Elevators now made to thwart your elevator speech

Been polishing that elevator speech? You may want to go to the building superintendant and get the technology manual instead. Turns out elevators are being programmed in new ways that may thwart your elevator speech if you're not savvy to the changes. From the report on elevator advances in the Wall Street Journal, we learn that the elevator may be a better place to prep than pitch. Among the insights:
  • That "door close" button often doesn't really work--it's there to occupy you while you wait. So use that time instead to recall your remarks.
  • If your destination is chosen for you in an elevator car programmed to take you, say, to your boss's floor, use the time to prep--not deliver--your remarks for when you land.
  • Pitch fast. The article estimates your ride at around 90 seconds, although conditions will vary. Programmed elevators presumably are more efficient at delivering you, offering less pitch time.
You'll get some interesting notes on business cultures where elevator pitches are frowned upon, and those where it's considered essential--as well as at least one contest for crafting them. Want to learn more to craft your elevator pitch? Check out the links below.

Related posts:  Speakers, you *can* say more in less time than you think

My elevator speech on your elevator speech

A scientist's elevator speech in 45 seconds, by E.O. Wilson

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Monday, May 23, 2011

4 tips for better speaking on Skype or video conferences

If you're like most working professionals, most of your "public speaking" happens in meetings and on conference calls--some of which might, these days, involve videoconferencing. With the rise of easy video calling services like Skype, videoconferencing has become more common--Skype alone has 170 million users--making it something all speakers need to prepare for.

In this New York Times roundup on understanding the basics of videoconferencing, I found advice speakers can use to anticipate everything from how to connect with your online audience to where to look. Get ready for your next videoconference with these four tips:
  • Think small screen as well as large screen:  When Skype began offering mobile video calls Jan. 1, its users placed one million such calls--that day. If you're on a mobile video call, gestures and other visuals might go by the wayside, and even less of you will be visible. Whether you're on a laptop or a mobile phone, any gestures need to be up near your face if you're framed in a head-and-shoulders view.
  • Room-based videoconferencing's getting more focused: On you, that is. If your company has conference rooms with built-in videoconferencing, the article notes that "Companies are now replacing or upgrading these systems with high-definition systems." Check out our on-camera tips for when you're seen on HD.
  • Eye contact gets more challenging:  The article explains: "Because the camera on a desktop [computer] is at the top of the screen, if you actually look directly at your video partner, it appears that you’re looking down."  So look at the camera when you're speaking, and glance at your caller when she's speaking.
  • Don't forget the small talk:  It's missing from many video calls, the article notes, but serves to help the conferees build relationships, just as it does in real life. Take a minute to ask about the weather, world events or your caller's day.
Share your Skype or videoconference tips for speakers in the comments.

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Famous Speech Friday: Phyllis Rodriguez & Aicha el-Wafi on 9/11 forgiveness

While their lives are worlds apart, Phyllis Rodriguez and Aicha el-Wafi have plenty in common: Both women are activists, Rodriguez working for social justics, el-Wafi on behalf of Muslim women. They are both mothers. And on September 11, 2001, Rodgriguez's son Greg died in the attacks on the World Trade Center, while el-Wafi's son, Zacarias Moussaoui, was convicted for the attacks and is serving a life sentence. So that makes one more thing they have in common, according to Rodgriguez. "Our suffering is equal. Yet I'm treated with sympathy; she is treated with hostility," she says of el-Wafi.

Brought together a little more than a year after the 9/11 attacks with other relatives of victims, the two women have appeared in speaking engagements throughout Europe and the U.S. since then to talk about reconciliation and forgiveness, using the relationship they have forged as the centerpiece of those talks. They presented jointly at TEDWomen last year, 

This joint talk is a testament to restraint for speakers. Here's what you can learn from it:
Here's the video of their talk. What do you think of their words and their approach?



Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why speakers (and listeners) remember 3 things best

I did a training yesterday, and I knew exactly when the eye-rolling would start: When I began explaining the "rule of three," which suggests you'll have an easier time remembering what you want to say if you stick to an outline of three key points. The bonus: It's easiest for your audience to remember as well.

