Monday, December 30, 2013

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
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Friday, December 27, 2013

2013's top 10 Famous Speech Friday posts on The Eloquent Woman

Every week, we publish a "Famous Speech Friday" post featuring a famous speech by a woman. Later, we collect the FSF posts in The Eloquent Woman Index, and this year, we've also been posting compilations that collect FSF posts by type of speaker, topic, or type of speech. Here are the FSF posts that drew the most readers in 2013:
  1. 17 famous African-American women's speeches was our first compilation post--and, far and away, the most popular FSF post of the year. I've updated it to include this year's entries.
  2. Kavita Krishnan on safety and India's rape culture was a fiery speech made after the world learned of the horrific and fatal group rape and beating of a young Indian woman. Krishnan speaks here of the tyranny of telling women to stay safe and at home, which replaces any serious effort at changing a rape culture so women can move freely in society.
  3. Five famous speeches by women who feared public speaking tells you that you're not the only one. This group has no less than three first ladies of the United States, a noted scientist and a princess.
  4. 13 famous human rights speeches by women catalogs great speeches advocating all sorts of human rights: for prisoners of war, women, the LGBT community, and more.
  5. Indira Gandhi's "What Educated Women Can Do" celebrated the work of a women's college--and shared her own sketchy educational background. From a great prime minister in 1974.
  6. Six famous speeches by women scientists celebrates women who advanced our knowledge while breaking down barriers in their own paths, from astronauts and environmentalists to biologists.
  7. Six famous extemporaneous speeches by women gives you a look at six stunning speeches, all done without text or notes. True tours de force, they range from commencement keynotes to awards acceptances.
  8. Shirley Chisholm introduces the Equal Rights Amendment was a reminder rather than a ground-breaker: The legislation had languished for 40 years when she took up its cause again in the 1960s. A stirring speech that minces no words.
  9. Queen Elizabeth I to the troops at Tilbury is beloved of speechwriters--but which version? I've got them all for you in this post on the oldest speech in the Index.
  10. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: "If your dreams do not scare you" was a commencement speech from the Liberian president that uses simple words to push big ideas. 
We'll keep at Famous Speech Friday in 2014, and I hope you'll share famous speeches by women you'd like to see in the series. Thanks for reading every Friday! If you missed them, our top 10 public speaking posts for 2013 were rounded up on Wednesday.

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Eloquent Woman's top 10 public speaking posts for 2013

It's almost the end of 2013, another record-setting year for readership on The Eloquent Woman--and these are the posts that got us there. From organizing conferences with more women speakers and using speech video more effectively to chairing conferences, it's always an interesting mix. Take a look at the most-read posts from the blog this year:
  1. Chairing a conference: How did I do? Lessons for chairs from #esnbxl answered a reader's request for me to assess how I did as chair of an international speechwriters' conference. Thanks for learning along with me to make this 2013's most-read post.
  2. Follow @NoWomenSpeakers to track conferences with few or no women on the program announced a new Twitter account, where I track in retweets the mentions on Twitter of conferences and events where there's a gender imbalance in the speaker lineup. It's a robust conversation--follow @NoWomenSpeakers and join in.
  3. Would conference child care help more women attend? When people start discussing how to get more women on the program, offering child care is a common suggestion. Here's a look at one international group that tried it--with mixed results.
  4. Instead of wincing, 10 things to look for on that video of your speech is the checklist I give all the speakers in my coaching sessions and training workshops, including the speakers I coach at TEDMED. You can use it, too.
  5. When you're tempted to turn down a speaking gig: For women was my effort to ask women to be sure they're not the reason we don't see them on conference programs. I don't think women turning down speaking gigs is the only or even the primary reason. I just don't want it to be a major reason.
  6. The Lady Vanishes: My International Speechwriters Conference keynote follows my own dictum to publish your speeches. This keynote is shared as prepared, with links to the references I mentioned.
  7. London notebook: Lessons from speakers and speechwriters at #ESN2013 shared what I learned at that conference when I wasn't speaking. This lively, smart group left me full of ideas and inspiration.
  8. 12 ways to diversify conferences with @NoWomenSpeakers collects the many case studies, data and approaches I've found for planning conferences with a better proportion of women speakers. Please, share it with a program committee or organizer.
  9. 9 things to check if you're speaking from a text is one of this year's most popular checklists. If you think a text is the answer to trouble-free speaking, make sure you've consulted this first.
  10. 9 things to do with the video of your TED, TEDMED or TEDx talk was written because I see too many speakers give these high-profile talks...then ignore that precious video. I'm glad to see it on the most-read list for the year.
As always, thanks for reading The Eloquent Woman this year!

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Monday, December 23, 2013

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
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Friday, December 20, 2013

Famous Speech Friday: Joyce Banda's tribute to Nelson Mandela

Since when do eulogies get standing ovations, particularly from audiences that include everyone from heads of state to Oprah Winfrey? Since earlier this week, when Malawi President Joyce Banda--that country's first woman president and only the second woman to lead an African nation--paid tribute to her mentor Nelson Mandela at the final memorial service in his home village of Qunu.

I have to admit that on reading the prepared text--something you'd expect a head of state to have at such an important event--I couldn't see what yielded the applause and ovation mentioned in the news coverage. For that, you had to watch or listen to the speech, because it's the moments when Banda diverges from the page that make this speech memorable. You can see her emotion most clearly when she's off-script, and it's no mistake that these are the moments that moved her audience, again and again.

So it's telling in this speech that, almost at the start, she departs from her prepared text: "It is with a deep sense of humility that I accepted to come and be part of this event today," she said, striking the theme of humility early. Later, she recalled Mandela's "spirit of forgiveness, his passion to put people first and courage. These attributes have greatly influenced my life." Then she describes precisely how he influenced her leadership, alluding only obliquely to efforts to prevent her from becoming president of Malawi, including a failed assassination attempt. It's one of the speech's most moving passages. I've put the words she added in italics:
After three years of isolation, humiliation and name calling, I found myself in a situation where I had to work with those who had desired to prevent me from becoming President of my country. I had to forgive, but I had to forgive them without any effort, because my Madiba had prepared me. Tata’s courage, determination, love and passion for his people inspired me on my journey to becoming the first elected woman President in my country. I learned that leadership is about falling in love with the people and the people falling in love with you. It is about serving the people with selflessness, with sacrifice and with the need to put the common good ahead of personal interests.
Another riff that delighted the crowd involved her sharing that reporters had been asking, since Mandela's death, whether she was carrying his lessons forward in Malawi. They asked, "'Are you practicing it? Are you doing it?' And I said, yes, come and see." What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Put yourself into it: Hands down, the best lines here are those that see the speaker being herself. Your personal perspective, those moments only you or a few people know about, can be the most powerful memories shared at a funeral. Banda's most personal story, about meeting Mandela, appears nowhere in the text--but it's a not-to-be-missed moment in the speech.
  • Remember the ladies: Banda's position as a rare female president in Africa gives her the chance to feature women, which she does in routine references to "women and men," a subtlety that gender-flips a familiar phrase, and in her tributes to Mandela's former wife and widow. Women speakers have the chance to correct a long history of ignoring women in speeches, and Banda does us proud.
  • Know and reflect your audience: When she goes off-script, sometimes it takes just a couple of words to turn a pro forma line into a crowd-pleaser, as when she changes "He championed the freedom of not only South Africans but also all Africans" to "all of us Africans," a line that drew applause. Banda has a good innate sense of how to rally the people, and when she uses it, it never fails.
  • Use the platform: Her final and longest riff addressed the South African president directly, first praising him, then urging him on a serious matter much debated during the days of tribute to Mandela: whether South Africa would continue to be what she deftly termed "a rainbow nation." On a day that might have been left to fond memories, Banda did what smart presidents do: She put the agenda on the agenda, leaving it at the end for emphasis and using her opportunity to speak as a way to set a policy vision as well as a tribute.
You can read the prepared text of her speech here, but be sure to watch the video below for the unscripted parts and the audience reaction. What do you think of this famous speech?


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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Inside Voice: Marcus Webb, TEDMED's Chief Storytelling Officer

(Editor's note: Inside Voice is a new interview series on The Eloquent Woman, in which we'll ask speakers, speechwriters, and storytellers to share their insights. I'm delighted to kick off the series with my client and friend Marcus Webb, who leads the storytelling operation at the TEDMED conference. I've been coaching speakers under his direction for that conference and wanted you to hear how he approaches storytelling and speechwriting. Webb doesn't limit his writing skills to speeches, but also writes screenplays. He's also a frequent tipster to this blog, and gave generous responses to my questions.)

Where did you get your storytelling chops?

Believe it or not, at the U.S. Library of Congress. Long before the Internet arrived, I spent many weekends there (we lived nearby when I was a kid). Over several years I made a deep study of speeches by everyone from Cicero to Elizabeth the first, General Patton and Martin Luther King, Jr. What I discovered was that the greatest speeches in history have a musical structure and form. They are built on theme and variation, counter-theme, a climactic reprise and a coda. They include leitmotifs and “melodies.” And that’s just the beginning...

Applying these lessons in high school public speaking contests got me the opportunity -- at age 17 -- to share platforms with Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater (addressing audiences of 10,000 people); to visit the White House and meet the president; and to pay for college with a single speech (thanks for the generous scholarship, Veterans of Foreign Wars).

Much later, I learned some additional secrets of storytelling in public speaking from my boss, Jay Walker, chairman of TEDMED.
What are the most important parts of a story, for a public speaker?
Authenticity, that much-overused word, is crucial.  Authenticity means truth plus vulnerability. Ideally a story in a speech should grow organically out of the speaker’s personal experience.  And, it should be deeply meaningful to him or her.
The story should not be something the speaker read or heard, and dragged in to make a point -- or worse, something they stuck in to emotionally manipulate the audience. Better no anecdotes than a cheesy anecdote!
Do you realize the best speeches in history (from Cicero to King) contain not a single anecdote between them? They are architecture, not argument.
Beyond that, it’s important to realize that even without using a single anecdote, you can use a “story arc” to construct a speech.
For example, you start with a hero, which can be an idea or a product you’re advocating. You open with a first act that describes the problem. You progress to a second act that describes the ideal solution. You conclude with a third act that describes an actual solution or policy or course of action that conforms to the ideal.
This is just part of what I learned from Jay Walker. My job as Chief Storytelling Officer at TEMDED is like attending a perpetual graduate seminar with “Professor Jay.”
What's something you wish more speakers would include in their storytelling?
Vulnerability, as mentioned above.  Most speakers resist being vulnerable.   They don’t like to share their failures or highlight their faults.  But doing so is what makes audiences trust them, and sometimes even love them.

What's something you wish more speakers would leave out of their storytelling?
Blarney! By which I mean, an obvious attempt at emotional manipulation, especially in the form of stories that are grafted onto the structure, simply because speakers think they have to tell stories. At worst it’s like welding a bicycle onto a 747.

You write speeches for Jay Walker, TEDMED chairman. What does it take to write for such a frequent speaker?
Occasionally I write a speech “for” Jay but more often I write a speech “with” Jay. For one thing, it takes a willingness to do lots and lots of drafts. It’s not unusual for us to go through 30, 40 or 50 drafts of any important document. But as I said, it’s a constant learning experience so I enjoy it and benefit from it.
Why so many drafts? At its best, writing is thinking. Jay uses the writing process to evolve his ideas, not just to evolve his expression of them. He is constantly searching for new and better truths.

Do you have a favorite TED or TEDMED talk? What is it and why is it your favorite?
Of those those that I helped craft, my favorites are Peter Attia’s 2013 talk and Ginnie Breen’s 2012 talk. What makes them work is the deep emotional truths that these two gifted communicators were willing to share, in the context of important and intellectually valuable messages.
Jay likes to say that a good TEDMED talk gives a “gift” to the audience. Peter and Ginnie passed that test with flying colors. Peter’s talk has racked up more than one million views on TED.com. Ginnie’s speech deserves equally high numbers.

If you knew you could not fail, what kind of speech or presentation would you give? Tell us about the setting, audience, type of talk, content...
A presidential inaugural at the West Front of the Capitol Building, of course!
But seriously, folks, my favorite kind of talk to give is one that combines insight with hilarity...that informs as well as entertains the hell out of people. That’s very hard to do and I haven’t been able to do it often.
For an example of someone else giving this kind of talk, see Zubin Damania’s 2013 TEDMED remarks.  I hasten to add that this script and performance were all Zubin’s doing, not mine.

What's your public speaking pet peeve...as a speechwriter? As a member of the audience?
You mean, aside from plagiarism by presidential speechwriters who blatantly and endlessly lift passages from speeches by earlier presidents, then get praised to the skies for their originality and gifted style?
Outside of that rarified circle, as a speechwriter my pet peeve is over-reliance on PowerPoint. For a hilarious example of how PowerPoint ruins a great speech, check Peter Norvig’s satire of the Gettysburg Address.
As an audience member, my pet peeve is speakers who give you a handout, then read it to you...word for word. This is particularly deadly in an office meeting where the audience can’t leave (a long series of school principals did this to my mother and her colleagues, career schoolteachers, for decades).

One more pet peeve: that tired cliché that “some things are too deep for mere words to express.” If you can’t figure out how to express it, go hire a gifted writer who can. But don’t blame the English language!

Why is public speaking worth the effort, in your view?
The best public speaking is one-man theater or one-woman theater. It is electrifying. It is a combination of revival sermon and standup comedy. It is a declaration of war, a confession of love, or both. It is Shakespearean soliloquy, a revelation of the soul, poetry in prose, music in words.
William Faulkner got it right in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech: “The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man; it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail."

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Monday, December 16, 2013

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
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Friday, December 13, 2013

Famous Speech Friday: Sarah Palin at the 2008 Republican National Convention

On August 29 2008, U.S. Senator John McCain announced that he was picking a little-known Alaskan governor as his vice presidential running mate. Four days later, Sarah Palin was at the center of an historic presidential campaign.

It had been somewhat of a rough week for the newcomer. Let off their leashes at last by McCain's announcement, the press corps took off after all kinds of Palin stories, from a state ethics investigation to her daughter's pregnancy. On top of that, McCain had waited until nearly the very last minute to announce his pick, just four days before the Republicans were meeting for their national convention. McCain was trailing Senator Barack Obama in most national polls when he chose Palin for the ticket. Could she deliver the energy and votes that his campaign needed?

The rest, as they say, is history--and not a happy history for McCain and Palin. But in her September 3 acceptance speech before the 2008 Republican National Convention, the new nominee was at the top of her game. Palin waited for many long minutes at the podium in Minnesota before the fired-up crowd would let her speak. And when she finally began, she proved deft at handling both the inclusive themes of service and Middle America and the less friendly asides about the Democratic candidate.

If you've listened to or even heard about this speech, I'm guessing you either love it or hate it, depending on your political leanings. But what can you learn from it?
  • Speak to your strengths. Without knowing who the candidate would be, campaign speechwriter Matthew Scully had written most of the vice presidential nomination speech in the week leading up to the convention. When Palin joined the ticket, Scully chose anecdotes from her political biography that could be used to illustrate the broader themes that were already in place for the speech. With only a week to prepare, it was a smart move to use specifics that Palin already knew inside and out. You may not have a speechwriter working for you, but you can craft a speech that includes topics that are already in your comfort zone.
  • Protect your best lines. Timing is everything on the convention podium. There's an enormous crowd ready to cheer at everything the candidate says, but she can't let them drown out the best one-liners and the graceful phrases that will be tomorrow's sound bites. Palin handled this challenge with tremendous poise throughout the speech. At some points, she used her hands to gesture in time with her words to "push down" applause. And in other places she had the patience to give her best zingers--like the famous one about hockey moms--a little pause to give the crowd time to settle down before delivering the punchline.
  • Know your role. Vice presidential candidates are often called on to do the mud-slinging for a campaign, lest the presidential candidate's own hands get dirty. McCain couldn't have asked for a better slinger on that night. Her barbs aimed at Barack Obama's community-organizer experience, among others, were delivered with just the right touch of head-shaking exasperation, reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's great debate line, "There you go again." But they were also delivered with a flashing smile and sly sense of humor that made her the happy warrior that the Republicans had been hoping for on the podium.

 

(Editor's note: Freelance writer Becky Ham contributed this post to our Famous Speech Friday series.)

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

6 great gifts to encourage your favorite speaker

As a speaker coach and trainer, I can tell you from experience: Speakers and presenters need encouragement and thank-yous all year 'round, not just at the holidays. These gifts work as thank-yous for your invited speaker as well as for holiday gifts that say "You're doing great--keep going!" You might give them after she's completed a fantastic TEDx or Ignite! talk, or when the team presentation gets the new client. But whatever you do, encourage those speakers:
  1. Advance her confidence as well as her slides: Remotes always go missing at venues, so the smart speaker carries her own. Give her a combination remote-control and pointer, like this Logitech Professional Presenter R800. It's lightweight, small, easy to take with you and insurance against the missing remote problem. You can even set a buzzing timer to tell her she has five minutes left. Bonus: She'll think of you every time she presents.
  2. Give her online tools for speaker prep: Pen and pencil set? So last century. Why not a gift certificate that lets her upgrade a free Prezi account to one of the paid versions for more functionality in zooming slide presentations...a SlideShare Pro account so she can get better metrics on her posted presentations...or a premium account in Evernote, where she can save quotes, background material and notes as well as write speeches or record them, and save video of how she did?
  3. That traveling speaker will appreciate a Optoma Pico Pocket Projector, which connects with many devices and projects a large image, compared to its small portable size.
  4. Help your speaker practice and promote her talks with a Sony Bloggie Touch, the same ultralight camcorder I use in group training workshops for speakers. She can plug it into a laptop to watch her practice sessions, project the video, and later, when the final result is recorded, share it to social media sites and via email. Or give her a more complete kit for video practice with the Zoom Q2-HD Handy Video Recorder with Accessory Pack, 16G SD Card, Pava Speaker Bag, Batteries and Cable
  5. Every ambitious speaker needs role models, so aim for the best. Your speaker can be inspired by The Roar of the Lion: The Untold Story of Churchill's World War II Speeches, which examines his speaking mistakes, preparation, and how audiences reacted for a thoroughgoing look at this great speaker. Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder captures the voice of one of America's greatest orators and a black woman who broke down speaking barriers. In its 50th anniversary year, The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream offers a new look at this famous speech.
  6. Give your speaker a practice advantage with a portable presentation lectern. It can sharpen up delivery and help her learn how to work with a lectern, rather than just lean on it. You'd be surprised at the difference this makes, particularly for a speaker working from a text, and it costs about the same as a remote.
  7. Provide a real training experience. Buy a gift certificate from a speaker coach good for one evaluation of a video of your speaker in action, or an hour of advice, or a slot in a workshop to advance your speaker's skills. Buy a membership in Toastmasters, or the services of a speechwriter for a special effort coming up in 2014. Training's the gift that really keeps on giving, and signals your faith in this speaker's future. What better way to ring in the new year?
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Monday, December 9, 2013

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
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Friday, December 6, 2013

Famous Speech Friday: Mary Robinson's inaugural speech as Ireland's president

(Editor's note: Reader Irene O'Mara is an Irish voice practitioner, accent and text coach and freelance producer who took the time to write to urge me to include this speech in the Eloquent Woman Index, calling it "an iconic speech that is still held in high regard with everyone here." And she was kind enough to find and send me the text. Thank you, Irene! You can read O'Mara's blog here.) 

In her inaugural speech in Dublin Castle, Mary Robinson celebrated becoming the first woman president of Ireland by making the speech all about everyone but herself. "The Ireland I will be representing is a new Ireland, open, tolerant, inclusive," she declared, right at the start. Then, evoking Irish lore and geography, she drew a mental map for her audience of what that tolerant state looked like:
The recent revival of an old concept of the Fifth Province expresses this emerging Ireland of tolerance and empathy. The old Irish term for province is coicead, meaning a “fifth”; and yet, as everyone knows, there are only four geographical provinces on this island. So where is the fifth? The Fifth Province is not anywhere here or there, north or south, east or west. It is a place within each one of us — that place that is open to the other, that swinging door which allows us to venture out and others to venture in. Ancient legends divided Ireland into four quarters and a “middle,” although they differed about the location of this middle or Fifth Province. While Tara was the political centre of Ireland, tradition has it that this Fifth Province acted as a second centre, a necessary balance. If I am a symbol of anything I would like to be a symbol of this reconciling and healing Fifth Province.
Even in her inclusiveness, Robinson embraced not just Irish citizens on the island, but "a vast community of Irish emigrants extending not only across our neighbouring island — which has provided a home away from home for several Irish generations — but also throughout the continents of North America, Australia and of course Europe itself. There are over 70 million people living on this globe who claim Irish descent. I will be proud to represent them." 

That's a big embrace. And perhaps appropriate for a woman who has gone on to give many speeches, first in her presidency and then as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Robinson evoked both storytelling and women: "I want this Presidency to promote the telling of stories — stories of celebration through the arts and stories of conscience and of social justice. As a woman, I want women who have felt themselves outside history to be written back into history, in the words of Eavan Boland, 'finding a voice where they found a vision'."

What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Use all the languages of your audience: Robinson deftly alternated English and Irish passages in this speech, and they're not repetitions, so the Irish passages are unique. No surprise: They center on her commitment to the Irish language and its role in modern culture. (You can click on a link in the text to see translations into English, a smart tactic in presenting a speech text online.) 
  • Give us a sense of place: From the mythical fifth province to Ireland's role in the new European community to those wandering people of Irish descent living on other continents, this is a place-based speech. Robinson does well in describing her vision of the nation and its localities, then taking the listener worlds away to see Ireland's place in the world. You can do the same no matter what your topic is, if you take the time to reflect the location of your speech, locations important to your audience, and places you want to take them, imaginary or otherwise.
  • When you're representing a group, make sure it's all about them: From her first words, Robinson addresses the citizens and makes this speech about them, their essential Irishness, and their place in the world. There's leadership in such humility, and you can model that in your next speech in a leadership role, whether that's at the parent-teacher association, your place of worship, a local elected office or a committee you chair.
(Photo from the Acumen Fund photostream on Flickr)

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What to leave out: Speaker lessons from the Gettysburg Address

Sometimes, when the world is talking about a famous speech--as in the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address--it's helpful to sit back and listen to the commentary before weighing in. That's how I came to realize what speakers and speaker coaches should have been celebrating: The value of leaving things out of your speech.

Too often, the speakers I coach begin with a list of things that "must" be included in their speeches, talks or presentations: Logos. Thank-yous. Housekeeping details about what's happening next. Credentials. Client raves. Mentions of the name of their institution, operational unit, or CEO. Branding of all kinds. Special quotes from notable greats of the past. Something about their backgrounds. A re-read of the mission statement. A restatement of why we're here today, so the audience will know that the speaker knows what they know. Acknowledgments. Often, this happens when your colleagues read what you're going to say and feel a need to contribute. They ask, "Why didn't you mention the name of the center?" or "Shouldn't you note Fred's contributions?" You add in more stuff. The talk gets weighted down by something other than its focus.

In an analysis in the New York Times last week, Allen Guelzo says the success of the Gettysburg Address is due to what Lincoln left out:
It obeys the Churchillian dictum: Short words are best, and the old words when short are best of all. The address relies on crisp, plain vocabulary, over against the three-decker Latinate lexicon beloved of so many 19th-century school textbooks. Of some 270 words — there’s no recording — about two-thirds are single-syllable, and a half-dozen, four-syllable. Rarely has so much been compressed into such simple and uncomplicated elements....It makes no mention of slavery or secession or the Constitution, paints no picture of the great battle, and even fails to acknowledge the civilian politicians — David Wills of Gettysburg, Andrew G. Curtin, the governor of Pennsylvania — who had made the purchase of the cemetery acreage possible.
Stripped of all those extra duties, the speech then could do its simple task: To remember the fallen, those who had given their lives. There's poetry in that, too, as the absence of so many trimmings echoes the absence of the lost soldiers. Is your next speech as simple, focused and effective?

You can learn more about the leaving-in and taking-out process that created the address in historian Martin P. Johnson's book, Writing the Gettysburg Address, just published in October. Here's a review of the book--another bonus found by waiting after the celebration. From the publisher's description:
Johnson shows when Lincoln first started his speech, reveals the state of the document Lincoln brought to Gettysburg, traces the origin of the false story that Lincoln wrote his speech on the train, identifies the manuscript Lincoln held while speaking, and presents a new method for deciding what Lincoln's audience actually heard him say. Ultimately, Johnson shows that the Gettysburg Address was a speech that grew and changed with each step of Lincoln's eventful journey to the podium.
Here's video of President Bill Clinton reciting the address, to inspire you. Ken Burns is preparing a documentary about the address, and asked citizens and celebrities to upload video of themselves reciting it.

(Photo from Aranami's photostream on Flickr)


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Monday, December 2, 2013

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
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Friday, November 29, 2013

6 famous speeches by women about the law from The Eloquent Woman Index

Whether they're speaking in courtrooms or in the court of public opinion, women weigh in on legal issues--and the legal profession--when they speak. Often, those speeches about the law have come at a high price to them personally, where they're putting their personal information on the line to make a difference. Come to order, then, for this sampling of women's speeches about legal issues, drawn from The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Women's Speeches:
  1. Susan B. Anthony's "Is it a crime for a U.S. citizen to vote?" was a public attempt to convince potential jurors who might be called to weigh in on whether she was wrongly arrested for voting in a presidential election. She gave this speech nearly 50 times in the process, and we've got a great and detailed legal analysis of it from the Federal Judicial Center. 
  2. Annie Oakley's libel cases and courtroom speeches were an effort to regain control over her public image, following spurious newspaper reports about her alleged drug use and erratic behavior. The celebrity sharpshooter turned out to be an effective legal advocate in her own behalf.
  3. Anita Hill's Senate testimony about Clarence Thomas happened during his confirmation hearings for his appointment as a U.S. Supreme Court justice--and detailed her sexual harrassment by Thomas. While it did not change his appointment, her testimony prompted thousands of women to step forward about their own harrassment.
  4. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor spoke on "Portia's Progress" in 1991, at a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of women's admission to New York University's law school, drawing on her own struggles advancing as a woman in the legal profession.
  5. Heidi Damon faced her attacker in court and, following a case in which he was tried for attacking and nearly raping her, shed the "Jane Doe" label. In taking back her name publicly, she made herself less of a victim and more of a role model, empowering other women to speak out about attacks.
  6. Caroline Criado-Perez gave a speech on talking back to cyber bullies that detailed her own experiences after she successfully campaigned to put historic women's images on UK currency. After she shares the violent sexual epithets hurled at her online, she counters what she was told about the police being unable to pursue her attackers, making a legal case for pursuing online trolls.
If you're interested in more law-related speeches by women, check out these 9 famous speeches by women legislators, 6 famous speeches by women about voting, and these 13 famous speeches by women about death and dying, including two sets of testimony in Congress.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Seen or silenced? More on women speakers and their wardrobes

I'm at work on a book about women and public speaking, and my research is guiding a flood of new ideas across my desk--some in books and articles, some in my inbox from readers. Lately, much of it focuses on wardrobe and women speakers, in part prompted by my recent post comparing Google search results about fashions and policies of two women leaders, UK Home Secretary Theresa May and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Let me share a few of the ideas that are shaping my thinking on the issue:
  • We stare at women, or we don't see them: In this interview from On Being with English professor Joy Ladin comes a unique perspective. Ladin, the first openly transgender professor at an Orthodox Jewish institution, says,  "You know, I think that that's one of the terrible things that we do to girls and women in this culture is that we stare at them. It's also terrible to not be seen. You know, the artifact of femininity, of attractiveness, of what we judge when we judge girls and women beautiful, often, I think, don't feel to girls and women like they're being seen as who they are." You can read the transcript of this program, called Gender and the Syntax of Being, here, and read Ladin's book Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey between Genders.
  • The suit as talisman: With the 50th anniversary of U.S. President John F. Kennedy's assassination upon us, it's Jackie Kennedy's blood-stained pink suit that's the focus of this New York Times article. The suit has been carefully preserved in the U.S. National Archives and will not go on view for another 50 years--a full century after the shooting. From the Times: "When we look at women in public life and their fashion, this suit has particular resonance. Of Jackie Kennedy: 'She certainly understood invisibility and disappearance very deeply, as well as staged appearance,' said the cultural critic Wayne Koestenbaum, author of Jackie Under My Skin: Interpreting an Icon. 'So the unseen suit is a very poignant and accurate emblem of her contradiction'." This is a suit intended to make her visible to crowds, and its repeated use in television coverage has given it both a nuanced and unexpected power.
  • "Is this why speakers' fashion is so heavily watched?" asked UK rhetoric scholar Layla Claridge. She pointed me to this article in Glamour, in which columnist Dawn Porter looks at female celebrities as role models, and puts ownership of image issues right back on the audience: "We can’t ask them to be something they’re not, just because we can see it. As a society, we put stars on a pedestal, we create the stage, they’re just doing their thing and there are plenty of influences to choose from. We have enough examples of well-behaved women to allow others the freedom to be wild."
  • Rights and the wardrobe are the fascinating combination of issues in Ruthann Robson's book Dressing Constitutionally, which goes as far back as the Tudors and as far forward as your office to look at how we try to regulate appearance and fashion. Robson;s focus is actual laws and regulations, but I wonder what she'd make of this ridiculous law firm memo to its female employees with 163 points on how to dress and speak. Very much looking forward to digging into this one.
  • From the you can't win for losing department: Leigh Honeywell and Cate Huston shared this National Journal article, Reducing the World's Most Powerful Woman to a Dress. It criticizes coverage from another American political paper, Roll Call, titled Somebody spot Janet Yellen some new threads, about the male reporter's view that President Obama's nominee to lead the Federal Reserve had an insufficiently varied wardrobe. Lucia Graves's article notes that "The consensus on Twitter was that such an article would never have been written about a man. Actually it's worse than that. Those stories have been written about men, and they're unfailingly praised for being decisive leaders who don't waste brain power on frivolous things like fashion. Take, for example, Obama, or Mark Zuckerberg, or Steve Jobs." Which she does, quoting favorable coverage for each man, precisely for doing just what Yellen did: wearing the same outfit more than once, in a simple color palette, and not appearing too focused on stylishness. (May, on the other hand, was covered with praise in at least one newspaper for her statement jackets, "rather than choose an anonymous tailored look.") Sigh. Yellen, who was confirmed in her new role last week, makes her opening statement at the hearing in this video: 



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Monday, November 25, 2013

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit


Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
  • Can you see me now? Is most of your public speaking on conference calls? Find out why videoconferencing is the core of remote teams, with some good tips for speaking effectively on video calls.
  • Why it works: On its 150th anniversary, a look at why the Gettysburg Address works: Short words, short length, loaded with ideas, and a strong central concept. It flew in the face of public speaking styles of its day, and this article details the differences.
  • The case for women speakers: Sex and the Web Summit makes the case for having more women speakers at tech conferences, where they're scarce.
  • Doubt busters: 5 ways to stop self-doubt in its tracks will come in handy if you're not so sure about your own public speaking skills.
  • Woman up? The Wharton School, a noted business school, isn't putting enough women speakers before its students.
  • Speechwriting secrets: My article sharing speechwriting secrets is in the November issue of Toastmaster, the magazine of Toastmasters International. If you're a member, you already have this issue; if you're not a member, the issue will be freely available for all at the end of the month. In addition to advice from famous speechwriters, I include resources--groups to join, books and more--for you to up your game as a writer of speeches.
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Friday, November 22, 2013

Famous Speech Friday Redux: Jackie Kennedy's White House TV tour

(Editor's note: On the 50th anniversary of her husband's assassination, we're presenting again this Famous Speech Friday about a public speaking sensation by Jacqueline Kennedy.) On Valentine's Day 1962, major U.S. television networks aired an unprecedented public speaking tour de force by a woman, when First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy led a televised tour of the White House and its just-completed $2 million renovations. Her audience: 56 million Americans viewing at home, making it the most-watched television program ever, at the time. Her script: Nonexistent. Advance rehearsal time with the cameras and reporter's question: Only on the day of taping, when "we would go to a room and sort of talk it over, and she would tell us what she wanted to do, and then we'd just — we'd shoot it, and then the next room," according to the CBS producer in charge of the production,interviewed recently by On The Media. She was 32 years old.

Kennedy, who shot the entire tour in one day from 11am to 7pm with the CBS crew a month ahead of its airing, belied some signs of nervousness, according to the producers, who noted her speaking voice was different than usual:
There's nothing more than cues for her to speak, "And now, Mrs. Kennedy, can we go to the next room" and that sort of thing....she was not a professional. Her voice was a little constricted....It was not her normal speaking voice. But that's where the tension was shown, but not that much....It was astonishing, how much she knew.
She might well have been nervous, since she'd originally thought she'd write a coffee-table book about the renovations and leave it at that. But President Kennedy, convinced of the power of television, encouraged her to do it as a TV show--one that outstripped his own ratings, as it turned out. She later won an Emmy for the program. Here's what you can learn from this famous speech:
  • Preparation lets you take the ball and run with it: This tour--an hour on television in its finished form, but an eight-hour tour in reality--couldn't have happened without all the time Kennedy spent with the curators and renovation committee, learning about the provenance of individual pieces of furniture, or which Presidents had made which changes to the house. No teleprompter, no cue cards, no handwritten notes were used here, because she already knew her subject well. If that's not a case for knowing your topic before you speak, I don't know what is.
  • Pauses and silences can keep you on track: The clip below is full of pauses and silences on Kennedy's part. She does the right thing when she answers questions by pausing, answering and stopping--that lets the interviewer get a word in edgewise, but also ensures that she doesn't go rambling on too long. And for a nervous speaker, pauses help you to collect your thoughts and your emotions before you continue, a smart speaking strategy.
  • Tours are a speaker's test: Leading a tour may be one of the most challenging extemporaneous speaking opportunities you'll ever have. You need to know your subject, be ready for questions to pop up out of sequence with what you're showing, keep the tour moving, and remember your details to make the tour more than a dry recitation of facts. Here, Kennedy's enthusiasm for the project shines through as she describes the sad state of some artifacts or the stories behind others, a reminder that your listeners can't be interested in a tour if the guide herself is bored by it.
Today, this type of program is more dynamic, in color, faster-paced....and more routine. But this tour, unprecedented as it was, set the tone for what was to come. I've posted a short excerpt below that includes some of the good examples noted here. What do you think of this famous speech?



Looking for famous speeches by women? Check out The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Women's Speeches, with a wide variety of women speakers, types of speeches and topics to inspire your next speech. Each one comes with lessons for speakers, plus video or audio and a transcript, where available.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What does it mean to practice your speech? 8 good options for speakers

I have read my slides, therefore I have practiced.
-- René Descartes

Descartes didn't quite say that, but you say it all the time. "Absolutely. I practiced," you'll tell me. And I'll look at you, skeptical. That's because, as a Washington, DC-based speaker coach and presentation trainer, I've heard every dodge in the book about whether and when you practiced your talk, speech, or presentation.

Despite the fact that there are 7 advantages for the speaker who practices, in reality, most speakers flip through their slides or their notes, reading silently to themselves...decide they're going to rely on the text or the slides, and don't bother speaking them out loud...or "practice" sitting at their desks, even when they're going to be standing up and moving around during the presentation. It's almost worse if you've given this presentation or a variant before, or more than once. "I got this," you say. "I'll just go out there and kill it." There's a special hell waiting for that experienced speaker, who may get on stage and find out that a little practice would have smoothed out the rough edges created by such assumptions.

None of that equals practicing your speech, in my book. I suspect part of the problem is that many people don't really know how to go about practicing a speech or talk, or are afraid of what they'll find out. But as I say in my training workshops, wouldn't you rather mess up here with me, instead of before your audience? Here are 8 effective ways to learn and try out your presentation so that you'll look as if you didn't need any practice:
  1. Stand up and move around: You'll look, sound and feel more energized if you stand while you practice--which is why I encourage speakers to stand even if they're speaking as part of a panel, and when they're on the phone for conference calls or media interviews. Sitting drains energy, crowds your diaphragm and makes your voice less lively. Practicing the physical movement and stance for your talk helps you develop a kinetic memory of the movements you'll make, and that will contribute to your ability to pull off a smooth-looking presentation.
  2. Speak it out loud: Even if you punt and sit at your desk to practice, do it out loud. There's no other way to find out whether you stumble over a particular phrase or can't pronounce something easily, in which case a rewrite or workaround can be done. You'll also get a sense for how speaking makes you feel--whether you tense up, speak too fast or too softly, or some other issue.
  3. Practice without the text: If your eventual goal is to speak without a text, start weaning yourself from your notes during several practice sessions. Come up with an outline made up of just keywords for each section, and choose keywords that are more vivid and specific than general and abstract ("hammer story" instead of "lessons learned"). At first, put those keywords in a short list on a whiteboard or flipchart set across the room where you can glance at them as cues. Eventually, try practicing out loud without the cue cards.
  4. Practice in place: Many of us practice in conference rooms, offices and hotel rooms. But if those aren't like the space in which you will be speaking, find something closer to the actual setting for at least one practice. Using a lectern? Find a lectern. In an auditorium? Borrow one. Then make sure you scope out the actual space ahead of time--in photos on the web, in person an hour before--so you know what to expect, even if you can't practice there.
  5. Record yourself on video: Grab a friend or kindly colleague and ask her to record your practice--use a cellphone camera, or an ultralight camcorder like the Sony Bloggie. Then upload and review your video practice, using my checklist of things to look for on that video of your speech, from gestures and vocal errors to movement and tone. Note two or three things you want to improve, then practice another round with recording to see your progress.
  6. Listen to an audio delivery: Particularly if you start with a written text and want to memorize it, it's helpful to record audio of yourself reading the text in a lively way. Mark up the text in advance to give yourself cues about pronunciation, emphasis, pauses and up- or downturns in your tone. Then load that audio into your phone, iPod or a CD to play in the car or kitchen, and listen to it, over and over. One client of mine does this while running on a treadmill; another, in the car on her commute home; yet another, while walking on the beach. It's a great way to practice that will let you focus on the sound of your voice and your vocal variety, and help familiarize you with the words you want to say.
  7. Grab a test audience: I've coached several speakers this year for TEDMED, TEDx or TED-like talks, and many of them have taken the time to practice in front of test audiences drawn from their work colleagues or accommodating family members. Some chose listeners who could offer perspective on their topic, or who resembled the eventual audience, to gauge responses. Many of them, knowing their colleagues wouldn't be able to see the talk in person, did a "friends and family" preview of the talk, the closest thing to a live run-through, just before departing for the actual talk. It's a great way to give your colleagues an insider's preview while getting some real-time practice in.
  8. Work with a coach: When I do one-on-one coaching for a speaker, much of what we do involves practice, as well as recording and feedback. Usually, I do at least one in-person coaching session so I can better see movement, expression and other delivery issues, then we follow up on Skype or phone and email, sending practice videos back and forth for review and critique. The speaker also works in between our sessions, focusing on a list of action items we put together ahead of time. The goal is to structure the practices so that the field of issues to tackle gets smaller and smaller as we get closer to the day of the speech or presentation, which lets us focus on nuances and grace notes to really make the talk sing. For many speakers, working with a coach is a great way to stay focused in practice while getting constructive and private feedback.
How do you practice for your presentations? If you're looking for a coach for your next presentation, email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz for more information.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
If you found this post useful, please subscribe or make a one-time donation to help support the thousands of hours that go into researching and curating this content for you.