Friday, January 30, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Maria Klawe on asking for salary increases


(Editor's note: Not long after the headlines appeared about this interview at the Grace Hopper Celebration in 2014, I asked reader and software engineer Cate Huston--who was present at this session--to write about the missing piece in the coverage. Of course, that missing piece was what the woman leading this interview said. It's not only important for the content, but because serving as a on-stage interviewer is increasingly among the public speaking roles you may be asked to take. As Huston notes in this post, you have more choices to make than simply asking questions when you're in this pivotal role.)

In October 2014, Satya Nadella as CEO of Microsoft made headlines when in a keynote at a conference of over 8000 women, he advocated the benefit of not asking for pay-rises, but instead trusting in karma. It was highly tweetable, and because it followed a plenary panel of “male allies” from the night before that had also contained some unfortunate remarks, the comments gained traction and outrage outside the conference. That external reaction was far greater than among those attending, who had heard his many thoughtful comments through the rest of the interview. Best of all, and largely ignored in the press coverage, was his interviewer Maria Klawe’s response. Klawe is Dean of Harvey Mudd College, and a Microsoft Board Member.

Clearly, if karma worked as a strategy for pay rises, women wouldn’t average 78c on the dollar. In the technology industry the gap is slightly smaller at 84c on the dollar [full study with data for 2013], but this is an industry where more than half the women are driven out by mid-career. It is part of the insidious and pervasive thinking (well documented in Women Don’t Ask - Amazon) that results in women being paid less, starting in their first jobs and resulting in a lifetime loss of $434,000 ($713,000 for those with a college degree or higher) [data from 2008].

As Nadella was lambasted on social media, in the press (internationally!), and on TV, Klawe’s fantastic response and great advice was largely overlooked. Here it is in full:
Well let me tell you a story about myself, because I actually… this is one of the very few things I disagree with you on. 
So, I’ve always been uncomfortable in asking for things for myself. I’m really great at asking for things for the people who work for me. 
But, so, I was being offered the position of Dean of Engineering at Princeton. And… I took it without having been offered a salary. So at some point we’re having this conversation, Shirley Tilghman hired me, and she’s saying “well we have to figure out what salary we’re going to pay you” and I’m so uncomfortable I say “oh just pay me whatever you think is right.” I probably got a good $50,000 less than I would have if I had been doing my job. Same thing when I took the job at Harvey Mudd. They offered me quite a bit less than I thought was appropriate. I didn’t say anything. 
So, so, here’s my advice to all of you. First of all do your homework. Make sure that you actually know what a reasonable salary is if you are being offered a job. Do not be as stupid as I was. Second of all is role play. Sit down with someone you really trust, and practise asking them for the salary you deserve.
Three things we can learn from this:
  • Disagree with your interviewee! Klawe stepped in at the moment they were losing the audience and her answer was a highlight of the talk.
  • Get personal. Nadella talked about theory and the long term view of HR, but Klawe made the loss that women get from not negotiating personal with her own story of being paid $50,000 less than she should have been at Princeton. Further revealing that she had made the same mistake with her current role made it impossible to ignore as a one-off.
  • Relate to the audience. Klawe’s response is full of things that the many women in the audience relate to, being good at asking for things for others, for example (notice how many times in the whole interview she advocates donating to Harvey Mudd). And where better to make the suggestion of role-playing than at an event with a huge careers fair where women gather to learn and support each other. I bet women were role-playing salary negotiation in the breaks that day.
You can see the video here or below.  The question and comments starts at 1:34:00, but it’s worth watching the entire interview with Nadella which starts at 0:48:30.
2014 GHC Thursday Keynote by Anita Borg Institute

Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Talk About the Talk: Resa Lewiss, MD, at TEDMED

(Editor's note: Talk About the Talk is our new series in which I ask speakers I've worked with to share their perspective on giving big or important talks. Resa Lewiss, MD, and I worked together at TEDMED 2014 on her talk about delivering ultrasound at the point of care, in the middle of an emergency situation--a new application of an old technology. Lewiss is an associate professor of both emergency medicine and radiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Backstage at TEDMED, speakers are told that coaching is available and they choose whether to avail themselves of it. Some can't line up fast enough, while others--as Lewiss notes--wonder what can be done just hours or days before a talk. But after coaching nearly 100 speakers for TEDMED and TEDx talks, some well in advance and others backstage, I know much can be done in a short amount of time, if we're focused. I've already used her talk as an example of what you can do when you slow down your speaking speed. And if you're a medical or science professional, take note of what Lewiss says about losing her clinician's distance while telling these stories, and the positive impact it had on others understanding her work. I think you'll find all of her observations useful as you prepare for your next big talk.)

How did you prepare? Who helped you and how?

I realized the potential personal and professional impact and visibility of the talk--for me, for women, for emergency physicians, for point-of-care ultrasound specialists. I wanted to do anything and everything on my end to ensure success. Despite my experience with giving talks and lectures, I took to heart the advice that this was not like any talk I had ever delivered.