This time-honored principle developed over time, like all good rules. In the days before the written word, news was passed from village to village by storytellers whose tactics over time developed into telling stories built around the rule of three. (It's why we have so many fairytales and folk tales constructed with threes--from three little pigs to three princes vying for the hand of the princess.) The rule of three made the stories easier to recall for the teller, and for the hearer--who then could remember and repeat them later.

But the rule of three doesn't just exist in fairytales. In You can only remember 3-4 things at a time (the magic number 3 or 4), you can read about modern research around the magic three and how it helps us remember all sorts of things like phone numbers--which, in the U.S., are broken into three chunks of three or four numbers to make them easier to recall.  This post also notes that three's the number your listener can process when taking in the information, an important point for speakers to recall. If you're presenting to decision-makers or trying to persuade an audience, making the case in three points allows them the space to process and come along with your arguments, rather than lose their way.

I get the eye-rolling, generally, from trainees who don't want to be limited--typically, those with lots of data to share. But, as I point out to them, none of my trainees lacks for things to say, and many I've trained can't recall it all when they need to do so. And I've yet to meet the audience member who wished you'd go on for the several hours it would take to share everything you know. So the rule of three becomes essential in creating a workable situation for both speaker and listener.

Besides, the rule of three can flex to meet all sorts of speakers' needs. With it, you can:
  • Have an elevator speech ready (the shortest version of your three points)
  • Speak extemporaneously
  • Group lots of data into a manageable set of "chunks"
  • Translate your spoken remarks to an outline for a slide deck
  • Expand the three points to make a short presentation
  • Expand them further to speak at length in a formal speech
  • Handle Q-and-A and use questions to get back to your points
  • Plan how you will incorporate examples, data, props and anecdotes
  • Signal the outline to your audience so they can more easily follow along
  • Make it easier for listeners to briefly summarize your point in tweets and texts
  • Make it easier for listeners to repeat what you said later
The post linked above also includes references to some of the research on the rule of three, as well, so you can explore this further. Have you used the rule of three when you speak?

Related posts: Do you over-explain? 5 speaker tricks for using data, details wisely

My elevator speech about *your* elevator speech, from the don't get caught blog

Melinda Gates demonstrates the speaker's rule of three

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Better than "needs no introduction:" Memphis student introduces Obama in wry style

Let's face it: Commencements can be dreary speaking events, full of platitudes and over-long speakers. And then there's the problem of introducing the famous speaker--you know, that one who "needs no introduction," that overused method of letting everyone know you aren't going to do the obvious and read the speaker's well-known bio.

Now, a student at Booker T. Washington high school in Memphis--the lucky school that won the competition to have President Obama speak at its graduation--schools us all in introducing a famous speaker, with an intro that was short, wryly funny and wise beyond his years.

In this New York Times account, we get the details:

There were several student speakers, one of whom rivaled Mr. Obama for timing and smooth delivery. Christopher Dean, a senior who introduced the president, said his job was difficult because everyone already knew the speaker’s occupation and the name of his wife. “Or,” Mr. Dean said, after pausing for a beat, “where he was born.” Mr. Obama bent over in laughter.

Next time you have to introduce a well-known speaker whose credentials could be recited by the audience from memory, follow young Mr. Dean's example and make it knowing, but not boring.

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The speech I wish she'd given: The messy side of women's issues

If you've spent enough time in your profession, you've been on one of those panels about "where are the women?" in your industry, or about women's issues in general. But I'm wondering whether you've had the experience chef Gabrielle Hamilton describes in chapter 16 of her tour de force memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. She gave her remarks in her head, but never said them out loud, until the writing of this book.

Hamilton, the chef and owner of Prune restaurant in New York City, describes the arc of emotion and thoughts she went through while traveling to and participating in the panel at the Culinary Institute of America.  She starts out dismissive of the need for such a discussion. "Incredibly, it never goes away, this question about women," she says. I've heard that exasperated sigh from many other women speakers.

