Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A checklist for the speaker's wardrobe

I started this list with the wardrobe questions from my popular Checklist for the whole speaker (it's a free download), then added more items to make it a comprehensive checklist focused on how your wardrobe appears when you're speaking or presenting. Once you get used to working your way through this checklist, you'll find yourself making smarter wardrobe choices for your speaking engagements and presentations automatically. And by the way, this checklist works for men and women. Here it is:
  • Are my clothes clean, pressed and mended? Are they likely or unlikely to look wrinkled after a short time? 
  • Do my clothes suit the occasion at which I'm speaking?
  • Do my clothes fit me?
  • Is my intended outfit comfortable, from head to toe?
  • Will my wardrobe allow me (if needed) to do things like crawl under a table to plug in a cord or reach high to point at a chart?
  • Have I rehearsed my presentation movements and gestures while wearing my intended outfit?
  • Is there anything about my outfit that will distract me? Distract my audience? If so, can I make a change? Is it worth it?
  • If I plan to gesture, have I removed rings and bracelets that may be visible or audible distractions? 
  • If I'm going to wear a lavalier mic, do I have a lapel or collar on which to clip it? Will it be easy to hide the wire under my jacket, and to clip the pack on my waistband or pocket? 
  • If I'm standing behind a lectern, or will be seated behind a skirted table, have I focused attention and color near my face? What from my outfit will be seen in that setting by the audience? (For example, small jewelry might not be visible at all, and more attention will be focused on your upper torso and face.) 
  •  If I'm on a panel, will the table be skirted? Am I sitting in a big armchair? Have I thought about how my outfit will look when I'm seated and facing the audience?
  • If I have white hair, gray hair, light hair or no hair, am I wearing a dark suit to bring my face into focus?
  • Am I wearing a French blue color near my face (shirt, scarf or tie) -- the color that flatters all skin tones?
  • Have I inquired about the color of the background that will be behind me, so I can make sure my suit doesn't blend in--or clash?
  • If my talk is being recorded on video--whether on television or for another purpose--have I avoided wearing clothes that will appear to bleed at the edges on camera (like a red jacket), clothes that will draw the viewer's focus away from my face (like a white shirt) or clothes that will look like it's moving on its own (like a checked or plaid shirt or jacket)?
  • If I'm going to walk in and around the audience, have I considered what will be visible to someone who's seated and in front of or behind me?
Go here to download the wardrobe checklist as a PDF.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The cashier's commencement speech

This May, at its commencement, Hampshire College featured a staff member as speaker. Roberta Tudryn, the cashier in the college's dining hall, gave a commencement address unlike any I've heard. It's refreshingly short, sweet, and evocative as she describes the students she saw and talked to every day on campus. This speaker knew every graduate--something those marquee commencement speakers can't match--and her genuine emotion and unique perspective come through clearly.

You can read the text of Tudryn's commencement speech here, but do watch the video. If you're organizing an event, think about including a speaker like this one, with a one-of-a-kind view of your work, product or issue. It's a powerful way to share a high-impact, memorable experience for your audience.



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Friday, August 26, 2011

Famous Speech Friday: Christine Lagarde at the Global Women’s Forum

(Editor's note: France-based corporate coach and communications consultant Marion Chapsal offered me a guest post, and I leaped at the chance to have her analyze a speech by the new managing director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde. Lagarde was just named number 9 on Forbes's list of the 100 most powerful women in the world. It's great to have a French perspective in bringing us this famous speech. Thanks, Marion!)


Christine Lagarde calls herself  “an international animal”. After a year-long campaign all around the globe, she patiently convinced one country after the other until she finally succeded. The first woman named head of the International Monetary Fund in July 2011, she masters the art of public speaking. What strikes me most, watching her speak on videos, is her ability to adapt to any kind of context and audience. Maybe this has something to do with her past as a champion of synchronised swimming? She’s “like a fish in water” when she speaks in public and synchronizes with her interlocuteur. She can be commanding and direct, but she can also shift to a warm-hearted and engaging style of communication.