I read all suggested articles and blog pieces on preparing and giving a TED talk. I worked closely with Nassim Assefi, Director of Stage Content, and Marcus Webb, Chief Storytelling Officer for TEDMED2014, to fine-tune the story and the message. Truth be told, this was the first time I wrote a speech out as literally word for word as the task required. Memorizing my talk wasn’t difficult; however moving beyond memorization was the most significant challenge. I also prepared by making sure I exercised and slept with as much regularity as possible. This allowed the preparation to digest.

I decided to buy myself a new outfit. Something very me. Something that would be stylish, professional, comfortable. Something that would attract but not detract. Never underestimate the power of the outfit and one’s appearance as an important supporting actor to the talk.

What challenges did you face in preparing, and how did you handle them?

The people who know me best could tell that I wasn’t me when I would practice for them. I sounded memorized and I struggled with moving beyond this--with not sounding rehearsed. Because the reality is that I practiced nonstop--at home, in person, on Google Hangout and facetime with friends, on the sidewalks of New York City and in the subway. I practiced for everyone and with anyone--my childhood friend since age 5 and her mother, my 10- and 12-year old nieces, my residents, my work colleagues, my confidante friends, my parents, my first cousin and his wife, my friends in business, my friends in journalism, my friends with international and high visibility roles in their companies. I appreciated the honesty people provided and was moved with how seriously people took their roles as listeners. One friend, who is as close as a brother, had me practice the choreography--my walk on stage and off stage, and my steps to the red circle, my hands at beginning, middle and end, and my overall gestures. I practiced smiling as I spoke. Something happened with all of that repetition.

At the event, we had the opportunity to sign up to work with you. I heard many people say that it was too late and what could you help with at this stage in the preparations. However, I live life avoiding major regrets. I signed up and the work we did together less than 24 hours before my go live was transformative. You offered content to cut, pace to slow and pointed directions for my walk. That evening, I practiced more with a few TEDMED attendee friends. They made me slow down e-v-e-n more than was comfortable for me. When I was at my slowest in speed, they said it was the best take I had done. You had told me – s-l-o-w down.

What kinds of reactions have you had?

A few people remarked that they finally understand my career work despite my previously detailed explanations. Two of my more amusing experiences: Day One of an ultrasound in medical education conference in Portland Oregon. I was sitting on a lobby chair. A woman rushed up to me, smiling and cheered my name “Resa !!!” Her arms wide with a warm embrace. I did not know this woman. I did not recognize this woman. She explained “Resa, we all watched you in Brazil. We watched your TEDMED talk.” So, she did not know me and I did not know her, but in that moment, she felt like she knew me and I just received it. I attended a professional meeting in Chicago recently. The executive director of the organization and meeting director walked in to the room of 8 attendants. We all expected formal introductions and greetings; however, she immediately directed her attention to me and remarked “You look exactly like you do on your TEDMED talk.” How funny.

What else should we know that we haven't asked about?

The TEDMED experience as attendant and speaker is truly unique. The conference inspires. The TEDMED staff, the speakers , the attendants and the HIVE innovators are inspiring. The food and drink are inspiring. The space is inspiring. The integration of art with technology and medicine is inspiring. Creativity and innovation come from places such as these.


 

Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Monday, January 26, 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:
Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Viola Davis: "Everything should be spoken"

Viola Davis is among my favorite speakers here at The Eloquent Woman and she's in the very small club of women with three speeches in our Index of famous speeches by women. This speech, in which she accepted an award at Variety's Power of Women luncheon in 2014, got immediate and widespread attention and is a great, short example of why I admire her so.

Davis was being honored for her work with Hunger Is, which seeks to eradicate childhood hunger. And in this short acceptance speech, at a luncheon where the menu was no doubt fine, Davis managed to grab the audience's attention by taking them to the dumpster--and in doing so, gave everyone a short lesson on the power of public speaking:
You know they say that you're never too old to have a happy childhood. And although my childhood was filled with many happy memories, it was also spent in abject poverty. I was one of the 17 million kids in this country who didn't know where the next meal was coming from. And I did everything to get food. I've stolen for food. I've jumped in huge garbage bins with maggots for food. I have befriended people in the neighborhood who I knew had mothers who cooked three meals a day for food. And I sacrificed a childhood for food and grew up in immense shame.
And the word that I would like to eradicate today is unspeakable. Because I think everything should be spoken. I think everybody's testimony should be spoken. I think everybody's shame should be spoken. And the stain that is on this country is that one out of every five children in this country are living in households that are food poor. And of all the elementary school teachers out there they say that three out of five of the kids in their class, come to school hungry in the richest country in the world.
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Say it plain: Davis's words have so much more impact because she did not strive to make them smooth, rounded, elegant or complex. It's hard to have more impact than "I've stolen for food," or "I've jumped in hug garbage bins with maggots for food."
  • Use data wisely: This is Hollywood, so it's important that the speech not sound all about her. Davis weaves just a few key data points into her speech, noting she was one of the 17 million kids with hunger, or that three out of five elementary schoolchildren come to school hungry. The data keep this from being an ego trip, but by using them judiciously, she makes sure they, too, have plenty of punch.
  • Look what you can do without a script: Davis has said she never prepares written remarks, claiming it would scare her more. So you'll hear ums and pauses aplenty, and yet she's among the most eloquent extemporaneous speakers I've heard. Why does this work? It's a personal set of stories and perspectives, spoken from the heart.
Watch the video below and think about how you can have more impact when you accept an award.




Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Do you have clinician's distance when telling stories? How to recover

"Tell me more about that student," I said to the physician I was coaching. We were working on a story she could tell as part of a talk she'd be giving to donors. "What does she look like?"

"You mean her physical data?"

"Yes, but let's call it hair color, height, weight, freckles, whatever." And that's when I diagnosed my client with the only thing I'm licensed to identify: Clinician's distance when speaking to a public audience.

You don't have to be an actual clinician to have this public speaking problem, though it happens more frequently among medical professionals, scientists, engineers, and technology experts. If you're in an academic or research or clinical setting, it's expected that you'll strip out the emotion and personal details, or hold them at arm's length to examine them. Anyone pursuing graduate-level education will be taught not to put themselves into presentations, over and over again, until it becomes habitual to distance yourself from the personal. And don't get me started on specialists who invent multi-syllabic terms for the simplest words we'd all recognize.

Sometimes, that's a matter of professional shorthand--you want one term, not several specific ones, to signal to a colleague what you're talking about. Sometimes, on the other hand, you may be doing what Sam Leith, author of Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama, noted at the UK Speechwriters Guild conference last year: Hiding behind an obfuscating term because, if you were to be understood, you might be found banal. That fear of being too obvious and boring, of not adding to the intrigue, is a common one among experts and specialists. But in my mind, it's the wrong way to go about intriguing your audience.
Now that we've diagnosed you, what's the prescription? Here are some tactics that have worked for my clients:
  • Turn that clinical eye to your personal stories: You'll be at ease describing data in your talk, but when it comes to describing yourself, your family members, stressful personal moments and the like, watch out for words and phrases that will distance you from your subject, just when we want to see some passion and emotion. If you're speaking about your recently deceased father but don't show some emotion, we'll see you and that story differently than you're hoping. Identifying your trouble spots in a talk is the first step to changing your approach.
  • Think about your motivation for using the $10 words: If you're choosing more complicated terms, or dispassionate ones, because you feel you'll sound better, more important, or well-educated, think again. As Einstein said, "If you can't explain it to your grandmother, you don't understand it well enough." The ability to communicate with anyone, not just people in your specialty, requires language we can all follow--and it is the more difficult skill to master.
  • Don't forget that with techspeak, you're speaking to a truly narrow audience: When you use the language of your specialized training, you may not just be missing the public audience you want to reach. You're probably just as confusing to other researchers and clinicians with different specialties, since they all use their own jargon and technical terms--often, with one term meaning very different things across specialties. Find those universally understood words instead to reach both technical and non-technical listeners, and expand your audience.
  • Think back before your training: You learn an entirely different vocabulary in your training as a researcher or clinician. But how would you describe this scene/person/moment before all that knowledge? How would you describe it to your children? Your younger self? Your smart teenage niece? Reaching back for everyday terms from your past may help you put the point across in the present.
  • Know that sometimes, emotion is appropriate: Sometimes it's the occasion that permits emotion--as in speeches at weddings or funerals--and sometimes, it's the moment you're describing that demands it. Speakers' visible and audible emotions help the audience interpret what you are saying. So if you're describing something joyous, I'm going to want to see a smile on your face. Likewise, choking up with emotion when you are describing a difficult personal moment is not only entirely understandable, but appropriate. No one in the audience will fail to understand and accept it. If you instead give a wedding speech or TED talk that sounds as if you're delivering an academic paper, on the other hand, you're not fitting the speech to the occasion.
  • Emotion can be a handle that lets us grasp your complex topic: The audience may not understand entirely or at all your work in nanotubes, immunology, or engineering new mechanical devices that will save lives in surgery. But your emotions and some personal details can give your listeners a path to getting there with you. If you inject some personality by telling us what inspired you to pursue this research, how you felt when a particular patient was helped by your work, or what's most frustrating to you about the search for answers, we'll be able to relate to that...and we'll be more likely to listen further.
I've worked for two major scientific societies and national health and environment organizations, so training technical experts is one of my areas of expertise. Let me know if you need a workshop or coaching around closing that clinician's distance from your audience. Just email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com to get started.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by John Twohig)

Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Monday, January 19, 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:
Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Friday, January 16, 2015

