Friday, January 31, 2014

7 famous speeches from women with vocal verve in The Eloquent Woman Index

Some speeches just seem to sing. The sounds of words and the sounds of silences carry as much content as the words themselves. The speakers remember that oratory carries a long tradition of musicality and performance. At The Eloquent Woman, we call this "vocal verve," and we've picked out seven speeches from The Eloquent Woman Index that show off this quality.

1. Listen to any of Julia Child's cooking demos, and you'll know exactly what it means to have a musical voice. She was a master at using those high and low notes to lend emphasis to certain points in her demonstrations. And if you want to know what you must pay attention to when making quiche Lorraine, that emphasis is critical.

2.  In this 92nd St. Y speech, Phyllis Diller served up her trademark drawl and cackling laugh just as she did in her comedy routines. Her vocal verve was in some ways as calculated as her fright wigs and cigarette holder--all part of her plan to draw attention away from her good looks so that she could be taken seriously as an entertainer.

3. The invocation is a special opportunity for speakers to use vocal verve to carry an emotional, sometimes poetically rendered message. In this invocation for U.S. President Barack Obama's second inauguration, Myrlie Evers-Williams used a variety of cadences, inflections and tones to ensure that her words sang out to an enormous live audience.

4. Eulogies are another type of speech that may benefit from a little vocal verve, especially if the occasion is a public one. In Jennifer Granholm's eulogy for Rosa Parks, you'll hear the former Michigan governor drawing out words, popping her consonants with a preacher's snap and sighing into the mic. She led the audience through the high and low emotions of the speech with this vocal variety.

5. You might expect an actor to know how to deploy her voice with lots of differences in tone, inflection, pauses and emphasis, as Jane Fonda does in this TEDxWomen talk on "Life's Third Act." But it's her quiet, calm tone throughout that really draws her audience to her.

6. If you've ever had to read a bedtime story aloud--or better yet, had a bedtime story read to you--you know how important vocal verve is to storytelling. Spoken word poet Sarah Kay demonstrates storytelling's special vocalizations in "Tshotsholoza," a speech built around an African folk song. The best tales are told with a variety of rhythms, speeds and pauses, all of which Kay uses in this talk.

7.  It's probably one of the more famous U.S. political speeches, with most people remembering then-Texas State Treasurer Ann Richards' zinger about George H.W. Bush's "silver foot in his mouth." But that line and others from her speech at the 1988 Democratic Convention went over so well because Richards delivered them in her unapologetic Texas drawl, complete with drawn-out syllables and mock-dramatic pauses. Her bark had bite, and the crowd loved it.

Freelance writer Becky Ham contributed this Famous Speech Friday post.

I'm offering a new workshop on women and public speaking. Be The Eloquent Woman will take place in Washington, DC, on Feb. 28, and in Oxford, UK, on April 2. The day-long workshop will help you build confidence and competence as a speaker, and help you subvert the expectations that many women face when they speak. Please join me for these unique professional development sessions!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

12 ways to evaluate speaking gigs for gender bias

Mia Doornaert, speaking at the
European Speechwriter Network conference
In mass media, some tests have cropped up to help evaluate gender bias. There's the Bechdel test for movies: There must be at least two women in the movie, they must talk to each other, and the topic cannot be a man. There's also the Finkbeiner test of whether a journalistic article exhibits gender bias about women in science, by mentioning that she's a woman, what her husband's job is, her childcare arrangements, how she was surprised by how competitive her field turned out to be, and more.

