Friday, September 30, 2016

Famous Speech Friday: Lionel Shriver's cultural appropriation speech

Little did the Brisbane Writers Festival know what its keynote from Lionel Shriver would do to its conference. That is, until the keynote speaker's first sentence.

Titled Fiction and Identity Politics, and featuring the speaker in a Mexican sombrero as shown at right, the keynote speech began this way, leaving no doubt how it meant to go on:
I hate to disappoint you folks, but unless we stretch the topic to breaking point this address will not be about “community and belonging.” In fact, you have to hand it to this festival’s organisers: inviting a renowned iconoclast to speak about “community and belonging” is like expecting a great white shark to balance a beach ball on its nose. 
The topic I had submitted instead was “fiction and identity politics,” which may sound on its face equally dreary. 
But I’m afraid the bramble of thorny issues that cluster around “identity politics” has got all too interesting, particularly for people pursuing the occupation I share with many gathered in this hall: fiction writing. Taken to their logical conclusion, ideologies recently come into vogue challenge our right to write fiction at all. Meanwhile, the kind of fiction we are “allowed” to write is in danger of becoming so hedged, so circumscribed, so tippy-toe, that we’d indeed be better off not writing the anodyne drivel to begin with.
The reaction began before the speech was over, with some listeners walking out and blogging about their reasons why later. Conference organizers disavowed the message and set up a "right of reply" session for those attendees wishing to speak in rebuttal to the controversial keynote.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied, one of the attendees, noted "Her question was — or could have been — an interesting question: What are fiction writers 'allowed' to write, given they will never truly know another person’s experience?" She writes about waiting for Shriver to subvert the argument made humorously at first, only to conclude that the speech was a "poisoned package wrapped up in arrogance and delivered with condescension."

Just because a speech is famous--and this one surely is now--doesn't make it the best example of greatness. Here's what you can learn from this famous speech, or really, some questions to ask if you are considering such a tactic:
  • Is your respect showing? There are plenty of speakers who make their mark by being gadflies, people who poke conventional thinking in the eye. It's a provocative and memorable approach, whether you agree or disagree with the content. And it's a bold stroke, one that few speakers attempt. But better might be an approach that balances the bold questions with some demonstrated respect for the audience and the organizers. When listeners in the hall see your speech as arrogant and condescending, you have missed this mark.
  • Do you get at the interesting question, or just the glib one? Abdel-Magied posed the tougher question that could have been answered by Shriver's talk: "What are fiction writers 'allowed' to write, given they will never truly know another person’s experience?" That's more on-point for a writers conference, for starters, and would have required some philosophy to get beyond the protest.
  • Are your examples one-sided? Certainly, many speakers cherry-pick their examples to make an extreme point. Playing solely to one side of the argument dismisses your opponents, but also excludes a large portion of your audience. A better (and likely better received) talk might have found many other-than-biased examples to illustrate the complexity of the issue and how authors (aka, the audience) have thought about them through the ages. The talk, for example, put me in mind of Jane Austen, who includes no scenes of men speaking to other men without women present, because it was outside her own experience. Yet she's considered one of the greatest novelists. How does that fit into this discussion?
Not surprisingly, there's no full video of this speech published and available, but The Guardian published the full text here.

(Photo of Lionel Shriver shared by Dr. Kristin Ferguson on Twitter)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

My favorite fixes for public speaking: Hide before and after your talk

As a speaker coach, it's my job to keep a lot of tools in my toolbox to help my clients improve their public speaking. But just like any craftsman, I have a few go-to tools, well-worn from frequent use. This is the fifth and final post in a series of five favorite fixes I turn to all the time. Each one sounds simple, but confers a complex array of benefits to public speakers...if only you will do them. I'm sharing each favorite fix along with the types of speakers who might benefit most from them. You'll get the best results if you try them not once, but over a period of time.

This week's favorite fix is to hide before and after your talk. And by "hide," I mean get away from other people, no matter how nice or important they are. Hiding might take you to the toilet, a nearby stairwell, a walk around the block or in the park across the street, down an empty hallway. Be sure someone knows you're stepping away ("I have to make a quick call" should do it) and make sure you return well in time for your presentation. Just use the time to be quiet.

