Monday, March 31, 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:

Friday, March 28, 2014

Notes from #fwneloquent, my workshop for the Fabian Women's Network

One participant noted that, in addition to a room
packed with women, there were "a lot of blokes"
I'm still smiling about my session this week with the Fabian Women's Network, which invited me to speak in London at Parliament. More than 80 women filled a committee room in the Palace of Westminster on 27 March, and this post will share with them--and with you--some of the resources and inspiration I mentioned during the talk.

I knew that a crowd that big would have lots of questions, so part of my opening was to elicit questions at the beginning, rather than the end, of my talk. It's a great tactic to engage the audience immediately, since most people come to a talk not just to listen and clap, but to participate. I asked the group whether anyone had come that night without a question in mind, and just one raised her hand--and she had already asked an early question. It turns out that the Fabian Women are not shy, and my talk was peppered with audience questions throughout, just as I had hoped. Here are some posts from the blog that more deeply address some of the themes that arose in this workshop:
  • Questions:  In addition to showing the group what it's like to take questions at the beginning, we later discussed how many speakers fear Q&A. I have 17 reasons to welcome audience questions to keep in mind. I was asked about the opposite problem, no questions, and told the group that after I wrote Speakers ask: What if nobody asks a question? 6 options, I heard from one reader on Twitter who prompted another post, @DrSalGainsbury asks, "No, seriously. What if the room is silent during Q&A?" The first post deals with ways to prepare for no questions, the second with on-the-spot fixes. When we talked about structuring a speech, I urged them to deal with too much content by leaving some well-known and expected topics for the question time, as in my post Got lots to say? Save it for the Q&A. Among other things, that tactic ensures you'll get questions and know the answers.
  • Controversy: I am no stranger to handling controversial topics and questions, and we discussed some of the tactics in 6 ways to talk about a contentious topic. Inviting audience questions early is a great way to calm and disarm an audience, even if they continue to disagree with you. Also useful are my tips on 4 ways to handle a heckler.
  • Fear and wobbles in public speaking: I shared my two stealth tactics for calming the fight-or-flight syndrome nearly everyone feels to some extent before speaking, or as they first face the audience. One is smiling, and you'll find data and rationale for that tactic in 7 secret advantages of the speaker who smiles, including a TED talk on the topic. I also shared (and asked the group to try) Amy Cuddy's researched "power poses," and her TED talk on that topic is at the link. Regarding wobbles, I say, correct yourself if necessary and keep going. Where many speakers get stuck is when they hit a bump in the speech and begin to apologize. Just keep going. It's fine to pause and it's fine to correct yourself, but don't let that stop you from finishing. And of course, practice is the great antidote to forgetting what you got up to say in the first place.
  • Structuring a talk: I am a big advocate of the centuries-old rule of three, and suggested that one simple structure for a talk--whether in a written speech or delivered extemporaneously--would be a strong start, a core with three key points, and a strong close. There's more on omitting information in What to leave out: Lessons from the Gettysburg Address, and a look at how oral storytelling and fairy tales helped the rule of three become something easy for both speaker and audience to recall and repeat. Cate Huston, one of last night's attendees, shared how she uses the rule of three in her guest post on this blog, Presenting gives me nightmares, but I still do it. Here's how.
  • Specific issues for women in public speaking: I shared with the group my contention that women may report fearing public speaking more not necessarily because of garden-variety nervousness, but because they can anticipate at some level that they will be ignored, talked over or undermined for doing so. There's much more on that topic on this blog, but some reads related to our discussion include a post on credibility and the feminine rhetorical style, Mary Beard's recent talk on "The Public Voice of Women,"  and misogony as a global barrier to women speakers. And we didn't discuss the impact of women's wardrobes on their credibility as speakers, but I'd recommend the group look at Theresa May and Hillary Clinton: Do we watch their words or their wardrobes? to learn more--this is a key issue for women in public life.
  • Speaking authentically: More than one participant indicated that her accent or some other aspect of her self--her ethnicity, skin color, voice and more--made it difficult for audiences to accept her. Should anything change about how she speaks? I said no, preferring instead that these women speakers persist. It takes time to change attitudes, and some research indicates that women candidates who keep showing up eventually win audience approval. It doesn't feel great to sense the audience's hostility, but I think that when women try to be something they're not, they're even more likely to fail as speakers. Let's show the world the real diversity of women's voices. To illustrate how important it is to find your own voice as a woman speaker, I turned again to a story about Bill Clinton, who delivered what is widely acknowledged as one of the worst keynote speeches at a Democratic National Convention. How did he recover? With a speaker coach and a lot of practice to get to his authentic style, one that's far easier to maintain--and one that need not make him feel like an impostor. The same tactic will work for you.
I have to say that my favorite part of the evening involved asking members of the group to come up at various points to read quotes from famous speeches by women, mostly making points about women and speaking or demonstrating tactics we were discussing. (Here's one participant reading at left, in a photo that shows you the scope of the room.) Each woman took a few moments to read and prepare herself while I set the context for the quote. With each quote drawn from a speech featured on this blog, we heard wisdom from Ursula K. Leguin on speaking women as volcanoes erupting...from Lady Bird Johnson while dealing with a hostile audience...from former Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard on misogyny in that chamber...Caroline Criado-Perez on not staying silent when attacked for speaking up...and Member of Parliament Tanni Grey-Thompson on speaking with passion about her disability. Grey-Thompson saw our live tweets and jumped in to ask "which speech?" Always nice when that happens. The speeches are at the links in this paragraph, and as with every speech in our Famous Speech Friday series, video, audio and text are included where available, along with what you can learn from the famous speech by a woman. Of course, I hope the Fabian Women will explore all the famous speeches by women in The Eloquent Woman Index!

