Friday, November 28, 2014

Famous Speech Friday: Marie Curie's 1911 Nobel Prize lecture

The Swedish Academy of Sciences described her as a "helpmeet" to her research partner husband when they won her first Nobel Prize. The French Academy of Sciences turned down her membership application solely because she was a woman. The president of the United States praised her as "the noble woman, the unselfish wife, the devoted mother," another example of speeches referring to women mostly as mothers, wives and daughters.

So it's no wonder, really, that when Marie Curie gave her lecture after winning the Nobel Prize for a second time--the first person ever to do so--she made no reference to her gender. Instead, in this second speech, Julie Des Jardins writes, "she paid tribute to her husband but also made clear that her work was independent from his, spelling out their separate contributions and describing the discoveries she had made after his death." Like many women, she found that society wanted to paint her as the mother, as a whore (for having an affair after her husband's death), or as a genderless entity. Perhaps that last option seemed the safest.

If this seems odd to you, please note that, more than a century later in 2014, women academics are still explaining why they must insist on being referred to as "Doctor" or "Professor," to counteract their male students downgrading them to "Mrs.," even when they are not married.

After sharing her first Nobel with her husband and another researcher, the 1911 prize in chemistry was awarded solely to Curie. Her opening lines on this occasion took pains to place her contributions in date order and to claim her coining of the term "radioactive" to describe the new elements:
Some 15 years ago the radiation of uranium was discovered by Henri Becquerel, and two years later the study of this phenomenon was extended to other substances, first by me, and then by Pierre Curie and myself. This study rapidly led us to the discovery of new elements, the radiation of which, while being analogous with that of uranium, was far more intense. All the elements emitting such radiation I have termed radioactive, and the new property of matter revealed in this emission has thus received the name radioactivity. Thanks to this discovery of new, very powerful radioactive substances, particularly radium, the study of radioactivity progressed with marvellous rapidity: Discoveries followed each other in rapid succession, and it was obvious that a new science was in course of development.
Her Nobel Prizes made her the most famous woman in the world, and it's said Curie disliked the publicity that came with that. But when her moment of glory came, she used the lecture--preserved to this day online--to set the record straight about her contributions and research. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Speak for yourself: Throughout her career, others tried to speak for or about Curie, often trying to reshape her story in ways that made her uncomfortable. This speech let her lay claim to her achievements and to do it in a form--a scientific lecture--with which she was most comfortable, and which would establish the value of her work.
  • Add clarity and poetry: The lecture may be tough going in places for the non-scientist, but as scientific lectures go, it's a marvel of clarity. That, too, underscores the validity of her work. As Einstein, a contemporary and friend of Curie, said of scientists, "If you can't explain it to your grandmother, you don't understand it." She points out that radiation "can provide a means of seeking new elements," then, at the very end, describing this new area of science, she calls it "the chemistry of the imponderable." It's poetic license, but makes clear just how much was not yet known and needed to be explored.
  • Set the example: By ignoring her gender, Curie was setting an example for how to talk about her scientific achievements as scientific achievements, not as curiosities done by a helping female. You can do the same, not just in your remarks about yourself, but your introductions, comments and speeches about others.

(Photo of Marie Curie in her chemistry laboratory at the Radium Institute in France, April 1921, from the Nationaal Archief of the Netherlands.)

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Guest post: Live-tweeting my own talk

(Editor's note: My longtime reader and client Cate Huston shared a novel approach to social media as a speaker: She live-tweeted her own speech. As she points out, tweets can be a way of publishing your remarks and making sure they're heard beyond the room, two important advantages for women speakers. Here's how she did it and her analysis of how it went, from a post that appeared on her own blog and is reprinted here with permission. Thanks, Cate!)

The other week, I live tweeted one of my own talks. It’s captured here (thanks Kelsey!). I’ve been live tweeting a lot lately, and when I attend talks I take notes and/or live tweet so this became a natural extension. I’ve noticed a couple of other speakers (Kronda and Jo Miller) using tweets as part of their talks, so I wanted to try it.

I picked this talk because it was a small audience, and a last minute invitation so I was okay with being slightly less polished than usual, and because of the topic. I was talking about what happened at Grace Hopper (GHC) and live tweeting things that other people’s talks, so live tweeting my own seemed fair.