The idea here is to avoid frittering away your energy on small talk with the organizers or other attendees or backstage crew, and to save it for when you need it, on stage. Don't fill the time playing with your smart phone, either. Just get yourself mentally prepared for going on stage or in front of the room. Neuroscientists have found that multitasking drains your brain's energy reserves.

This is a good fix essential for speakers who are at all introverted, and those who are extremely introverted may need more time alone in advance and following a talk. But it's also a good fix for extroverts who are stressed about their presentations, since stress makes an extrovert feel like an introvert, a highly uncomfortable and foreign experience for them. Don't forget to have a little quiet recovery time in that hallway or stairwell after the talk, too. Then you'll be able to have some energy for chatting with the organizer and participants.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Florian Richter)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of SpeechIt's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both, and you'll get the best discount if you sign up by August 1.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

If you want to keep up with my wide-ranging reading list about women and speaking in real time, follow The Eloquent Woman on Facebook where these links are posted all week long--or just head here on Mondays, where I summarize them all for you. Either way, you'll be expanding your understanding of women and speaking:

Friday, September 23, 2016

Famous Speech Friday: Billie Jean King at FIFA Women's Conference

Even if you've never been a tennis fan, you've probably heard of Billie Jean King. The 39-time Grand Slam champion became a potent symbol of the women's rights movement in the 1970s when she defeated self-proclaimed "chauvinist pig" Bobby Riggs in the 1973 "Battle of the Sexes" match. (This throwback article from the New York Daily News gives some idea of how much of a cultural circus surrounded the match.) But King had been an advocate for equal rights in the workplace long before that celebrated match, helping to gain concrete reforms in the prize money and venues offered on the women's tennis tour.

Her plain language and her fearlessness in speaking out against discrimination led to her speech-filled career after tennis, and we've wanted to feature her on the blog for some time. Her recent speech at the FIFA Women's Football and Leadership Conference offers an excellent chance to hear what makes her such an eloquent woman and a dynamo for equal rights. And how can we not love a quote like this, from the March 2016 speech?
If FIFA wants to win, it is not enough for women to have a seat at the table. We can't just have a seat at the table. My generation worried about getting us a seat at the table. That's gone. That doesn't matter anymore. It's about having a voice at the table and being heard.
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Acknowledge your inspirations and partners. Many of King's speeches talk about the people who have invited her to speak or who inspired her words, and this speech is an excellent demonstration of how she weaves these contributions into a talk. Listen to her recall her conversations with FIFA president Gianni Infantino, former U.S. football star Abby Wambach and her brother, former Major League pitcher Randy Moffitt, and you'll get a sense of how King's opinions and values grew organically with the help of their input. She even reads a little from the FIFA program book for the event, and acknowledges her livestream audience (very rare to see this, but increasingly important). It feels like an interesting reveal of how the speech was put together, and I think it gives a more inclusive and informal feel to the speech--making it more of a conversation and less of a proclamation.
  • Use the rhetorical rule of three. We've often talked about it on this blog, but if there is an opportunity to build a speech around three points, you can take advantage of the narrative and structural power this offers. In this case, King notes that FIFA is pursuing three major reforms: To bring more women into FIFA leadership; to develop a commercial strategy for women's football; and to appoint a secretary-general who supports gender equality in the sport. King thoughtfully builds her own "three observations" around these three elements.
  • Offer a historical perspective. One of the joys of listening to a speech by King is getting to hear her stories of how sport and women's rights have changed in her lifetime. As she notes in this speech, "history is slow when you're living it," but we benefit from her historical perspective. Her FIFA talk is full of illuminating stories of inequality in the tennis world; my personal favorite is her early realization at a country club match that "tennis whites" applied to more than just the togs. By offering a look at the earlier fight for equality in tennis, she delivers inspiration and hard-won bits of strategy to the women in her audience, now fighting for an equal place in the world's most popular sport.
Here's the full video of King's speech, starting at the 34:58 mark:

REPLAY: FIFA Women's Football and Leadership Conference 2016 - Morning Session

(Freelance writer Becky Ham contributed this Famous Speech Friday post)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both, and you'll get the best discount if you sign up by August 1.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

What does your more evolved, future speaker self look like?

Fight-or-flight syndrome (sometimes called fight-flight-freeze for the reactions it prompts) is normal and nearly universal in public speakers...and everyone else facing a stressful situation. It's evolutionary behavior, or, as I like to say, it's the sign that your caveman brain has taken over, shutting out the functioning of your higher-order brain, more recently evolved.