Finally, I urged the group to join the UK Speechwriters Guild and see whether they can attend the group's conference in Oxford on 3 and 4 April, next week. My day-long workshop on women and speaking is 2 April in a pre-conference session.

You'll find another good recap of the London event in this Storify of the many tweets shared by the participants. I thank the organizers, Charlotte Proudman and Paulina Jakubec, for the invitation, arrangements and excellent hosting.

On May 15, I'll be convening another session of Be The Eloquent Woman in Washington, DC. It's a subversive new workshop that helps women executives and public officials learn how women speakers are perceived and how to turn those expectations on their heads with confidence, content and credibility. You can grab a sweet discount by registering by April 11. Go here to read how the first workshop went and what participants had to say.

Famous Speech Friday: Lupita Nyong'o on black beauty

Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o, star of 12 Years a Slave, has been this year's "it girl" in Hollywood in the weeks of award season, feted for her looks and fashion. But about a week before she won the Oscar for best supporting actress, Essence honored her at its Black Women in Hollywood luncheon--and her acceptance speech, less than five minutes long, turned her image as a confident woman of color inside-out.

That's because she chose to use the short speech to talk about an uncomfortable topic: The self-loathing she experienced, growing up dark-skinned in a world full of white faces, questioning her beauty. She begins by reading a letter from a young girl who despaired of her dark skin until she saw Nyong'o, then recalls:
I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin. I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I had been the day before.
She describes seeing her own role models growing up: Model Alex Wek, Oprah, the women in the movie The Color Purple. And through the course of the speech, she takes her listeners on her own struggle to understand her own beauty, a psychological struggle and an emotional one. Realizing in the end that beauty doesn't sustain you, she concludes, "What does sustain us... what is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul. "

What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Use your moment well: Awards acceptance speeches are typically loaded with platitudes, but in just under five minutes, Nyong'o got well beyond thanks and used her moment to make the audience think about the insecurity behind the "it girl" and how real girls today share those uncertainties about their beauty as black women. Her prepared text aided her in this mission, making sure the emotion of the moment and of her topic didn't derail her message.
  • Share something of yourself: Anyone can get up and read slides, announcements, speeches. But what audiences hope for is to come away knowing something about you. The secret sauce of any speech is the one-of-a-kind person giving it, if only she'll let herself be seen. What Nyong'o shares in this speech is guaranteed original content, and that's catnip for any audience. Here, it resulted in a strong connection.
  • Take advantage of the element of surprise: Awards luncheon audiences are hoping for something great, but expecting the usual speechifying. But with any audience, if you can guess what they're expecting and turn that on its head--in this case, addressing an event sponsored by a beauty magazine and talking about not feeling beautiful--you'll have their full attention. Surprise us a little more, fit in a little less.
Nyong'o's speech went viral both after it was delivered and again after she won the Oscar. You can read the full text of this speech here and see the video below. What do you think of this famous speech?



Seats are still available for my upcoming Oxford, UK, workshop on women and public speaking. Be The Eloquent Woman will take place on 2 April. 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. I've also opened registration for another US session of this workshop, set for May 15 in Washington, DCPlease join me for these unique professional development sessions! 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Book journal: Credibility and the feminine rhetorical style

U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann was described as giving a "statesmanlike" speech in England. Hillary Clinton did the "seemingly unthinkable" when tears came to her eyes as she spoke with voters during the 2008 presidential campaign about the difficulties of running for office. So are their speaking styles masculine or feminine?

The answer for women speakers is very likely a little of both, but the point remains: Men and women have different rhetorical styles, although the feminine rhetorical style has largely been dismissed, as women have not been as prevalent in the history of public speaking, compared to men. As I continue researching for my book on women and public speaking, I'm finding some interesting threads on masculine speaking, feminine speaking, and the credibility issue for women speakers that lies beneath which style you choose when you speak. Because even today, research shows that we see male speakers generally as more credible than we do female speakers.