It was a slightly last minute decision, as I was going through my notes I had a thought “what if I do this” and so I didn’t have time to optimise it! I used Jo’s strategy of saving the tweets that I would send out in my drafts folder, and decided to number them at the start (1), (2), etc., so it would be easy for me to see at a glance which one came next. I accidentally tweeted instead of saved one as part of this process, but I quickly copied the text and deleted it so it was OK! I made sure to put my phone on DND mode so that I wouldn’t be distracted by notifications.

The best thing about live tweeting my own talk was that it allowed the reach of that talk to go beyond the small audience in the room. The collection itself has been pretty popular (and it made me very happy that someone had thought my remarks worth collecting!) as well as the individual tweets having good levels of engagement. It’s also nice that the message of this was curated by me – records of women speaking are often imperfect (my friend and amazing speaker coach Denise has been working on this for a long time) and I have been diligent about documenting my own talks in part because of this. One thing that I have done for a while is collect the tweets that happen during my talk into a Storify, it’s always a surprise what people have pulled out, or haven’t. In this case, the people in the room didn’t tweet at all, so if I hadn’t captured it myself there would have been no record, other than my notes (which I will eventually put up in a blogpost).

The drafts section of Twitter for iOS is not really set up well to do this. It was multiple taps to share each tweet. Buffer and “share now” would have been far better, so if I decide to do this again upgrading to Buffer Premium might be a better way to go, or giving my phone to a trusted friend in the audience.

I think I do need to pause more, so I figured taking this time for silence would be a good thing for my audience but I don’t think this worked as I had hoped – rushing to work through the UI to get to the buried drafts folder, scrolling down to the bottom. Not ideal. I know it made me less good at eye contact. It also meant that I was working from two devices – my notes on my iPad, and my tweets on my iPhone. A talk that I’d spent more time preparing and been more familiar with, I could have used the tweets as my prompts and just shared them as I progressed through the talk. I did this talk without slides, and adding those transitions in as well would have been way too much!

The final question that I have to ask myself in a debrief of this – will I do it again? Not in that format, but maybe. I tend to prep a talk really well and reuse it, and I don’t think I would want to live tweet a talk more than once. This particular one was full of tweetable soundbites and timely, my talk on mobile is full of stories and I don’t think it would work as well. Maybe the talks I prep for next year will work better. I’ll either get a friend in the audience to help, or use something like Buffer with a better interface for storing a backlog of tweets and sharing one by one.

Monday, November 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:
  • Missing advice: This TEDx talk by a leadership expert uses a smart hook--revealing advice no one ever gave you. It's a winning way to intrigue an audience, which always should be among your goals. Since it's targeted to women, you get a good example with good advice.
  • Code red: Conference codes of conduct, designed to protect women speakers and attendees from harrassment, don't work without a lot of additional effort, says this organizer.
  • Global speakers need this article on how to tailor your presentation to fit different cultures.
  • About the quote: Good advice for making sure your public speaking self is your authentic self.
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, November 21, 2014

Famous Speech Friday: Ida Tarbell's 1916 "Industrial idealism"

Imagine that you're a prize-winning journalist, one who has brought corporate titans to their knees with your investigations, and whose books are best-sellers. Your name is a household word in America. Your credibility and popularity are high. The speakers' bureau advertising you on the lecture circuit says "there is no name which speaks more eloquently of careful and painstaking research, keen analysis, open mindedness, fairness and constructiveness, than does the name of Ida M. Tarbell."

And then one of the groups you address on that tour describes you as "the woman who talks like a man."

"Tarbell was invited to speak at numerous colleges, clubs and law schools. Members of the Twentieth Century Club were reportedly enthralled to hear 'the woman who talks like a man'," wrote Doris Kearns Goodwin in The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, noting Tarbell's popularity on the speaker circuit after her exposé of Standard Oil. 

Readers of the blog know well that negating the gender and sexuality of women speakers--labeling them as men, as neuters or as androgynes--has been going on since the first century in Rome, and continues to this day. This was a period in American history when few women spoke on the popular public-speaking circuits of the day. When they did speak, they primarily spoke about temperance, anti-war messages, religion or the home. And I'm told by historian friends that Tarbell very well may have appreciated that backhanded compliment. She didn't like it when, as she sometimes put it, her "petticoats" got in the way of her progress. Whether her audience saw it the same way is up for debate.