Hamilton convincingly captures what goes through the mind of a speaker on panel day, from her baby's oatmeal stain on her sweater to the calls from her business about how to handle things in her absence. She shares just as much about how the panel got under her fingernails. Hamilton at first thinks of herself and her fellow panelists as allied against the audience, so over the 'woman question,' nothing left to say.

Then a young woman in the audience asks whether it's okay to cry, setting Hamilton off on a private recollection of how she avoided crying in front of others at all costs. In fact, she mulls, it wasn't until she finally owned her own restaurant that she "put to bed" that 'woman' question. She realized:
...all through my entire work life, I had been working a double shift....that of constantly, vigilantly figuring out and calibrating my place in that kitchen with those guys to make a space for myself that was bearable and viable. Should I wear pink clogs or black steel-toe work shoes? Lipstick or Chapstick? Work double hard, double fast, double strong, or keep pace with the average Joe? Swear like a line cook or giggle like a girl? 
During her silent moments on the panel, thinking over those issues, she describes feeling a distance from the other panelists, and more closeness with the audience, after all:
To her question, my sister panelists gave peppy, cheerful “You can do it!!” kind of crap answers....I thought of telling them how changing a diaper reminds me, every time, of trussing a chicken....How labeling every school lunch bag, granola bar, juice box, extra sweater, and nap blanket with permanent Sharpie is like what we’ve been doing every day for thirty years, labeling the foods in our walk-ins....I wanted to interrupt my fellow panelists now going on about how women cook better than men, and how they’re faster and cleaner and smarter, and just tell this story to the young woman in the fifteenth row.
But she didn't tell it, not out loud, at least. This experience reminds me, once again, that it's much easier in many respects to write down the difficult topic than to speak about it out loud in front of an audience. Perhaps that's even more true when it involves pulling back the curtain on that double-shift you've been working as a woman in a male-dominated field. The retelling of this panelist's experience made me wonder how many of us defensively dismiss the need for panels about women's issues, then find out the hard way why we need them, after all.

This chapter tantalizes me with the speech I wish she'd given. I'd have loved hearing her, out loud and extemporaneous, comparing diapering to trussing a chicken. I can see the Sharpies, the oatmeal on her sweater that day, and feel the inability to cry until you owned the restaurant and had an office in which to do it. The details make the anguish real. She could have blown that panel into the next century, or given the audience a truer picture of this one. And I like to think her listeners might have felt just a little less pressure to make everything seem smooth and perfect in their own lives had she done so. That's why I recommend, when you're finding your voice as a speaker, that you tell the stories you think are too difficult to tell, because "if you can bring yourself to share them in a speech, you’ll have the most compelling content and a riveting voice." Don't get me wrong: This is compelling and riveting, as written. But I yearn to hear it out loud and in person, a risk she chose not to take.

This put me very much in mind of a similar "wise women in public relations" panel I was on, where one brave audience member asked a question very different from those about using social media or owning your own business. She wanted help with being sexually harrassed by a client of her male-owned PR firm, and managed to bring that up in front of 45 people. So now I'm wondering: If the audience of young women can do the hard work of serving up the uncomfortable and difficult questions, frankly and openly, can the senior women in any profession bring themselves to answer in kind? I hope so, but suspect that many speakers are self-censoring in this way. As Seth Godin reminds us, "Just imagine how much you'd get done if you stopped actively sabotaging your own work." In this case, I think part of our work should be honesty when we're on panels like this one, dished out with a little knowing humor where appropriate, in describing and confirming reality for the next generation.

Is there a speech you wish you'd given when you had the chance, but didn't? Have you silently or openly dissed women's panels?  Do you pull your punches when talking about difficult women's issues? Do you think she should have shared her thoughts? Go here and choose audio excerpt #4 to hear Hamilton read an excerpt from this chapter. And get the book--it's a compelling read.