If you're a woman speaker who has felt that you needed to change your hairstyle, put on a suit, speak in a lower voice or fix something about your speaking style to bolster your authority as a speaker, you've had your finger on the pulse of a much more complex issue. Here's what I'm reading about:
  • Who talks when will tell you a lot about our different speaking styles: In her landmark book about the language of men and women, You Just Don't Understand, noted Georgetown University linguist Deborah Tannen distinguishes between the "report talk" of men (more public or in groups, more announcements, reporting results) and the "rapport talk" of women (more intimate, in small groups or one-on-one, focused on connection). And if you know how women have systematically been excluded from public speaking throughout history, it's no wonder that women developed a more private, intimate, personal style of speaking, is it? Tannen explains in this Washington Post article that it's important to pay attention to when men or women speak, to whom, and why, to understand the differences. (Otherwise, men and women speak about the same number of words in a day.) Gender and Discourse, another Tannen book I'm digging into, looks in more depth at the differences between the genders in their speaking. 
  • Here's a test: Can you tell male and female speakers' styles apart? In her "left-handed commencement address" at Mills College in 1983, part of our Famous Speech Friday series, novelist Ursula K. Leguin noted how women politicians, still rare, sounded an awful lot like the male politicians. She said: "Intellectual tradition is male. Public speaking is done in the public tongue, the national or tribal language; and the language of our tribe is the men's language. Of course women learn it. We're not dumb. If you can tell Margaret Thatcher from Ronald Reagan, or Indira Gandhi from General Somoza, by anything they say, tell me how. This is a man’s world, so it talks a man’s language. The words are all words of power. You’ve come a long way, baby, but no way is long enough. You can’t even get there by selling yourself out: because there is theirs, not yours."
  • Television favors the feminine rhetorical style: In her landmark 1988 work on the impact of television on political rhetoric, Eloquence in an Electronic Age: The Transformation of Political Speechmaking, Kathleen Hall Jamieson takes a long look at what's called the "effeminate," or feminine, style of rhetoric as well as the history of women's public speaking. She points out that television, particularly as a platform for politicians, "invites a personal, self-disclosing style that draws public discourse out of a private self and comfortably reduces the complex world to dramatic narratives. Because it encompasses these characteristics, the once spurned womanly style is now the style of preference." 
  • Bonus or minus? Depends on your cred:  Jamieson notes "the double bind in which television traps a female politician. The style considered credible is no longer suitable to television. But only a person whose credibility is firm can risk adopting a style traditionally considered weak. So a male candidate whose credibility is in part a function of presumptions made about those of his sex is more likely to succeed in the 'womanly' style than is an equally competent but stereotypically disadvantaged female candidate." I think that today's wide range of formats for public speaking--including YouTube videos and TED talks--carry forward this demand for a feminine style of speaking. The storyteller, the confider of personal details, is in demand as a speaker, and that favors women's strengths as speakers.
  • So of course, the most prominent speakers of the feminine rhetorical style are men: Jamieson's book makes a thorough case for considering U.S. President Ronald Reagan as a prominent and successful adopter of a "self-disclosive, narrative, personal, 'womanly' style." Many observers, myself included, also put U.S. President Bill Clinton squarely in that speaking camp as well, and occasionally, President Barack Obama. Meanwhile, the public roads are littered with women politicians who, lacking in credibility afforded to men, tried on masculine, stentorian (loud and powerful) speaking styles, from Geraldine Ferraro, the first U.S. female nominee for vice president, to Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. Jamieson notes (and I agree) that "women abandoned and now must reclaim the 'womanly' style" of speaking. Play to your strengths, ladies.
  • Adopting a male style negates your femininity as a speaker: In her important speech, The Public Voice of Women, classics professor Mary Beard connects the practice of women adopting a masculine rhetorical style with the ancient practice of labeling women speakers androgynes, or sexless
    wonders (something that dates back to the first century in Rome and is still going on today). She said, "Those [women] who do manage successfully to get their voice across very often adopt some version of the ‘androgyne’ route, like Maesia in the Forum or ‘Elizabeth’ at Tilbury – consciously aping aspects of male rhetoric. That was what Margaret Thatcher did when she took voice training specifically to lower her voice, to add the tone of authority that her advisers thought her high pitch lacked." 
  • Is that where impostor syndrome comes from? Beard then confronts this tactic head-on, saying, "all tactics of that type tend to leave women still feeling on the outside, impersonators of rhetorical roles that they don’t feel they own....we need to go back to some first principles about the nature of spoken authority, about what constitutes it, and how we have learned to hear authority where we do. And rather than push women into voice training classes to get a nice, deep, husky and entirely artificial tone, we should be thinking more about the faultlines and fractures that underlie dominant male discourse." Beard's speech and much more about it are in our Famous Speech Friday series here.
The issue of credibility and speaking style still is a double bind for many women speakers. As a coach, I'd always tell you that you'll do a better job as a speaker if you speak in a style that is authentic to you, and the feminine style is the one currently preferred. But that doesn't mean your audiences will view that approach--or you--as credible. It's an issue we talk about as part of my new workshop on women and public speaking.

On May 15, I'll be convening another session of Be The Eloquent Woman in Washington, DC. It's a subversive new workshop that helps women executives and public officials learn how women speakers are perceived and how to turn those expectations on their heads with confidence, content and credibility. You can grab a sweet discount by registering by April 11. Go here to read how the first workshop went and what participants had to say.

Monday, March 24, 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:
Seats are still available for my upcoming Oxford, UK, workshop on women and public speaking. Be The Eloquent Woman will take place on 2 April. The day-long workshop will help you build confidence, content and credibility as a speaker, and help you subvert the expectations that many women face when they speak. Registration also is open for a Be The Eloquent Woman session on May 15 in Washington DC. Please join us!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Famous Speech Friday: Mary Beard on "The Public Voice of Women"

I'm speaking in London next week about women and public speaking for the Fabian Women's Network at the House of Commons of Parliament. And I have this speech by classics professor Mary Beard ringing in my ears as I prepare for that event. Delivered earlier this month at the British Museum, it starts with a bang: "I want to start very near the beginning of the tradition of Western literature, and its first recorded example of a man telling a woman to ‘shut up’; telling her that her voice was not to be heard in public. I’m thinking of a moment immortalised at the start of the Odyssey."