12 famous speeches by women on disability

In The Eloquent Woman Index of famous speeches by women, disability is a recurring theme. Talking about mental and physical limits--and possibilities--is one important role these speakers have in common. Demonstrating what speakers with disabilities can do is another, for many in this collection. Click the link on any speaker's name below to learn more about her and her speech, with video, audio or text of these famous speeches, where available:
  1. Helen Keller's 1916 speech, "Strike Against War," was the most famous of her 50-year career as a public speaker--an achievement for the deaf and blind activist for whom speaking was at one time thought to be an impossibility.
  2. Elizabeth Glaser spoke on AIDS at the 1992 Democratic national convention in the U.S., humanizing the epidemic even as she called for leadership action. She died two years later, in 1994.
  3. Mary Fisher took her turn to speak about AIDS in the same year, but at the Republican national convention. She used the theme of "whispers" about AIDS in a speech that is widely considered one of the best of the 20th century.
  4. Princess Diana spoke about the need for a ban on landmines in terms of the disabling costs to civilians in countries torn apart by war, detailing surgery and prosthetic device costs and describing her meetings with survivors of landmine accidents.
  5. Elyn Saks spoke about mental disability by describing her own experiences with schizophrenia, giving voice to a disability that is rarely spoken about. She urged her listeners to "please do send flowers" as they would to someone with a physical illness or disability.
  6. Jill Bolte Taylor's "stroke of insight" TED talk took eight years of preparation, because she first had to recover her ability to move and speak after a disabling stroke. A neurologist, she knew just what was happening as it happened to her: "And in that moment, I knew I was no longer the choreographer of my life."
  7. War correspondent Marie Colvin, herself blind in one eye from a war injury, gave a eulogy for fallen fellow journalists, describing the price they pay in physical and mental disabilities. She died in an attack two years later, on the day she was due to return home.
  8. Jane Fonda tackles disability as among the challenges we'll all face in "life's third act." She talks about aging as "the staircase, which may seem like an odd metaphor for seniors given the fact that many seniors are challenged by stairs. Myself included." The movie icon shows her frank and funny style of discussing her own disabilities in this TEDWomen talk.
  9. Tanni Grey-Thompson's urging to "shout a bit louder" on disability used the occasion of a speech honoring the first disabled member of the British Parliament, and shared her own experience as a wheelchair-bound MP and athlete.
  10. Golfer Sophie Gustafson gave a rare speech describing her stuttering is "part of who I am." The six-and-a-half minute speech took eight hours to record on video, demonstrating the extraordinary lengths she went to in making her voice heard.
  11. Most members of the audience watching Sheena Iyengar's TED talk on the art of choosing didn't know she was blind until she was led on stage. Although her disability wasn't mentioned in the program, it was discussed in a Q&A with a host after her talk--not for its own sake, but in the context of how it impacts her research.
  12. Sue Austin's "I am the most mobile person in the room" talk at TEDMED introduced the audience to her performance art--daring deep-water dives in a wheelchair--but prompted the audience to consider the "cages" that are holding them back. 
Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Coaching a cadre of conference speakers to give TED-quality talks

"Amazing." "Most interesting thing I've ever seen at a conference." "These made me remember why I got into health care."

Conference organizers and program directors are increasingly in search of ways to enliven programs and get away from panels and keynotes. Many are using  TED-style talks to do so. There are plenty of benefits from the organizers' point of view, from variety in the program and baked-in brevity to being part of a hip yet established trend in public speaking.

But there are many more benefits to trying this approach, like these audience reactions at the recent Align conference on health care quality. A cadre of 16 speakers from Aligning Forces for Quality, a national demonstration program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, were featured giving five-minute TED-quality talks about challenges faced by their projects, successes, and lessons learned. By the time each of the 16 "spotlight speakers," one from each project, had done their talks, they'd become the hit of the program.

That's an ambitious assignment, and I was fortunate to be the coach for these spotlight speakers. Here's how we pulled off this successful session:
  1. Selecting non-traditional speakers: The program's 16 coalitions--which include health professionals, business leaders, patients and more--nominated one speaker each. I quickly came to appreciate that those selected were not the usual suspects. They represented a range of roles: Nurses, physicians, business developers, patients, and only a few project directors. Many of the 16 speakers selected are introverted or infrequent speakers, or just plain nervous about speaking.  But all were highly committed to making this assignment work, a huge advantage in our coaching and eventual success.
  2. Speaker's choice on subject matter: While talks needed to focus on some aspect of the program, we gave speakers their choice of topics, ruled out yawn-inducing overviews and lots of slides, and urged them to resist lobbying by others for inclusion of off-topic items. Instead, in the spirit of TED, we asked them to use personal storytelling to shed light on the progress they were describing and make it understandable to all. Having the latitude to come up with their own topics was both challenging and an incentive for these speakers.
  3. The gift of time limits: I can't lie. The five-minute time limit was a big concern for these speakers, but it also served as a useful tool in structuring and organizing the talks. I advised them to aim for 120 words per minute as a guide to writing a script that had a prayer of coming in under the time limit. I'm pretty sure none of the speakers had had to limit their talks to five minutes before, and that's where practice came in handy. On performance day, we reassured the speakers that no ills would befall those who came in over time, since we had plenty of speakers whose talks were shorter than the limit, and overall, the session came in slightly under its allotted time.
  4. A two-pronged approach to coaching: We used a combination of group and 1:1 coaching for these 16 speakers. Group training works well and efficiently when you want a group of individual speakers to reach a particular norm--in this case, the five-minute talk in the style of TED--and when you need to ensure that all the individual speakers hear the same instructions. During our one-day workshop, we looked at how much you can fit into a five-minute talk and what distinguishes TED-style talks from other formats. Then each participant came up with a plan for his or her talk, including the personal story as well as any rhetorical devices--analogies or metaphors, for example--they wanted to use. Each speaker described his or her plan in a short video recording so we could provide on-the-spot feedback about their delivery. The group training was followed by two one-hour coaching sessions by phone or Skype, as well as interim reviews of scripts and practice videos, so I could coach them on their talk structure, language choices, and delivery. 
  5. Practice: Every speaker put in hours of practice, sending me their results for input along the way. At one point, we had nearly every speaker practicing in their cars on the way to work, and many, many colleagues and families were turned into practice audiences. Without the speakers' efforts, these talks would not have been the polished jewels that resulted from all that practice. And I want to note that these speakers carried on with the practice despite a host of deadlines, busy schedules, family emergencies and more--real troupers.
  6. On-site support: We encouraged all speakers to arrive the day before for an orientation to see the stage, green room, hair and makeup location, and other backstage details, and did a walk-through so they'd know exactly what would happen the next day. This step is often overlooked and makes a world of difference in preparing the speakers. Rooms were set aside so I could do on-the-spot 1:1 coaching or run-throughs with speakers during the day as needed, or so that introverted speakers could get some alone time to replenish their energy. And I was backstage with each and every speaker for last-minute help and encouragement, until the last one came off the stage.
I have to say that the entire group exceeded expectations--theirs and mine. After three months of preparation, it was lovely to hear the audience laugh or gasp or go silent at the points we'd anticipated, as jokes and revelations and serious moments hit their marks. There were nerves a-plenty backstage, but none of them showed onstage, as I'd reassured the speakers would be the case. A couple of speakers had interruptions and moved so smoothly through them they were soon forgotten.

Speakers used a variety of rhetorical approaches to the talks: Some acted out conversations or thought about what life would look like if something had or hadn't happened. Others related the program's challenges to a personal challenge. And we had some colorful metaphors going, from comparing the fits and starts of a new project to teaching a teenager to drive, to how a successful consumer engagement campaign should really be like a well-crafted breakfast. The juice that powered these talks, however, were the personal stories. We heard about near-death experiences and everyday happenings, emotional moments and amusing episodes. Talks were grouped into related themes that made sense for the program.

"Intensive training and coaching--as well as commitment and bravery on the part of the speakers--was instrumental in the success of the Aligning Forces Spotlight speeches," says Katherine Browne, deputy director and chief operating officer of AF4Q's national program office. "The presenters have become great messengers for the project's impact."

Sixteen talks are too many to summarize here, but I encourage you to look at the posted videos and see for yourself how well these speakers did. I've asked some of them to write about their experience for my "Talk About the Talk" series, in which speakers I've worked with share their preparation and delivery experiences for high-stakes talks, so you'll be hearing more from them in the coming weeks and months.

If you're considering a similar project for your program, conference or company, let me share what I see as some of the benefits:
  • It's a novel way to provide what several of the AF4Q speakers called "the best professional development I have ever had." If you want to invest in your executives--be they nonprofiteers, government leaders, or company managers--public speaking and presentation coaching and help preparing for a high-stakes event are investments your executives will truly appreciate. Even the seasoned speakers in the group cycled back to say, "I wasn't sure I'd learn anything from this, but I did."
  • The talks can be used again and again if you structure them well. This national program will be concluding in 2015, after many years as a flagship initiative. The local projects need to focus now on sustaining their efforts without the foundation's anchor support, which will require lots of outreach and fundraising. I urged speakers not to make their talks specific to the event, but to their projects, so that they could re-use the talks in these forthcoming pitches--and some speakers practiced by doing their talk at small-group meetings with donors before the conference.
  • You can shape and hone messages and speakers to create a cadre of messengers for your nonprofit, agency, company or product, as Browne points out. Just imagine if your entire team each had a unique, effective, on-message talk they could give in five minutes to customers, investors, donors, volunteers, supporters, suppliers or any other audience you need to work with. Your client services agency could field a team of people when pitching clients for new work and make them see beyond the numbers and the PowerPoint slides to the heart of what you really do. For this national program, one potential legacy is the creation of these messengers, 16 people who can now go on to more confidently and cogently share the lessons learned and spread them around. It's a benefit that will last long after the program closes its doors.
I'd love to hear about a team or cadre of speakers you'd like to field for your business, nonprofit or government agency. Email me at eloquentwoman at gmail.com and let's get started! 
Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Monday, January 12, 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:
Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Vandana Shiva at 2014 Food Otherwise

(Editor's note: I can't recall a Famous Speech Friday post more discussed before publication than this week's post. Both writer Becky Ham and I have long and solid reputations in science communications, and our debate focused on whether, in presenting a speaker whose scientific accuracy has been in question, we would be presenting a less-than-stellar role model for women speakers. 

As a former senior official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, I don't want to present bad information as something you should emulate. The journalists who have pointed out this speaker's shortcomings are reputable, and I trust their perspectives. At the same time, there's no denying that this is a charismatic and famous woman speaker, whose issue is an important one, and whose appearances draw large crowds and attention. Those speeches command a current speaking fee of $40,000.

We've published speakers with whom we disagree, in terms of opinions, not facts. In discussing this with a few readers, one said, "we often judge a talk on delivery, overlooking content, so we're more likely to say 'great content, shame about the delivery' than 'great delivery, shame about the content,' but maybe sometimes we should."  As a coach, I would say to any speaker that you don't need overstatement to put your point across, and certainly not at the cost of accuracy and credibility. Learn about this charismatic and controversial speaker in the post below.)

In the spring of 2014, environmental activist Vandana Shiva traveled through southern Europe as part of a "seed caravan" to promote local agriculture and oppose the use of genetically modified organisms. But the real ride came later, when the New Yorker published a profile of Shiva that questioned the scientific accuracy of her views and highlighted some of her incendiary rhetoric and absolutist stances on GMOs. Shiva responded at length to what she felt were "fraudulent assertions and deliberate attempts to skew reality" in the profile by Michael Specter, and you can read New Yorker editor David Remnick's reply to her criticism.

Even before this latest controversy, however, it would have been safe to call Shiva a polarizing figure. Her opposition to the use of biotechnology in farming, conducted through her India-based organization Navdanya, has made her a hero to anti-globalization forces which distrust Big Agriculture companies such as Monsanto, for instance. But as the New Yorker profile pointed out, several scientists have noted that her opposition to the crop science is based on flawed or misinterpreted research. Shiva has received a slew of environmental awards, including The Right Livelihood Award, often called Sweden's "alternative Nobel Prize."  But she has also been singled out as a dangerous demagogue who continues to promote data even after they have been thoroughly debunked, including one claim that linked Indian farmer suicides to GMO cotton crops.

Here's at least one indisputable point: Shiva is a much sought-after, internationally famous speaker. She keeps up an impressive pace of talks and appearances that controversy hasn't been able to slow. In 2014, she kicked off her spring European tour in The Netherlands at the Food Otherwise conference with a wide-ranging keynote address that contains a lot of what people love and hate about Shiva. This speech has:
  • An attention-grabbing start. It's a speech about food and farms, but Shiva sets her tone right away by talking about war. The very premise of modern agriculture, she suggests, is built on poisons and explosives foisted off on the public in peacetime. You might think it's a stretch, yes, and it gets even stretchier further into the speech. But it's dramatic and gives her listeners an immediate glimpse at her stance on the topic.
  • Lots of vocal variety. Shiva is the master of the pause, and uses it throughout the talk as her vocal highlighter. When she wants a statistic or an anecdote to sink in for her listeners, she wisely gives it some space with a bit of silence. She also uses several vocal styles in this speech, including a slightly higher pitched incredulous voice, a hushed and less inflected voice in sorrowful moments, and even a conspiratorial, behind-the-hand tone when she's ridiculing something like potential Martian farming. The speech clocks in at nearly an hour, and this vocal variety helps to keep things lively.
  • Metaphors that you won't soon forget. Shiva has been criticized for the absolutism of her views, and that quality shows up in the metaphors she uses here. Freed from nuance, she creates a lot of memorable, deliberately shocking juxtaposition, such as when she compares modern agriculture to slavery:
Totalitarianism on our farmers, where farmers cannot grow what they want and the way they want it. They are locked into a seed slavery...When starting to fight for seed freedom, it's because I saw a parallel. That time, it was blacks who were captured in Africa and taken to work on the cotton and sugarcane fields of America. Today it is all of life being enslaved. All of life. All species.
A word of caution to speakers who aren't planning a career of provocation, however: It's fine to strive for vivid metaphors in a speech, but take care that your comparisons serve the overall mission of your talk. In this case, the comparison feels so strained and offensive to me that it makes me suspicious of everything she's discussed to this point.
You can watch the full video of the speech below, and read the transcript here.

(Freelance science writer Becky Ham contributed this FSF post)

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Speechwriters, don't write differently for women. Write differently for men.