I think it may be time for another test, one that women and men can use to evaluate their public speaking invitations for gender bias. I'm inspired by some recent research and writings on the issue of getting more women on the program, including the excellent advice for conference organizers in Putting an end to conferences dominated by white men and other writings by Lean Start Up conference CEO and co-host Sarah Milstein. She writes:
When I began co-hosting, we put an emphasis on finding high-quality speakers who better represented the business world.  In 2012 and 2013, not only did our speaker rosters comprise more than 50% women and people of color, but the number of conference attendees doubled each year. We use the same methods all conferences use to find speakers: We invite people we know or know of, and we have an open call for proposals. But because those processes reliably over-represent white male candidates, we approach them differently than most conference hosts.
Too often, I see women who assume they'll be treated fairly in the selection process, only to be disappointed--either when they don't make the cut, or later, when the speaking experience leaves them feeling uncomfortable, treated inequitably or even harrassed. We'll be talking about how women can get more speaking gigs and how they can better evaluate and seek offers to speak in my new workshop, Be The Eloquent Woman. The 12 questions below aim to give both men and women a way to evaluate speaker invitations with a gender lens (and yes, we need men to pay attention to these criteria as well as women):
  1. How open and transparent is the call for speakers and the selection process? A sentence about the conference commitment to gender or any other kind of diversity does not a balanced program make. Milstein calls for organizers to be "deeply transparent," and has advocated for a blind and meritocratic selection process that emphasizes quality without regard to gender or ethnicity. Ask for specifics about the selection process and how gender balance is handled. Look for a conference with a wide-open process.
  2. Is there a harrassment policy for the conference? Harrassment is a fact of life for women at many conferences. One important way to make women comfortable with the idea of attending or speaking at your conference is to publish a code of conduct that takes sexual harrassment into account. It's good practice--and says you want the conference to be welcoming to women. I'm hearing from more women that this is step one when they're considering attending or speaking at conferences. The code should cover the behavior of the organizers and committee members during their advance preparation, as well as participants at the conference.
  3. Is there at least one woman on the program selection team or program committee? Ideally, you'd want to see gender balance in the selection committee, but recent research focused on two scientific conferences showed that "having at least one woman member of the convening team correlated with a significantly higher proportion of invited female speakers and reduced the likelihood of an all-male symposium roster." Start with one, and give extra points for a more balanced group of selectors. While you're at it, find out who makes the final call and what approach they're using.
  4. What's the ratio of male to female attendees, based on previous years? Just 15 percent of the attendees at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, were women this year, and Mariah Summers shares what that felt like for the women. A low proportion of women doesn't have to be a deal-breaker if all the other factors work for you, but you may enjoy the experience more if there's a better gender balance overall.
  5. Is the early roster of speakers mostly or all men? As Milstein points out in her article, the tried-and-true methods of recruiting speakers tend to get a lot of early "yes" responses from the usual suspects. Publicizing them early might discourage women speakers from applying or attending. Depending on the situation, you can look at this factor as an early warning sign, proceeding with caution; as a prompt to ask "are you planning to recruit more women speakers?"; or as an opportunity for women to approach the organizers thinking, "They need more women on that program, so my chances are better." 
  6. Do women occupy major speaking roles, or are they mostly moderators and introducers? A telltale sign of how women are viewed in the context of a conference is the relegation of women to the briefer speaking roles of moderator or introducer. This gives a conference the veneer of gender balance, but ensures that the women are speaking about the work of others, rather than their own work and ideas. It's a tactic that goes back a century or more, and it's high time we got rid of it.
  7. Does each panel include women, or is there just one "women's panel?" There is a real intellectual problem when a panel--designed by its definition to showcase a variety of views and opinions--is only populated by men. It's insulting to women to suggest that you wouldn't seek to include women especially, since you're aiming for high quality. In fact, you can have both quality and gender diversity. As one of my favorite organizers, Brian Jenner of the UK Speechwriters Guild, says, "Women bring different ideas to a program."  Putting all the women on the program on a single panel about women's issues, another time-honored tactic, is not a good sign.
  8. Were you called at the last minute? One of the best talks I ever gave was a truly last-minute emergency replacement job. A group that has invited you to speak previously and knows you well may feel comfortable asking you to sub for a speaker who just can't make it. But if you don't hear that kind of reason, you might be a last-minute attempt to balance a panel or roster. Ask why you were called so late in the game. The late-breaking invitation takes away your advance preparation and promotional time, so you may be walking into a less-than-ideal situation before you get anywhere near the conference.
  9. If you are asked to speak without compensation, is that consistent with what other speakers are offered? When it comes to salary negotiation, many women don't bother asking for more money--not because they don't think they're worth it, but because they have correctly figured out that both men and women are less likely to give a pay raise to a woman than a man. The same may be true in public speaking, particularly when women are asked less often to speak. So if no fee or travel reimbursement is offered, ask whether any speakers are being paid. If other speakers at your level are being paid, ask for the same.
  10. Do conference materials and promotions mention and show women, overtly and routinely? Any conference organizer who has seen the rise of women's conferences should know that promoting women speakers is big business--those conferences have no trouble attracting attendees. Milstein saw similarly strong results after assembling and promoting a diverse program. You might learn something about the attitude of conference organizers just by reading their websites and programs with care.
  11. Do the inviters and promoters show enthusiasm for or reluctance to inclusion of women speakers? In Women in Science: Welcome But Not Welcome, Kate Clancy describes an underwhelming speaking invitation she received after a prominent woman speaker put her on a list, insisting the organizers ask more women. But the reluctance was clear in the invitation, and eventually, her gig didn't materialize. Likewise, when the conference promotes women speakers, it should be more than a defensive "we do too have women speakers" tone. 
  12. Does the inviter show enthusiasm for you and your ideas? If you say "no" or "I'm not sure," or you suggest someone else, does the inviter say, "No, we really want you?" (If so, say yes.) But if the organizers start rewriting your talk completely or push you to say things that you don't want to say, you're more likely to feel like a sock puppet than a speaker. 
Want to learn more about choosing and getting the right speaking gigs, and how to become a more confident speaker? Sign up for my new workshop, Be The Eloquent Woman. Details are below, and I'm especially excited to be able to offer the workshop in the United States and the United Kingdom this year. Please register and share with a woman speaker whom you wish to encourage!

