Thursday, December 31, 2015

Is 2016 your public speaking "year of yes?" Advice from Shonda Rhimes

In this interview on NPR's Fresh Air, TV writer, producer, and show runner Shonda Rhimes explores two words and decisions that can trip up women public speakers: "yes" and "no."

For many women speakers, it's a tough choice. If you say "yes," will you be harrassed, taken advantage of, or gain great publicity? Will your speaking gig "yes" turn into missed time with your kids or at important office meetings, or take from your vacation time? If you say "no," will you be invited back, stay safe but unknown, or miss a great opportunity that you'll regret? And with the dearth of women on conference programs, might we need to look more closely at the reasons women say "yes" and "no" when they are invited to speak?

Rhimes has a new book out, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person, and I've been listening to her read the audiobook. Her sister challenged her to spend a year saying yes to things that were offered to her by pointing out, "You never say yes to anything," and Rhimes, an introvert, had an "aha" moment. Interviewer Terry Gross explored what she'd been saying "no" to, and public speaking is right on the list:
GROSS: Your book is about your year of saying yes because your sister told you that you don't say yes to things. You're always saying no. For example, what were some of the things you were saying no to that your sister thought you should be saying yes to? 
RHIMES: It was almost everything. If I was invited to a movie premiere, if I was invited to a screening, if I was invited to a party, if I was invited to an award show, if I was invited to be on a talk show, if I was invited to give an interview, if I was invited to speak somewhere. It didn't really matter what the invitation was. Sometimes it would just be - an actor would invite me to dinner at their house. I would say, no. It was too much, like, the concept of being out there and socializing and getting out into the world was scary to me, I think. And I hadn't been doing it enough. And I hadn't been out enough. So I'd just been going to work and coming home. And you don't realize how much of a rut you get into. But after 10, 11 years, it becomes a real rut, and you suddenly don't even know how to get back out into the world. 
GROSS: Was it because you were too busy or too uncomfortable? 
RHIMES: I think it's both. I think, first, you're too busy, you know? At first, I was - I always say, like, you don't lose yourself all at once. You sort of do it, you know, like, one no at a time. You start to, you know, decline invitations 'cause you're working too hard. And then you start to decline them because you don't really know everybody that well, and everybody else seems to know everybody really well. And then you start to do it because you haven't been out in so long that you feel uncomfortable. And then you start to do it because being at home feels really good. And then you start to do it because you have no other reference point.
I like that nuanced explanation, since a "no" when said to a speaking invitation typically isn't about just one thing. Later in the interview, she examines why saying "no" works so often. Again, it's entirely relevant to women considering public speaking opportunities:
RHIMES: Saying no really is saying yes to yourself. One of the things that I really had a difficult time with was the ability to say no and was the ability to have the difficult conversations that go with saying no. And figuring out a way to make it possible for me to stand up and advocate for myself in that way was very hard. I literally - I ended up writing myself a little script and putting it on a Post-it note and sticking it to the side of my computer and then reading it aloud whenever I had to give a very difficult no. But I also found it wildly freeing once I started doing it because once you start telling people no - and their reaction always tells you, A, who they are and, B, what situation you're in. You know, if you say no to somebody - you know, somebody asks you for a ton of money and you say no to them and they respond with vitriol and hatred, then you know exactly who they are now and what their relationship is to you. Everything's been defined, and everything's clear. And now you know where you stand. If you are in a negotiation and you say no, either they're going to back away or they're going to give - you know, they're going to give in. You know where you are, and you know where you stand. It becomes a very interesting tool to use, really. It allows you to see things in a different light. And I started thinking of it that way as opposed to thinking of it as something that was going to be dangerous or be hurtful or be scary to do.
There's much more in the book about her fears about speaking, about catastrophizing before a speech, not writing the speech until just before the event, power posing for confidence, what it feels like right before you go on, and processing your fear. Rhimes's first example of facing a speaking fear involves all those details about her commencement speech at Dartmouth, in which she discusses her fears with the audience. (And in the audio version of her book, you'll hear the actual audio from the speech, a nice plus.) Here's how she ends that speech, with great advice for speakers:
And every single time you get a chance?
Stand up in front of people.
Let them see you. Speak. Be heard.
Go ahead and have the dry mouth.
Let your heart beat so, so fast.
Watch everything move in slow motion.
So what?
You what?
You pass out, you die, you poop?
No.
And this is really the only lesson you'll ever need to know ...
You take it in.
You breathe this rare air.
You feel alive.
You be yourself.
You truly finally always be yourself.
If you like that quote, you can find a graphic version of it on our Pinterest board of great quotes by eloquent women.

The book is a real-life look at what it really means to say no, and then yes, to everything--especially everything that makes you scared. In public speaking, I've advised you in both directions,with 7 specific times to turn down a speaking gig as well as urging you not to say "no" if you're wavering. I understand this dichotomy firsthand: I said "no" for two years straight to what turned out to be one of my favorite keynotes ever, finally realizing I needed to say "yes"--and I'm so glad I did. I also know there are many, many reasons women say "no" to speaking gigs, and those "no" votes go far beyond lack of confidence in many cases. But maybe it's time in the new year of 2016 to try your own "year of yes" when it comes to public speaking.

I have a proposal: If you're interested in talking about your "year of yes" specifically in public speaking, head over to The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. I'm starting a discussion there where you can ask questions, share successes, and encourage each other.