It's possible Tarbell was influenced as a speaker from her time as a reporter for The Daily Chautauquan, supplement for home study courses based on the Chautauqua Institution, a summer festival of public speakers in New York state that continues today--in a sense, the original TED conference, except with thousands of speakers. It was her first professional writing job, and Tarbell said of it,“I was glad to be useful, for I had grown up with what was called the Chautauqua movement.” She spoke at Chautauqua twice in the summer of 1917, bringing her career full circle as a speaker.

Around 1916, she was on the speaker circuit, represented by the Affiliated Lyceum Bureaus of America, speaking on issues surrounding World War I, with a focus on the home front and her specialty, scrutiny of industrial practices. (Here's a letter to her about her speaker expenses from one of the lyceum bureaus booking her in the midwest.) The back page of this brochure calls the speech "Industrial Idealism," and says Tarbell summed up the situation in America in that day as "A peaceful nation unprepared for peace!"

It's based on The Golden Rule in Business (jump to page 34 at the link), a story from the American Magazine, which she founded and edited. The central idea is that applying the "golden rule" of "do unto others as you would have others do unto you" was being applied as simply "good business" by the heads of "certain industries." It's a look at the advent of worker safety as a new assumption in doing business.

The brochure gives us the only text I could find from this speech:
We must organize men and women for labor as if for war. Watch the perfection of the training and the movement of the masses that at this moment are meeting in unspeakable, infernal slaughter in Europe. See how the humblest is fitted to his task. With what ease great bodies wheel, turn, advance, retreat. Consider how, after standing men in line that they may be knocked to pieces, they promptly and scientifically collect such as have escaped, both friend and foe, and (oh, amazing and heart-breaking human logic!) under the safe sign of the cross, tenderly nurse them back to health.
If this can be done for War, should we do less for Peace? 
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Use active verbs to make your speech powerful: "...great bodies wheel, turn, advance, retreat" is a sentence packed with active verbs. Here, Tarbell's experience as a writer came in handy, but you can get the same effect by editing your speech drafts to eliminate "to be" and other passive verb constructions. Many speakers fall into passive constructions as a way of hedging their opinions, and the result is a speech without opinions, but also lacking in power and impact.
  • Give your audience invisible visuals and a piece of the action: Tarbell's descriptions bring alive the fields of war in Europe, creating the invisible visuals or pictures in the mind's eye that stay with an audience long after the talk is over. But she doesn't just describe the aspects of war that work in peacetime--she puts the audience into the action, urging listeners to "watch...see...consider" and play an active if imaginary role in the story she's telling. It's a good persuasive technique as well.
  • Use questions to press your argument: A time-honored tool of rhetoric is the rhetorical question. By asking "If this can be done for War, should we do less for Peace?" Tarbell is challenging her audience with her own contention and opinion, and using the question to press it forward. She does so in part because her premise--that workers deserve safety, and that it helps business--was one met with skepticism by workers and industrialists alike. 
I wish I had a full text or audio for this speech, but you can read a draft commencement speech from this era found among her papers, intended for the class of 1913 at Allegheny College. I'm delighted that Allegheny College, the Chautauqua Daily and the University of Iowa Libraries could make available the documents about her speaking tour, giving us a fuller picture of the early 20th century lecture circuit and Tarbell's speaking.

(Images copyrighted by The University of Iowa. Used by permission.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ask not what your TED video can do for you. Ask what you can do...

Many speakers salivate at the thought of having a video of themselves delivering a TED talk, the thing that lives online long after your actual talk is done. I've written before about the many things you can do with that video, whether you're speaking at TED, TED Global, TEDMED, or one of the many thousands of TEDx conferences around the globe.

But first, do us all a favor, and ask not what your TED video can do for you. Ask what you can do for your TED video.

Planning how your talk will work on video is an often-missed step in the prep for a TED talk.  I've coached nearly 100 speakers for TED talks, primarily as the coach for TEDMED as well as for TEDx conferences around the world, and I always incorporate coaching about the eventual video along with coaching for the speaker's impact with the live audience.