Beard, who makes an art form of bringing ancient history alive, does so here by connecting the dots between the ancients and the way we silence women in modern boardrooms and the halls of parliaments and congresses even today. She notes, correctly, that public speaking and rhetoric are almost by definition, set to male standards:
What I want to underline here is that this is not the peculiar ideology of some distant culture. Distant in time it may be. But this is the tradition of gendered speaking – and the theorising of gendered speaking – of which we are still, directly or more often indirectly, the heirs....we're not simply the victims or dupes of our classical inheritance, but classical traditions have provided us with a powerful template for thinking about public speech, and for deciding what counts as good oratory or bad, persuasive or not, and whose speech is to be given space to be heard. And gender is obviously an important part of that mix.
Just as I try to do on this blog, Beard points out that many of the most famous women speakers were exceptions in their day, and the most famous of all--such as speeches by Queen Elizabeth I or Sojourner Truth--were not actually their words at all, rewritten by others later on to convey their own messages. And, she wryly points out, even this speech of hers falls into the "acceptable" category of women's public speaking, in which they speak about the lot of women.

She also pushes the listener to think about the authority we give to male speakers, and why we continue to take it away from women who speak, by talking over them, objecting to the sound of women's voices, or cutting them off so they can't continue to speak. Women's voices are described as whining or strident or whingeing. She draws the distinction in terms of speaker credibility and authority:
Do those words matter? Of course they do, because they underpin an idiom that acts to remove the authority, the force, even the humour from what women have to say. It’s an idiom that effectively repositions women back into the domestic sphere (people ‘whinge’ over things like the washing up); it trivialises their words, or it ‘re-privatises’ them. Contrast the ‘deep-voiced’ man with all the connotations of profundity that the simple word ‘deep’ brings. It is still the case that when listeners hear a female voice, they don’t hear a voice that connotes authority; or rather they have not learned how to hear authority in it...
This speech got a lot of attention, and continues to do so. What can you learn from it?
  • Don't settle for a simple argument: Whether she's talking about ancient Greeks or Internet trolls, Beard refuses to settle for a "simple" argument of misogyny, accurate though it may be in describing how women are often silenced. Instead, she pushes the audience's thinking, concluding that "we need to go back to some first principles about the nature of spoken authority, about what constitutes it, and how we have learned to hear authority where we do. And rather than push women into voice training classes to get a nice, deep, husky and entirely artificial tone, we should be thinking more about the faultlines and fractures that underlie dominant male discourse. Don't be afraid to tackle similarly complex discussions and avoid the simple answers when you speak.
  • Get right to the point: I love a speaker who avoids what we euphemistically call "throat-clearing" in their speeches, and jump right in, giving clear notice of where we all are headed. Beard's first line does that very well, leaving no doubt where she's headed--yet because few people today are familiar with the mentions of women in history she is describing, there's yet some mystery to draw the listener in. Make your starts just as provocative.
  • Don't feel like you have to be the all-seeing, all-knowing expert: Beard notes that she has no practical solutions for women today--but she does know how to describe what women are looking for: "How do I get my point heard? How do I get it noticed? How do I get to belong in the discussion? I’m sure it’s something some men feel too but if there’s one thing that we know bonds women of all backgrounds, of all political colours, in all kinds of business and profession, it’s the classic experience of the failed intervention; you’re at a meeting, you make a point, then a short silence follows, and after a few awkward seconds some man picks up where he had just left off: ‘What I was saying was …’ You might as well never have opened your mouth, and you end up blaming both yourself and the men whose exclusive club the discussion appears to be." Sometimes, when no solution is in sight, the best thing a speaker can do is delineate the issue in real terms.
The London Review of Books, where Beard is classics editor, kindly published the full text of this speech with a podcast embedded, so you may listen and read along. There's just a snippet of publicly shareable video available, embedded below for you, and there's one more clip on the BBC website. (It was too much to hope, I suppose, that the full video might be shared of a woman speaking about women and speaking.) What do you think of this famous speech?


(University of Cambridge photo)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Take it from TED: "Giving a good talk is highly coachable"

Lots of speakers wonder whether coaching for an everyday presentation, TED talk or big speech really helps. As a speaker who's had coaching herself to keep her chef's knife sharp, so to speak, and as a coach and trainer for other speakers, I can relate. It's tough to see the outcome, particularly when you know your own foibles, stumbling blocks and bad habits. How can you possibly get past them to give the talk of your life?

I believe in you, but now you don't need to take it from me alone. TED curator Chris Anderson, writing in Harvard Business Review, talks about an unlikely, unpolished speaker with a killer story, and uses that example to put across something I hope you'll take to heart: "Giving a good talk is highly coachable. In a matter of hours, a speaker’s content and delivery can be transformed from muddled to mesmerizing."


The good news: Your goal is to be authentic, not a robot. Far from turning you into someone you won't recognize, good speaker coaching helps you figure out how to succeed as a presenter while retaining the qualities that make you unique and special--the very thing audiences crave.

Read Anderson's post--it's a long and thorough look at the steps you need to take to create a great talk, from framing your story and considering delivery and stage presence, to where and when to use slides, gestures, eye contact and more. He even talks about going through the process of giving a TED talk himself, after curating the conference for years.