Want more inspiration from Rhimes? Check out one of the speeches she said "yes" to in our recent Famous Speech Friday post. It's also included in the book as a speech that fell near the end of her year of yes--and it challenged her in a new way.

Say yes to this stretch goal: I've got two small-group workshops coming up on Creating a TED-quality talk in Washington, DC, in January. Choose the January 14 workshop or the January 28 workshop. All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver it in a group limited to 5 people per workshop. Join us! Today is the last day to register.

Monday, December 28, 2015

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, December 25, 2015

2015's top 10 Famous Speech Friday posts

In 2015, your most-read Famous Speech Friday speeches took place at TED and on television, at awards ceremonies and (figuratively) in an elevator. There were keynotes and knockout hits. They tackle education, work, arts, religion, politics, and women's rights. Only a couple of this year's top 10 came from the past, and one--number one--was given by a man, one of the few in our collection. Read on for your favorite famous speeches by women (or about them):
  1. Jimmy Carter on religion and women speakers was far and away your favorite speech post of 2015. This is a no-holds-barred TEDWomen talk in which the former president speaks frankly about discrimination against women in organized religion--which often involves public speaking.
  2. Elizabeth Warren on The Daily Show in 2009  shared this confident speaker's great moment of fear before her first appearance on the show, recalled as host Jon Stewart announced he was leaving that post.
  3. Maria Klawe on asking for salary increases happened during a controversial on-stage interview with Microsoft's CEO. Reader Cate Huston was there and wrote this guest FSF for us.
  4. Monica Lewinsky at TED 2015 looked back on her early experience with online shaming and bullying, and its impact on her and her family.
  5. Lupita Nyong'o on following your fear was a keynote at a women's conference that started by admitting her fear after accepting the invitation to speak...and much more.
  6. Actor Viola Davis's "Everything should be spoken" could be the philosophy of this blog. Another great speech about the difficulties of women of color in Hollywood, strong and moving.
  7. Katharine Hayhoe's climate change elevator pitch isn't just short. It helps other scientists figure out how to explain the urgency of climate change in language anyone can understand, briefly.
  8. Charlotte Church's lecture on sexism in music addressed an industry group and didn't mince words. Her dramatic, visual, visceral opening is just one factor that made this a great speech.
  9. Huda Shaarawi at the 1944 Arab Feminist Conference shares the inspiring words of an earlier era's leader at the first-ever feminist conference held in the region.
  10. Linda Cliatt-Wayman on fixing broken schools was the talk that closed this year's TEDWomen conference. With. A. Bang.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

2015's top 5 Famous Speech Friday collections

To help you find speeches of interest to you in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women, we've been publishing collections drawn from the Famous Speech Friday posts that make up the Index. Some offer speeches on a particular theme or topic, while other collections focus on the type of speaker, type of speech, or something else they have in common. It's our way of helping readers see the rich array of speeches by women in their interest areas--and now that the Index has reached 200 speeches and counting, the collections make it easier to search and sift through the speeches.

Collections have been a popular form of Famous Speech Friday post, and never more than in 2015. Here are the top 5 most-read FSF collections from the year that's almost over:
  1. For Black History month, 29 famous speeches by black women is far and away the favorite FSF collection this year. 
  2. 12 famous speeches by women on disability features speeches about disability and by women with disabilities, mental and physical. We just don't see enough exposure for these speeches.
  3. 32 historic women's speeches to close Women's History Month collects speeches 50 years old or older, starting in 1588 and stretching to 1964. It's a great short history in its own right.
  4. For Earth Day, 7 environmental speeches by women is a global collection for a global issue, with speakers from France, Kenya, the Marshall Islands, the United Kingdom and the United States.
  5. 9 famous speeches by Indian, Pakistani, and Indian-American women features actors and activists, prime ministers and a CEO, a Nobel laureate and a novel psycho-economist.
Tomorrow, we'll have the most-read individual Famous Speech Friday speeches from 2015. From where I sit, this has been an amazing year for women's speeches. I can't wait to share your favorites.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
I've got two small-group workshops coming up on Creating a TED-quality talk in Washington, DC, in January. Choose the January 14 workshop or the January 28 workshop. All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver it in a group limited to 5 people per workshop. Registration closes soon and seats are filling...

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Eloquent Woman Index hits 200 famous speeches by women!

It took four years, a lot of video-watching, and devoted searching for transcripts and texts, but I can now report that The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women includes 200 speeches.

I decided to start featuring women's speeches when speakers, coaches, and speechwriters started to ask me for examples--because they said they couldn't find them. "Do you have any famous speeches by women more recent than Eleanor Roosevelt?" was a common question, even though she died in the early 1960s. Big collections of top speeches left only a few spots for speaking women--for example, in The Guardian's list of the top 100 speeches of the 20th century, just three were by women, the most recent in the 1980s. Only four women have won Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking, an annual prize established in 1938. I'm happy to turn the tables.

Women have been public speakers for less of our history than have men, but even when there are many women speaking, society often fails to note it or record it. That failure to recognize such a vital achievement is in its own way a form of gender discrimination. When we don't publish, save, note, or record the speeches of women, we are silencing them in another, more permanent way.