For public speakers, therein lies the problem: You need your higher-order brain to think and speak in front of an audience. So of course it shuts down just when you need it most.

You know that I and others recommend developing a regular mindfulness meditation practice to counteract fight-or-flight syndrome. When I was listening recently to a mindfulness lecture by Tara Brach on stress and everyday nirvana, she talked about one tactic for counteracting stress responses in everyday situations: imagining what your more evolved, future self looks like.

So speakers, let me ask you: if public speaking is stressful for you now, what does your more evolved, future speaker self look like?

To get you started on your thinking about this, let me share some of the words that my clients use to describe this in my 1:1 coaching sessions or in group workshops. Perhaps you'll find some inspiration here:
  • calm
  • eloquent
  • expert
  • smooth, well-planned delivery
  • awake and aware
  • confident that I can deal with what comes 
  • ready to answer questions
  • relaxed
  • commanding attention
  • able to deal with interruptions smoothly
  • enjoying being in front of the room
  • accepting of praise
  • in command of my content
  • knowing where I might trip up, and having a plan to work around that
  • appreciative of the other speakers and the audience
That's just to get you started. What would your list look like? 

This can be a powerful exercise for setting goals for yourself as a speaker. Sometimes in my workshops, I ask participants to do a similar exercise, in which they choose one word to describe themselves as a speaker today, and one word that, to them, defines "eloquent." Cate Huston said of this exercise and its results, "My talks were extremely well received, something which I attribute significantly to Denise’s help. In the workshop, I defined what eloquent meant to me as 'poised', which is exactly the word a conference organiser used to describe me on stage."

The point here is that your speaker self is an evolving self, or should be. Envisioning yourself as a more evolved speaker is part of the process of making that come true.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Sigurd Gartmann)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

If you want to keep up with my wide-ranging reading list about women and speaking in real time, follow The Eloquent Woman on Facebook where these links are posted all week long--or just head here on Mondays, where I summarize them all for you. Either way, you'll be expanding your understanding of women and speaking:

Friday, September 16, 2016

Famous Speech Friday: Mary Ann Shadd Cary's 1858 "Break Every Yoke"

(Editor's note: Mary Ann Shadd Cary is one of a number of nineteenth-century American black women orators like Sojourner Truth who defied societal norms against women, and black women, speaking in public. You can read more about them and the conditions in which they spoke in Doers of the Word: African-American Women Speakers and Writers in the North (1810-1880) by Carla L. Peterson.)

Mary Ann Shadd Cary--abolitionist, feminist, teacher, newspaper editor, lawyer--gave one of her most popular speeches at the Philadelphia Colored Convention in 1855. A free black from the United States who had emigrated to Canada after the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act was passed, Shadd Cary nearly didn't speak at the convention at all. There was some discussion among the delegates about whether she should be admitted as a "corresponding member" of the meeting, since she lived in Canada. And many at the convention disapproved of her support of emigration for black families in the U.S. But eventually she was allowed to speak, and her speech on emigration was so well-received that she spoke longer than she was allotted originally.

This, however, is not a post about that famous speech. The text of that 1855 address was struck from the convention record, with later historical accounts suggesting that her speech was left out because she was a woman.

It wasn't the first time that Shadd Cary had encountered this kind of sexism. In the years before she returned to the U.S. to join the abolitionist speaking circuit, she had established her own newspaper, The Provincial Freeman, as the first black woman editor of a North American newspaper. (A trailblazer in more than one way, Shadd Cary was also one of the first black women in the U.S. to earn a law degree, from Howard University.) She kept her editorship under wraps until she received a letter in 1854 praising "Mr. M.A. Shadd" for his fine newspaper and "the ingenuity of the colored man who published it." She immediately placed her full name and title prominently on the masthead.