This year's TED conference started on Monday--but you don't need to aim for TED to give the talk or presentation of your life or career. Email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com to find out about coaching or training to help you reach your public speaking goals. I'd be glad to help you learn the tactics and skills that I've used to help TEDMED and TEDx speakers, corporate presenters, keynote speakers and more. I can work with individuals by Skype, phone or in person and also work with groups, bringing workshops to your city, workplace or conference. Let's get you to mesmerizing.

On May 15, I'll be convening another session of Be The Eloquent Woman in Washington, DC. It's a subversive new workshop that helps women executives and public officials learn how women speakers are perceived and how to turn those expectations on their heads with confidence, content and credibility. You can grab a sweet discount by registering by April 11. Go here to read how the first workshop went and what participants had to say.

Monday, March 17, 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 recorder, in every sense: In Amplifying Voices, a female conference scribe says, "When every speaker on stage is a white guy, doing sketchnotes of what they're saying looks like betrayal."
  • Getting women on the program: The Articulate network on Lanyrd, a social media site for conference attendees and speakers, hopes to raise the visibility of women speakers in the tech and creative industries.
  • Your real audience: The great Rosabeth Moss Kanter writes in Harvard Business Review about every leader's real audience. Wise words to keep in mind.
  • Practicing with notes? This article suggests you erase your notes to remember them better. Anyone brave enough to try this?
  • Workshops coming: I'm leading two more sessions of Be The Eloquent Woman, my one-day workshop to help you subvert expectations of women speakers with content, confidence and credibility: In Oxford, UK, on 2 April, and in Washington, DC, on 15 May. Register at the links and grab a discount in DC if you register by 11 April.
  • About the quote: If there's a theme song for The Eloquent Woman, it might be Sara Bareilles's Brave.This piece of the lyric is on our Pinterest board of great quotes by eloquent women.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Famous Speech Friday: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's SB1062 veto

In February, the Arizona legislature passed the controversial SB 1062 bill, an expansion of a 1999 Arizona law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The bill's backers said it would protect the rights of individuals to refuse service based on religious grounds. But it was widely held by civil rights and business leaders to be a broadly written law that would lead to discrimination based on religious beliefs, particularly against LGBT individuals.

By the time the bill reached Arizona Governor Jan Brewer for her signature or veto, the debate over the bill had gone national and become increasingly vitriolic. Significantly for the Republican governor, Brewer was pressured to veto the bill by several leaders in her own party, from the national level as well as in the state. She was also hearing it in both ears from Arizona businesses terrified that the National Football League might make good on its threat to pull the extremely lucrative 2015 Super Bowl out of the state if the law was enacted.

Under this intense spotlight, Brewer gave what may have been the speech of her career as she announced her veto of the bill. It's quite a short speech, and it isn't delivered in the most compelling manner. Brewer is not known as a dynamic public speaker, and on this occasion, she spoke mostly from her prepared script with her head down. But the speech itself is powerful and clear and exactly what the moment called for. Here's what you can learn from it:
  • You have a job to do when you give a speech. This sounds like an easy enough idea, but speakers sometimes take the podium without a clear sense of what they want or need to accomplish in the time they have allotted. Brewer lays out her points here in a precise and economical fashion. This crisp accounting makes the governor appear as if she has taken the time to sort through the controversy and narrowed her focus to address only the critical issues.
  • Your word choice matters. In The New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg has a nearly line-by-line analysis of the speech that is an excellent read. There's plenty of political nuance in the speech that he catches, but he also notes the places where a word or two creates that nuance. For instance, there's the place where Brewer says that the bill purports to solve the problems of religious liberty. As Hertzberg points out, it's a fairly loaded word that allows her to comment on the intent of the legislators behind the bill. Speechwriters--and anyone who has labored to craft a speech--will especially appreciate this lookback at the wording.
  • If you can't make everyone happy, make everyone heard. Brewer is a polarizing political figure in Arizona and throughout the U.S. (It's hard not to get tagged as such when cameras capture you wagging a finger in the president's face.) So how did she manage to pull off a speech that drove straight up the middle on this issue? I think part of her success came from pairing statements in a way that allowed her to acknowledge differing viewpoints. The most widely played sound bite from the speech is this pairing:
Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value.
So is nondiscrimination.
The speech itself is much more tuned to the middle than her official veto letter, by the way, which had much more to offer to proponents of the bill.

Here's the video of Brewer announcing her veto. How do you think she did with this famous speech?

(Arizonan freelance writer Becky Ham contributed this Famous Speech Friday post.)

Seats are still available for my upcoming Oxford, UK, workshop on women and public speaking. Be The Eloquent Woman will take place on 2 April. 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 this unique professional development session!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Inside Voice: Speechwriter Amélie Crosson-Gooderham

(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 introduce you to Amélie Crosson-Gooderham, a senior analyst and speechwriter at the Bank of Canada. She was among the speakers I chaired at the September 2013 European Speechwriter Network conference in Brussels. A Canadian-American speechwriter, she writes speeches in both French and English as part of her work, and has written for parliamentarians, prime ministers, central bankers and astronauts. As you'll see, she pays as much attention to the audience as to the speaker when she is crafting a speech. Enjoy her good advice!)