For all those reasons, I decided to start my own list. It's not a list of the best speeches by women or by the best-known women, but of famous speeches by women. That seeming nuance allows me to include speeches from non-famous women whose words go viral, as well as prominent women whose speeches have an impact. It also allows me to demonstrate that there are plenty of well-known speeches by women, putting the lie to lists that seem to say "we couldn't find any." Over time, the Index also has become for many a teaching tool, research starting point, and collection of role models and models for various types of speeches, which delights me.

Here's what the Index contains:
  • Speeches from 30 nations around the world, including women's speeches from Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Burma, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Haiti, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Liberia, Macedonia, Malawi, the Marshall Islands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Sweden, Ukraine, the United States, and Wales. I'm always looking to expand the geographic range of this series!
  • Speeches from all sorts of women and girls: The Index rule is that the speech must be famous in some way, not necessarily the speaker. I like the idea of having famous and not-so-famous speakers, so we have students, professors, prime ministers, queens, princesses, presidents, First Ladies, legislators, activists, scientists, engineers, aviators, athletes, actors, musicians, attorneys, judges, journalists, evangelists, cultural observers, comedians, performers, bankers, entrepreneurs, poets, novelists, diplomats, voters, and more. They range in age from teenagers to women in their 90s. They're transgender, lesbian, straight. black, white, Asian, Native American, Pacific Islanders, Hispanic. Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, atheist, agnostic, ministers, nuns, evangelists. Women with abilities and disabilities that are physical and mental. Conservatives and liberals and middle-of-the-road-ers. Speakers from last week, and many centuries ago--and everything in between, if it can be found.
  • A wide range of speech styles and formats: Included under our public speaking umbrella are examples of slide presentations, lectures, high school assembly statements, United Nations speeches, legislative testimony, panel moderation, questions, answers, keynotes, extemporaneous speeches, commencement speeches, spoken-word poetry, legal arguments, courtroom testimony, press conference statements, debates, TED and TEDMED and TEDx and TEDWomen talks, a filibuster, video statements, political convention speeches, maiden speeches in Parliament, retirement speeches, eulogies, tributes, awards acceptance speeches, inaugural speeches, technical demonstrations, on-stage interviews, concession speeches, resignation speeches, labor rally speeches, parody speeches, and more.
We aim for variety over here at The Eloquent Woman, so that you may have role models of many types.

And here are the top 10 Famous Speech Friday posts, so far--the speeches you've looked at the most:
Readers of the blog have contributed in a big way to this collection, sending tips on great or famous speeches, sharing links to video and text, translating non-English texts, contributing guest posts in the Famous Speech Friday, and, in Jennie Poppenger's case, even coming up with the series name. The Index would be poorer without your contributions.

I'm also grateful to guest Famous Speech Friday contributors Claire Duffy, Karoline Henriques, Cate Huston, John Shosky, Janice Tomich, Kate Peters, Walker Wooding, and especially regular Famous Speech Friday contributor Becky Ham. I also am grateful to the many libraries, historical collections, and archives that make it possible for me to find texts and other material. Please, eloquent women, publish your speeches so I -- and others -- can find them.

Finally, please share The Eloquent Woman Index and keep your ideas and suggestions coming.

Need more coaching on how to be a better panel moderator? Order the new ebook The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 and available in many formats, it's a great back-pocket coach to take on stage with you in your smartphone or tablet. Find more tips on public speaking on The Eloquent Woman blog.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Interview: Editors of @techspeakdigest on women speakers in tech

(Editor's note: The Technically Speaking newsletter just celebrated its first anniversary. Editors Chiu-Ki Chan, an independent Android developer with too many side projects, and Cate HustonDirector of Mobile Engineering at Ride and an advisor at Glowforge, curate helpful tips, calls for speaker proposals, and more in their weekly email aimed at helping speakers and wannabe speakers in the tech world. I've been a sponsor of the newsletter, and did a webinar with them, so I asked them to answer a few questions sharing what they've learned from publishing the newsletter.) 

What motivated you to start Technically Speaking?

Chiu-Ki: Cate and I were touring Copenhagen before speaking at ├średev, and chatted about public speaking. We realized that it was not easy to get started, but once we are on the speaking circuit, a lot of information flows our way. We decided that a newsletter is the best channel because it let us share the information in a timely manner, and also serves as a reminder for people to submit to conferences.


Cate: I was actually in Copenhagen because Chiu-Ki had sent me that CfP! We’d had dinner earlier in the year when I was in the bay area, and I’d mentioned I was trying to get started speaking, and she’d started sending me CfPs. This had been so useful to me; the newsletter was a way to scale that. I read (and tweeted) a lot about articles I’d found that helped me as a speaker, so the newsletter packaged what we already did to be the mentor in your inbox each week - yes you have something to say! Here’s some places you might say it, and some resources that might help.

What do you look for when curating information about conferences or for the tips you provide?

Chiu-Ki: We balance three types of content: (1) Information for first-time speakers (2) Pro tips (3) What’s New. Beginners often think they have nothing to share, and we go out of our way to encourage them to write about their experience so others can read and realize they can do it too. We also have experienced speakers and conference organizers on the list, so we want to include advanced techniques for them to improve as well.


Cate: We look for a variety of perspectives, people who are saying something different than the usual public speaking 101. Also not the same people - beginner speakers sharing their experiences are really valuable because they are more accessible to someone who is just getting started than pro tips from international keynoters. The pro tips are also helpful though! From the beginning we’ve worked to include at least 50% content from women, and one thing that’s amazing is how much easier that’s become over time! We also look to include content from other underrepresented groups, although we don’t track that.