I go to a few speechwriters' conferences, and I blog and do workshops about women and public speaking. From time to time, a speechwriter--usually a male speechwriter--will ask, "Do I need to write differently for women speakers?" or urge me to give a talk about what's different in writing for women speakers.

I can't give that talk because you don't need to write differently for women speakers. But I do want you to write differently for male speakers, and use your influence with them.

For those of you who are already eager to reply to what's below with "But not all speechwriters do this," I get that. But women have been sitting for centuries through speeches with the components I'm asking you to change, and those speeches are not writing themselves.

If you write differently for male speakers, your speaker wouldn't refer to women only or mostly as mothers, wives, and daughters when the women in question really are CEOs, bankers, legislators, or executives. That includes praising said CEOs, bankers, legislators, or executives with "and she's a devoted mother of three," as if that made all the other achievements pale in comparison (as was done to Marie Curie when she won a Nobel Prize, among countless others). Some male speakers only refer to women as mothers, when there are plenty of us without children who also vote, buy products and run companies. Most politicians' speechwriters do it, but I want speechwriters of all kinds to set a better pace. Don't define women solely in terms of their relationships to other people. Challenge yourself, and your speaker, to describe women in terms of their work and their worth beyond their relationships, just as you do when you're writing about men. I don't want to have to sit through another speech in which my gender is so narrowly defined.

If your speaker only quotes men, or only points to men as exemplars of whatever you're peddling, your speech is ignoring half of history and half of the present day. I want you to search out women's quotes and women leaders to use as examples. The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women has more than 160 speeches loaded with great quotes, and I maintain a Pinterest board of great quotes by eloquent women. There's no excuse for not quoting women. Bloomberg News has just made this the standard for its journalism: “All Bloomberg News enterprise work must include at least one woman’s voice, and preferably a balance of men and women. Women are engaged in every topic we cover. Our journalism should reflect that variety.” Let's try it in speechwriting. I don't want to sit through speeches in which no women serve as exemplars worthy of quoting.

Writing differently for male speakers also means omitting the sexist or suggestive content that I hear too many men repeat and too many women report, as if we're endlessly reliving a 1950s Rat Pack routine or an episode of Mad Men. We live in a misogynistic culture. That doesn't mean you have to perpetuate it when you write a speech or plan a presentation. And if you think that removes "all the fun," you've just admitted, if only to yourself, that you're not thinking about your entire audience. You've admitted that you're willing to help your speaker disrespect half your audience. Both are cardinal sins for a speechwriter. If it's your speaker who is inserting these comments, speak to him about it. I don't want to sit through those speeches, either.

If your male speaker is addressing a group of women, please don't try to fix the women by giving them helpful tips when the real issue is persistent sexism in our culture. Telling women they just need to be more confident, to speak up more, or to be more assertive suggests that the problem begins and ends with women, and that they are somehow both flawed and responsible for the situation. Research shows that women can accurately size up negative biases in their audiences. They often don't negotiate for raises or ask questions, not because they don't see their own worth, but because they have figured out (accurately) that both men and women are less likely to view them positively or meet their requests. Instead, I want your speech to note what your male speaker will do to ensure equity across the board in his sphere of influence. If he's addressing a group of women, I'd like to see him ask them what's on their minds, listening rather than prescribing solutions. While he's at it, I want to see him take as many questions from women as from men in the Q&A. Women notice this persistent and easy method of silencing them.

When I get that question about writing differently for women, I know that the questioner may be hoping that I will answer as I do, that they need not do so. Why should there be different types of writing? they might be thinking. I agree in principle, but wonder why I rarely hear speechwriters ask about changing the ways they write for men. It's not just another case of "what do women want?" but what all speakers can do. Unless we can consider both options, we're not really examining this question, intellectually or fairly.

I believe that speechwriters, so often charged with describing the cutting-edge, can be leaders here. I believe that most speechwriters and speakers don't want to discriminate or further bias, but are unlikely to recognize when they're doing it. Speakers who want to be real thought leaders and role models would talk about gender diversity because women are half your market, half your employee pool, half your suppliers, half your voters, half your donors and volunteers--at least. If you want your male speaker to resonate with half his audience, a half he might not be reaching now, these are easy steps to take to boost his influence.