Where did you get your storytelling chops? (aka, skills)

I’m not sure where I got them, but I can tell you that I developed them by looking for every single opportunity to write and show people that I could write--think Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour theory. By volunteering to hold the pen for a political letter-writing campaign I made connections with a P.R. company that later hired me for contracts. By writing (for free) for my community newspaper, I attracted more than one job offer from executives in my neighbourhood. My first big professional promotion was a direct result of volunteer writing--a funny piece I wrote for an employee newsletter which gave me lots of positive attention and catapulted me to the executive suite. 

What are the most important parts of a story, for a public speaker?

You need to make the story real for the people who are listening. It means taking abstract or general statements and making them specific. So instead of saying, “the job market is hard for young graduates today,” say, “Jackie, who graduated with a 4.0 in physics, has to settle for being a barrista until the job market turns around.” The audience can visualize a person living a real situation, rather than a fuzzy statement. You can go even farther and make the story real for the audience by including them. Simply ask, “How many of you out there are recent graduates? Raise your hand. Now keep your hand up if you’re working in the job you just spent four years preparing for.” 

Another trick to make the story real for listeners in the room, if you are presenting any kind of statistics or numbers, is to express them in relation to the size to the audience or the population of the city where you are speaking. So you could say, “Every five minutes, 300 women, as many as there are people in this room, die in childbirth.” Or “Around the world 3.1 million children die of malnutrition every year—twice the entire population of Montreal.” 

What's something you wish more speakers would include in their storytelling?

People! Speeches without people are boring—they’re just words. So instead of, “I travelled around the country meeting folks and I found out how much our new flexible work hours are making a difference …” say, “I travelled around the country and had an opportunity to meet extraordinary people, including a young Dad in Toronto, who is able to pick his kids up after school thanks to our new flexible work hours...”

What's something you wish more speakers would leave out of their storytelling?

  • The word “folks.” It’s my pet peeve—sounds patronizing. 
  • Too many numbers. Use them sparingly, only if they pack a punch. 
  • Too many adjectives. Go for verbs. With the right verb your story can take off. 

You write speeches for top executives and political leaders. What does it take to put words in someone else's mouth?

My experience is that top executives and political leaders usually get where they are because they have (most, anyway) a knack for communications. They care deeply about the words that come out of their mouths and will only utter those that they own. The challenge for the speechwriter is to provide them. 

You have to channel the speaker. Get to know everything you can about him or her. Read everything they have written or speeches they have delivered. Recycle favourite expressions that have worked in the past and do the same with their favourite stories.  Keep track of sounds or words they have trouble pronouncing so you can avoid them. Make friends with your thesaurus to find alternatives. Time their speeches so you can plan word counts according to requirements of the event. Find out interesting things about the audience, the venue, or the person introducing your speaker and link your speaker and their stories with the audience. 

Evaluate both the performance and the speech. Attend events to see when the audience starts to fade and check their phones. If you can’t attend, watch a webcast and be brutally critical of the performance (but keep your expressed criticism light and constructive). This way you can coach the speaker and write a better speech the next time.    

What's the difference when you write a speech for yourself?

If I hate it and rip it up there’s only me to start again.

Do you have a favorite speech or talk to which we can point our readers? What is it and why is it your favorite?

This speech is about what it’s like to be a communications professional in the public service and how to face some of the challenges of writing for government. The speech turned into a communicators’ love fest. The Senator delivering the speech was a former journalist and Director of Communications for a Prime Minister. The audience was a large group of government communicators. And the speechwriter also had a background in government and political communications. It was a speech that was an affirmation and made people feel good. 

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 want to give a workshop on yoga and public speaking at a conference where everyone is tired of spending the day listening to people and watching boring PowerPoints. As a soon-to-be-certified yoga teacher, I could lead the group through an easy yoga flow that would benefit both speechwriters and speech givers. The stresses of being a speechwriter (say, when you get a call for changes to a speech less than an hour before an event), can be managed with the calming effects of deep yogic breathing. Yoga also teaches how to be in the moment and focus (helps when figuring out main messages), and that less is more (simplicity is the key to a good speech). And of course, as a coach of speakers, yoga is invaluable. Certain poses help improve posture, delivery, not to mention manage stagefright. People would go away from the session feeling refreshed and invigorated with new approaches to writing and speaking.

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

Pet peeve as a speechwriter:
  • Subject-matter experts who, when asked to fact-check a speech, can’t resist pulling out the red pen. Sometimes they can muck up a speech by insisting on “agreed language” or adding “important background” which, at best will be technical and abstract, at worst, incomprehensible beaurocrateese. 
  • Speakers who discount the importance of the audience—the people in the room—in favour of secondary media coverage. 
As member of the audience the list is longer: 
  • Lack of preparation: For example, not checking out logistics (should the blinds be pulled so that the PowerPoint can be viewed?)
  • A false bill of goods: the title of the speech or presentation says one thing, but the speech is actually about something else. Hmmm. Do I smell leftovers from a previous speaking gig?
  • People who pace back and forth across the stage while they speak like wannabe daytime talk show hosts. I find it distracting.
  • PowerPoints that are too long (see lack of preparation) so the speaker says, “let me just go through these quickly.” Really??
  • Too many acknowledgements at the front end (how many people really need to be thanked? Think Academy Award acceptance speeches. Yikes!)
  • Not paying attention to gender, either on panels or speaking rosters.  It’s not that hard to find women speakers. Just ask. Also, it’s important to pay attention to gender if there is a Q&A after the speech. First come, first served might not be equitable as men tend to be quicker at raising their hands. 
Why is public speaking worth the effort, in your view?