Who's reading it?

Cate: Nearly 2K people! We have some dedicated fans who show up to every webinar, which is awesome. A number of conference organizers. A lot of women subscribe, and one thing that’s interesting is they say things like “thanks for everything you do for women speakers”, but there are a good number of men who just tell us “I love your newsletter”. I think it’s because women aren’t used to seeing content that’s for everyone, run by women, considering women as first-class consumers of the content (rather than a special interest group). This makes me sad sometimes, but I’m hopeful that we are changing that. I think we also talk a lot more publically about the kind of support that women need to “succeed” in tech (TS comes up a lot in that context), but almost everyone needs some encouragement to get up on stage.

Describe some of the common questions that come up in your meetups and webinars.
Chiu-ki: What should I talk about? What if people ask me questions I cannot answer? Is it okay to give the same talk multiple times?


Cate: Women ask about harassment a lot, which breaks my heart. This is the post-GG world, where women know that visibility comes with risk but they are unsure how great that risk is, and whether it’s worth taking on.

Do you think there's support in tech for people who want to be speakers? Why or why not? What's missing?

Chiu-ki: Right now conference speaking is seen as time away from work, and it requires a fair bit of negotiation to convince your manager to let you do it. It would be fabulous if companies recognizes its value and encourage people to speak by sending them to conferences on work time (instead of vacation time) and fund their travels. A clear conference policy goes a long way.


Cate: I think giving good talks uses a number of skills that tend to be undervalued amongst engineers, but are actually really important. Presenting information clearly, pulling out important points, being organized and prepared, being able to explain not just what you did, but why. Building a connection with people. I think a lot lately about being a good technical interviewer (I actually gave a talk about this) and guess what? I use a lot of those tactics on stage as well.

What's your top tip for a tech speaker?

Chiu-ki: Bring a bottle of water for your talk. Aim to finish by the end. That forces you to pause and reset when you speak faster and faster.


Cate: Like a good UI, a good talk is built on a grid. Don’t inflict that structure on the audience, but use it to weave a narrative around it. I also use this strategy to make the lengths of my talks flexible.

I've got two small-group workshops coming up on Creating a TED-quality talk in Washington, DC, in January. Choose the January 14 workshop or the January 28 workshop. All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver it in a group limited to 5 people per workshop. Join us! 

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
I've got two small-group workshops coming up on Creating a TED-quality talk in Washington, DC, in January. Choose the January 14 workshop or the January 28 workshop. All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver it in a group limited to 5 people per workshop. Join us! 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Opinion in the VMI Case

This post marks the 200th famous speech by a woman in The Eloquent Woman's Index of Famous Speeches, so it seemed appropriate to honor that milestone with a milestone of a speech and a speaker.

In 1996, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman justice to sit at the Court, delivered the summary majority opinion in United States v. Virginia, sometimes called the VMI case. The landmark opinion opened up the Virginia Military Institute to qualified women, making it the last all-male public university in the United States.

Ginsburg, of course, knew a little something about the barriers of all-male institutions. She was one of nine women in a class of almost 600 students at Harvard Law, and was told by one of the deans there that she was taking the place of a man. Despite being a top student at Harvard and later Columbia Law School, in 1960 Ginsburg was rejected as a potential clerk for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, who said he wasn't ready to work with a woman.

Ginsburg has played a key role in several of the Supreme Court's gender discrimination cases, on topics ranging from equal pay and employment opportunities, sexual harassment at school and in the workplace, and reproductive rights. The VMI case was one of her first majority opinions in the area of women's rights, coming just three years after she was appointed to the Court.

The Supremes don't allow video inside their courtroom, but you can read a transcript and listen to audio of Ginsburg reading the VMI summary majority opinion at the Oyez site. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Say yes when asked to speak! We now know more about the background to this famous speech, thanks to a new book by Linda Hirshman about Ginsburg and her colleague at the Court, Sandra Day O'Connor. In Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World, Hirshman writes that senior member O'Connor generously allowed Ginsburg to write and deliver the majority opinion in this case, in honor of Ginsburg's extensive record in fighting against gender discrimination. In the summary read from the bench, Ginsburg acknowledged this by including a quote from a 1982 O'Connor opinion on sex segregation, noting that states "may not close entrance gates based on fixed notions concerning the roles and abilities of males and females."
  • Speak slowly, and give your audience time to digest your words. Listen to how measured Ginsburg's voice is, and how much of a pause she allows between each idea. Her careful style is a deliberate choice, one that she has cultivated both in classrooms and courtrooms over the years, and in writing and speaking, according to a 2010 interview. Her advice to her law clerks? "Don't write sentences that people will have to re-read. Same is true for public speaking. My effort is to speak so slowly so that ideas could be grasped."
  • Use simple words to have a strong impact. Ginsburg has said that other justices on the Court sometimes get fancy with the rhetoric in their opinions, but it's not a tactic she prefers. "I think some of my colleagues' spicier lines are distracting," she told an NPR reporter earlier this year. "They draw attention away from what the justice is trying to say." You won't find elaborate prose in United States v. Virginia, but Ginsburg makes a few lines soar in their simplicity:
    "Neither federal nor state government acts compatibly with equal protection when a law or official policy denies to women, simply because they are women, full citizenship stature--equal opportunity to aspire, achieve, participate in and contribute to society based on their individual talents and capacities."
We've got our eye on another Ginsburg speech to include somewhere among the next 200 Famous Speech Fridays. Any suggestions for other speeches that should make it into the Eloquent Woman Index? Email them to eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com or tweet to @dontgetcaught on Twitter.