(Photo of the line for brunch at Hamilton's restaurant Prune from Three Points Kitchen's photostream on Flickr)

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Monday, May 16, 2011

3 unexpected things Twitter can add to your next talk

Maybe you've started to get used to an audience full of tweeters, soliciting audience questions on Twitter in advance of your talk, and using that platform to promote your presentation and share follow-up information after it's over. But there's much more Twitter can do to enhance your public speaking--and your audience's experience. Here are three unexpected options speakers can take advantage of:
  • Audio samples from your speech, or audio messages before or after you speak: These 6 services offer you several free options for sharing audio in a tweet, including voicemail direct to one user as well as audio any tweeter can hear. Using audio to enhance your Twitter communications before and after a speech is a natural advantage for speakers. Make sure you're recording yourself, and tweet a couple of great audio clips after the fact, or record some thoughts before or after to share with your followers.
  • Speakers' market research on Lanyrd: Sign in with Twitter, and you can see which conferences your Twitter followers are interested in, on this site that serves as a social network for speakers, conferences and conferees. Then use that information and fill out your speaker and attendee profile, so you can more easily connect with people you already follow and make sure they know about your next gig.
  • Taglines and novel ways to summarize your speech: The TED blog noticed this first when online organizer Eli Pariser's TED talk was tweeted, yielding several creative taglines and summaries in Twitter's short-form limits. You can read the full list at the link, then start looking at tweets about your talk. Which ones make the best taglines or descriptors? Use them, with credit for the creative tweeter, to give your speech longer legs.
How do you use Twitter to enhance your public speaking? Leave word in the comments.

Related posts:  Integrating Twitter into your public speaking, 14 ways

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sponsored Kindles get deals like this: $10 for a $20 Amazon gift card

Wondering whether to spring for the least-expensive Kindle, the $114 Kindle that includes special offers and sponsored screensavers? This might help speakers get past the ads: It comes with special codes for Kindle deals like this one, an offer of $10 for $20 Amazon.com gift card. (You need to enter a special promo code at checkout to get this one.)

Readers of the blog know I'm a big fan of Kindles for public speaking, not just to research them and keep references handy, but to hold your text or notes. Read all my posts about using Kindles for public speaking here. This is the least expensive Kindle and it's great that it comes with bonus offers similar to the daily deals from Groupon and LivingSocial. Have you tried this Kindle? Share your feedback!

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Famous Speech Friday: Susan B. Anthony's "Is it a crime for a U.S. citizen to vote?"

It was public speaking that spurred Susan B. Anthony to seek the right for women to vote in the United States--or, more precisely, finding that she was often barred from speaking. When she was 32, in 1852, she attended a temperance convention and was told to "listen and learn" rather than participate; two years later, she was forbidden to speak at the Congress and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Around this time, she attended her first women's rights convention.

While the early timeline of her career includes those barriers to speaking, eventually Anthony averaged 75 to 100 speeches each year for much of her life. Even her purse played a role in her public speaking: Her alligator bag served as a briefcase in a time when women carried no bags because they had no money of their own. It often contained the texts of several speeches (and you can buy a replica of it today).

Anthony voted in a presidential election in 1872 in the front parlor of her own home. She was indicted in Albany, and tried in the following year. This week's famous speech took her case to the court of public opinion in a direct effort to reach potential jurors: Anthony delivered the speech "Is it a crime for a U.S. citizen to vote?" in 29 of Monroe County, New York's towns and villages, then gave 20 more in Ontario County when the proceedings were moved there. In the Federal Judicial Center's thorough history of Anthony's attempt to vote and the ensuing court case, the record of her speech begins on page 63. You can't ask for a more content-filled or concrete opening:
Friends and Fellow-citizens: I stand before you to-night, under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last Presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen’s right, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any State to deny.
Anthony leads her listeners through a reasoned set of arguments based on the nation's founding documents, and echoes the familiar words in the pinnacle of her case:

It was we, the people, not we, the white male citizens, nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed this Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people—women as well as men. And it is downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government—the ballot.
She ends with a repetitive call to action: "We will no longer petition Legislature or Congress to give us the right to vote....We appeal to the women....We appeal to the inspectors of election....We appeal to United States commissioners and marshals....We ask the juries....We ask the judges...." and gave each group a charge to carry out. In the end, the judge ordered the jury to find her guilty and fined her $100 and costs, which she refused to pay--but because she was not imprisoned, she could not appeal the judgment.