But TED isn't the only conference recording and sharing video of speakers, as more organizations look for high-quality content to share online. Understanding how your talk will play in the hall and beyond it has become a new standard for public speakers. Here's what I advise speakers to do to yield a better video for TED talks--or any talks:
  1. Don't blend into the background: Ask your organizers about the color of the background against which you'll be speaking, then go for contrast. Many, if not most, TED conferences have a dark background, so that smart black suit you want to wear won't help you stand out. Put some saturated color, like a French blue or other jewel tone close to your face and torso, since pastels will wash out under the bright lights; that pale blue shirt will read almost white on video. Be careful with red: On video, a red jacket tends to look as if it's bleeding, or disintegrating, at the edges. If you will wear jewelry, make it larger, rather than small, jewelry--a statement necklace, rather than a small chain necklace, for example. 
  2. Make yourself easy to light: An all-black outfit also means that any detail on your clothes--beautiful stitching or pleating, for example--won't show up well on camera. And avoid a pure white, which will always draw the camera's eye more than any other color, making it especially difficult to light. If your outfit is all white, please make sure you report to the lighting director in advance, so she can plan for you. 
  3. Avoid inadvertent noise from accessories: If you're wearing earrings, bring alternatives with you and consult with the audio technician about whether your earrings will make noise close to the microphone. You also can remove the earring closest to the mic during your talk. In the same vein, avoid touching your necklace or wearing noisy bracelets, and if your hair is long and hanging near the mic, ask the technician to adjust it. While you're at it, think through any noise your props make, and what that will do in the video. Ask for a consult if you're not sure.
  4. Slow down: That microphone is your friend, but there's one thing it can't do: Help us understand you when you go too fast. Pause more than you think you should, and put two silent beats in between your sentences or the items in a list. We'll hear you much better if you pace yourself. And pausing after a mistake, then continuing, lets the video editor work magic later on.
  5. Don't vocalize or gesture for the back of the house: One of the biggest misunderstandings in TED talk delivery happens when speakers think they need to be more theatrical, projecting loudly for the people sitting in the back of the theatre, or gesturing more broadly or frequently to get their points across. In fact, there's no need for loudness or large gestures. You can be as quiet as you wish, and let the audio and video technicians do their job and make you heard and seen, in the hall and on the video. 
  6. Allow for close-ups: There's one more big disadvantage to large gestures and lots of moving around: If that's all you do, the camera will have to pull back to encompass your motion, and you won't get a close-up. You don't need to move all over the classic TED "red dot" carpet, a 12-foot circle. Just take a step or two and stop, or shift your weight, or stand in place.
  7. Alert the crew to special props, big moves or other unusual moments: If you're going to swing something at the end of a rope, toss things into the audience, move a big piece of equipment or a large prop on stage, do start working with the organizers and crew well in advance, so they know what you are planning and when it will occur. Provide them with a script marked with your big moves, prop use and other cues, so they can plan appropriately.
  8. Give the camera a chance to capture your first words: Rather than start talking as you walk toward center stage, emerge silently, center yourself on the spot where you want to begin, shut your mouth, breathe through your nose, and smile at the audience for a few moments. Then begin speaking. You'll calm yourself, connect with the audience, and most important, give the camera operator a moment in which to focus on you and establish a shot that captures your first words. Doing anything else is the video equivalent of swallowing your words. You only get one chance for the video to capture your first words, so don't waste it.
  9. Then jump right into the start of your talk: Many speakers routinely begin their talks with what speaker coaches call "throat-clearing," those thank-yous and nice-to-be-heres that don't add content but help the speaker get comfortable. The TED tradition is to jump right into your talk instead. You don't need to introduce yourself or thank anyone, and in fact, TED will edit such comments out of your video, anyway. So why bother?
  10. Don't worry about angles: You may want to turn to different parts of the audience during your talk, but at TED or TEDMED, most of the time, there will be multiple cameras capturing multiple angles for most talks, which means you need not worry about how you face the audience. TEDx conferences will vary in this aspect of video recording, often with just one camera. Ask the organizers if you are not sure. Whether there's one camera or many, you don't need to look directly at the camera--just talk to the audience and let the camera capture that connection.
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Monday, November 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:
  • The storytelling magnet: Why are we drawn to stories? Find out in The psychological comforts of storytelling.
  • Sage advice: Advice for my younger self, by an entrepreneur, notes, "I would urge my younger self to seek professional speaker training much earlier in her career. The benefits would have been huge."
  • For tech speakers: Two women in tech have started a newsletter, Technically Speaking, that has already featured The Eloquent Woman. In addition to news and tips on public speaking, they include calls for papers from conferences with codes of conduct.
  • News, here: Speaking of newsletters, have you signed up for my free monthly newsletter, Speakers & Communicators?
  • About the quote: Franklin Roosevelt's (of course) brief advice for public speakers.
I'm taking bookings for 1:1 coaching and group training in public speaking, presenting, and media interview skills for 2015. How can we work together? Email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Famous Speech Friday: Sarah Weddington's Roe v. Wade arguments

"In Texas, the woman is the victim."

I don't know what you were or are doing at age 26, but your to-do list likely didn't include arguing landmark cases before the Supreme Court of the United States. Yet it was at that age that attorney Sarah Weddington delivered the successful argument in Roe v. Wade, the case that legalized abortion in the United States. Her focus was to describe the ways that the law forbidding abortions in her home state of Texas turned women into victims, rather than protecting them.

Weddington, who'd had an abortion herself in 1967, joined a group of University of Texas graduate students looking for a case to challenge the anti-abortion law after her own graduation from law school--doing so, in part, because she found it difficult to find work at a law firm, a common issue for women attorneys in that era. She argued the case before a district court, and that ruling was appealed by the state, which put the case before the U.S. Supreme Court and its all-male roster of justices.

She argued the case in two sessions, one in 1971 and another in 1972. In an interview almost 30 years later, Weddington recalled the day she made the argument at the court. Just as any speaker might, she talks about the moments before she began to speak--except that this high-stakes setting had unusual pressure behind it:
I'll never forget the morning of oral arguments. I got up really early and headed over to put the last touches on my argument. There was a sense of majesty, walking up those stairs, my steps echoing on the marble. I went to the lawyers' lounge — to go over my argument. I wanted to make a last stop before I went in — but there was no ladies' room in the lawyer's lounge. I think they just put one in a few years ago. When you get to your seat in this beautiful courtroom, there is a handmade goose quill pen waiting for you at your seat. Then the clerk comes out and announces the Justices, who come in through a velvet curtain. The courtroom was packed; the pressroom was packed. Every seat was filled.
Today, we debate and wonder about work-life balance, but in 1972, women had starker choices and fewer rights. Part of Weddington's strategy was to enumerate those limits on women early in her argument:
For example, in our State there are many schools where a woman is forced to quit if she becomes pregnant. 
In the City of Austin that is true. 
A woman, if she becomes pregnant, and is in high school, must drop out of regular education process. 
And that's true of some colleges in our State. 
In the matter of employment, she often is forced to quit at an early point in her pregnancy.She has no provision for maternity leave. 
She cannot get unemployment compensation under our laws, because the laws hold that she is not eligible for employment, being pregnant, and therefore is eligible for no unemployment compensation. 
At the same time, she can get no welfare to help her at a time but she has no unemployment compensation and she's not eligible for any help in getting a job to provide for herself. 
There is no duty for employers to rehire women if they must drop out to carry a pregnancy to term. 
And, of course, this is especially hard on the many women in Texas who are heads of their own households and must provide for their already existing children. 
And, obviously, the responsibility of raising a child is a most serious one, and at times an emotional investment that must be made, cannot be denied. 
So, a pregnancy to a woman is perhaps one of the most determinative aspects of her life. 
It disrupts her body. 
It disrupts her education. 
It disrupts her employment. 
And it often disrupts her entire family life.
The Supreme Court's decision was a groundbreaking one for American women, and it has been argued about and protested ever since. Our focus here is on public speaking, so let's consider what you can learn from this famous speech, whether you agree with the outcome or have a different view:
  • Big ideas don't need big words: It would be difficult to name another issue with the same level of controversy swirling around it in America, then and now. Rather than aim for flowery or complex arguments, Weddington uses the simplest of words to describe the law's impact on the women of Texas, even when she is describing medical procedures. Making your case persuasive doesn't require multi-syllabic words, lots of adjectives or other complicated constructions.
  • Before power brokers, be direct: Of course, attorneys before the highest court in the United States follow a protocol, but this argument benefits from its direct approach to laying the case before the justices for consideration. For one thing, it didn't waste the justice's time with unnecessary flourishes. Good research helped here, but so did the structure Weddington followed, just as simple as her choice of words.
  • Use rhetorical devices for effect: The sentences quoted above that begin with "It disrupts her..." are the rhetorical device called anaphora, a repetition that comes at the beginning of a series of sentences. It's commonly used for emphasis and intensity, and the repetitive phrase not only is an audible clue to the listener that there's a pattern to follow, but that each of the words that differs is important. Here, that would mean body, education, employment and family life are emphasized. Taking the time to use rhetorical devices can add power and pacing to your speeches.
  • Don't underestimate your ability based on your age: That applies whether you are young or old, or thought to be too young or too old to tackle a big speaking task. Weddington went on to become a  state legislator, a law professor, founder of leadership institute, and the holder of many honorary degrees. But when she made this landmark argument, she was an unemployed 26-year-old law school graduate. Do I make my case?
You can read more about Weddington and the argument she made in her book, A Question of Choice. There's no video, of course, of this famous and long argument, but we are fortunate that The Oyez Project, a multimedia archive of U.S. Supreme Court Cases, has audio files and a two-part transcript of the argument so you can hear Sarah Weddington for yourself.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Speaking pace off to the races? How to plan your speaking speed

I've been coaching more than 50 speakers 1:1 this autumn. Some have been getting ready for big conferences, like TEDMED or TEDx conferences. Others are part of national programs that want every project to field a speaker for a short talk at a conference, sometimes a Shark Tank-style pitch or a TED-quality talk, often no more than five minutes each. No matter what talks they have ahead, I've found myself saying two words more than any others in our 1:1 coaching sessions.

Slow. Down.

Speed trips up many a speaker because you may be speeding up unconsciously. Often, speakers I work with know that they are speaking too fast only because they've been criticized for it in the workplace. I've shared practical tips on how to hit the brakes when you're speaking too fast. But you'll do even better at pacing yourself if you take the time to analyze your speaking speed, understand why it is so fast, and plan your speech or presentation so you set the pace. Do any of these needs for speed sound familiar?
  • Driving blind: If you've given a particular presentation many times, you may unconsciously speed up in the sections you've memorized completely. We can tell because your voice changes in timbre, tone and pace, often going decidedly higher and faster. It's worth getting a friend to record video of the next time you deliver the talk, so you can watch and listen for this. Where does it occur? Practice those sections in slower pacing until you correct the problem.
  • No roadmap: I can't count high enough to tell you the number of speakers I've met who write out everything they wish to say and then are shocked to be told they're overtime. A better way to plan for time is to use the speechwriter's rule of thumb, 120 words per minute. You may, in fact, wind up speaking faster or slower than this average number, but it's a useful planning tool. Writing your remarks to this mark--for a five-minute talk, that's just 600 words--will leave you plenty of time to pause for effect, get laughs and applause, and not feel rushed.
  • Following the wrong pace car: Sometimes fast talking is the result of nervousness, but let me assure you, your pace need not keep up with your heart rate. Better to pause, breathe through your nose, smile at the audience and then move on. Inserting pauses at the ends of sentences and after every item in a list will go a long way toward slowing you down appropriately.
  • Too many people in the car: I have actually watched people get on a stage and cram 20 minutes' worth of information into five minutes, and the entire audience was either wincing or angry by the end of the five minutes. Jamming too much into a speech, and deciding that a pedal-to-the-metal approach will allow you to do that, is fatal for speakers. I've seen people standing for elections ruin their chances that day and for all time with this tactic. You may have a more benevolent reason--"this is my only chance to speak so I have to put everything in"--but the effect will be the same. Save those gems for a future talk and slow down today, so you get the chance to speak again.
  • Comprehensive insurance: If you're speaking English to people for whom it's not their first language, you'll need to slow down for comprehension. But that's also true for English-speaking audiences, if you go too fast and your topic, ideas, or thoughts are unfamiliar or are highly technical. Speed can wreck your audience's ability to understand you, and if that happens, why bother speaking?
Pauses are golden in speeches, and too few speakers use them to effect. Audiences don't perceive pauses as long stretches of empty space, because they need that time for the big thoughts you're saying to sink in and take hold. They're never as long as you, the speaker, think they are.

Here's a great example of what pauses can add to your talk: Physician Resa Lewiss spoke recently at TEDMED about point-of-care ultrasound, an old technology with a new application. Listen to her pauses, which come at critical moments, such as during dramatic descriptions; while speaking of serious moments, like near-death experiences; when enumerating the items in a list; and when underscoring her take-away points. This talk is just about 6 minutes in length, but feels luxurious, calm, and comprehensive, a testimony to how much you can pack into a short time frame when you slow down.



If you want to plan your pace before your talk, recording yourself on audio or video are the best ways to check your speed. Once you've listened with care, mark up your script to include pauses where you need them, and re-record your best reading of that pause-button version. Then listen to it over and over to get the pacing straight. Your speech or presentation--and you--will have more impact.

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. 

Monday, November 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:
  • Are you in um territory? A new map of the U.S. shows whether you live in "um" or "uh" territory.
  • Rhetorical reminder: If you're not a speechwriting pro, you might think writing a speech is like writing an essay. Harvard Business Review reminds you it's not.
  • Self-talk reminder: Seth Godin shares another good reminder for speakers: Forgive yourself and keep trying.
  • Father-daughter speaking: My speaker coach colleague Alan Barker writes about the speechwriting conference we attended in Amsterdam, while his daughter Imogen Barker writes about attending my 'Be The Eloquent Woman' workshop at the same meeting in this joint post. Her feedback? "The only thing that would have bettered the training session would have been to make it longer! We had a full day, but we only scratched the surface. And we all left more knowledgable, informed and empowered."
  • Vote for this: If you voted in the American elections last week, the way was paved by Susan B. Anthony, who cast a defiant and illegal vote as a woman in 1872. Read our Famous Speech Friday post on the speech she used to make her case, "Is it a crime for a U.S. citizen to vote?"
  • About the quote: Kerry Washington puts her finger on why women turn down speaking opportunities. From our Pinterest board of great quotes by eloquent women.
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Friday, November 7, 2014

10 famous speeches by women about war

As Remembrance Day and Veterans Day draw near, you'll be hearing plenty of speeches about war and service. But if you think women's speeches about war are mostly the views of mothers sending their sons to battle, think again. This collection from The Eloquent Woman Index includes the perspectives of heads of state, journalists, activists, diplomats and a nurse, and they speak unflinchingly of the impact of war, from the treatment of prisoners and post-war disability to what defeat can teach us. It's another international collection, and an historic one, going back to the 16th century and into the 21st.

Click through on any speech below to find, where available, text, audio or video. Every post includes lessons you can learn as a speaker from these famous speeches:
  1. Marie Colvin's eulogy for fallen war correspondents came from a knowing source, as she herself made that her career. It's poignant to read now, as Colvin was killed in Syria just before she was to return home. A unique look at what it's like to live and work in war zones.
  2. Helen Keller's "Strike Against War" speech, nearly a century old, aimed at keeping the U.S. out of World War I. 
  3. Phyllis Rodriguez and Aicha el-Wafi on forgiveness after 9/11 is a TED talk given by a pair of activists who share an unusual motherhood tie: One had a son who died in the World Trade Center attack, while the other's son is serving a life sentence for having masterminded that attack.
  4. Jeane Kirkpatrick's "Blame America First" was a rare keynote in which a UN ambassador was putting the name of Ronald Reagan into nomination for his second term as U.S. president, and she took a hard line in defending military strikes and peacekeeping missions abroad.
  5. Hillary Clinton's statement on the 9/11 killings of Americans in Libya took place on what she has called her most difficult day as U.S. Secretary of State. Given to State Department employees, it takes the form of a memorial to colleagues.
  6. Elizabeth I's speech to the troops at Tilbury, the oldest speech in the Index so far, aimed to rally the troops--and this brave queen even vowed to follow them into battle. An inspiring, stirring speech.
  7. Coretta Scott King's "10 Commandments on Vietnam" carried forward the mission of her late husband, Martin Luther King, Jr., whose antiwar sentiments were closely tied to his thinking about civil rights.
  8. Princess Diana's speech on the ban on landmines came not long before her death, and reflected the activism she took up after her divorce, a bold and public move for this reluctant speaker. It's a forthright look at the aftermath of war.
  9. Clara Barton's congressional testimony about Andersonville gave an eyewitness account that brings the horrific treatment of prisoners of war in the U.S. Civil War into sharp focus. This testimony led to a speaking tour for Barton at a time when few women gave public speeches.
  10. Julia Gillard commemorated Australia's greatest war defeat in a ceremony at dawn that is as much about that country's character as the battle that defined it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