We do have a handwritten copy of another speech by Shadd Cary, an 1858 sermon delivered in Canada that touches on many of the themes that made her a popular antislavery speaker in the critical years leading up to the U.S. Civil War. Let's take a look at what we can learn from this famous and available speech:
  • Start with a strong statement, and carry that idea throughout the speech. In the sermon, Shadd Cary begins with the "great commandments" or what she calls "the 1st business of life," to love God and your neighbor as yourself. Not that controversial or original for the start of a sermon, maybe, but it's a strong, singular point of agreement with her audience that she then builds on throughout the rest of her speech. If her listeners accept these commandments, she reminds them, they must accept them fully on behalf of all races and all sexes.
  • Read your speech aloud to yourself as you practice. Shadd Cary's speech is not an easy one to read--as text. That's in part because the language has an old-fashioned, flowery sound to it that might seem melodramatic to modern ears. But it's also because it was never meant to be read, but meant to be heard. I think you'll enjoy this speech much more when you read it aloud, and begin to feel which parts might have been emphasized and how it may have been paced. Try it with this passage:
    Slavery American slavery will not bear moral tests. It is it Exists by striking down all the moral safeguards to society by--it is not then a moral institution. You are called upon as a man to deny and disobey the most noble impulses of manhood to aid a brother in distress--to refuse to strike from the limbs of those not bound for any crime the fetters by which his Escape is obstructed. The milk of human kindness must be transformed into the bitter waters of hatred--you must return to his master he that hath Escaped, no matter how Every principle of manly independence revolts at the same.
    If you do this with your own speeches as you're preparing them (or even after you deliver them), you may recognize places where a change of pace, a dramatic pause, or a shift in tone could be a benefit.
  • Consider the history of "angry" women speakers. If you read about Shadd Cary's career (Jane Rhodes' biography is a great place to start), you'll soon learn that she didn't pay much attention to her gentlemen colleagues in the antislavery movement who advised her to sweeten her words. Even the famous Frederick Douglass noted that her writing and speaking seemed to him too confrontational, complaining and shrill--while admitting that for some reason, audiences still seemed to like hearing from her. If this sounds familiar, well, let's just say that Shadd Cary has lots of contemporary company.
(Becky Ham contributed this Famous Speech Friday post)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

My favorite fixes for public speaking: Don't wear all black

As a speaker coach, it's my job to keep a lot of tools in my toolbox to help my clients improve their public speaking. But just like any craftsman, I have a few go-to tools, well-worn from frequent use. This is the fourth in a series of five favorite fixes I turn to all the time. Each one sounds simple, but confers a complex array of benefits to public speakers...if only you will do them. I'm sharing each favorite fix along with the types of speakers who might benefit most from them. You'll get the best results if you try them not once, but over a period of time.

This week's favorite fix is to avoid wearing all black. Speakers are happy to stand alone on a stage in front of hundreds or people, or say provocative things in their speeches and presentations. But many of them do their hiding with their wardrobe, blending into the background in all-black or predominantly black outfits, for reasons that range from "It will make me look thinner" to "It will make me look more serious."

But what it makes you look is invisible. And is that why you bothered to get up on that stage or in front of the room? You might get lucky and have a pale background against which to stand, but why take a chance? Black also does little to complement your skin and face. And this one goes for men as well as women, no matter how often Steve Jobs wore it.

Really, almost any color will do instead, although you'll want to avoid lighter or pastel shades and pure white; the former wash out under the lights, and the latter is a lighting director's nightmare. Instead aim for jewel tones and other saturated colors like a French blue, navy, emerald, ruby.

This is a good fix for speakers who want to look more lively and energetic; speakers who want to stand out against the background, rather than blend in with it; and speakers who want the video of their talks to really shine.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Florian Richter)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of SpeechIt's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both, and you'll get the best discount if you sign up by August 1.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

If you want to keep up with my wide-ranging reading list about women and speaking in real time, follow The Eloquent Woman on Facebook where these links are posted all week long--or just head here on Mondays, where I summarize them all for you. Either way, you'll be expanding your understanding of women and speaking:

Friday, September 9, 2016

Famous Speech Friday: Amy Schumer shuts down a heckler

Just minutes into the set of her comedy show in its Stockholm appearance, a man in Amy Schumer's audience yelled, "Show us your tits."

This isn't actually unusual. Consider Hillary Clinton's run for the presidency in 2008, when a man in her audience yelled, "Iron my shirt." Both of these misogynistic hecklers did their work in the first few minutes of a powerful woman's talk, seeking to undermine her status and remind her of her more traditional duties as housekeeper or sex object, or both.