The marvelous freelance writer Becky Ham, a frequent contributor, got us to the 200 mark on The Eloquent Woman Index with this fine post.

(Photo by Supreme Court of the United States)

I've got two small-group workshops coming up on Creating a TED-quality talk in Washington, DC, in January. Choose the January 14 workshop or the January 28 workshop. All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver it in a group limited to 5 people per workshop. Join us! You get the best discount if you register by October 30, 2015.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Let's take the "bitch" out of "resting bitch face:" About not smiling

Aside from slowing down, smiling is something I'm always trying to get speakers to do when I'm coaching them.

The benefits of smiling are many for public speakers. Smiling signals your brain to release helpful chemicals that make you feel good and reduce your stress--why wouldn't we want that?--and audiences like to see a welcoming smile on the speaker's face. But there's an even more important function that smiling tackles for you: It counteracts that natural tendency of most people's mouths to flat-line or turn down slightly when your face is at rest. \

In other words, smiling is the antidote to what most people these days call "resting bitch face."  But the world seems to notice only when women aren't smiling, and ignores the same tendency in men's faces. But everyone, male and female, does it: When I video-record speakers in practice and ask them to look "professional and neutral," resting bitch face is generally what results.

The New York Times article I'm not mad. That's just my RBF quotes women who say they use "resting bitch face" to look authoritative, neutral, pensive and more, particularly in meetings. The article also notes that "Stop telling women to smile" is a slogan of the anti-street harrassment movement. And it shares this gem: "The country star Kacey Musgraves recently helped Buzzfeed create a list of 17 more accurate names for RBF (among them, Resting “this wouldn’t bother you if I was a guy” face)." Alarmingly, it notes that women are seeking help from plastic surgeons to "correct" the "problem," which is, again, completely normal.

Do I advocate smiling for no reason when it comes to public speaking? Not at all. Again, smiling, even a little, evens out that downward-turn tendency of your mouth., and more importantly, acts to reduce your stress. You don't need a goofy smile, just a counter to gravity. And that goes for men and for women, in my book.

But I do think we can get rid of "resting bitch face" as terminology, even in fun. It underscores a lot of stereotypes about women (that we need to be pleasant and entertaining and not look as if we might be thinking of complaining about anything), and it biases against women without admitting that men's faces do the same. Let's talk about everyone's "resting face," neutral face, or professional face.

If you want some great evidence for how a smile can transform not only RBF but your face in general, check out this wonderful video here or below, done by a student who told her subjects that she was recording things she found beautiful. Being called "beautiful," for most of these people, was both surprising and pleasing, yielding a lovely smile. I typically ask speakers I'm coaching what they will look like when a high-stakes talk is over, and that yields similarly beautiful smiles--after which I say, "THAT's the smile I want from you on stage."

So smile, speakers--and do your part to stop the meme about "resting bitch face," so we can all relax.

People react to being called beautiful

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Dita Margarita)

I've got two small-group workshops coming up on Creating a TED-quality talk in Washington, DC, in January. Choose the January 14 workshop or the January 28 workshop. All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver it in a group limited to 5 people per workshop. Join us! You get the best discount if you register by October 30, 2015.

Monday, December 7, 2015

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:
Registration ends soon: I've got two small-group workshops coming up on Creating a TED-quality talk in Washington, DC, in January. Choose the January 14 workshop or the January 28 workshop. All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver it in a group limited to 5 people per workshop. Join us! 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Cindy Wu's Pitch at Y Combinator

Any headline you've read about Cindy Wu probably contains these stats: three minutes, $1.2 million. The student-turned-innovator made people sit up and take lots of notice after her short pitch at Y Combinator's 2013 "Demo Day" brought in--yes--$1.2 million for her start-up. Experiment, a crowdfunding platform for research that was developed by Wu and her colleague Denny Luan, is one of those brilliant yet simple, leap-forward ideas for the future of science. So maybe it's not too surprising that the project has garnered so much interest. But we think Wu's short pitch had a wealth of ideas that can enrich all kinds of speakers as well.

Got three minutes to spare? Watch the video, and read more about what we thought made this speech a gold mine from the start.
  • Talking faster won't help your audience learn more. Ack! Three minutes! I need to speak faster so that I can cram it all in! Happily, that's not the path Wu chose. Her three minute pitch actually clocked in at two minutes and 53 seconds, and there's not a point in it where she sounds rushed or vague. She speaks slowly, she takes significant pauses, and she breathes. Applicants to Y Combinator go through an extensive boot camp that helps the start-ups refine their pitches, and that practice really shows here. Wu is able to speak slowly because she has whittled down her presentation to the specifics that an investor needs to know: this is what the project does, this is how it has succeeded to this point, and this is how you can help. No doubt Wu also practiced her measured delivery as well. Speaking too fast is a common speaker problem, especially among those who give TED-style talks and feel the pressure of strict time limits. Luckily, there are lots of ways to curb your speedy speaking.
  • Sometimes the best place to start a story is in the middle. I expected Wu's pitch to begin with how she and her partners came up with such a great idea in the first place (it is a cool story, after all). But the "origin story" is instead buried in the middle of the talk, and I think that was a smart decision. Her audience needed to know right away the value of what they might invest in, so she started with the what and how of the project. We're used to hearing stories in chronological order, but it's fine to mix that up if it seems like a different approach would better suit the occasion or the audience.
  • Big ideas don't need big words. With continued thanks to Eloquent Woman colleague and speaker coach Peter Botting, this speech is a perfect example of that wise phrase. Wu's a scientist, and her project funds some intensely complex research, but she keeps her descriptions short and her words simple. It also didn't hurt that the three types of research she chose to highlight--cancer, gun violence, and dinosaurs--are accessible topics with wide public interest. And then, there's this killer closing line: "What we've created turns everyone with a credit card into a modern-day patron of science."
You can watch the video of Wu's pitch below.