You'll be boosting your own influence at the same time. Speechwriters rarely get credit for their work. That's baked into the job, so your speaker can look and sound smart and eloquent. But speechwriters also can be influential, which is a different kind of power. Speechwriters can have great influence in this way. Will you?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by TED Conference)

Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Monday, January 5, 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:

If you found this post useful, please subscribe or make a one-time donation to help support the thousands of hours that go into researching and curating this content for you. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Famous Speech Friday All-Stars to start 2015

From activists and an aviator to a poet and a prime minister, these are the famous speeches by women that are most-read on the blog. All part of The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women, these posts all began as Famous Speech Friday posts, and contain, where available, text, audio or video, as well as what you can learn to aid your own public speaking. Here are the speeches you turn to again and again:
  1. Hillary Clinton's speech at the 1995 United Nations Conference on Women, held in Beijing, was a big deal even then--I was working in the Clinton Administration and served on the White House Council on Women when this speech was in the works. Today, it's a touchstone for its important line about women's rights and human rights. This is far and away the most popular speech in the Index.
  2. Amelia Earhart's "A Woman's Place in Science" was a radio address that sought to describe how women could participate in a time of great scientific discovery, as consumers and as careerists.
  3. Helen Keller's "Strike Against War" was a popular anti-World War I speech she gave as a pacifist and activist. This post also includes rare footage of Keller speaking.
  4. Evita Peron's 1951 "Renunciamiento" was a radio address in which she declined calls for her to assume the vice presidency of Argentina. We've got footage of the speech and an associated rally.
  5. Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" is oft-quoted and recited today. But it's not at all clear that the words that survive were those of Truth, a charismatic speaker, thanks to later efforts to alter the text.
  6. Margaret Thatcher's "Iron Lady" speech gave her that nickname for an ironclad stance against the Soviet Union. This speech came before her rise to Prime Minister, a forceful statement.
  7. Margaret Sanger's "The Children's Era" made the case for birth control by describing the impacts on women. This 1925 speech also answered her critics' subtly sexist arguments against her movement.
  8. Maya Angelou's eulogy for Coretta Scott King has the poet's lyricism and the knowing qualities that only a close friend can bring to your funeral. From one titan to another, this is a powerful, lovely speech.
  9. Emmeline Pankhurst's "Freedom or Death" was given in America while the fearless British suffragette was avoiding jail and raising money for the cause. She deftly used Ireland's independence movement, led by men, as a comparison for how the women activists were treated and turned away.
  10. Aung San Suu Kyi's "Freedom from Fear" speech is an unusually insightful look at the psychology behind why despots use fear. She argues for freedom from fear because of its power to sway and control people. This speech preceded her long house arrest, and was the major voice for her positions while she was so long silenced.
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. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

11 real resolutions for public speakers

You may be dreaming of a TED talk or getting a huge fee for your next speech, but your coach here has some real resolutions for you in the new year...the kind that lead to greatness, if only you'd do them.

I say that because the truth about public speaking--whether you're doing formal keynotes or other speeches, TEDx talks, informal remarks, or a slide presentation--is that success hinges on small, realistic steps. The good news: These resolutions are all within your grasp.

Here, then, are the real resolutions I recommend for public speakers of all kinds. Happy 2015!
  1. When I'm preparing for a speech or presentation, I will stop pretending that practice involves advancing my slides and silently thinking about what to say. Instead, I'll discover the advantages of real practice in public speaking, and do it out loud, recording myself and later practicing in front of a supportive audience before I ever take the microphone.
  2. I will actually watch the videos made of my talks before I decide that the talks were awful, and I'll do that using Denise's no-wincing checklist for reviewing the video of your talk. If there are no plans by the organizers to capture video, I'll enlist a pal to do the honors for me.
  3. When I finish a successful talk or presentation, I'll work on making the most of my speech after it's done, so that I can get better speaking gigs next time.
  4. I'll publish my speeches, slide presentations and talks in video, audio, and text, along with photos of myself speaking, every time I do, because I understand why it's important to publish my speeches.
  5. I will stop saying or thinking that I already know everything there is to know about public speaking and get coaching about what's new in presentations and speeches and how I can use new approaches to build on my strengths.
  6. I will turn down opportunities to be a supporting-role speaker (moderator, introducer, chair) if that's the only kind of speaking I do, and I'll seek opportunities where I am the featured speaker.
  7. I will not use slides when I am part of a panel discussion, and I will urge others to forego them so that we may, in fact, have a discussion, as well as a prayer of ending on time
  8. When I move into a new role, I'll ask for speaker coaching as part of my professional development. That might be when I get a promotion, become CEO, get elected to a volunteer officer position in my professional society, win an award, or when I'm asked to speak at a particularly high-powered conference. I'll use the coaching to prepare for the different types of speaking and messages ahead in my new role.
  9. As a panelist, I will resist the urge to add on to another panelist's answer by agreeing with what she said and repeating it. Instead, I will make a new point of my own.
  10. I will always allow plenty of time for audience questions, at least one-third to one-half of the time allotted, and thus discover popularity as a speaker.
  11. When I am nervous before a talk, I will make an effort to avoid jumping ahead in time ("I'm going to die out there") or back in time ("I should have said this instead") or in denial ("I never get nervous"). Instead, I'll just be present, acknowledging, "Hey, I'm nervous and that feels like....." followed by some power posing, smiling or other known antidotes to feeling anxious.
Need a coach for any of these speaker resolutions--or your own? Email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by TEDxSomerville)