The Guardian shares what happened next in Schumer's comedy set:
In a video she posted online, the Trainwreck writer is seen to stop the show to call out the heckler. “OK, wait, I want the guy who just yelled ‘show us your tits’ to come up here,” she said. “Everybody point at him, so I know which one.” 
Members of the audience pointed to the man, who said he was wearing a shirt which read: “I love pussies.” 
“Now don’t get shy, what do you do for a living?” Schumer asked the man, to which he responded: “Sales.” 
“Sales?” Schumer said. “How’s that working out? Is it going well? Because we’re not buying it. 
“That’s really cute, but if you yell out again, you’re going to be yelling ‘show your tits’ to people in the parking lot, because you’re going to get thrown out, motherfucker.
“Don’t throw him out, just look him in the eye, tell me if you’re going to see a scarier motherfucker than that guy … I’ll show my tits when I want to.” 
When the man yelled out for a second time Schumer finally decided to have him removed, to which he said: “I was about to go anyway.” She replied: “We’re going to miss you so much. I already miss you,” before telling the audience to clap if they think he should be kicked out. The arena burst into applause.
There's so much to like and learn from this deft handling of a heckler. It's a small speech in its own right, and a great example for how to deal with this kind of seemingly irrational, but truly nefarious, challenge from the audience. After all, we talk about speakers "owning the stage" or "having the floor," meaning it's their turn to speak. Hecklers take the stage or the floor away, however briefly, in what is clearly a power play. Taking back control is what the speaker needs to do. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Enlist the rest of the audience when a heckler rises: Schumer's first instinct was to get the crowd to identify the heckler--both practical in the huge arena, and a way to get them on her side. There's safety in numbers and in helping each other call out trouble-makers. 
  • Set the terms of the engagement, out loud: Notice that she announced what she wanted to happen first, then called on the audience directly, with an "Everybody...." so it was clear that she wasn't waiting for the heckler to identify himself. Telling your audience, out loud, what you want to happen, is one of the speaker's most powerful tools.
  • If this, then that: "That’s really cute, but if you yell out again, you’re going to be yelling ‘show your tits’ to people in the parking lot, because you’re going to get thrown out, motherfucker." If you need to handle a heckler, make the next action and its consequences clear--again, out loud--so that all can see and hear what you intend. Then take action. Enlisting the audience to clap if they thought he should be kicked out after a second infraction was a genius way to get the crowd back in on the action.
You can see the video of this encounter here or below:


Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Coaching a cadre of scientists to give TED-quality talks

Many companies and organizations underestimate the public-speaking abilities of the scientists they employ, even as they believe those skills are critical in making science more widely understood. And scientists--taught a completely different framework for communicating their academic work--often find the methods for speaking to non-scientists opaque, mysterious, and frustrating.

But there's one other wrinkle that sometimes trips up the process of turning scientists into public speakers: The coach. You've heard me talk before about hearing one prominent coach declare, "I can train anybody but a scientist," a truly wince-inducing remark that seems to suggest it's the scientists who are somehow deficient. In fact, they are more demanding than you may know. Bob Lalasz, former director of science communications for The Nature Conservancy, puts his finger on it: "Scientists demand credibility — from each other, and from anyone who trains them. When I was looking for a presentation coach for The Nature Conservancy’s Science Impact Project — a professional development program for some of the Conservancy’s most promising early- and mid-career scientists — I needed someone who would impress them immediately, speak their language and be able to work with scientist psychologies to get great results. Denise Graveline was my first choice."

The program required participants in one year to learn how to do TED-style presenting, and made it optional for the rest of the participants in this leadership development program. We used an approach that has worked for many of my clients, nonprofit or corporate, mixing group and 1:1 coaching. The initial group workshop introduces the TED talk and important considerations--such as the fact that there's no one format for these talks--and helps participants begin to develop a talk about their research, based on a questionnaire I give them before the workshop. They get time to talk about and work on their talk concepts and get help with them. After the workshop, we set up 1:1 coaching and script reviews over a series of months to help them polish and practice the talks. For some cohorts, TNC also videotaped the talks or created presentation opportunities for them to be delivered.

I worked closely with the program's manager, Katie Dietrich Curran, to deliver the training and coaching, in some cases expanding on the original brief. I asked her a few questions to explore how this coaching approach worked for the program:

Where does TED-style training fit in your leadership program for scientists? 