She didn't live to see women get the vote, but there's no doubt that her vote and this speech laid the ground for the changes that were to come. Here's what you can learn from Anthony's famous speech:
  • Don't mince words: While she used elegantly reasoned arguments, Anthony didn't shy from more direct and plainspoken mockery, as in "it is downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty." In pressing her case, she pushed buttons and laid plain the tactics of her opponents.
  • Use a strong start to your advantage: Anthony knew no one needed to take up her cause, and that she had to grab her audiences right away to build her case and persuade them to help. She leaves no mystery about her purpose with that forthright first paragraph.
  • Bring it back home at the end:  This persuasive speech also leaves no doubt at its conclusion as to what she wanted from the audience. Far from leaving it up to the listeners, she made specific calls to action and even urged them to watch what other parties were doing and correct them if necessary.
Below is a video recreating another famous set of Anthony's remarks in this case--a statement she made in court before the sentence was handed down. You'll get some of the flavor of how she might have spoken in this example:



Even with as long a speaking record as Anthony's, finding good documentation of her speeches is difficult. You can find more in the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Papers Project at Rutgers University, and many more details and resources at the Susan B. Anthony Home in Rochester, New York.

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Do you use non-sexist writing in your speeches?

Do you use non-sexist writing in your speeches? It's not tough--most of the time, you'll improve your sentences by doing so. That was the magic that Kate Swift and Casey Miller offered in The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing: For writers, editors and speakers.

I'm sorry to say that Kate Swift died Saturday at age 87. That handbook helped me start my writing career on the right foot, and that footprint is all over this blog--and the rest of my writing and speaking. Swift and her co-author wrote that, once they realized that the use of all-male pronouns was coloring our view of women, they could hear "the implicit biases in spoken and written English, highlighting the time-honored phrases 'all men are created equal' and 'land where our fathers died,' the persistent identification of women by Miss and Mrs., and the journalistic habit of describing women as divorcées or blondes, who might be pert, dimpled or cute." (Back in the day, we were taught that the male pronouns were "universal" ones, and could be used to refer to any gender or to both genders. Seriously.)


Her obituary notes that some of their suggestions took--we don't call flight attendants stewardesses anymore--and some didn't. But there's no doubt her work changed the landscape. Speakers and speechwriters can still use many of the book's suggestions to good effect. If you aren't thinking about using non-sexist language, it's easy. Try these tactics:

  • Rewrite all-male pronouns out of your sentences: You can reorganize them out of the sentence: Instead of "Ask each person what he wants," try "What do your readers want? Ask them." 
  • Alternate to even the gender balance: Alternate female and male pronouns, and put the women first. If you're talking about what CEOs should do, some of them should be "she."
  • Check your adjectives: If you're referring to women with diminutive descriptors or talk about their appearance, but not about how the men look, even things up.

Looking back, I feel certain the seeds for this blog were sown when I picked up that book--I still have the first edition. Thank you, Kate Swift. (A hat tip to the Hello Ladies blog for sharing the sad news.)

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

The all-in-one on credibility for speakers: 12 respect-building resources

Credibility's all around the speaker. It can stand behind you, backing up your claims, or undermine and overshadow your talk. New speakers wonder how to get credibility and established ones want to keep it and enhance it. Here are a dozen tactics and resources to help you examine and enhance your credibility as a speaker, whether you're focused on work presentations or stirring speeches:
How do you establish your credibility? Keep the list going and share your tips in the comments.

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When you're speaking, what colors should you wear? 6 guideposts

Your purpose, your content, your voice are all, in theory, more important than your appearance when you're speaking. But nothing can undermine you faster as a speaker than how you look, and sometimes, your choices of what to wear, including color, can thwart your own best efforts.

If it sounds silly to consider color when planning how you'll look when speaking, consider this: I once watched a woman speaking about an important issue--getting young women out to vote--on CNN. She wore what I think many women would consider to be an ideal outfit. Her red collarless blazer had strong shoulders and framed a cream-colored blouse and pearls. Her hair, a pale blonde shade, almost matched the blouse...and so did her skin tone. She wore almost no makeup.

And here's what I saw: A red blob on either side, bleeding at the edges (as red sometimes does on television), with a ghost-like presence in the center. Her face and torso (aside from the blazer) were so monochromatic and pale that she almost was invisible. Her suit completely overshadowed her self, at least visually.

Here's a bolder example: Many observers were startled when photos came out before the Democratic National Convention in 2008 of Hillary Clinton staffers holding up suits of different colors against the blue backdrop that would be behind her. But it was a smart move, color-wise. Clinton ultimately chose a bold orange suit, one that not only complemented her coloring, but stood out against the blue and enlivened the picture. (Blue and orange are opposite one another on the color wheel, which means they're most energetic when paired together.)  Here's video of Clinton in that suit, with that background:


Women will encounter color challenges more than men, given the wider range of colors they can wear--and that can be a plus or a minus. Here's some guidance that will work for both men and women:
  • Start with your skin and hair color:  If your face and hair are pale (which means no hair, white hair, gray hair, blonde hair and sometimes red hair), wear a dark suit jacket to help bring you into focus. (Gentlemen, leave that khaki suit at home.) Conversely, don't wear pale shirts, suits or scarves. In doubt? A French blue shirt, scarf, tie or jacket will complement any skin color or hair color (see right), and will draw attention to your face. (That's why you see blue as the backdrop color at so many news conferences and events.)
  • Think about brightness and color values: Pure white, the brightest value, will draw the eye--or the camera--more than any other color. That's great if you want them to look at your white jacket or your white shirt, but not so great if you want to be visible. Again, think of mid-tones, like that French blue shirt.
  • On television or video? It makes a difference. Red jackets, which many women wear as powerful symbols and to stand out, can bleed at the edges--a distraction for the viewers. Whites, again, will draw the camera...away from you. And patterns like stripes, houndstooth checks or plaids, can appear to move, a real audience distraction.
  • What looks great on you in person and close up may not read well when you're speaking:  Just because you like a color, or look good in it in person (ditto for patterns), doesn't mean it reads well when I'm 30 rows away. When in doubt, grab a pal and get some video or photos in the setting to help you decide.
  • Consider the background: Clinton's aides had the right idea (and they tested light blue, turquoise, red and orange suit options). If your background is French blue, you don't want to blend into it, so limit yourself to a blue shirt or scarf and a dark or contrasting suit. It pays to find out ahead of time what color you'll be standing against.
  • Use the color wheel: The color wheel helps artists blend and contrast colors, and you can use it to consider what works well against another color background, as Clinton did. Opposites on the color wheel make the other color stand out energetically (as in red/green, or blue/orange). Those are bold choices, but guaranteed to highlight you.
What adventures in color have you experienced when speaking? Share them in the comments.

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Put The Eloquent Woman on your Kindle

You know I recommend the Kindle for public speaking--for references, for speech texts, and for holding your notes. Why not have your speaking coach there, too? Now you can subscribe to The Eloquent Woman blog on your Amazon Kindle.

Monthly subscriptions cost $1.99 and the first one comes with a free 14-day trial. You'll get automatic updates whenever the blog posts are published.

I'm excited about this new option, which joins the many other ways you can access the blog by RSS, email and more. Please share it with your Kindle-toting friends, teachers, librarians, students and colleagues.



Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Famous Speech Friday: Clara Barton's Andersonville testimony

In May of 1861, the American Civil War was just beginning. States were still seceding and the Confederacy had just established a capital in Richmond. Would-be nurse Clara Barton's Civil War service began just a month earlier, in April 1861, a behind-the-scenes role organizing supplies for the War Department. But the war brought something out in her--something that led her to a speaking role unlike that of most women of her day. It began with action, rather than words. From the New York Times: 
When the war began, Barton was a painfully shy clerk in the Patent Office in Washington. Ignoring orders directing women nurses to stay safely in Washington, Barton...showed up on the field at nearly every major engagement in the eastern theater, beginning with the Second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862. With no medical training, Barton was resourceful and fearless, combing the battlefield alongside army surgeons looking for survivors, performing triage under fire and helping evacuate the wounded. Barton wisely stayed out of Washington, coming in only to take on supplies before returning to the field. And Barton remained in the field long after the war was over, identifying missing soldiers and marking the graves of the dead at Andersonville.
The American Red Cross biography of its founder takes her speaking as a matter of course:
Barton had a talent for words. Ready to spell three-syllable words when she started school at the age of four, she wrote voluminously throughout her life, often daily. She was also a highly skilled speaker. Veterans attending her lectures were often moved to tears as she vividly described battlefield scenes from her Civil War days. 
Shy or skilled as a speaker, Barton's speaking career took off after the war ended. In 1866, she gave this stunning testimony of her visit to the infamous Andersonville war prison before the U.S. Congress. Barton worked with former prisoners of war there to identify close to 13,000 men who died in Andersonville and their burial places. Her testimony described how freed blacks were treated there. Of a pregnant black woman who had been deemed to fall short of her task, Barton testified:
...She had been bucked and gagged.
Question. Describe the process.
Answer. The person is seated upon the ground, the knees drawn up, the hands put under the knees, and a stick run through over the arms and under the knees, the hands being tied in front; that makes them utterly immovable ; then there is a gag put in the mouth and tied at the back of the head--this woman had been treated in that way--then the overseer had come behind her, kicked her on the back, and thrown her over. She had been stripped in the mean time, for they never whip the negro with the clothes on ; she was thrown on her face, and lashed on her back, so that, when her husband found her, he said she was a gore of blood, and she must have been ; she had been untied, and was lying there as she had been left. 
Her main task was to describe the prison and conditions there, as an eyewitness. Of the prison enclosure, she said:
An Andersonville survivor
It is a stockade formed of pine trees twenty feet long, and from a foot to a foot and a half through, set five or six feet in the ground, close together, and pointed at the top.
Question. What was the area of the enclosure? 
Answer. From twenty-five to twenty-seven acres, more or less. It had been much less at one time. It was originally only eleven acres. They had got some thirty thousand men within that eleven acres. But they found it impossible, as prisoners were constantly sent there, to keep them in that space, and the stockade was increased to the size that they called twenty-seven acres. I had it measured while I was there, and I made it some twenty-five or twenty-six acres
Question. Do you know how many prisoners they had there at any one time during the war?
Answer. From thirty to thirty-four thousand.
In the years following this testimony, Barton gave more than 200 lectures about her Civil War service. The National Park Service notes that she "shared platforms with other prominent figures including Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, and Mark Twain. She often earned $75 to $100 per lecture." Here's what you can learn from her testimony and speaking:
  • Willingness to speak provides a moving--and important--record: I started this post looking for speeches by Florence Nightingale, the European nurse whose career presaged Barton's--but Nightingale preferred a behind-the-scenes role and disapproved of women speaking in public. In contrast, Barton's eventual willingness to testify publicly and to give lectures helped give important witness to the war's atrocities that has long outlived her.
  • Shared experience moves audiences: Barton's ability to plainly describe what she saw on the battlefields helped post-war audiences learn what really happened and reinforced for veterans what they had seen for themselves in real terms. Her words had an extra excitement, since she spoke as one of only a few women who'd witnessed these atrocities.
  • Witnessing can trump discomfort: Barton didn't flinch from harsh descriptions of what she had seen, when called on to testify--and those descriptions are hard to read even today. That role was even more important in an age without the 24/7 news media coverage we have access to today.
  • Your observations can make for compelling speaking: The awful scenes Barton describes are still riveting because of their simplicity and honesty. No one can speak for you, and if you're the main witness to a terrible experience, no matter how gorey, that unique perspective will hold your listeners' attention as no other talk will.
You can read more about Barton in Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War. What do you think of Barton's testimony? Share your thoughts in the comments. (Affiliate link)

Clip to Evernote

Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.