I'm offering a new workshop on women and public speaking. Be The Eloquent Woman will take place in Washington, DC, on Feb. 28, and in Oxford, UK, on April 2. The day-long workshop will help you build confidence and competence as a speaker, and help you subvert the expectations that many women face when they speak. Please join me for these unique professional development sessions!

Monday, January 27, 2014

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:
I'm offering a new workshop on women and public speaking. Be The Eloquent Woman will take place in Washington, DC, on Feb. 28, and in Oxford, UK, on April 2. The day-long workshop will help you build confidence and competence as a speaker, and help you subvert the expectations that many women face when they speak. Please join me for these unique professional development sessions!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Famous Speech Friday: Tanni Grey-Thompson's "shout a bit louder" on disability

He was the first deaf member of parliament in England, and perhaps in the world, and nearly left his seat after an operation left him unable to hear. But Lord Jack Ashley went on to learn lip-reading, kept his seat and campaigned for people with disabilities, even inspiring the development of live-captioned television.

In 2013, a year after his death, it fell to another member of Parliament to give the inaugural lecture in memory of Lord Ashley. Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson told the audience, "When I say that Jack was the first 'real' disabled person I saw on TV, it was because all the other 'disabled' people I saw were actually actors, playing a part...These were my really my only role models of what life might be like. Jack was the closest thing to reality that I wanted to experience," she explained. That's because Grey-Thompson has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair.

She used the speech to bring into sharp focus for her audience what it's like to be disabled today. Despite her own storied career as a gold-medal-winning Paralympian and a successful second career in Parliament, she finds herself discriminated against and underestimated again and again. In the lecture, she reflected on it in terms of finding her voice:
The one that still gets me is when people count my money back in to my hand and tell me not to lose it. My husband is always daring me to throw it on the floor. When I was pregnant I had medical professionals ask me if I couldn't cope would I either mistreat or put my baby or put it up for adoption. My response was that I would hire a nanny. I still haven't figured out a way to deal with it. I don't want to shout back, because I know that people will think I have a chip on my shoulder. I do think it's funny that when I do speak out, people think that my volume button is at full blast. I usually think it is about 2 out of 10.... Just once I would like to tell people what I think, but I know that the floodgates will open I will scream and not stop and that this isn't the right way. What I still want is change, not just to scream. 
While her own disability does not affect her vocal advocacy in their behalf, she also used the speech to urge people with disabilities to join her: “I am not advocating protests on the streets but we need disabled people to stand up and shout a bit louder about what they want, so it is not just us in parliament. Disabled people need to find their voice again.” It's fitting, then, that coverage of the speech called it one of her most "outspoken." What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Get specific: Grey-Thompson shares some of the stories she sees in her mail from disabled constituents, but it's the stories she tells on herself that are loaded with details, from the cruel and ridiculous statements she hears to the barriers--political and physical--she has faced in going to school, participating in sports and more. They sound unbelievable, but the specifics make them concrete and palpable.
  • You can, in fact, speak with feeling about someone you didn't know well: The speaker and the honoree met, but didn't know each other well. Nonetheless, Grey-Thompson shares perspective on Lord Ashley and his impact on her. With the lightest of touches, those personal details offer a moving testimony to the reach of his influence.
  • Share the unexpected perspective: This speech does a good job at revealing Grey-Thompson's passion for politics, which grew out of her family's fight against efforts to keep her out of a school due to her condition. Her views on athletics, architecture and more find their way into the speech, making it a multifacted view of an accomplished woman.
Grey-Thompson is on the BBC Woman's Hour Power List and has written Aim High, a book about her inspirations. We don't have video from this speech, but you can read the full text here and watch a video in which she discusses disability, and how having a wheelchair gave her the freedom to do what she wanted to do. What do you think of this famous speech? 



(Creative Commons licensed photo from NCVO London's photostream on Flickr)

I'm offering a new workshop on women and public speaking. Be The Eloquent Woman will take place in Washington, DC, on Feb. 28, and in Oxford, UK, on April 2. The day-long workshop will help you build confidence and competence as a speaker, and help you subvert the expectations that many women face when they speak. Please join me for these unique professional development sessions!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Be The Eloquent Woman: Workshops in Washington and Oxford

I'm excited to be launching a new workshop, Be The Eloquent Woman, in two locations: Washington, DC and Oxford, UK. The day-long workshop is designed to help women executives and politicians to improve their public speaking, using smart strategies that build on the information you get right here on the blog.