KDC: TNC scientists are increasingly being asked to share their research with donors, decision-makers, and internal non-science audiences. Sometimes these audiences require an element of storytelling in presentations that is not typical of a scientist's training or experience. The TED-style approach provides another tool in the toolbox for communicating the tremendous and exciting stories of conservation science

Did you have specific goals for their TED talks?

KDC: We wanted the SIP scientists to develop not only versatile talks, but also skills and tools to use the TED-style approach in a variety of venues. Several scientists have used variations of their talks by lengthening or shortening the content or producing blog posts, or even taking elements of TED-style into an more academic talk. One scientist brought seaweed from Belize to a science meeting in Canada to provide context and story to her talk, and a little amusement in crossing customs. We are also recording these talks so scientists have documentation of their speaking abilities, content, and ability to use the TED–style approach to share widely and promote for further speaking opportunities.

How did they react to the option of learning this speaking format?

KDC: There was a mix of enthusiasm and concern about learning this speaking format as it took scientists outside their comfort zone, but into a model and tool that is recognized as approachable to the varied audiences Conservancy scientists are increasingly talking to. Several of our international scientists were concerned about pursuing this approach, but the TED-style is becoming more and more global and the elements of storytelling can fit into many cultures. Denise did a fantastic job creating the excitement for the TED-style approach even with the potential for cultural differences, and the 1:1 coaching enabled conversations tailored to the appropriateness of a participant’s culture.

And Denise adds: Since TED talks really are a global phenomenon, with 10,000+ TEDx conferences having been held all over the world, I can provide lots of examples from countries other than the United States--and even share videos translated into many languages. Since TNC scientists are scattered all over the world, we did the workshops at already-scheduled meetings of the Project's participants, and conducted the 1:1 coaching remotely by phone or Skype, sharing script drafts, videos, and other resources by email, Skype, or Dropbox. For this project, I trained scientists in Australia, Belize, California, China, Georgia, Indonesia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mongolia, Palau, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia...without traveling to them or vice versa, except for the workshops.

What would you recommend to others considering training a group of leaders in this way?

KDC: We learned after the first group that SIP participants struggled with what to do next once they developed a talk, as well what to do with recordings. The scientists did not all have particular speaking venues in mind when developing the talk, so this reduced the urgency in completing the coaching. I would recommend having a particular event to use the talks already in mind and also encourage rounding out the experience by revisiting what to do with the talks and recordings at completion which we asked of Denise later in the training program.

I'll add a few more notes to Katie's comments:
  • Having a scheduled talk to work toward really does improve results and participation, even if you are creating an event for that purpose.
  • Everyone participating in this training had access to my tips for promoting their talks and what to do with the videos, not only in tip form and in our workshops, but through additional webinars that let participants from many cohorts ask questions about what to do next. You can see examples of scientist bios revised to incorporate their speaking experience from TNC's Sally Palmer, director of science for TNC in Tennessee;, Jon Fisher, senior conservation scientist at TNC's Center for Sustainability Science;  and Bryan Piazza, director of freshwater and marine science for TNC in Louisiana have updated their profiles in this way. Adding speaking experience to your bio is an easy way to let conference organizers find and evaluate you as a speaker, and lets them know you are interested, as well as seasoned.
  • The scientists chose the length of their talks, from 5 minutes to 18 minutes. Those choosing shorter lengths were shown how to expand them for longer time slots; those with longer scripts learned how to reduce them to shorter talks. Some enterprising folks created multiple talks.
  • It's entirely possible to train a group with different disciplines: These scientists ran the gamut from biology to behavioral economics, and their work ranges from forest and coral reef conservation to work conserving and protecting endangered species and engaging non-scientific groups in conservation work. That had no impact at all on the coaching process, since I have worked my entire career with every scientific discipline and use the same tactics with each scientist. I am able, however, to ask intelligent questions and help the researchers come up with metaphors, story lines, and dramatic arcs to get their research across. 
  • Producing blog posts for the TNC Cool Green Science blog is another requirement of the program, and I urged these scientists to remake their speech scripts into posts as one way of furthering their reach. Roadkill on the Ocean Highway: Can Experimental Fishing Reduce Sea Turtle Bycatch in the Pacific? by Lotus Vermeer, SIP participant and former director of the marine program for TNC in Santa Barbara, California, is just one example.
Finally, that mix of workshop training for the group, coupled with 1:1 coaching to develop individual talks, worked very well for these scientists, whose work is so varied. That's my point of view, and theirs, too. Dietrich Curran notes: "SIP participants considered the individual coaching a highlight of their SIP experience and most beneficial to their advancement as speakers. The opportunity was considered a true testament to the investment of the Conservancy in the success of the scientists." If you're considering speaker coaching as part of your leadership development program, this really is the way to go.

Here are two of the talks captured on video: Jeff Opperman, speaking on Dams, Rivers, and Drive-by Truckers, and Lizzie McLeod, speaking on The Secret to Tackling Climate Change.







Monday, September 5, 2016

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

If you want to keep up with my wide-ranging reading list about women and speaking in real time, follow The Eloquent Woman on Facebook where these links are posted all week long--or just head here on Mondays, where I summarize them all for you. Either way, you'll be expanding your understanding of women and speaking:

Friday, September 2, 2016

Famous Speech Friday: Angelina Grimké's 1838 speech at Pennsylvania Hall

(Editor's note: I can't help but wonder whether this is one of the origins of the term barn-burner to describe an exciting or intense event.)

“Just then stones were thrown at the windows, -- a great noise without, and commotion within.”

This note on the scene comes from the transcript of a speech delivered by abolitionist and women’s rights activist Angelina Grimké Weld--the last public speech she ever made--in Philadelphia in 1838. She was speaking at an antislavery convention, and kept speaking as a mob outside the building threw rocks and tried to out-shout the convention speakers. The next day, the mob ransacked and burned the building, which was named—-no joke here--the Pennsylvania Hall for Free Discussion.

The conventioneers later expressed their amazement at how Grimké acknowledged the cacophony outside but continued speaking passionately for more than an hour. “As the tumult from without increased, and the brickbats fell thick and fast,” wrote fellow abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, “her eloquence kindled, her eyes flashed, and her cheeks glowed.” She had been winning audiences all over the Northeast that year with her oratory, according to her colleague Robert Wolcutt: “Angelina’s Grimké’s serene, commanding eloquence enchained attention, disarmed prejudice and carried her hearers with her.”

Stones were the least of the obstacles facing Grimké’s career as a speaker. She and her older sister Sarah Moore Grimké were routinely scolded by their antislavery colleagues and their ministers for their scandalous habit of speaking to “mixed” audiences of men and women. The Grimké sisters were usually not welcome at antislavery events and were sometimes the only women present at these meetings. Angelina’s contemporary, the educator Catharine Beecher, wrote that women like the Grimké sisters had no place in the public fight against slavery. Biographers of the Grimké sisters note that Angelina especially was reprimanded by her family and friends for being too outspoken and inquisitive.

Angelina Grimké was the first woman in the United States to address a legislative body, testifying about slavery in 1838 before the Massachusetts State Legislature. In a letter to her friend Sarah Douglass, she described the petty insults that greeted her in the chamber (emphasis hers):
After the bustle was over I rose to speak and was greeted by hisses from the doorway, tho’ profound silence reigned thro’ the crowd within. The noise in that direction increased and I was requested by the Chairman to suspend my remarks until order could be restored. Three times was I thus interrupted, until at last one of the Committee came to me and requested I would stand near the Speakers desk. I crossed the Hall and stood on the platform in front of it, but was immediately requested to occupy the Secretaries desk on one side. I had just fixed my papers on two gentlemen’s hats when at last I was invited to stand in the Speaker’s desk. This was in the middle, more elevated and far more convenient in every respect. Now my friend, how dost thou think I bore all this? I never was favored with greater self−possession. I was perfectly calm—took up the thread of my discourse and by speaking very loud, soon succeeded in hushing down the noise of the people, and was suffered to continue for more than 2 hours without the least interruption...
In Philadelphia, at least, she didn’t have to make a lectern out of gentlemen’s hats. But she did have to persevere in the face of physical threat. Let’s look at what you can learn from the full text of her famous speech:
  • Speak from your experience. Grimké’s passionate antislavery appeals had their roots in her childhood spent in Charleston as the daughter of a slaveowner. Her speeches and her famous 1836 pamphlet An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South provided a personal and vivid perspective on the cruelties of slavery. In the Philadelphia speech, she shares how even after moving North, “the Southern breeze wafted to me the discordant tones of weeping and wailing, shrieks and groans, mingled with prayers and blasphemous curses.” The unique journey, which only she could share, allowed her to reach out to both Northern and Southern audiences.
  • Don’t shy away from acknowledging your opposition. It would have been difficult in any case for Grimké to ignore the mob outside the hall, but she did more than prove herself unfazed by the threat. She used them as an illustration for her own points, to raise the courage of Northerners who might be tempted to stay neutral in the fight:
    What is a mob? What would the breaking of every window be? What would the leveling of this Hall be? Any evidence that we are wrong, or that slavery is a good and wholesome institution? What if the mob should now burst in upon us, break up our meeting and commit violence upon our persons -- would this be anything compared with what the slaves endure?
  • Offer a specific plan of action. The stirring language of this speech is only part of its appeal. Beyond rousing her audience, Grimké offers specific actions that they can take to join the fight in their own ways. Sharing antislavery books, raising money for abolition and petitioning lawmakers are among the items that she lists toward the end of the speech. Importantly, she points out that these are all things that women can do, even as they were deprived of the right to vote and to make a difference in that way.
Grimké retired as an orator after this Philadelphia address. Her biographers speculate that a combination of new domestic duties (she had married two days before the famous speech) and failing health might have contributed to her withdrawal from public speaking.