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(Freelance writer Becky Ham contributed this Famous Speech Friday post.)
  
I've got two small-group workshops coming up on Creating a TED-quality talk in Washington, DC, in January. Choose the January 14 workshop or the January 28 workshop. All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver it in a group limited to 5 people per workshop. Join us! 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

"I was the only one who really followed the TED-talk approach"

In the past year, I've coached scores of speakers who want to make a big change in their public speaking and presenting style by giving talks in the style of TED. As they march out with their new skills, many of these executives--from Fortune 100 companies, private philanthropies, major nonprofits, health systems, and more--are finding out firsthand that there are lots of misunderstandings and misinterpretations of this popular public-speaking style.

Here's one example from a recent trainee who has given his new talk in front of audiences numbering in the hundreds:
I followed your guidance and got great feedback.  Though the session was billed as “TED talks” I was the only one who really followed the TED-talk approach and I think it made a big difference. The coaching was very helpful for that.
Another trainee in this style said:
Of the four keynote speakers, I was the only one who kept my talk under 20 minutes, and clearly the only one who understood what does and doesn't mean 'TED-style.' As a result, I had time left for questions--something none of the other keynotes had--and the audience loved it.
Some speakers or conference organizers think that a "TED-style" talk means taking the same old talk and delivering it without notes or a lectern, but there's much more to it than that. Others think all "TED-style" talks are 18 minutes....or just blow through the time limits. But once you start whittling away at the standard, it's easy to wind up with just another same-old, same-old talk. The TEDx and TEDMED speakers I coach every year can tell you: These talks aren't business-presentations-as-usual, and they take work to pull off successfully.

If you want to learn the more effective way to speak in this style, I've got two small-group workshops coming up on Creating a TED-quality talk in Washington, DC, in January. Choose the January 14 workshop or the January 28 workshop. All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver it in a group limited to 5 people per workshop.

Instead of cheating on the parameters of TED-style talks, why not borrow the sentiment of someone already registered, who wants to "Rock it TED-style when co-presenting with read-off-the-slide PowerPoint users." Now that's a public speaking goal! Join us in January...

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Lawrence Wang)

Monday, November 30, 2015

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 two weeks just past, since the blog was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday last week:
I've got two small-group workshops coming up on Creating a TED-quality talk in Washington, DC, in January. Choose the January 14 workshop or the January 28 workshop. All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver it in a group limited to 5 people per workshop. Join us! 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Giving thanks, and closed for the week

By the time you read this, I will have finished a week of coaching speakers at TEDMED, and I'll be putting my feet up and evaluating how that big coaching task went. The blog is closed for the week, and our weekly speaker toolkit will appear a week from today.

Since it's the week of Thanksgiving here in America, let me give thanks for all of you. From the start of this blog, it's been the readers who have shared posts, brought me story ideas and speeches to cover, and most of all, shared your perspectives and experiences as women speakers, or on women and speaking. You're the fuel for the blog and I hope you know how much I appreciate it!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Rachel Patterson)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Angela Merkel's 2009 U.S. Congress speech

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's 2009 speech before both houses of the U.S. Congress has just about everything you'd want in a famous speech. It is by turns soaring, personal, forceful, humorous and direct. And it's quite a public speaking feat by the woman called "The Quiet German" in a New Yorker profile, which includes a little bit about how the uncomfortable speaker adopted a characteristic posture to calm her hands during talks.

As she mentioned at the start of her speech, Merkel is only the second German chancellor to address the full U.S. Congress. Although she does speak English (and began the address with a greeting in English), Merkel spoke in German with simultaneous translation. Translations add a few degrees of difficulty to any talk, including the need to craft a speech that conveys the same meanings as the original after translation. If you're a world leader, of course, translations are commonplace. But for the rest of us, translations might be one possible way to publish your talk so that it reaches its largest potential audience.