Good public speaking is a form of theatre. Just as theatre in ancient Greece helped instill civic pride, a good speech can help build community. The popularity of TED Talks speaks to our thirst for good stories well told. The trick is to craft a speech that clearly and simply links the audience, the content, and the speaker. Unifying these three points creates a triangle—the strongest of structures, of the architectural and narrative kinds.  

Monday, March 10, 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:

Friday, March 7, 2014

A #WomensHistoryMonth sampler of 28 famous speeches by women

When you have a treasure trove as large as The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Women's Speeches, you can use it as a lens on the topic of women and public speaking. For Women's History Month and International Women's Day (which is tomorrow), I've collected 28 speeches in the Index that occurred 50 years ago or earlier, and the group demonstrates interesting themes in the history of women and speaking.

You'll notice a big gap--nearly 300 years--between the earliest speech in the Index by Queen Elizabeth I in 1588 and Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" speech in 1851, and that's no mistake: For many of those years, women in many cultures were forbidden to speak in public. "History has many themes," wrote Kathleen Hall Jamieson. "One of them is that women should be quiet."

It was still rare for women to speak publicly in the 1800s and the following decades, but more publicly acceptable for them to speak about issues like temperance, slavery and religion. That's what makes some of the Index speeches from this era so remarkable, because they ignored social conventions to speak about lynching, war crimes, free love, anti-war themes, and yes, votes for women, the right that would help women gain authority to speak on other issues. Later in this collection, you'll see women enter new spheres: politics, science, human rights and television. This grouping from The Eloquent Woman Index includes women speakers from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Dip into this collection and share it with other women and girls. Clicking through the links will take you to text, video or audio (where available), along with what you can learn as a public speaker from these famous speeches:

1588: Elizabeth I's speech to the troops at Tilbury, a rare battleground speech by a great queen. We have three versions of it, none of them from her own time, so this one likely was rewritten and it's unlikely she actually said these stirring words.

1851: Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" is moving--but also was rewritten by others after its delivery, including its most famous line.

1866: Clara Barton's Andersonville testimony to the U.S. Congress is bald, gorey and honest on the topic of conditions for prisoners of war, and sparked a rare speaking tour for this battleground nurse in the Civil War.

1871: Victoria Woodhull's "Principles of Social Freedom" was well ahead of its time with its advocacy of free love, as was the speaker, who also ran for president of the United States.

1873: Susan B. Anthony's "Is it a Crime for a U.S. Citizen to Vote?" was a seminal speech in the battle for U.S. women's suffrage.

1909: Ida B. Wells "This Awful Slaughter" came at the first convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, taking on lynching directly at a time when it was rarely spoken of publicly.

1911: Rose Schneiderman's speech on the Triangle fire was itself fiery, a speech about the poor working conditions that led to the deaths of so many women garment workers.

1912: Mother Jones speaks to striking West Virginia miners in her trademark "hell-raiser" style, giving voice to their working conditions. The only reason we have the text is because the mine owners hired a stenographer to take it down, hoping to prove Jones was a violent danger.

1914: Nellie McClung's "Should Men Vote?" tweaked the nose of Canada's male politicians, turning around their words about why women should not get the vote in a funny mock debate that turned the tide for women's votes in that country.

1915: Jutta Bojsen-Møller's victory for votes speech came after Denmark gave the vote to women, summing up the struggle poetically. Great perspective and a great metaphor here.

1916: Helen Keller's "Strike Against War" reflected her pacifist views during World War I, an unpopular stance. And yes, this blind, deaf, nearly mute woman was a public speaker.

1924: Juliette Gordon Low's Girl Scouts speech reflects the changing times of her day, including voting as one of the Scout's civic responsibilities.

1927: Aimee Semple McPherson's "speech in a speakeasy" was on one of the safer topics for women giving speeches. But this early televangelist did anything but play it safe to bring her message to the masses.

1928: Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" lectures took the time to parse why we have so few women writers, let alone speakers. These lectures became an inspiring book.

1903: Annie Oakley's libel cases and courtroom speeches were to defend her reputation, a one-woman effort that turned around a smear campaign.

1913: Emmeline Pankhurst's "Freedom or Death" explained this British suffragist's view of the stakes for women's votes--a more militant and even violent view than that of her U.S. sisters.

1935: Amelia Earhart's "A woman's place in science" brings radio into the picture. She broadcast this talk to encourage women to be consumers, careerists and researchers in the sciences.

1940: Eleanor Roosevelt's convention-saving speech, famous for its phrase "no ordinary time," kept her husband from losing the Democratic nomination, no small feat in this contentious conference.

1943: Dame Enid Lyon's "Strike a Human Heart" speech reflected the unique perspective of Australia's first female parliamentarian.

1949: Eleanor Roosevelt on the UN Declaration on Human Rights shared her life's great work with women college students, and raises the curtain on the endless meetings needed to achieve this diplomatic tour de force.