Named the second top favorite personalities for the French people, she’s also plebiscited by the Americans. Here’s what Timothy Geithner, US Secretary of the Treasury, Time, April 2009, says about her: “Her lightning-quick wit, genuine warmth and ability to bridge divides while remaining fiercely loyal to French interests have been a source of admiration.” Her key assets? Perfect English, Precise, Allure and a Human Connector.

What makes her really stand out as a speaker is her unique talent to adapt and engage with any culture and win people over. “Her personal style sends varied messages: To Britons, she is the rare continental European who has somehow mastered the art of small talk. To Germans, she is the rare economic leader who actually seems human. To North Americans, she is just like one of us,” says Doug Saunders of CTV News.

The ex-French finance minister also gives her voice to promote women’s empowerment. She delivered an inspiring speech at the Global Women’s Forum in Deauville in 2010. Here’s what you can learn from this inspiring speech:

  • Engaging introduction. From the start, she holds our attention speaking in French, very slowly and making pauses. She shares with simplicity and honesty how refreshing and intimidating it is to be there. She sets the tone with striking authenticity. “For more than thirty years, I have been operating in rooms crowded with men.” She knows what she’s talking about since she’s been both innovative and assertive in a man-dominated world. First woman head of Baker & McKenzie in Chicago, back in 1999. First woman French minister of economy and finance in 2007. And now, first woman head of the IMF.
  • Walking her talk. Christine Lagarde's two major themes in this talk are trust and confidence. She inspires trust by reaching out to each one of us and she embodies confidence. She makes sure she includes men and women and all the actors of the economy, internationally. We need to embrace the change and rethink the model. It’s going to be for all of us.
  • Flexibility and adaptation. She starts by making fun of herself and how the big screen reminds her of aging and then quickly moves us with stories of trust and confidence. Then her tone gets more serious, she speaks like a Finance minister, giving us precise data and striking figures about the gender element in Entrepreneurship. She tells us a joke (no, French people don’t strike all the time)  then switches back to information about quotas and finishes with emotions. She plays with her voice and her body like an instrument, giving us a melody which is finely tuned with the audience and displaying a vast range of nuances.
  • Powerful visual metaphors. Speaking about the controversial topic of quotas, she picks up on the pink fish infographics used in a previous presentation. We need to have more pink fish! She’s also using this excellent image of the first step women need to climb up the ladder and the necessity of temporary quotas. Legislation currently before the Senate in France would require that corporate boards be 40% female within six years. “The step is too high and we must have significant push and encouragement to make sure that it actually happens.” Striking and inspiring conclusion and a call to action. “I would encourage you every day of your life, as I try to do, to ask yourself one question.  Did I, today, help another woman?” Simple. Direct. Warm. Authentic. Engaging.

Christine Lagarde definitely takes the women’s side in the world’s economic jungle. She has five years to prove she can implement change. I believe her excellent communication skills, combined with her emotional intelligence and bravery will be major assets in this international jungle.

Watch her famous opening speech at the Global Women’s Forum.


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Thursday, August 25, 2011

What's on your public speaking wish list?

Every speaker's got a wish list. What's on yours? You might be keeping track of improvements you want to make in your speaking skills, solutions for your pet speaking peeves, or just wishing for a better remote or a Kindle to hold your notes. Share your public speaking wish list in the comments so we can see what speakers are wishing for these days.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

From the vault: Is eye contact good or bad? 5 tips for speakers

After I published a guest post on body language, these commenters wonder whether the eyes have it--or not. Here's what they wondered:
In terms of body language, I would also love to know more about eye contact and what it communicates...Eye contact is not super-comfortable for me, but I'm afraid it makes me look evasive or dishonest (when I'm not at all). I often wonder how much eye contact is passable, professionally.

and...

Cultural sensitivity can transform these tips [into] a nuanced strategy. For example, Native Americans consider direct eye contact, particularly with an elder, a sign of disrespect.
Other colleagues have shared variations on this theme, wondering whether eye contact is necessary or even good. "I was trained in acting never to look at the audience," one said, and another noted she was taught as a youngster that gazing directly at any adult, regardless of culture, is disrespectful.

So let me clear something up: Eye contact with the audience is essential for speakers, whether you're in a small meeting or addressing a crowd of 1,000. Failing to use eye contact means you're losing one of the most important tools you have to connect and convince your audience about your message. In the speaker-audience relationship, your very position establishes you as the leader of the group--at least for the duration of your talk. Research shows that looking away from your audience signals avoidance, looking at them signals approach, and that audiences rate it highly. It's important, however, to use eye contact as you would any other presentation tool: wisely and well. Here are five ways to make sure your "eyes have it" in your next speech:
  1. Be sure you look at all sections of the room. Don't ignore one side or the other, or favor those in front without looking to the rear of the room. If you have trouble remembering to do this, write directions to yourself in your speech text -- "LOOK REAR," "LOOK LEFT" -- as reminders to vary your general gaze.
  2. Be sure to look briefly and directly at individuals as well as sections. Audiences can sense when you're not connecting, so don't just look at the left side wall--take a moment to drop your gaze to someone seated in that section. Then move on. If someone asks a question, look at her when you start your answer, then let your gaze expand to the rest of the room to include them as well.
  3. Use eye contact to emphasize an important point. Eye contact is an important tool for visual learners, and can help audiences to remember and retain what you're saying. Use it to emphasize what you want them to recall, to indicate a specific group in the audience, or to refer to what a previous speaker or questioner pointed out.
  4. Plan ahead for cultural concerns. I recommend that you research your audience in advance whenever possible, and some cultures, particularly non-Western ones, do find prolonged, direct gazes to be rude or even provocative. (The opposite is true in Western cultures, by the way--so avoiding eye contact can lead your audience to attribute negative thoughts to you.) Keep in mind, however, that staring is one thing when a stranger does it for no apparent reason in a social environment. If you're the speaker, particularly in a business setting or at a major event, you're in an automatic position of authority, and you will often have more leeway. Check out this Wikipedia article on eye contact issues, and talk to the meeting hosts for advice in advance. Don't avoid eye contact just for cultural concerns.
  5. Check your eye contact with some video practice. In my trainings, I often find that speakers are unaware of where their eyes are traveling. Like any form of gesturing--and that's what moving eyes are--you need to have intentional, rather than unintentional moves. Even the simplest video camera can help you see what others see--before your speech. Then check my advice on how to replace what I call "visual ums" that may interfere with your ability to connect with your audience.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

MLK memorial dedication salutes women ignored in civil rights era

A new national memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr. has opened on the National Mall here in Washington, DC. A luncheon honoring the women of the civil rights movement is among this week's dedication ceremonies, and the announcement notes "Equally as important as their male counterparts, the women of the Civil Rights Movement have earned our respect and esteem.   At this luncheon, we honor the women whose legacy of strength and dignity continues to inspire hope." That's a long-overdue recognition. Most people familiar with King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, which culminated a march on Washington and a rally at the Lincoln Memorial don't realize that women were kept off the program on that historic day. Gail Collins recalls it in her book, America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines:
There was not a single woman scheduled to speak at the march, and when the lone woman on the 19-member planning committee protested, the organizers threw together a last-minute "Tribute to Women" in which A. Philip Randolph introduced [Rosa] Parks and other dignitaries...while they sat there silently..."Nowadays, women wouldn't stand for being kept so much in the background, but back then women's rights hadn't become a popular cause yet," said Parks later.
Keep the women of the civil rights movement in mind this week as the memorial ceremonies culminate with a dedication on Sunday, August 28. Below is a virtual tour video of the new monument based on the architect's rendering:




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Monday, August 22, 2011

Mind your pronouns: What they say about you as a speaker

Do you know the hidden messages your words are sending when you speak (or write)? Psychologist James Pennebaker does, and suggests you focus on minding your pronouns--because pronouns say the most about you.

In this Scientific American interview with Pennebaker, he decodes our pronoun usage, offering this quiz to ask who uses the following types of words more: Men or women?

  • 1st person singular (I, me, my)
  • 1st person plural (we, us our)
  • articles (a, an, the)
  • emotion words (e.g., happy, sad, love, hate)
  • cognitive words (e.g., because, reason, think, believe)
  • social words (e.g., he, she, friend, cousin)

  • Pennebaker explains the results:
    Most people assume that men use I-words and cognitive words more than women and that women use we-words, emotions, and social words more than men. Bad news. You were right if you guessed that women use social words more. However, women use I-words and cognitive words at far higher rates than men. There are no reliable differences between men and women for use of we-words or emotion words (OK, those were trick questions). And men use articles more than women, when you might guess there’d be no difference.
    He also offers some clues to how pronouns are used by those in power. Leaders tend to use them less--surprised?--but underlings are all about saying "I, me, mine." You can find out more about the messages you're sending with your pronouns in his book, The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us.

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    Friday, August 12, 2011

    Postless for a week

    From today, this blog won't be posting for the next week, while I work on a new workshop and make some changes in the blog's content.

    Readers who subscribe to the free monthly Step Up Your Speaking newsletter will get their issues next week. It's a great time to sign up. Go here to subscribe so you can get the next issue--every month, the newsletter focuses on a different public speaking skill or issue.

    Please do feel free to leave a comment to share what you'd like to see more or less of on the blog going forward...you can do that in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter.

    Your readership and participation are what make The Eloquent Woman a success, and I'm grateful for your attention. I'll resume posting here on Monday, August 22.

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    The speaker in a crisis

    What would you say if you were the speaker and a crisis occurred?

    I'm not talking about the lights going out or the slides not loading, but a real crisis: A death, a war, a natural disaster. The crisis might be happening right next to you or far away, but many speakers find themselves having to pull something to say together in a critical moment that they know is affecting (or is about to affect) their audiences, something so powerful that it must be acknowledged and addressed.

    Speakers in a crisis can benefit from keeping their remarks short and simple, no matter what they'd originally prepared. But three more qualities of speeches in crisis are even more important, to my mind. The most memorable and effective crisis speeches:
    • Acknowledge and give voice to the feelings of the audience, rather than avoid them;
    • Offer universal and unifying themes to which the group can relate; and
    • Share a positive vision of what can come out of the crisis, even while acknowledging the difficulty in doing so.
    Here are a pair of speeches that did just that, both related to unexpected deaths.

    Betty Ford, giving an impromptu prayer for Rabbi Maurice Sage
    In 1976, First Lady Betty Ford was at an event where a prominent rabbi, Jewish National Fund president Maurice Sage, was to present her with a Bible when he collapsed next to her. Sage died shortly afterward, despite attempts to revive him. But while his fate was still a question, Ford took the microphone to lead the group in an impromptu and unifying prayer for his life. You can see people attempting to help in the background as she stands at the microphone in the photo at left, shown here courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Museum and Library.

    One of the most striking speeches in a crisis I've ever heard was Robert F. Kennedy's impromptu remarks at a 1968 Indianapolis rally, in which he informed the mostly black audience of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.--a shock to the audience and the nation. The calm and quiet tone not only suited the occasion, but may have prevented the type of rioting that occurred in many other cities as a reaction to the news. He drew on deeply personal beliefs, a favorite poem and an appeal to the listeners to come together not in anger, but against the anger. This was a campaign stop for Kennedy, who was running for president in 1968. Within two months, he too was assassinated after a speech in California--something that makes these remarks all the more poignant in retrospect. (You can find a transcript of his remarks at the link.)



    Please share your thoughts about what else is needed during an impromptu speech during a crisis, and your suggestions for others to add to this list.


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    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    From the vault: Confidence--how to fake it until you make it


    You can't buy confidence as a public speaker--you can only build it up, like a muscle, over time. So what do you do until you've worked out your fears and gained enough experience to feel confident as a speaker? My advice as a public speaking and presentation coach can be summed up in two words:

    Fake it.

    I think many of us create a mythical view of the Ideal Speaker Experience, a perfect vision of What It Should Be Like. You know what I mean: The audience loves you and begs you to keep talking. You look fantastic. Your voice projects well and modulates effortlessly to fit the emotions and facts in your speech. You don't have to look at notes. Your words inspire, persuade, convince. Heads nod approvingly. No ums, ers and ahs pass your lips, and there's no question you can't answer. The lighting's perfect, everyone can hear you, the room is quiet enough that you could hear a pin drop. All the technology works perfectly, with no effort on your part. After you speak, the crowd rushes forward to offer you roses, champagne, lucrative book deals, and a ride to the airport. Unicorns and a magic genie accompany you home.


    This has never happened to me, or I'd have shown you video of the unicorn by now.

    What has happened: I've given some of my best speeches under conditions that don't fit nicely into that Ideal Speaker Experience. Some of my best lines have been unscripted and in the moment. One of my best talks was one for which I had almost no time to prepare; another had every kind of room and technology problem, all last-minute, that you could imagine.

    My goal in coaching any public speaker or presenter is to help you avoid letting that Ideal Speaking Experience vision--the bar you are setting for yourself--keep you from trying. Thousands of would-be speakers fail to step forward every day because they think they have to be perfect. And that's a shame, because no one's perfect. But here's a wondeful secret. Your vision of perfection has something in common with your lack of confidence or fears about speaking: No one knows about it but you. And that will allow you to fake it.


    With that, here are 12 ways you can fake it--that is, look confident and even feel more confident--until you get enough experience to feel you can handle any situation. Most of these also will help you reduce the stress you're feeling about speaking, which contributes to your lack of confidence:
    1. Banish that perfect vision. Just stop thinking and talking about it, even to yourself. Better: Spend time focusing on what might go wrong--and brainstorm one or two ways you can deal with those problems, in case they happen.
    2. Don't tell the audience. I've met fearful speakers who've decided to overcome their fear by telling the audience all about it, and they feel it's an asset to their speaking. I disagree. Most audiences are hoping you'll do well--you can almost always assume that, unless you're dealing with a confrontational issue. Alerting the audience that you are nervous is like waving a signal flag. From then on, they won't be paying as much attention to your content as they will to wondering when you're going to freeze up. And remember: They can't tell you're nervous, most of the time. Why share?
    3. Don't keep telling yourself. The mind is a powerful thing, and it's entirely possible to sabotage yourself by repeating over and over in your mind that you're nervous or that things might go wrong.
    4. Watch yourself on video. Better yet, get a pal to watch your video with you, and task her with sharing a few things she noticed and a few things she might suggest to improve. If you feel nervous while you're making the video, ask her whether she could see it. Use this handy tipsheet as you evaluate your video.
    5. Take charge of your introduction. Sometimes, all it takes is a lame introduction to get a speaker off on the wrong foot. Take charge of that situation with these tips.
    6. Smile. Smiling actually releases endorphins, a chemical response that makes you feel better. (Same with exercise.) Audiences love a smiling speaker, and you'll be counteracting the natural tendency of most mouths to turn down. Bonus: You'll feel better, they'll feel better.
    7. Breathe, before, during and after. Deep breaths before your speech will help moderate your blood pressure and calm you physically and mentally. Practicing the "relaxation response" breathing exercises also will help you master the art of calming yourself when you get into stressful situations, like speaking. Bonus: Breathing isn't just essential, it's invisible. So do it.
    8. Stand up straight. Great posture will help you feel better and make you look very confident to your audience. (What slouch ever looked confident?) A bonus: It'll help your breathing and ability to project.
    9. Don't overdo. Often, speakers get in trouble here, so seek to avoid overdoing. Especially when you are beginning as a speaker, keep it short and focused. Don't aim for the longest sentences--or the longest speech. Don't use elaborate props or technology until you feel more confident.
    10. Don't overprepare. Over-preparation is an agitated way of setting yourself up to fail--you'll never need all the facts you're trying to master in advance, and you can set some parameters for what you'll talk about. Again, better you should spend your prep time working on your message or practicing your talk.
    11. Wait quietly until the group is quiet. If you have a talkative, fidgety group and you're the first person to speak, just wait for them to settle down--it's the most powerful, confident-looking start, far better than repeatedly trying to call them to attention. Keeps you calmer, too.
    12. Plan your message. Knowing what you want to say with a structured three-point message can help you feel more confident. Plus, this type of message will help you find your way back to your points easily if you get off track. Just knowing you have a plan to follow will help reinforce your confidence.
    Related posts: When you have to give an impromptu speech

    When the speech hands you lemons...


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    Monday, August 8, 2011

    Speakers' great examples of the invisible visual

    A reader recently asked for more examples of what I call "the invisible visual"--not a hidden slide or image, but something the speaker describes so vividly that the audience members can picture it in their mind's eye. It's among the strongest ways to ensure your presentation sticks with them long after they leave the room, and often, makes the difference between a good speech and a great one. So I've pulled together three examples from the blog that came to mind immediately, to get your own process of brainstorming an invisible visual going:
    What if you don't have a visual you can describe? You can use a familiar visual metaphor to create your invisible visual, particularly if you're describing phenomena that are less concrete, like working conditions that lead to incivility, the subject of a survey out today. From USA Today's coverage:
    As companies buy out and lay off workers while expecting to keep productivity up, the niceties suffer, suggests psychologist and researcher Paul Fairlie of Toronto: "White-collar work is becoming a little more blue-collar. There's higher work demands, longer hours. When you control for inflation, people are getting paid less than in the late '60s. A lot of people are working much harder. They've got fluid job descriptions and less role clarity. So for some people, for a growing fringe, work is becoming more toxic."
    Look at your next speech or presentation, particularly the anecdotes and examples. Can you find and emphasize that invisible visual?

    Related posts: When it comes to words, concrete=credible

    Why speakers should use the invisible visual

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    Friday, August 5, 2011

    Famous Speech Friday: Margaret Thatcher's "Iron Lady" speech

    Public speaking helped to fuel and sustain the rise of Margaret Thatcher, who became the first woman to lead a major Western democracy, re-elected three times as Prime Minister of England. But long before anyone knew her, it was her speaking that made her stand out. In the early 1950s, during her first run for a seat in Parliament, she was the youngest woman candidate in England, and her biography notes that:
    Unlike many Conservatives at that time, she had little difficulty getting a hearing from any audience and she spoke easily, with force and confidence, on issues that mattered to the voters.
    Thatcher, who said in an interview as late as 1973 that she didn't think there would be a woman prime minister, was the Conservative party leader and a few years away from that role yet when she gave her so-called "Iron Lady" speech, titled "Britain Awake," making the case for strengthening the nation's defenses, particularly against the threat of an attack from Soviet Russia. This Cold War speech gave Thatcher the nickname she would carry from then on: Within a few days of this speech, the Soviet Army newspaper Red Star had dubbed her the "Iron Lady," and the nickname stuck.

    The "Iron Lady" tag was used, variously, to describe her strong conservative principles and defense strategies, but also to suggest that she was "harsh or uncaring in her politics." Thatcher--whose face was put on everything from china cups to toilet paper during her terms as Prime Minister--made light of the title in a dinner speech to British conservatives:



    What puts the spine in the "Iron Lady" speech? Here's what to look for:
    • A strong, declarative voice:  No hesitating "you knows" or "likes" in this speech. "Let us," "Let's," "we must" are her call-to-action constructions. This is old-school rhetoric, and it works in a speech that ultimately helped her to rise to lead a nation. It's strong and confident, and doesn't back into any of its points, but meets them head-on. Her words embrace the policy and push it forward.
    • Using opposites to create contrast and transition: "I would be the first to welcome any evidence that the Russians are ready to enter into a genuine detente. But I am afraid that the evidence points the other way" allows her to move from positive to negative points while appearing measured and balanced. It moves the speech forward, and the contrast helps to make this a memorable line. It also tells you where she stands, both by clarifying her position and taking the time to look at her opponent's stance--a double reinforcement of her point.
    • Wry humor, even when discussing serious topics: "If there are further cuts, perhaps the Defence Secretary should change his title, for the sake of accuracy, to the Secretary for Insecurity" typifies a Thatcher tactic of looking for a laugh, even a small one, well into a speech in which she's laying down a strict policy proposal. It provides needed relief to the speech, and lets the audience release emotions that might be building--a great tactic any speaker can use to good effect.
    Few leaders have to announce a retirement from public speaking, but because she was such a frequent speaker throughout her career, Thatcher did just that in March 2001, after a series of small strokes. She's the subject of a film titled "Iron Lady," starring Meryl Streep, that's due out in January 2012. In this preview clip, you can see her in a meeting early in her political career with two male advisers, discussing her public image and her public speaking. And she schools them a bit:




    Thanks to the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, you can find a stunning archive of her speeches from 1945-1990, often with notes about delivery, the hall in which it was given and how news accounts covered the speech. It's a goldmine.

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    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    What's your public speaking or presenting advice--fortune-cookie style?

    Today, I'm asking readers to share their best public speaking advice--but in the form of a fortune, such as you'd find in a fortune cookie. These are certainly shorter than a tweet, and can be hopeful, foreboding or cryptic, as you please. Post your fortune-cookie advice for other speakers below in the comments! All will become clear shortly....

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    Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    Listen up, speakers, about how to listen--a key #publicspeaking skill

    When this speaker thanks you for listening at the end of his TED talk, he really means it. Sound expert Julian Treasure says we spend 60 percent of our communication time listening--but "we're not very good at it."

    This is not only an excellent TED talk, but a useful tutorial for any public speaker or presenter. You'll get a thoughtful look at how you listen (or don't) and how your audience listens (or doesn't), as well as thoughtful ways to ensure that changes. Listening is critical to understanding, so if your presentation goal is to gain your listeners' understanding, listen to this.

    Treasure gives you five tools to recalibrate your listening, ranging from 3 minutes a day of quiet to how to savor the mundane sounds of your day, so you can hear and appreciate them better--he calls those sounds "the hidden choir." Add his five steps to your public speaking practice!

    UPDATE: District 29 Toastmasters blog offers another use for this skill and the video: If you're an evaluator in Toastmasters, use it to sharpen the skills you use to listen to the speakers you're evaluating.



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    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    Are you ready for fall conference season? How speakers should prepare

    It's summer here in the U.S., and perhaps a time when you're more focused on vacation than on voicing your views as a speaker. But autumn looms, and with it, a busy season of conferences and meeting. You may be tan and rested, but are you ready? Use this checklist to prepare for the coming conference season:
    1. Make a profile on Lanyrd, and note your speaking gigs, panels and even conferences you're attending this fall. Lanyrd, the social network for speakers and conferees, lets you promote your speaking gigs and track conferences--even if you're not there. It's a great networking tool.
    2. Refresh your bio, photo and other speaker materials:  Now's the time to make sure the conference organizer, your moderator and anyone else you're working with has a cleaned-up and up-to-date version of your biography and your speaker photo--not five minutes before your panel. While you're at it, refresh your online profiles.
    3. Reach out to your panel moderator and fellow speakers, or to the organizer, if you're speaking alone. Even if no coordinating calls have been scheduled, take the time to schedule a 15-minute call that will let you learn about the expected audience, time limits, goals for your talk or portion of the panel, and anything else you can glean. You'll walk in smarter and more prepared.
    4. Understand the logistics. Will you be seated, or can you stand? Can you walk around or is the mic in a fixed position? What's the size of the room in terms of seats? What's the available technology? Do they need your slides in advance? Can you bring your own remote? Get these questions in before you build your presentation--far better to work within your limits than have to redo everything at the last moment.
    5. Promote your appearances in advance. Reach out to possible audience members on social networks, change your email signature to let contacts know where you'll be speaking and use all the tools at your disposal to build an audience and interest in your talk. Ask the organizers for a Twitter hashtag, and for their plans to promote the panels and talks. Ask possible audience members for their questions, ideas and interests now, not later...you'll get help making your talk relevant this way.
    6. Get coaching. You can work on a particular presentation or just refresh your skills with an eye to moving them to the next level. Tell any public speaking coach you hire what your next talk (or talks) will be, and ask for ideas on making them memorable. (And we can do a better job coaching you if you call now, rather than the week before the panel.)
    7. Find out how the backchannel will be managed. Ask your conference organizers and panel moderators how social media will be handled. Will there be a hashtag for the conference, panel or session? Will someone be moderating Twitter and other channels during the talk and sharing feedback with you in a structured way? Can you provide electronic, rather than paper, handouts and resources? Is the group soliciting questions in advance?
    8. Enlist a pal: Get a colleague or friend to take photos or video of you speaking, and ask for feedback from them afterward. Some of my own most useful improvements--and reinforcement--have come from asking a trusted colleague to sit in the room purely to observe me, and be ready to share afterward. The photos and video are useful feedback as well as potential promotional material for your next gig.
    If you need public speaking coaching before your gig this fall, I'd be delighted to help. Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

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    Monday, August 1, 2011

    July's top 10 #publicspeaking tips and issues

    July was hot, both where I live and on the blog. Our top post this month might be among the most controversial and disturbing topics I've covered so far. But there's much to warm up to in the rest of the month's top 10 posts. Here's what you and other speakers have been reading all month:
    1. The faceless bitch slide: Why women have trouble with public speaking took one woman's account of a male speaker with an offensive slide, and looked at why that might well make women speakers and audience members reluctant to speak.
    2. Famous Speech Friday: Betty Ford's 1975 speech to the American Cancer Society chose a speech with real impact--after it was given, thousands of women called for medical appointments to find out whether they had breast cancer, previously a taboo. In an odd twist of timing, this post appeared on a Friday morning, the same day on which Ford later died. 
    3. Famous Speech Friday: Jill Bolte Taylor's "stroke of insight" TED talk is among the most-watched TED talks ever, and among the most viewed posts here this month. Find out why--it's riveting.
    4. Bold idea: Could you be the summary speaker? kicks off a semi-regular series of bold ideas for speakers, tactics that will help you stand out. In this one, you'll find that being the last is not at all least, if you make it so.
    5. Speakers, when it comes to words, concrete=credible looks at psychology research showing what your audience will find credible, even if you don't have additional facts and figures at hand. A smart language tactic.
    6. The unexpected question: How speakers should prepare goes way out in left field, where those questions come from, to find a handful of back-pocket tactics you can use to prepare yourself and handle the unexpected query.
    7. Speaker trainers and speechwriters: A workshop on working with experts shared my August 24 workshop on working more effectively with scientists, engineers and other experts. Designed for communicators, it's suitable for those who train, coach or write for experts, too. You'll save if you register by August 5.
    8. Is singing like speaking, and vice versa? The eloquent Eno asked a question based on musician Brian Eno's insight while composing a piece that combined music and spoken word. Singers and speakers weighed in--check out their perspectives.
    9. 7 ways to spread your slides around: Where to share gives you choices from among the many slide-sharing sites, many with extra features, that will help you reach a wider audience.
    10. Managing your energy as a speaker: The 90-minute cycle looks at why your energy (and that of audience members) shifts every 90 minutes and how that might affect your speaking plan.
    Thanks for reading in July, and always!

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