(Freelance writer Becky Ham contributed this Famous Speech Friday post)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

"Help! I'm not as eloquent in my second language as in my first."

When I'm coaching speakers around the world, I sometimes hear this complaint: "I can't be as eloquent in my second language as I can in my first language. What can I do?"

I usually base my advice on this article by the great writer William Zinsser. It's aimed at writers, and was first delivered as a speech to incoming international students at Columbia University's journalism school, but the advice applies as well to public speaking. The best tip: Understand your first language and its characteristics, and then the characteristics of the second language you wish to use. Zinnser writes:
I once asked a student from Cairo, “What kind of language is Arabic?” I was trying to put myself into her mental process of switching from Arabic to English. She said, “It’s all adjectives.” 
Well, of course it’s not all adjectives, but I knew what she meant: it’s decorative, it’s ornate, it’s intentionally pleasing. Another Egyptian student, when I asked him about Arabic, said, “It’s all proverbs. We talk in proverbs. People say things like ‘What you are seeking is also seeking you'.” He also told me that Arabic is full of courtesy and deference, some of which is rooted in fear of the government. “You never know who’s listening,” he said, so it doesn’t hurt to be polite. That’s when I realized that when foreign students come to me with a linguistic problem it may also be a cultural or a political problem.
So, ask yourself: What is your first language like? What are the qualities that you think makes it eloquent? Then do the same for the new language in which you need to speak.

Here's what Zinsser has to say about his own first language, the one you may be adjusting to:
I’m hopelessly in love with English because it’s plain and it’s strong. It has a huge vocabulary of words that have precise shades of meaning; there’s no subject, however technical or complex, that can’t be made clear to any reader in good English—if it’s used right.
But he also points out that you will not find people in New York speaking in proverbs, and others have noted that we are not, generally, a nation that uses lots of adjectives and adverbs, either. Identifying these core differences will help you understand what each language can and cannot do for you. You might want to find the writings of a writer like Zinsser on the English language (or any other language you are trying to use) to learn what you might appreciate--and use as a tool--in that language.

I sometimes suggest to multilingual speakers that they stay authentic and use that special phrase they find moving in their native German or Chinese or Spanish, then explain it to us in English or whatever second language is used for you presentation. "In Germany, we would say...." can introduce that phrase, followed by, "It's difficult to translate but it means...." to share the common understanding. Teach us a little of your language while you're speaking ours--after all, it's not a skill everyone has, so show off those bilingual skills.

I know that one piece of Zinsser's advice, to keep your words and sentences short and simple, may be the sticking point here for speakers who are used to using more complex constructions in their native tongues. But I'd just point out that, in English at least, we are often most moved by speakers whose speech is utterly simple. After all, Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I have a dream" is just four one-syllable words that opened up the imagination of millions. The challenge, then, may be to trust the qualities of that second language--and perhaps its simplicity--to carry the day.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by UN Women)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both, and you'll get the best discount if you sign up by August 1.