What else can you learn from Merkel's famous speech?
  • Think of all the ways that a theme could work for you. Merkel addressed the Congress about a week before the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It seems like a no-brainer, then, to make use of the Wall as a theme, but it's astonishing to see how much work Merkel gets out of this theme in the speech--all without showing any strain. To begin with, the Wall becomes the bridge between Germany's (and Merkel's) past and present. She then uses it to illustrate international cooperation, fiscal responsibility and strategic defense. Then it becomes a metaphor for tolerance, as it is here:
    Even after the end of the Cold War we are thus faced with the task of tearing down the walls between different concepts of life; in other words, the walls in people's minds that make it difficult time and again to understand one another in this world of ours. This is why the ability to show tolerance is so important. While, for us, our way of life is the best possible way, others do not necessarily feel that way. There are different ways to create peaceful coexistence. Tolerance means showing respect for other people's history, traditions, religion and cultural identity.
    She also uses the Wall as a metaphor for nations' reluctance to act on climate change, which she sees as a barrier that separates the present from the needs of future generations:
    Ladies and gentlemen, I am convinced that, just as we found the strength in the 20th century to tear down a wall made of barbed wire and concrete, today we have the strength to overcome the walls of the 21st century, walls in our minds, walls of short-sighted self-interest, walls between the present and the future.
  • Consider how you'll connect with a diverse audience. Speakers at a joint session of Congress know that their audience will contain more than a few members who don't agree with their political leanings or past stances--and those members aren't afraid to sit on their hands to show their disapproval. Merkel deftly heads off some of this by praising a bipartisan cast of Americans--from George W. Bush to John F. Kennedy--to show how the U.S. and German relationship has a history that transcends any current politics.
  • Take a few extra steps--and breaths--to accommodate a translator. It may be rare that your speech gets the simultaneous translation treatment, but Merkel demonstrates some nice moves here that you can steal for other occasions. She is careful to pause between major sections of the speech, and before key lines and jokes, so that the translation has time to hit her listeners' ears and give them a chance to react before she moves on. She also builds a bit more time in between sections by stepping back just slightly from the lectern before beginning a new section. Even if you aren't having your talk translated, these ideas could help you slow down when you speak, especially if you're a nervous speaker.
You can watch video of the full speech from C-Span below, which also contains a translated transcript.

German Chancellor Address to Joint Meeting of Congress

Freelance writer Becky Ham contributed this Famous Speech Friday post.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by blu-news.org)

I've got two small-group workshops coming up on Creating a TED-quality talk in Washington, DC, in January. Choose the January 14 workshop or the January 28 workshop. All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver it in a group limited to 5 people per workshop. Join us! You get the best discount if you register by October 30, 2015.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

What to do when your speech follows a tragedy

On Saturday, I had two coaching clients heading to the stage. One was giving a TEDx talk, the other was speaking to members of the professional association she runs. The talks couldn't be more different, but they both faced an unusual last-minute issue: Their long-practiced speeches were taking place the day after the terrorist attacks in Paris.

You, too, may face such a challenge in your speaking career. I don't say that hypothetically: I've had to coach numerous speakers in times of trouble and terror. Here are some models to follow should you find yourself challenged in this way.
  • Is it someone else's job to address the issue? Before you assume you must address the tragedy or event in your remarks, determine whether someone else--a speaker on the dais earlier than you will be, or one with a higher rank or responsibility--will be addressing it in her speech. One minute of silence is better than 10 of them, and by the end of a conference, the repetition will seem more rote than sincere, no matter what you do. A little coordination will go a long way in helping you figure this out. One of the speakers I coached would be among the final speakers of the day, so others handled the task of reflection. If this is true for you, don't forget that the issue may arise in questions after your talk. Be ready.
  • The tragedy is distracting to you before your speech: My other client told me she was having a tough time putting the Paris tragedy out of her mind before her talk. It's not surprising that such a major attack would be disturbing. If you're already nervous about your talk, you can expect your anxiety to encompass any other disturbing occurrence as well. Rather than coach her to put it aside, I encouraged her to consider making it part of her talk, right at the start. As her talk was about a life-saving advance in medical research, I suggested something like, "We're all processing what happened in Paris yesterday. I know I can't do anything about that, but I'm proud that what I'm here to talk about will save lives, not end them." Mention the events of the day in a way that pivots to your topic, if you can do so in an appropriate way.
  • The tragedy prompts a speech you wouldn't normally give: Madonna made an extemporaneous speech before her performance in Stockholm after the Paris attacks.  "I don't need my guitar for this," she says early on, putting her instrument aside and taking the microphone. I hope this speech redefines "emotional" to mean "powerful," as it has both qualities in tandem. If you're in this situation and wish to make an impromptu speech, you too may find yourself explaining why, as Madonna did: "It's been really hard actually to get through the show, because in many ways, I feel torn. Like, why am I up here dancing and having fun when people are crying over the loss of their loved ones? However, that is exactly what these people want us to do. They want to shut us up. They want to silence us. And we won't let them." It's a good reminder that, in its own way, singing also is a form of public speaking. Watch the video here or at the link:
Watch Madonna's Powerful Speech About Paris Attacks at Stockholm Concert
  • You know it's foremost in your audience's mind: One of the great roles of a speaker is reflecting what's on the minds of the audience. Doing so immediately following a major event or tragedy has power, and offers catharsis for an assembled audience, a way of making sense of the tragedy together. I was coaching the board president for a scientific society back when the U.S. invaded Iraq. Our meeting came right on the heels of the invasion. She wanted to remark on the war in her address to members without doing so politically. So I suggested she make a series of acknowledgments that, taken together, would show how many people in the room were touched by the war. She asked each group to stand and stay standing in turn: Those who had lived and worked in the Middle East; those who had served in the military or reserves in the past; those with family members in the military or reserves; those with family members or coworkers deployed in this war. By the end, nearly everyone in the room was standing, a visible measure of involvement that was both silent and moving--and far more respectful than a typical show of hands. She ended this introduction by thanking them all for their contributions, asking them to be seated again, and beginning her talk. You might replicate this, keying it to your audience, event, and the events of the day.
  • When the tragedy changes what you might say: Carly Fiorina's post-September 11 speech was certainly changed by that terrorist attack, especially with a title like "Technology, Business, and Our Way of Life: What's Next." Given just 2 weeks after 9/11 while she was the CEO of HP, she aimed for understanding of the Islamic world and a global view of the events of the day. It's a diplomatic and thoughtful speech, one that looks to a hopeful future as a way of making sense of the tragedy, without sugar-coating the situation of the day.
  • When you have a proper chance to respond officially: Brevity and plain, strong language are the best elements of an official response to a tragedy. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's three-minute speech in response to the Paris attacks, appropriate for a head of state and major ally of France, spoke on behalf of the German people and addressed the French people directly, saying, "We are crying with you." Merkel, often said to be a dispassionate speaker in her everyday official speaking, mixes a leadership stance with the strong emotion of the day, serving to summarize the feelings of a nation. It's an appropriate stance to consider if you are presiding over a gathering, organization, or other entity when a tragedy strikes. 
  • Even when you're not the main speaker: U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor attack radio address spoke directly to U.S. citizens about the uncertainty and certainty ahead as the nation was about to be drawn into war. Delivered on a regularly scheduled live broadcast the day of the attack, it required her to speak before her husband, the President, addressed the nation--and had millions of listeners. She's a great example of how to address a tragedy when specifics are hard to come by, reaching instead for the more universal emotions and focusing instead on her audience. Let the facts as known inform you, but don't feel compelled to recite them, as they will change.
I know this is a blog about women and public speaking, but on such a specific issue, were you surprised that all my examples are from women speakers? It wasn't a stretch for me, so I hope not--but if so, welcome. We've been waiting for you.