15 ways I use @evernote for public speaking & coaching speakers

If you read my other blog, don't get caught, on social media and communications, you already know I'm a big fan of using the note-taking program Evernote for business travel, blogging and more. It's also a secret weapon in my coaching of speakers and public speaking workshops, as well as my own public speaking. Here are 15 ways I'm using Evernote for public speaking and coaching speakers:
  1. Special shared notebooks for my coaching clients and my blog: One of my favorite features of Evernote is the ability to create a notebook, fill it with material and share it with my coaching clients. I can publish the notebook and share an Evernote-generated URL so many can have access, or just share it privately with a collaborator. I also share a "Famous Speech Friday" notebook with one of my writers. We both contribute notes to it, and they're accessible to either of us when we're writing those posts. I also collect notes on topics my coaching clients care about--such as resources for introverts--and share those notebooks with clients as a bonus resource.
  2. Recordings of coaching sessions on Skype: When I coach speakers via Skype, an Evernote-compatible app called Callnote can record audio, video or both, and automatically sends the file to Evernote, which can take notes in any format: photo, video, audio, text.
  3. Practice video storage: The same is true when clients record their practice sessions and share them with me in other ways: They all wind up in Evernote, where I can find them easily.
  4. Audio practice: My clients and I use Evernote to read aloud from a text and record it on an audio file. If you create an audio file in this way, you can play it over and over to practice and help you memorize. I did this in London last week, listening to my talk while roaming the city. It works!
  5. Script- and speechwriting: Evernote doesn't just hold text notes, but also is a robust word processor in its own right. I write speeches right in this app, and am easily able to cut and paste from source notes; Evernote's history feature lets me see previous versions, too.
  6. Research for speeches: Whether I'm writing the speech for me or for my clients, I use Evernote's web clipper extension to grab and save articles and other source material that may be useful. I have more than 21,000 notes so far (a number that goes up every day). Using Powerbot for Gmail, or using the unique Evernote email address I was issued, I can send emails and attachments right into Evernote, and I've set up IFTTT (If This, Then That), an automation tool, to auto-send any Gmail I receive with an attachment right into Evernote. Those steps cover all my bases.
  7. Planning for chairing or moderating: If I'm chairing a conference or moderating a panel, it gets its own notebook, in which I put bios of the speakers, information from the organizer, and my own notes and script.
  8. Workshop logistics: I do custom workshops for clients and offer public workshops for which anyone may register. For each one, I keep my scripts; catering menus; logistics information; floor plans, photos and measurements for meeting rooms; hotel and conference center info; registration lists; handouts; and more. 
  9. Photo storage: When I take photos with my phone--say, of a workshop whiteboard with participant inputs, or the team I've just trained--they go into Evernote, either automatically when I use the Evernote mobile app to take the photo, or through my phone's sharing options. The handwritten text is searchable within Evernote, so I can always find what I need.
  10. Receipts and invoicing: Every client has its own notebook, with receipts and invoices among the notes I keep. Using my Doxie scanner, any receipts I scan can be saved to Evernote directly, then emailed from Evernote to submit my expense reports. Evernote includes a spreadsheet function that's great for this purpose.
  11. Location details: If I'm traveling to do a training workshop or coaching session, all my travel info goes into Evernote, from reservations and maps to destination details and transportation info.
  12. Blog post ideas and research: No two ways about it: My blog notebooks are my largest Evernote notebooks. I use the premium pilot version of Feedly to manage my feeds, and it lets me save articles right to Evernote, but I also clip from the web and email fodder for blog posts into Evernote, too. Haven't run out of ideas yet.
  13. Client files: In addition to receipts and invoices, I use Evernote to manage my client relationships, keeping notes on their wishlists and goals; their referrals to others; what we've already covered in coaching; practice sessions; assignments for improvement; and more. 
  14. Audience contacts: I use Evernote premium because it comes with even more storage and robust search capabilities. One of the great features of Evernote lets me take a photo of an audience member wearing her nametag, save it to Evernote, and find it again searching only for the text on her nametag. That way, even if I don't remember her name, I can search by the name of the conference. Genius!
  15. Saving links from Twitter: I've set up IFTTT so that, when I star or favorite a tweet, it gets stored in Evernote. I find lots of useful info on Twitter, from prospective clients to articles and sources.
I've written here about the public speaking book I'm writing in Evernote at present. Want to try Evernote? Use my link and when you sign up for a free account, you'll get a free month of Premium storage.

(Photo courtesy of the International Speechwriters Conference)

Monday, November 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:
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