These workshops will combine the research and realities that women face--the perceptions that stand in the way of your success and undermine your confidence--along with the practical advice that will help you subvert those expectations and succeed as a speaker. 

Participants will learn:  
  • Techniques for overcoming fear of big occasions 
  • How to prepare a script 
  • Strategies for speaking with or without notes
  • Advantages women bring to public speaking and how to bring them to the fore
  • Lessons from outstanding women speakers
  • Putting together a "message wardrobe" to be prepared for any speaking situation
  • How to get more speaking opportunities and make the most of them
  • What conference organizers are looking for in speakers, and what's preventing women from achieving parity on conference podiums
  • How women speakers are perceived, in public settings and in the workplace, and how you can subvert expectations
The Washington, DC, session takes place February 28. Go here to register. If you're a subscriber to my free monthly newsletter, you have access to a discount code that will save you $50 on the registration.

The Oxford, UK, session takes place April 2 at Trinity College, as a pre-conference session at the UK Speechwriters Guild conference for speechwriters and business communicators. Go here to register for the Oxford workshop and take advantage of the early-bird discount rate; readers also can use the code Eloquence for a discount. I'm delighted to be working with the Guild again. I keynoted the spring 2013 conference in London, and chaired the autumn conference in Brussels.

Most of all, I'm happy to be putting together the information and inspiration of this blog into workshops for women speakers--I know you can be the eloquent woman. Please join me for these unique professional development opportunities, and share them with your colleagues. Can't come to the workshops on these dates? Email me at eloquentwoman[AT]gmail[DOT]com to find out how we can present a workshop at your next conference or at your workplace.

Monday, January 20, 2014

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:
  • A lack of role models: You weren't dreaming. A new report from Catalyst shows little progress in the Fortune 500 in adding women leaders.
  • A-list? In Women in Science: Welcome But Not Welcome, Kate Clancy writes about what happened when her name showed up on a list of women speakers intended to increase their presence on a conference program.
  • Same old song: How you're perceived today as a woman leader has its roots in decades-old images of women in business.
  • From the top: Here are 5 lessons from President Obama's debate trainers to boost your presentation skills.
  • About the picture: Amy Cuddy's advice on striking a power pose to boost your confidence is translated into a handy visual guide. Start taking up more space now!
  • Coming up this week on the blog we're journeying to the United Kingdom for an "Inside Voice" interview with a leading UK speechwriter, and a member of the UK Parliament's call for louder voices on disability rights.
  • Have you signed up? My free monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators, combines public speaking news from this blog and from the don't get caught blog on social media and communications--a useful mix. You'll also get word about upcoming workshops, my speaking appearances, discounts and other extras. Sign up here.
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Friday, January 17, 2014

7 famous speeches by women on religion from The Eloquent Woman Index

The Eloquent Woman Index collects the Famous Speech Friday posts you see here every week. Starting in 2013, we've been slicing the Index to make it easier to find speeches by type of speaker, topic or type of speech, and these 7 speeches all address religion in some way, from a variety of viewpoints: Atheists and a saint, nuns and ministers, evangelists and more. Check out our collection (so far) of women speaking on religion:
  1. Aimee Semple McPherson's 1927 "speech in a speakeasy" showed off this early televangelist's persuasive skills so well that the applause went on longer than the speech did.
  2. Coretta Scott King's "10 Commandments on Vietnam" used the 10 commandments of Christianity as its structure. This speech also had her do what many minister's wives would have done, delivering the speech he was meant to give after he'd been killed. But hers was on behalf of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., with much of the speech drawn from notes that were in his pockets at the time of his assassination.
  3. Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the noted atheist, took the opposing view in her appearance on The Phil Donahue Show, debating a Christian preacher. Her skill in handling sometimes fierce questioning really steals the show, and is a tactic we can all learn from.
  4. Mother Teresa used her appearance at the 1994 U.S. National Prayer Breakfast to tackle topics like abortion--which she called "murder by the mother herself"--and how the wealthy treat the poor, right in front of pro-choice President Clinton and a host of American lawmakers.
  5. Sister Simone Campbell started the "nuns on a bus tour" during the 2012 U.S. presidential election campaign to speak in churches around the country about the impact of proposed budget cuts on the poor and the social services that support them. She took issue with a vice presidential candidate's invoking of his religion as a justification for the cuts. "What Paul Ryan wants us to think, and what he says is, it's his Catholic social teaching that made him do that. His Catholic social teaching? If he had never uttered those words, I don't think we'd have a bus trip. He made me mad, and I'm a stubborn woman."
  6. Methodist minister Teresa McBain used a speech to reveal that she is an atheist, prompting the video of her remarks to go viral, and a flood of positive and negative comments along with it.
  7. Myrlie Evers-Williams's invocation at President Obama's second inaugural was notable for many things, including the history of the day and her history. In addition to asking for heavenly guidance in weightier matters, she also prayed, "please God, help me stay within the three minutes that I have been given." This was not, however, a prayer that was answered.
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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book journal: Misogyny as a global barrier to women's public speaking

We in the U.S. sometimes think we've ducked the misogyny bullet, but I see it as a major factor in holding women back from public speaking roles all around the world, including my home country. Not long ago at a conference, I was talking about this phenomenon with another woman. "Even today," I said, "prominent women who are known for an active speaking role in public can be shot in the head in an effort to silence them." My dinner companion, an American woman, said, "But that was in Pakistan!" She thought I was referring to Malala Yousafzai, and I might have been. But in fact, I was speaking of former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

Let me share with you some of the books, films and articles that are shaping my thinking right now as I research the book--much as I did in my post Seen or silenced? More on women speakers and their wardrobes. They're windows on how misogyny contributes to silencing women around the world:
  • Discomfort with women in power is expressed in many ways, but in Australia, it's especially overt. In The Misogyny Factor, Dr. Anne Summers writes about this in relation to former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who was the subject of virulent misogynistic attacks in her role as that country's first female leader. I'm very much looking forward to digging into this book and learning its prescriptions for gender equality. A Summers lecture based on the book will be the focus of an upcoming Famous Speech Friday post on this blog, suggested by reader Cate Huston. It's telling that Summers has issued an "R-rated" and "vanilla" version of that speech. Our FSF series includes Gillard's viral misogyny speech on the floor of the Australian Parliament.
  • Call me mister? One way to negate a woman's voice is to take away her gender. In China, women opinion leaders are being referred to as "Mister" on Weibo, that country's version of Twitter. In South Korea, President Park Geun-hye--the nation's first female leader--is referred to as "the neuter president."  But that's not a new phenomenon, by any means...
  • When in Rome, part I: The tactic of neutralizing a woman's sexuality in order to keep her silent is a persistent trend that goes all the way back to the first century in Rome. Kathleen Hall Jamieson noted in her wonderful book Eloquence in an Electronic Age: The Transformation of Political Speechmaking that "Effective female speakers, such as Maesia Sentia, a first-century Roman, were labelled androgynes by their admirers, in this case by Valerius Maximus." The idea? You can't have a fertile womb and a full brain, so these thinking, speaking women must not really be women. The concept was used in reverse to forbid women to speak in public, lest they lose their ability to bear children. Just imagine if public speaking actually worked as birth control...
  • When in Rome, part II: Misogyny wasn't limited to ancient Rome, nor was the tactic of threatening women with losing their children. Modern Italy has its own ways of neutralizing women and their ability to hold power. I had the chance to see a screening of the documentary Girlfriend in a Coma. in New York last year, and was especially struck by the section that focuses on how poorly women are treated in Italy. The film, by former Economist editor Bill Emmott and filmmaker Annalisa Piras, is based on Emmott's book, Good Italy, Bad Italy: Why Italy Must Conquer Its Demons to Face the Future. He calls Italy "the worst place in Europe to be a woman," and the film brings women's issues into sharp focus. As just one example, the book notes that the few Italian women who do work are "on short-term, precarious contracts...that deprive them of maternity rights, which gives Italian women a starker choice between work and family than exists in other western European countries." That's one way to keep women out of power and silent, bearing in mind that most of us do our "public speaking" on workplace conference calls and in meetings. I'm happy to say the documentary is now available in the U.S. and elsewhere on Amazon. Watch and learn, and look forward to the team's next project, a documentary about Europe.
I welcome your pointers to other sources on this topic as I keep working on the book--and I'll be sharing them right back here on the blog, both to keep me on track with the writing, and to spread the knowledge around. Please do contribute to my thinking as these sources have done! I'm delighted to have you as part of the book's research process.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

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. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Famous Speech Friday: Chimamanda Adichie's "We should all be feminists"

Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave this talk at TEDxEuston 2012, a conference on inspiring ideas about Africa. It resonated in the hall, but got an extra push toward fame in late 2013, when Beyoncé sampled it in her surprise "visual album" in the song "Flawless."

Adichie uses pairs of topical threads and the contrasts inherent in them to frame this talk. It's about men and women, masculinity and femininity, culture and choices. As a novelist might, she bookends the talk by discussing the meaning of the term "feminist." She starts by having to look up the definition, then is told by different people that she can't be a feminist because she's not unhappy, because she's African, because she doesn't hate men. So she starts reframing the definition: "At some point, I was a happy African feminist who does not hate men and who likes lip gloss and who wears high heels for myself and not for men," she admits.

There's plenty of humor laced throughout this talk--she gets a big laugh when she notes that "We praise girls for virginity, but we don't praise boys for virginity, and it's always made me wonder how exactly this is supposed to work out"--but the talk focuses on an even-handed and frank look at the double standards to which men and women are held, and why that's not a plus for either gender. Her words about what we expect of men are among the best in this talk.

She brings all these threads together by weaving them into a statement about women's voices and how we teach girls to silence themselves:
We teach girls shame. Close your legs, cover yourself, we make them feel as though by being born female they're already guilty of something. And so girls grow up to be women who cannot say they have desire. They grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think. And they grow up--and this is the worst thing we do to girls--they grow up to be women who have turned pretense into an art form.
What can you learn from this speech?
  • Be a uniter, not a divider: When you're pushing a point or an agenda or a theme that, on its face, is going to divide your audience (whether that's the audience in the room or the one online), you have a couple of choices. One is to play to those who'll agree to you and ignore your opponents. The other is to create a big tent, and show both sides where they fit under it. Adiche deftly includes men and how anti-feminism works against them throughout her speech, in a inclusive manner. The result is a speech men may like as well as women will.
  • Take a non-anxious tone: I'm all for a fiery speech when the occasion is right. But you have choices as a speaker in terms the tone and temperature of your talk, particularly when your topic is considered divisive. Just because the topic is tense or uncomfortable doesn't mean you need to be. Adiche's straightforward delivery and non-anxious tone let us focus on her message. This speech is all the stronger because of her no-nonsense, forthright approach.
  • Make the call for action achievable: Even though her call to action involves changing the way we raise girls and boys, Adiche makes her suggestions in terms anyone can find achievable, taking what seems like a tall order and cutting it down to a manageable size. If your audience can leave the room believing in their ability to do what you've asked of them, they're more likely to try it--and you're more likely to be a credible speaker in their eyes.
Read Adiche's novels Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun,and watch the speech in the video below. What do you think of this famous speech?



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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Inside Voice: Candida Fink, MD, psychiatrist and author

(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 include in the series my longtime friend Candida Fink, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who has co-authored two books:The Ups and Downs of Raising a Bipolar Child: A Survival Guide for Parents and Bipolar Disorder For Dummies.Dr. Fink has been featured nationally and locally in broadcast, print, and online media coverage and is a frequent speaker on mental health topics for community and school-based audiences. She was recognized as a "Top Doctor" in Westchester Magazine's November 2013 issue. You can follow Bipolar Disorder for Dummies on Facebook. I asked her to share perspective with us from the point of view of someone who speaks frequently as part of her work in medicine and as a book author.) 

What was your first public speaking experience? Your most recent?

I am not sure how best to define public speaking. One of the first major presentations I did was as a psychiatry resident you have to present a case at Grand Rounds. You present one of your treatment cases in detail to a broad audience – including most of the department as well as anyone else who is interested – from your own hospital or other hospitals as well.  After you present your case, a senior clinician discusses your case – you get dissected in front of your peers. Interestingly, I presented a couples therapy case – happened to be a gay couple – this was in 1989 or so.  But I was surprised that the discussant spent the whole time talking about the negative feelings that a therapist would presumably have in response to a gay couple – when this wasn’t related at all to the questions I had placed to her. I was quickly educated about how the listener will bring their own lens to your presentation. The most recent experience was for a group of educators in a local district – about a somewhat radical way of thinking about children with mental health challenges in school. It triggered a terrific conversation and I hope to do more consulting to this district in the future. 

When do you feel most successful as a speaker?  


When I can cover the main points of the topic coherently – sticking to the time frame allotted – and then having a spirited discussion afterward in which listeners have clearly taken in some of what you have said and are integrating it and ask thoughtful questions that help move the conversation in interesting ways.


What do you dread about speaking?


Preparing the material – organizing it in a way that will be most effective – and breaking things into useful components that have enough detail, but not too much.  The topics are often very broad and I often struggle to narrow things down yet keep true to the complexity of the material.

I also dread the issue of timing, which is a big challenge for me – matching volume of content to the time frame and sticking to it during the talk – including managing questions or comments if they are part of the set-up – and keeping the talk from veering off track.

Do you have any bad speaking habits? Any good ones?

Bad habits include letting questions or audience involvement get me off track --  finding ways to politely/diplomatically end a line of questioning or discussion. I also pace too much. I have trouble just standing still. I project well – and I think I usually can connect with an audience – make them comfortable with me and the material.  

Have you ever had training or help with your speaking? What did it look like? Why did you seek it out?

No training except for some pearls I have picked up from your blog/website – which have been extremely helpful – such as starting with the big point (why does this matter?) and then connecting the data/details to your main point, which is so different from traditional medical presentations in which the main point comes last after all the history and information is shared. Also I have found that generally using groupings of 3 – your insight – helps a lot in managing material/time and helping me maintain focus and rhythm

What's the best advice you've ever received about speaking or presenting?

See above.

Tell us how it feels when you're speaking or presenting.

I am usually pumped/excited to share something that I find important or valuable in my work and that I think will be helpful to other people. However I am also usually terrified that I will fail. In particular, I worry that I will say something inaccurate or incorrect and that people in the audience will be more expert than me and will call me on it, or think I am being ridiculous, or that I have not put things together well enough.

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...

I think I would want to speak to a medium size group – maybe 40-50 people, possibly more – parents and educators, in a comfortable room, to talk about how emotional and behavioral difficulties are developmental in nature. A story of brain development that may be happening atypically for many different reasons. To understand this concept to help parents and educators begin to see that when kids are struggling emotionally and behaviorally we can’t just tell them to try harder – or tell parents to just try harder – but rather we have to understand the points in development that are being disrupted, accept that these are areas of deficit/delay, and to build new ways of helping the child experience success/mastery, given those challenges.  That we can’t have exactly the same points of maturation and if we just see kids as bad or defiant without figuring out what is going on with their development, we will lose them. I would like to have opportunity for conversation – challenge – and then thinking about some exercises or challenges – maybe in small groups – depending on the size of the audience.

What's your public speaking pet peeve...as a speaker? As a member of the audience?

As a speaker – poor acoustics and listener questions that veer into detailed and extensive individual questions for me – looking for consultation about their child or client – even after I have tried to move back into the broader topic and flow of the talk. 

I am bothered by those kind of audience questions when I am in the audience as well – and similarly questions that are more about the questioner showing off their knowledge or expertise rather than genuinely asking a question or creating a dialogue of value to the larger group.  In terms of pet peeves about speakers I am frustrated with poorly organized material or graphics that are poorly designed or too hard to read or if the speaker has trouble managing the audience questions and time of the talk.  (My own areas of vulnerability, admittedly.)

Why is public speaking worth the effort, in your view?

The best feedback I received was years ago, after I gave a talk to a group of parents of middle schoolers, and a couple of weeks later in local store a woman approached me and told me she was at the talk and found it so helpful. She felt it was going to fundamentally change how she approached her middle schooler in some important ways and she wanted to thank me for my guidance and insights.  I was truly touched and in my mind this seemed to be the whole point of any public speaking – to get people thinking, to maybe generate change – and even if people don’t agree or don’t find my suggestions helpful specifically, that we started a conversation that could be part of new ways of solving problems.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

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, January 3, 2014

Starting 2014 with 128 speeches in The Eloquent Woman Index

Please share this image and the Index
I've accomplished many things in my career, but few can match the impact of The Eloquent Woman Index of famous speeches by women, which saw many milestones in 2013. We celebrated our 100th post, and we're starting 2014 with a total of 128 famous speeches by women, most with an emphasis on women's issues.

If you're new to the blog, the Index grew out of the Famous Speech Friday series in which I weekly publish a post detailing a famous speech by a woman. That series evolved after I tired of other speaker coaches asking me where they could find more recent speeches by women than, say, Eleanor Roosevelt's. A reader, Jennie Poppenger, suggested the name for the series. Today, the Index is a wonderful resource with a wide variety of examples from which to choose, a source of information and inspiration that fills a real gap.

Each Famous Speech Friday post must be about a famous speech by a woman (not necessarily a famous woman) past or present. I prefer speeches that deal with women's issues, in whole or in part, and always look for at least three things any woman speaker can learn from these great speeches. After that, the field is wide open on what the format, topic or setting for the speech look like. To make sure the blog helps to keep women's speeches available, each post in the series includes--where available--video, audio, text or transcripts. Freelance writer Becky Ham researches and writes many of the FSF posts.

I can't end the year without thanking the many readers who pitch in to make the Famous Speech Friday posts successful. Readers send me tips, leads, videos and texts for these posts, and one reader, Karoline Henriques, even translated a speech from Danish to English and wrote the post so we could feature it. These readers are worth their weight in gold--so thank you! I'm always happy to hear your suggestions for speeches to include in the series. Special thanks this year to Lucy Gregg, Cate Huston, Irene O'Mara, Matt Shipman, and Marcus Webb for their suggestions and leads.

In 2013, the series expanded its global range in the Index with speeches from women in Denmark, England, France, India, Ireland, Liberia, Malawi, Pakistan and the United States. They join a roster of speeches that includes women speakers from Argentina, Australia, Burma, Canada, France, Haiti, India, Kenya, Macedonia, Morocco, and the United Kingdom  Today, one-quarter of the speeches in the Index are from non-U.S. women. This year, we also began collecting speeches in the Index and publishing posts on groups of them, by type of speaker, topic, or type of speech. Those collections included:

Entries by type of speech:
8 famous commencement speeches by women
6 famous extemporaneous speeches by women

Entries by type of speaker:
17 famous speeches by African-American women speakers
9 famous speeches by women legislators
6 famous speeches by women scientists
5 famous speeches by women who feared public speaking

Entries by topic:
13 famous speeches by women about death and dying
7 famous speeches by women about health
13 famous human rights speeches by women

6 famous speeches by women about the law
6 famous speeches about voting by women speakers
15 famous UK and European speeches by women


Please share the Index with friends and colleagues as a resource, and use it in your own speeches--as inspiration or as a source of quotes by women.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"How can I tell a personal story when I don't like to talk about myself?"

The personal story has taken hold in public speaking, particularly as more workplace presentations and conference keynotes aim to be "TED-like talks." Audiences love personal stories, in part because they are guaranteed unique content, far more interesting than any well-scrubbed bullet point. A good personal story can help your audience relate to you and your issue, and deepen its connection with you. But what if telling personal stories makes you uncomfortable as a speaker?

Several times this year, I've worked with women speakers--in group workshops or in private coaching sessions--who confessed that their biggest stumbling block in preparing a message or talk was the personal part. Some are introverted. Some are shy, worried about negative reactions. Some were taught as children that talking about yourself is impolite; others were taught the same when they joined professions like science or engineering, where your data are the only stars to be featured. Others were willing to try, but told the story in such an abstract, clinical way that neither they nor the audience could get close to it.

Being able to tell a personal story is an important part of finding your voice as a speaker. As I wrote in that post:
Pay attention to the stories you find it too difficult to tell right now. At one of the greatest times of personal challenge in my life, I stopped keeping a journal—the situation was too awful to contemplate. Those big life-changers may be too much for you to tackle today. But later, I promise, if you can bring yourself to share them in a speech, you’ll have the most compelling content and a riveting voice.
Here are some common concerns about telling personal stories, along with suggestions that have worked for my clients and trainees. If you're....
  • Not sure where to start talking about yourself, answer a few questions: When did you know you were going to do what you're doing now? What did you want to be when you were a kid? Who's had the biggest influence on your life or work? What are you grateful for? What makes you tick? What gets you excited? What makes you sad? The answers will give you clues to work with.
  • Concerned about sharing things that are just too personal, don't forget that you're in control of the content. You can choose to share some details--perhaps those that are already known by others, if not by your audience--and make a point of putting others off-limits. It may help you to make a list of what you will and will not share to reinforce the level of control you have. I do much the same thing on Twitter, where sharing personal perspective is valued: I choose 3 or 4 personal things which I'm comfortable sharing, and keep the rest to myself.
  • Worried the story will make you cry--a common concern for deeply personal stories, or stories about the death of a loved one--know that part of your concern is how to recover. Once you really start crying, it's impossible to stop. But before that happens, you can pause, take a deep breath, even look at the audience and say, "This is really tough for me to share, but..." to stop the process midway. It's fine to share the emotion.
  • Acting on previous instructions from your parents, schoolteachers, lab directors or former employers, keep in mind that rules about not talking about yourself are often just a way to keep you silent, "well-behaved," or just compliant. That blanket advice doesn't necessarily pertain to all situations, and I'm fairly sure the instructions didn't take into account effective public speaking tactics. Give yourself permission to tell a story or two to make this presentation more effective.
  • Thinking you should speak about your topic and not yourself, keep in mind that a well-placed personal story helps the audience connect with your topic. Leaving out the personal story might make it more difficult for us to grasp what you're talking about and how it relates to our lives. After all, sharing stories is an ancient way we humans make sense of life. Help us with yours.
  • Having trouble talking about a personal tale in concrete, emotional and non-abstract ways, take a look at your words after you write them down or transcribe a recording of yourself. Then ask a friend to read them aloud as if it were her story. How does it sound? If you're having trouble finding new words, work with your friend to come up with alternatives that reflect what you're trying to say, but do so with more emotion and connection.
  • Really having trouble confronting a particular part of your personal story, put it aside for now. But if you can get around to speaking about it--perhaps in a forum that will help others make sense of the same situation--you'll have that compelling and riveting content we're all in search of.
Finally, don't include a personal story just for the sake of including it. But if you can, give it a try--you may find it is just the thing to enliven your speech and your audience. 

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