(Creative Commons licensed photo of weeping statue in Paris's Montparnasse cemetery by Shawn Hoke)

I've got two small-group workshops coming up on Creating a TED-quality talk in Washington, DC, in January. Choose the January 14 workshop or the January 28 workshop. All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver it in a group limited to 5 people per workshop. Join us! You get the best discount if you register by October 30, 2015.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
I've got two small-group workshops coming up on Creating a TED-quality talk in Washington, DC, in January. Choose the January 14 workshop or the January 28 workshop. All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver it in a group limited to 5 people per workshop. Join us! 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Shonda Rhimes's "You are not alone"

Shonda Rhimes creates worlds for you, if you're a fan of any of her popular television series, from Grey's Anatomy and Scandal to How to Get Away With Murder. The diversity in her casting choices and writing prompted the Human Rights Campaign to honor her earlier this year, and her acceptance speech drew immediate coverage and social shares.

That's in part because the speech revealed so much about someone we don't normally see: As a screenwriter, director, and producer, Rhimes is typically not in front of the camera, but alone behind it. Being alone was a major theme of the speech, reflecting its powerful pull in her work, as she described in this passage:
I don’t know if anyone has noticed but I only ever write about one thing: being alone. The fear of being alone, the desire to not be alone, the attempts we make to find our person, to keep our person, to convince our person to not leave us alone, the joy of being with our person and thus no longer alone, the devastation of being left alone. The need to hear the words: You are not alone.
And for contrast, she had sharp words for a term that describes groups, rather than individuals, making this acceptance speech about actual acceptance, in a different sense:
I really hate the word “diversity”. It suggests something…other. As if it is something…special. Or rare. Diversity! As if there is something unusual about telling stories involving women and people of color and LGBTQ characters on TV. I have a different word: NORMALIZING. I’m normalizing TV. I am making TV look like the world looks. Women, people of color, LGBTQ people equal WAY more than 50% of the population. Which means it ain’t out of the ordinary. I am making the world of television look NORMAL.
This speech was widely shared, not just on social media, but in media reporting of the event. What can you learn from it?
  • Work the room: In a few choice places in this speech, Rhimes references the gathering in the room as a microcosm of the larger issues about which she is speaking: After talking about growing up and often being the only black girl in the room, something that still happens to her in the work world today, she says, "Look around" to get the crowd to understand that directly and in the moment. And at the end, when she predicts that those who feel alone will find their tribe waiting for them, she concludes by saying, "I know this, because mine are at that table right over there," a clever way of acknowledging her friends.
  • Speak to one person at a time: My friend and fellow speaker coach Peter Botting likes to remind speakers that the audience is not hearing them as some kind of mass group, but as individuals, listening one person at a time. That's why I think her voicing of the "alone" theme was so effective: Everyone in the audience, at that moment, understood what she was talking about, within themselves. It's one of the greatest tactics in public speaking, that ability to get up in a room crowded with people and make them feel as if you are speaking just to each of them as individuals. 
  • Tell us something we don't know about you: Rhimes, whose shows include ensemble casts, may be acutely aware that she only ever writes about being alone--but that's not something her audience is likely to have guessed about her. Sharing that kind of insight is what turns this acceptance speech into a unique and resonant moment.
See most of the speech in the video here and below. At one point, Rhimes published the text on Medium, but it has since been removed--and I'm sorry to learn that, as it's as good a read as it is a listen.


Need more coaching on how to be a better panel moderator? Order the new ebook The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 and available in many formats, it's a great back-pocket coach to take on stage with you in your smartphone or tablet. Find more tips on public speaking on The Eloquent Woman blog.