1950: Margaret Chase Smith's "Declaration of Conscience" was a rare defiance of McCarthyism and communist witch-hunts--delivered on the U.S. Senate floor with Sen. Joseph McCarthy in attendance. A brave and important speech.

1951: Evita Perón's Renunciamento, in which she declined calls for her to become Argentina's vice president, came in the form of a radio address that reflected her personal approach to public speaking.

1962: Frances Perkins on the roots of Social Security was a lookback speech from the first female Secretary of Labor in the U.S., who was present for Rose Schneiderman's Triangle Fire speech, a lasting influence in her own efforts to help the working class.

1962: Jackie Kennedy's televised tour of the White House took a relatively new medium and made it her own. This wasn't just a tour, but a tour de force.

1963: Rachel Carson's "A New Chapter to Silent Spring" brought her message of environmental dangers to the gardeners of America, a major speech given despite her public speaking fears.

1963: Julia Child's "The French Chef" cooking demos took television by storm, giving a woman an unusual platform for extemporaneous speaking-while-demonstrating.

1964: Fannie Lou Hamer's convention committee testimony says out loud what black Americans went through in the struggle for civil rights. Her testimony didn't get her a seat as a convention delegate, but did reach a much wider audience.

1964: Lady Bird Johnson's whistlestop tour took place in town after town before U.S. southerners angry at her husband's signing of the civil rights legislation. Grace under pressure doesn't begin to describe it.
There are many more--and more recent--famous speeches by women in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Women's Speeches, and we add more nearly every week. Please share this unique resource on women and public speaking!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Workshop journal: What happened Friday at 'Be The Eloquent Woman'

I launched a new workshop last week: Be The Eloquent Woman had its debut in my home city of Washington, DC, with a diverse group of women who came from as far away as Panama and as close as down the block.

At the start of the day, I asked everyone to give me one word they thought defined "the eloquent woman." Here's the list from Friday: Confident, succinct, prepared, inspiring, funny, and engaging. Participants were asked to come up with one-word definitions of themselves as speakers, and later, to think about their distinct speaker personalities and how they play a role in the speaking situations they might encounter.

The discussion was just as frank and varied as I'd hoped it would be. After I shared the story of my client whose performance review included the feedback "Your presentations aren't sexy enough," one participant on Friday shared that she'd been told the counterpoint to that by the male chair of a meeting: "Now, I don't want you to be too sexy in your delivery of this presentation." In both cases, that kind of statement subtly shames the woman speaker and silences her. We talked about the historic antecedents for these boardroom statements, antecedents that stretch from the first century in Rome to the present day. The similarities were a little too striking for some, who asked, "That happens even today?" Yes, it does.

When we talked about one of the top myths about women and speaking, that women talk too much and that they talk more than men do, I asked the group what they would do if a man told them they talked too much? "I would think 'I should listen more'," said one. Mission accomplished, with a side dish of making a woman feel bad about herself and her speaking. I also came away with reinforcement of my longstanding sense that most professionals just aren't taught good public speaking or presenting skills. There's a real yearn-to-learn on this topic.

I had three goals for my workshop day this first time out, and I think we hit these marks:
  1. Raise awareness among women speakers of how they are perceived, why that pattern persists from historic times to today, and that they should persist as speakers, anyway.
  2. Share how to use the very real advantages women bring to public speaking to subvert those expectations, as well as practical tools they can use to build confidence and expertise as speakers and presenters.
  3. By the end of the day, make sure participants understand that much of what they dread about speaking has nothing to do with a fault in themselves, but with the external forces they face as speakers--and that they can take control of how they are seen and heard.
As I look back on the day, I'd like to include even more hands-on activity and interaction between the participants--the small size of the group enhanced an exercise we did in which they interviewed and then introduced one another, for example. I'd like to expand an exercise on evaluating your speaker personality, so that every participant leaves with a fuller picture of her strengths and challenges. That will mean adjusting the time I devote to different topics and the materials I use. Everyone in the workshop got a resources email from me with further reading, checklists and tips, and I'll be fine-tuning that offering as well. If you're curious, I used fewer than 10 slides for this workshop, in order to keep it more engaging, although I may consider adding few video clips for future workshops and more inspiration in the form of quotes of women speakers.

Here's what some of the participants in this inaugural workshop had to say at day's end:
  • "Loved the discussion and hearing others ask questions, and doing the exercises on my speaking style. This allowed me to think about aspects of my work I hadn't thought about before."
  • "[Most valuable were] the practical tips on introductions, negotiating fight/flight, the structure of presentations, how to be assertive when someone talks over you or is age/sexist."
  • "Glad I came!!"
  • "The information has given me a renewed enthusiasm for my next talk. I'm feeling back in the driver's seat."
  • "[Most valuable were] the message wardrobe--particularly prepping Q&A and focusing on the questions that you want before the questions that you fear. Also the fountain of information, from historical references to contemporary events and examples from Denise's clients, research and experience."
This workshop also helps me prepare for the April workshop I'm doing in the United Kingdom (details are below), as well as another US session in Washington, DC on May 15. As always, I'm happy to discuss bringing this workshop to your workplace, city or conference. Just email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com to set up a discussion.

Seats are still available for my upcoming Oxford, UK, workshop on women and public speaking. Be The Eloquent Woman will take place on 2 April. 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 this unique professional development session!

Monday, March 3, 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: