Friday, December 30, 2011

The top #publicspeaking and presenting posts of 2011

From inspiring women's speeches to checklists, visuals and sexist speaking situations, 2011's most-read posts offer you a glimpse at what you and other readers found most valuable this year. Before we launch into 2012, take a look back at these popular posts:
  1. Helen Keller's "I am not dumb now" and "Strike Against War," part of our Famous Speech Friday series, ran away with top honors as the most-read post of 2011, and is the our all-time most-read post overall. Included in the post is video of Keller speaking, along with an anti-World-War-I speech that highlights her career as an activist speaker.
  2. Coretta Scott King's "10 Commandments of Vietnam"was our first Famous Speech Friday entry. The speech, given weeks after her husband's assassination and cobbled together from notes found in his pockets, challenged his widow to make the talk her own and set off another major series of events in the civil rights movement. 
  3. The quest to find women's speeches marked the halfway point in our Famous Speech Friday series this year, looked at why it's so tough finding women's speeches, and shared all of the famous speeches in the first six months of 2011.
  4. Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" speech is one of the most-quoted women's speeches--but it's not at all clear that she actually said the words attributed to her. Find out more in this Famous Speech Friday entry.
  5. Margaret Sanger's "The Children's Hour," another Famous Speech Friday post, looked at the early birth-control-rights advocate's major speech on the conditions of children in the U.S. early in the 20th century. A controversial figure with a speech you can learn from.
  6. Maya Angelou's eulogy for Coretta Scott King, yet another Famous Speech Friday post, was irresistible: One of the most eloquent women of our day, speaking about another. A great example of how to do a eulogy right.
  7. The all-in-one for eloquent scientists: Resources and role models shares a baker's dozen of tips on how to contain those details, translate from the technical and use your insider knowledge to advantage as a speaker. Share it with a data-driven speaker you know.
  8. 3 unexpected things Twitter can add to your next talk shares a few surprising but useful gifts you can get with a little tweeting before, during and after your talk.
  9. "The perfect preparation:" A downloadable checklist for the whole speaker took one of our all-time favorite posts and made it into a resource you can download to keep handy. The checklist walks you through everything from your mindset and audience to your technology and wardrobe, with special items for introverted speakers.
  10. Why speakers should use the invisible visual -- which is the strongest and most memorable visual of all -- pulls you away from slides, photos and props and challenges speakers to create something an audience member can picture in her minds' eye. This is one of my best tips for putting together a memorable talk.
Thanks, as always, for reading and participating in the blog this year--and happy new year!

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Famous Speech Friday: Caroline Kennedy's eulogy for Edward Kennedy

(Editor's note: Writer Becky Ham took a look at this wonderful eulogy for The Eloquent Woman. The blog is on hiatus next week until Friday, December 31, when we share the 10 most-read posts for 2011.)

Delivering a eulogy is a tough task for even the most polished speaker, so how to judge a eulogy offered by a woman who has been upbraided famously for her poor public speaking?

Caroline Kennedy acknowledges that public speaking is "unbelievably stressful" for her. During her short-lived U.S. Senate campaign in 2008, the media counted her "ums" and "you knows;" questioned her preparation; and generally gave poor reviews to her speaking style. In a family known for its eloquence, her speeches are rushed and emotionless compared to the greatest hits of her father and famous uncles.

But this post is about famous speeches, not perfect speakers. Kennedy rose to the challenge when she delivered the last eulogy of the day at her uncle Edward Kennedy's memorial service in 2009. Her remembrance wasn't delivered crisply or filled with lovely language. Instead, it was the right speech for her audience, her style of speaking and the needs of the occasion.

Many of us will have to deliver a eulogy at some point, and it's a perennial topic of concern on The Eloquent Woman. Our readers have offered excellent tips to speakers in this situation, and Kennedy provides a great example to those looking for inspiration and information on how to succeed at a fraught but important public speech.
  • It's OK to make them laugh. Not every story about a loved one has to be uplifting or solemn, even if he or she was a historic figure like a Kennedy. Caroline Kennedy's eulogy contains an anecdote about seeing a brighter-than-the-rest star in the sky after Edward Kennedy's death--a well-worn metaphor that could have been nothing more than trite. But Kennedy gave it a humorous twist by admitting that "I knew it was Jupiter, but it was acting a lot like Teddy." There are laughs throughout the speech, most of them gentle but true to her subject's outsize personality.
  • Don't forget the details. About halfway through the speech, Kennedy tells a very personal story about one of Teddy's infamous American history vacations for the youngest in the Kennedy clan. This tale is told with so many tiny details--from the sticky, 98-degree heat to the stench of low tide to the roar of planes taking off above the children's tents staked in the dirt--that it resonates as a treasured memory that only she could share.
  • Let your emotion show. Eulogy speakers often worry that they will be so emotional that they won't be able to speak well, or even make it through their whole speech. Keeping it brief is one way to approach this, if it's a concern. But speakers should also acknowledge that emotion can't and shouldn't be banished completely. Listen to the obvious tremor in Kennedy's voice at the beginning and end of the eulogy. That's the sound of someone holding back tears at the thought of a person who will be missed dearly--and that's entirely appropriate for the occasion.
Here's the full video of the speech. Have you delivered a eulogy? Let us know what you think, and share some of your tips for delivering a eulogy in the comments below.


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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Speechwriters and coaches: Up your game when working with experts and scientists

Speechwriters and speaking coaches spend plenty of time with smart folks--policy wonks, subject-matter experts, scientists and engineers. Now here's a chance for you to get smarter about working with them effectively. Be an Expert on Working with Experts is a popular workshop I'm offering on February 1, 2012 in Washington, DC.

The one-day session is designed to help you learn how to identify experts' default communications styles and behaviors; understand how they're likely approaching that next big talk or speech to a non-expert audience; and how to handle effectively the challenges they present you. If you've ever had an expert accuse you of "dumbing down" their content, walk out of a coaching session, or freeze at the start of a speech, this workshop will help you figure out how to better prepare them and work with them.

You get a break on registration if you book your space at the workshop no later than January 25, for $300; after that, registration is $350. The workshop is limited in size, so book your space today. You'll get the benefit of my experience working with all types of technical experts, scientists and engineers--this is the workshop I wish I'd had!  Please email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz with questions. I look forward to seeing you at the workshop.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How do you treat the true friends of the speaker?

I was facilitating a big workshop for the American Association for the Advancement of Science at its annual conference, and I was there early, as usual, to check the setup. The convention center team working at our session had already seen some people fuming, fretting and ordering changes, so when I asked for the audio-visual guy, I got a hesitant reply.

"Is something wrong?" he asked.

"Not for me," I said. "I'm the facilitator today. I'll be doing most of the speaking and just wanted to check in with you on how things should run and anything I need to know before we start." We shook hands and introduced ourselves by name. "Are you with the American Association for the Advancement of Science?" he asked.

"No, I'm a hired gun," I said. "But I know you're the president of the American Association for the Advancement of My Slides, and that's all that matters to me."

That got me a big grin and amazing help all day. I knew to ask for Jim when he'd stepped out of the room, and he knew--after we'd talked some more--that I planned to roam the room, so he could better manage my mic and slides, and I knew my roaming range and what to do if something went wrong.

I get a lot of surprised looks when I hunt down and introduce myself to the slide advancer, the man with the mics, the catering manager or head waiter, the audio guy, the secretary who's handing people packets. Even moderators and conference organizers find themselves occasionally ignored or snubbed by speakers. But when I'm conducting a training, that receptionist, engineer or waiter might just be able to save me in the pinched moments when something's gone wrong. I can learn all sorts of useful information, from headcounts and how long lunch service will actually take to whether we can get last-minute copies made or a spare mic. So I wonder: How often do you take the time to greet, thank, and listen to the support team when you're the speaker?

Sure enough, that morning, a speaker who didn't take the time to run through logistics or meet the AV guy couldn't get his slides to work. After a quick word with the tech team, this facilitator called an impromptu five-minute break--exactly the amount of time the AV guy told me he'd need to set things right. Who loves you like that when you speak?

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Meryl Streep on Margaret Thatcher and public speaking



Public speaking was a hallmark of Margaret Thatcher's career, long before she became Britain's prime minister--and public speaking is emerging as a strong theme in the new movie The Iron Lady, which debuts January 6 in the UK. Now CBS has featured the movie's star, Meryl Streep, in an interview that also zeroes in on several aspects of Thatcher's speaking and how Streep brought it to the screen.


Thatcher's hiring of an acting coach is noted in the interview. "Her voice was sort of lighter, like mine is," Streep said. "And they taught her to support it, to bring it up from the depths of her place, where the conviction lies, and to carry it through without a breath, until the end of a thought. And then not to give 'em a chance to interrupt her."


She objects when it's pointed out that she's played a lot of strong-minded women. "No one has ever asked an actor, 'You're playing a strong-minded man.' We assume that men are strong-minded, or have opinions. But a strong-minded woman is a different animal,"  Streep said. 


The story also notes that Streep is active in the campaign to build a National Women's History Museum in Washington and shows her at a fundraiser quoting Thatcher: "If you want something spoken about, ask a man. If you want it done, ask a woman."

Margaret Thatcher's "Iron Lady" speech--the one that earned her that nickname--was featured in our Famous Speech Friday series earlier this year. For the 60 Minutes interview of Streep, read the script of this segment here, and watch it below. What do you think?


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Friday, December 16, 2011

Famous Speech Friday: Lady Gaga's speech at Rome Europride

Not every speaker will ask her audience to "put your paws up," but then not every speaker is Lady Gaga. The singer known as much for her outlandish outfits and performance staging as for her dance-ready music spoke before tens of thousands of people attending Rome's Europride festival, earlier this year. And that speech is still reverberating, online and elsewhere.

PR Daily just named Lady Gaga one of its top 10 communicators of 2011 on the strength of this speech, noting that "Gaga can own a stage not only with her songs, but also with her goosebump-inducing cadence when delivering a speech." Her message was one of social justice, and in sharing her observations, she made herself the crowd's messenger with lines like these:
The stories of all my beautiful fans, the young soldiers, the homeless LGBT youth, anti-gay violence, the effect that the denial of gay marriage has on real families worldwide — these are the stories that must be told to the world. These are the stories that will change the world. These are the stories that speak out in the defense of love. We are here today because we are not less valuable. We are here to proclaim our strength, our steadfastness, and our intelligence.We will not be treated as anything less than human.
What can you--you, without your green wig--learn from this famous speech? Plenty:
  • Do what's least expected of you for impact:  Without giving up one jot of her originality, Gaga delivered an old-school speech, in terms of its cadence, rhetorical devices and even her more-subdued-than-usual outfit. She used a lectern, script and microphone in a stand, all unusual in pinning her to one spot on the stage. Her message was equally serious. In wrapping herself in the mantel of old-school speaking, her words could gain influence with those who might otherwise dismiss her and her fans.
  • When in Rome, do as the Romans do: Drawing from the playbook of every rock star who's ever uttered "Good evening, Roma!", Gaga plays to the locals over and over again in her speech, from her greeting and references to her Italian-American name and heritage to descriptions of seeing the crowds in the square earlier in the day. And the crowd eats it up. She's a natural relationship-builder with audiences, and this speech is as good an example of that as any of her concerts. Don't forget those little, local touches when you speak.
  • Draw us a picture of the future in terms we can understand: She's calling for some high-minded goals in social justice, but Gaga does a great job translating the noble into the everyday, making personal the cause she's advancing--and that helps her listeners relate better to it. "For the 15-year-old who struggles...with their identity...Who and what do they have to look up to? Where is their wedding day? Where does the dream of their potential end? And can it have no limits?" she says, near the end of her speech, in a series of questions that outlines both the struggle and the hopeful future.
You'll want to watch the video and read the transcript of this famous speech. What do you think of it?



(Photo from zio Paolino's photostream on Flickr)

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Will you get a TED Live membership?

Speakers who watch TED talks for pointers and inspiration should know about a new option for accessing the popular-but-sold-out conference: TED Live memberships.

The new option offers individuals or groups the chance to sit in--virtually--during the TED and TEDxGlobal conferences as they occur. You'll also get a subscription to books by TED speakers, a Kindle Fire tablet (useful for watching talks), and year-round special content on the TED online community. If you miss the live broadcast, you can watch a catch-up version within a couple of hours.

According to Mashable:
The membership will have tiered prices depending on the institution. It costs $995 a year for individuals and primary or secondary schools and $2,500 for colleges, universities and small businesses. Up to 10 people can watch the talks with the individual membership and 50 people can watch with the business package.
Read more about it in this article and see the package details here. Will you or your company sign up for a membership?

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How do I establish credibility when I'm the only woman in the room?

There are plenty of professions, meetings and situations where you'll find yourself the only woman in the room. Many times, you'll get the sense right away that being the "other" in a group is uncomfortable, without the shared experience you might expect from a room with women in it. Take these factors into consideration to establish and hang on to your credibility:
  1. Don't give your credibility up in the first place: If you apologize too much, tell jokes that deprecate yourself, or avoid the bold for the tentative, you'll give away your authority and credibility, fast--and that would be true of a man as well as a woman. 
  2. Target the decision-maker: When you're presenting, make sure you know who's the decision-maker in your audience and gear your remarks in their direction. If you can establish yourself with that person, you're 99 percent of the way there. Too many work presentations fail to do this, whether by men or women. Make it clear you know the score.
  3. Find out what you do have in common with the guys: You may be the "other" when it comes to gender, but that doesn't mean you don't share experiences or expertise to which the group can relate. Use your commonalities to establish your cred.
  4. Jump right in: As Madeleine Albright counsels, women need to learn to interrupt. Her suggestion: Use a question to do so. 
  5. Know your personality preference: If you've taken the Myers-Briggs assessment (or a similar one), you can find out whether you prefer a more analytic style of processing information--more typical of men than women--or an emotional approach to information, more typical of women. Factoring your personality preference and style into your presentation will only help you communicate more clearly.
How do you establish your cred when you're the only woman in the room? Leave word in the comments.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

To beat tired or brick-wall arguments, use the speaker's switcheroo

You're making a passionate, eloquent case for something you want to put across: a new idea, a bold proposal, a change to the status quo. Then here come the counter-arguments, the same-old-same-old objections you can recite from memory, they're so familiar. What speaker trick can you use to come back to that brick wall of naysaying?

I'm dubbing your best bet the "speaker switcheroo." This works best with predictable, time-honored objections that have no basis in reality. Things like "Everyone who uses Facebook is going to lose their job someday over some picture they posted" or "women can't handle the stress of these senior-most jobs." The objections you can counter with the speaker switcheroo are sweeping and erroneous, but also familiar to your listeners, and you can upend them simply by replacing a word to show how off-base those objections are today--and always have been.

Here are two examples that will get you thinking about how you can use this rhetorical trick of turning your opponent's arguments to your advantage:
  • Nellie McClung's "Should Men Vote?" speech, featured in our Famous Speech Friday series, is a classic example of this technique. The suffragette took common objections to giving Canadian women the right to vote, swapped the word "women" for "men," then put a parody hearing together in which the question of whether men should vote was debated--using her critics' own objections. "Man is made for something higher and better than voting" is just one example.
  • A more recent example can be found on Twitter in Pencilchat, in which education pros are combating tired objections to technology in the classroom by swapping the words "computer" or "Internet" for an older, revered technology, the pencil. Using the hashtag #pencilchat, teachers are posting objections to new technology with the pencil twist, yielding funny results like "I don't know why we have to let them have pencils. All they are going to do is cheat" and "Too many teachers need additional training to integrate pencils into the learning environment."
Why do these examples of the speaker's switcheroo work? They play it for laughs without having to overwork the humor, for starters. They swap the current objectionable item with one that's already widely accepted, familiar, even beloved by the naysayers. And they point up a discrepancy in logic, whether it's discriminatory in the voting example, or mixing up tools with content, as in the technology example. The humorous angle adds another advantage, allowing you to look thoughtful and reasonable at your opponent's expense, without getting angry or flustered. It's a great tool to have in your back pocket when you're making arguments or cases for a cause or proposal.

If you've used this speaker trick or will use it, please share your examples in the comments and let us know how it went!


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Friday, December 9, 2011

Famous Speech Friday: Kayla Kearney comes out to her high school assembly

Many high school students get through four years without ever asking so much as a question in assembly, that all-school gathering that can be the most daunting audience for the budding speaker. But 17-year-old Kayla Kearney, a student at California's Maria Carillo High School, reached far beyond the hall in which she spoke earlier this year when she used her assembly appearance to come out to her peers and identify herself as a lesbian.

This particular assembly was planned as part of observances of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, according to local coverage, and the theme had its roots in a King speech about "time to break the silence:"
Carrillo students for years have prepared a special assembly honoring King's birthday, built around the theme of an annual countywide oratorical contest to be held at 5 p.m. Sunday at Santa Rosa High. This year's theme is “Time to break silence...about things that matter,” based on a 1967 speech in which King embraced a clerical movement to speak against the Vietnam War. The 75-minute Carrillo assembly was presented to students six times Thursday and Friday and was scheduled for a public airing Friday night for parents.
Kearney spoke for just over eight minutes, captured on video that's now been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, and covered and commented on by thousands. Here's what you can learn from this famous speech:

  • Be bold: Instead of being hesitant or too respectful as a speaker, Kearney goes for a bold disclosure and topic, albeit one in keeping with the assembly's theme. Talk about public speaking courage, knowing that her admission might lose her friends as well as listeners. And here, bold doesn't mean angry or flamboyant or out of place with the nature of the assembly. You can speak with courage and meaning without fireworks.
  • Be personal: I know plenty of speakers more senior and experienced who couldn't do eight minutes on any topic without notes or slides-as-cue-cards. But because she's telling an intensely personal story, one she's thought about over and over, Kearney needs no notes. Speaking personally doesn't work in every situation, but here, it allows her to be extemporaneous and in control.
  • Difficult stories make the most compelling content:  Part of finding your voice as a speaker involves telling difficult-for-you stories. That's emotionally tough for the speaker, but yields great results in dramatic impact and in audience reaction--and makes your speech memorable.

Here's Kearney's speech in full:




And here's a recording of the Martin Luther King, Jr. speech that inspired the day of oratory and gave Kearney the opening to break her own silence:



What do you think of this famous speech?

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Start a speaker study group

I like to create public speaking workshops where small groups work together to learn tasks and get them done. Often, the large group includes smaller groups of co-workers from a particular team, unit or department--and by the end of the training, those teams are the envy of the other participants. That's because they can go on to practice and  help each other long after my training is over. I'm pleased to say that many of my workshop trainees do just that, in a homegrown effort to continue improving.

And so can you. Why not start a speaker study group to help yourself improve, with support? You can certainly join a local Toastmasters group, but there's also no reason you can't find some like-minded speakers and presenters at your church, workplace or community group. Your group might be just you and one other trusted colleague or friend, or several people. You and your group can help each other by:

  • Serving as a friendly practice audience that can give you feedback in a safe way;
  • Watching videos with you of your practice sessions;
  • Offering ideas for phrases, gestures, movement and more;
  • Sharing good resources and reads on public speaking.
Do you work with a group--formal or informal--to practice your speaking? Tell us about it in the comments.


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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The all-in-one on fear and public speaking: 15 resources

It's one of the most common fears, they tell us. So why are we so nervous about our public speaking fears? Use these tips from the blog, along with examples from some fellow fearful speakers, to think about your public speaking fears and overcome them:
  1. Take this jitters quiz from psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers, which gets at your own perceptions of yourself as a nervous speaker and what that means.
  2. When the speaker needs to catch her breath looks at a common physical reaction to nervousness at the start of a talk. One of the most-read posts on the blog, this one is based on a smart reader question.
  3. Do you talk too much when you're nervous? That makes you look nervous. Try the tactics in Speakers: 7 reasons I want you to talk less to balance it out.
  4. Do you talk too fast when you're nervous? Take the time to figure out how to hit the brakes when you're a speedy speaker.
  5. Learn from some famously nervous women speakers:  Princess Diana used to giggle when she got nervous during a speech, but overcame that. Lady Bird Johnson prayed that she would not be her high school's valedictorian (and came in third in her class, avoiding a speech). Elle Group senior vice president Carol Smith made it a point to overcome her speaking fears. You also can listen in on two psychology experts analyzing their own public speaking fears and approaches. Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the top all-time political speakers, feared speaking and did it, anyway.
  6. Does being a newbie always mean you're nervous? First-time speaker Jennifer Cohen talks about leaving her planning to the last minute, due to nerves. Georgy Cohen says she "more or less felt like I was going to throw up" and offers a thoughtful look at how a shy speaker feels before high-pressure presentations. 
  7. It's your little secret:  Most audiences can't tell whether you're nervous, so when it comes to confidence, in public speaking you can fake it until you make it.
  8. Want to know whether you really look as nervous as you feel? It's one of my top reasons you should practice your presentation on video.
  9. Avoiding eye contact with your audience and swaying are two signs you may be more nervous than you are admitting to yourself. Find out how to secure your stance and your eye contact to look more confident.
  10. Understand what's behind your nervousness by getting a handle on your speaking self. Gender, personality preferences and other factors can play a role, and it makes sense to know them before you speak.
  11. "I'm not nervous when I speak, but..." is one of the phrases I hear most often from trainees. But really, it's okay to be nervous about public speaking. Here's why.
  12. Do you overprepare for speeches and presentations? It's another sign that you may be more anxious than you're admitting, and you can take steps to reduce the extra pressure that overpreparing brings.
  13. If your pre-speech anxiety is serious, you may have a social phobia. Find out more about how this is diagnosed and treated.
  14. Do you fear the Q&A? Some speakers fear the extemporaneous part of speaking, especially questions from the audience. I've got 17 reasons why you should welcome questions instead.
  15. "Visual aids scare me!" said one reader. Here's how to embrace visual presentations.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Apps and video updates from TED, TEDxWomen and TEDMED


Making great talks available widely is the hallmark of all the TED conferences, and this week, you have three new ways to access outstanding talks from three different TEDs:
  • TED now has an iPhone app that's similar to its iPad application. Now while you're mobile, you can request talks by subject or by length, listen to "TED radio" in a continual stream of talks, share talks with your social media pals, and more. Get the app here.
  • TEDxWomen took place December 1 and is already posting videos. It's a treasure trove of eloquent women speakers and eloquent speakers about women's issues. You've got to love Gloria Steinem's line“I was in a taxi the other day and I didn’t have my iPhone so I tried thinking instead.” She's just one of an impressive lineup of speakers from this daylong event.
  • The first wave of TEDMED videos from the 2010 conference are online, talking about big challenges and new findings in health and medicine. I was fortunate to attend this TEDMED, and am happy to share one of my favorite talks, by Pfizer Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Freda Lewis-Hall. She proposes getting beyond your typical networks to build networks for meta-collaboration, and at about the 15:46 mark, reveals one of her personal motivations in improving health care: Her grandmother's struggle with Alzheimer's. In a brilliant moment of audience engagement, she asks the audience in one third of the room to raise their hands to show the proportion of the population that will eventually suffer from age-related dementia--then tells the other two-thirds of the audience that they represent the people who'll be taking care of them. Watch the talk in the video below:


 

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Famous Speech Friday: Elyn Saks on her schizophrenia "Please do send flowers"

Elyn Saks had a family, a successful career as a University of Southern California law professor, and a secret: She's a schizophrenic. And while her condition is well-managed with a combination of psychotherapy and medication, she wanted to let the secret out, against the advice of her family, friends and colleagues. She went ahead, anyway, in order to reduce the stigma and secrecy around schizophrenia, publishing The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness.

But after decades of hiding her condition, it was the speaking tour for the book that really made her career take off. As this New York Times profile notes, her courage in speaking publicly about her condition actually helped move research on it forward:
For psychiatric science, the real payoff was her speaking tour. At mental health conferences here and abroad, Dr. Saks, 56, attracted not only doctors and therapists, but also high-functioning people with the same diagnosis as herself — a fellowship of fans, some of whom have volunteered to participate in studies. “People in the audience would stand up and self-disclose, or sometimes I would be on a panel with someone” who had a similar experience, Dr. Saks said. She also received scores of e-mails from people who had read the book and wanted to meet for lunch. She told many of them about the possibility of participating in a research project. She now has two studies going, one in Los Angeles and another in San Diego, tracking the routines and treatment decisions of these extraordinary people. The movie producer Jerry Weintraub has optioned the book.
The book became a best-seller and Saks later was awarded one of the MacArthur Foundation "genius" grants, with which she began a research institute. She continues to speak out about the stigma of mental illness, as she does in the speech below in which she's accepting one of her many awards, this time from the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services. Here's what you can learn from this famous speech:

  • When your message involves stigma, invoke the ordinary: The taboo topic, by definition, is foreign to your listeners because they've been avoiding it. Speakers can make it familiar and manageable for an audience by breaking it down to ordinary situations and behaviors--as Saks does early on and at the end of her speech, when she urges the audience to visit or send flowers to friends hospitalized for mental illness, something most people avoid. At the very end of her speech, it's a sweet reminder of a practical thing they can do.
  • Know your audience: Saks's overall message in most of her speeches involves giving the audience members practical things they can do to accept and help family and friends with psychiatric illnesses. In this audience, she pays particular attention to mental health professionals--those working for the center that's giving her the award--but also speaks directly to those in the audience who aren't working for the field. Each one can do something, and her entire speech is clear enough that anyone can understand it, a nod to the fact that she's not just addressing technical experts.
  • Use contrasts and comparisons to make a foreign subject clear: Saks compares physical illness, a topic both familiar and more comfortable, with mental illness to illustrate stigma and public reaction: "No one would ever say that someone with a broken arm or a broken leg is less than a whole person, but people say that or imply that all the time about people with mental illness." 
What do you think of this famous speech?



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Thursday, December 1, 2011

From the vault: 6 stealth ways to find time to practice #publicspeaking

(Editor's note: One of our all-time most popular posts, this topic gets at the heart of any would-be eloquent speaker. Without time to practice, your improvement will be slowed or stalled. Fortunately, you can sneak it in. This time around, I've added a bonus sixth option for truly last-minute practice...)

When you first start working on your public speaking skills, the idea of finding time to practice seems almost impossible. At the same time, I can tell you that improvement just won't happen unless you do practice-- and practice regularly, focusing on each thing you need to improve, as well as on your next presentation.

How do you make practice a priority, and fit it into your busy schedule? Try these 6 stealth ways to find the time for your speaking practice:
  1. Do it in the commercial breaks: When I started learning guitar, the instructor suggested that I practice only 5 to 7 minutes at a time, to keep my fingers from getting too sore and discouraging me. "I don't normally recommend watching TV," he said, "but it's easy to work during commercial breaks with the sound muted, then stop when the program starts again." The same can work for you: choose something short to practice -- like your opening line, your closing lines, or short anecdote -- then be ready with that mute button. You get about 10 minutes of practice each half-hour this way.
  2. Schedule an hour a week: If you want to do your practicing in the office, put it on your schedule. Start with an hour a week to practice basic skills on a regular basis. Before presentation, don't wait till the last minute to schedule a rehearsal time; instead, put in our day on your schedule for the two weeks prior.
  3. Break it down to focus on one part of a thorny issue: If you find yourself stumbling over a particular issue in your delivery, break it into manageable parts, and focus on just one of them at a time. That way, each small area of focus will fit into a shorter, easier-to-schedule practice time. For example, if you're having trouble delivering an anecdote in an efficient way, then spend one hour brainstorming a tight beginning. In the next session, figure out your ending. In another, work on getting from point aA to point B in an entertaining fashion
  4. Use your drive time: Second only to video practice is audio practice, something you can easily use in your car, on a subway train, or on yoor walk home. Spend part of your in-office practice recording yourself delivering a presentation all the way through, perhaps more than once. You may think of this as wince-able drive-time listening, issued in damages feedback: after listening to yourself several times, you'll come away with a sense of what you need to change, what takes too long to say, where you need to slow down, and much more.
  5. Use that hotel room: The time-honored practice zone for traveling speakers everywhere, hotel rooms have a lot going for them--you're hidden from view, have access to a mirror, and often, plenty of time to kill. If you find yourself with waiting time, use your hotel room as a private practice zone--even if you're not doing a presentation this trip. It's a great way to work in practice time.
  6. Take the last 10 minutes:  Ten minutes before your actual talk or presentation, duck into a stairwell or nearby restroom for a few minutes' worth of nailing your beginning, plus some deep breathing to calm you down. Just don't make this your only practice time!
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