Monday, July 24, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Savvy speakers keep up with my wide-ranging reading list on women and public speaking by following The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where these links and articles appear first. I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. It's a great way to expand your public speaking knowledge:
  • Style me for speaking: Wardrobe Oxygen has a good series on what it's like to work with a personal stylist. She did so here for a major fashion blogger conference she was attending, but many speakers consult stylists for high-stakes talks like TED and TEDMED and TEDx talks.
  • More documentation that women speakers are overlooked: Yet another study in which we learn that a particular scientific specialty (here, neuroimmunology) tends to choose male speakers over women...
  • Did you miss? This week, I noted that We don't want to listen to eloquent women. Same as it ever was. Famous Speech Friday shared a speech by Malala Yousafzai at the Canadian Parliament.
  • About the quote: Audre Lorde nails one of the challenges for eloquent women.
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Malala Yousafzai at the Canadian Parliament

(Editor's note: Leonoor Russell, a speechwriter from the Netherlands, calls this speech "a joy to watch," something we often forget about speeches. They can be fun, funny, and joyous, even in a staid parliament setting. I asked Russell to write about this speech for Famous Speech Friday.)

Malala Yousafzai - to many simply known as 'Malala' - is a Pakistani activist for female education. At age 11 she started writing a blog for the BBC about her life during the Taliban occupation. Originally, the blog was anonymous. But in the three years that followed she started doing more and more public performances, which led the New York Times to do a documentary on her.

Her public criticism of the Taliban's restrictions on girls' primary education caused Malala to receive various death threats. In 2012, a Taliban gunman shot her in the head as she rode home on a bus after taking an exam. The attempted murder was unsuccessful, but nevertheless left her very badly injured.

A traumatising event like this would silence the bravest of hearts; but instead Malala chose to let her voice sound louder than ever before. She continued her activism and started giving speeches all around the world. At age 17, Malala became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.

Last April, the Canadian government awarded Malala an honorary Canadian citizenship. In a moving, inspirational (and funny!) speech to the Canadian House of Commons, Malala accepts this rare honor. The speech is a joy to watch.

The speech touches on a number of highly political issues.

On immigration: "Welcome to Canada is more than a headline or a hash tag. It is the spirit of humanity that every single one of us would yearn for, if our family was in crisis. I pray that you continue to open your homes and your hearts to the world's most defenceless children and families — and I hope your neighbours will follow your example."

On education: "Education is vital for security around the world because extremism grows alongside inequality — in places where people feel they have no opportunity, no voice, no hope."

On emancipation: "We can gain peace, grow economies, improve our public health and the air that we breathe. Or we can lose another generation of girls."

Her most important message: "I used to think I had to wait to be an adult to lead. But I've learned that even a child's voice can be heard around the world."

What can we learn from this magnificent speech?

  • Be in control of the situation. After about 5 standing ovations in 10 minutes, Malala warns the audience that she is only on page 7 of her speech; so that they had better pace themselves before they get tired. A brilliant tongue-in-cheek remark that immediately puts her in control of the situation. She alone sets the pace for her speech and determines when and where there will be a pause. A remark like that requires confidence. What we can learn from this is that when you radiate confidence on stage, you put the audience at ease. Your listeners will feel comfortable, knowing that the speaker is in full control of the situation. 
  • Don't be afraid to keep it light. Despite the many weighty issues she addresses, Malala still manages to keep the speech light. She hilariously refers to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's age, tattoos and yoga-practice. She then uses her joke to make a serious point: "While it may be true that he is young for a head of government, I would like to tell the children of Canada: you do not have to be as old as Prime Minister Trudeau to be a leader!" By doing this, Malala manages to strike the perfect balance between playful gags and sincere gravitas. 
  • Write from the heart, speak with skill. This is a skill I had never recognised as such until Denise pointed it out to me in a speech from Michelle Obama. Showing emotion when you talk about personal experiences in a speech is a good thing, but you must always make sure you don't let that emotion distract from your main message. It is better to put your emotions in when you are preparing the text in advance. But when you read it out loud, you must to so with skill and tact. The audience will know a heartfelt message when they hear it. 
Malala masters this to a T. She refers to the fear she felt when she used to go to school and how she would hide the books under her scarf. When her mother tears up, Malala continues with a steady voice. This is impressive, given the horrible experiences that she has had to endure. (And don’t get me started on the fact that she is 19 years old and standing in a foreign parliamentary plenary hall filled with dignitaries.)

I hope to listen to many more of Malala’s speeches in the future.

Denise adds: Don't miss the amazing opening, after her thanks to various dignitaries. You can see the full text of Malala's speech, and watch the video here or below. You'll have to wait for three ads, but the speech is worth it:

Malala Yousafzai's full speech to the Commons

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Same as it ever was: We don't want to listen to eloquent women.

Hillary Clinton took her break after the 2016 election, then emerged slowly, an outing here, a speech there. But around the time of U.S. university commencements--a time when speech-making is especially frequent for leaders of all kinds--I started noticing the jabs suggesting she should, well, shut up.

I wasn't surprised, but I was pleased that some others started to notice. In Why Democrats need to listen to Hillary Clinton, Nancy LeTourneau notes, "by suggesting that she needs to shut up and go away, it’s clear that these folks aren’t interested in listening to what she has to say." Paul Waldman turned it around, starting his article this way:
You've seen the headlines, begging Joe Biden to just give it up and get out of our faces already. "Dems want Joe Biden to leave spotlight," says The Hill. "Dear Joe Biden, please stop talking about 2016," says a USA Today columnist. "Joe Biden is back. Should Democrats be worried?" asks The New Republic. "Can Joe Biden please go quietly into the night?" asks a column in Vanity Fair. A Daily News columnist begins his missive with, "Hey, Joe Biden, shut the f--- up and go away already." Folks sure do hate that guy. And all he did was give a couple of commencement speeches and an interview or two.
Follow all those links and yes, you'll get articles in that tone about Hillary Clinton, not Biden, despite the fact that both of them have been giving plenty of speeches and interviews in the same time period.

Then Senator Kamala Harris, questioning Attorney General Jeff Sessions as part of her role on the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee, was repeatedly interrupted both by her witness and by Republican men on the committee. (The Washington Post includes a complete rundown of the exchange.) A CNN presenter dubbed her "hysterical," which gets a must-read treatment in Jezebel's Kamala Harris's 'Hysteria' and the 'Objective Perspective' of Men.

Again, the shutting up of Sen. Harris was noted--as was the commonplace nature of this experience for all women. Susan Chira, writing in the New York Times, quoted Laura R. Walker, chief executive of New York Public Radio:  “I think every woman who has any degree of power and those who don’t knows how it feels to experience what Kamala Harris experienced yesterday....To be in a situation where you’re trying to do your job and you’re either cut off or ignored.” And, from the Post: "Women of color 'understand what Kamala Harris is dealing with,' Tanzina Vega, a CNN reporter who covers race and inequality, wrote on Twitter. 'Raise your hand if you’ve been shushed, silenced, scolded, etc.'" Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, shared That time I was told to sit down and shut up at Citi.

So here we are again, discussing the silencing of women. And while 2017 appears to be on point to set some kind of a record in this department, I have to remind myself that it's "same as it ever was." As Mary Beard said at the very start her wonderful lecture on The public voice of women, part of our Famous Speech Friday series:
I want to start very near the beginning of the tradition of Western literature, and its first recorded example of a man telling a woman to ‘shut up’; telling her that her voice was not to be heard in public. I’m thinking of a moment immortalised at the start of the Odyssey.
Since then, the art of silencing women has evolved, from placing torture devices like a scold's bridle on them to keep them silent, to telling women they talk too much, are "shrill" or "hysterical," or mansplaining and manterrupting. We focus on their outfits or appearance, and we aim procedural rules only at women in an assembly, but not the men. But it's still happening.

You'll find examples every week on this blog--so many that I've considered changing one of our top features from "Famous Speech Friday" to "Famous Silencing Friday:"
And that's just my short list of prominent and visible silencings in 2017, so far, darlings. But if it can happen to women who appear to have clear platforms for making themselves heard, we know it's happening to you.

I found a recent example that shows you're never too young to be silenced, if you're female. This 12-year-old girl is shown in the video below telling her Mormon assembly in Utah that she is gay...and is asked by one of the white men presiding to stop speaking mid-speech, after he turns off her microphone:


She's 12, people, and learning early in life what lies ahead.

As you can see at the end of the video, Savannah pulls an Elizabeth Warren and delivers the rest of her speech on YouTube. As I asked in Why (and how) you should publish your speeches: "If you give a speech, but don't take steps to publish or preserve it afterward, did you make a sound? The answer could be contributing inadvertently to silencing women all over the world." We live in an age when self-publishing couldn't be easier, and I hope more women who've been silenced--and those who get to speak--will take up this advantage so they can be heard not just once, but for all time. That little video went viral, and got Savannah all sorts of support.

I see three trends. One has been persistent throughout recorded history: Women get silenced, in many ways, over and over and over again. The second is that each successive generation of women hears these stories and thinks, "But that won't happen to me," charges out into the world, and eventually finds out that, indeed, the same thing has happened to her. Over and over again.

The third comes and goes in different periods of history: People are talking about that silencing, shining a spotlight on it.

We seem to be in one of those periods of talking about it, so let's talk, eloquent women. Keep calling it out...on the spot, if you can. Find other platforms. Keep noticing when it happens. And if that happens to be in your workplace meeting, rather than the U.S. Senate, speak up and say, "Actually, I would like Jane to finish her thought," or something that will keep another woman's voice on, rather than switched off. Keeping the pressure on may help raise a few more women's voices, and we can't have enough of that.

(Creative Commons licensed photos of Kamala Harris by aSILVA and of Hillary Clinton by Kyle Taylor)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Savvy speakers keep up with my wide-ranging reading list on women and public speaking by following The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where these links and articles appear first. I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. It's a great way to expand your public speaking knowledge:
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Minn. Rep. Hortman calls out white male colleagues

She wasn't speaking. Another woman legislator, Rep. Ilhan Omar, America's first Somali-American legislator, had just spoken against a public safety bill before the Minnesota state legislature.

But Rep. Melissa Hortman, the body's minority leader, had taken the measure of the room, and didn't like what she saw...or more precisely, didn't see. Most of the white male legislators had left the floor of the state House of Representatives for the cloakroom, where a card game was in progress. It's another way of silencing women speakers, by denying them an audience.

So Rep. Hortman moved to force them to come back to the chamber to listen to their fellow representatives, particularly the women of color who were speaking. And she made plain what the situation was: “I hate to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room, but I think this is an important debate,” she said.

Angry, one of her male colleagues rose to brand her remarks as "inappropriate," that marvelous vague epithet so often leveled at women speakers who speak their minds. So Rep. Hortman made a little speech in reply, saying, in part:
I have no intention of apologizing. I am so tired of watching Rep. Susan Allen give an amazing speech, Rep. Peggy Flanagan give an amazing speech, watching Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn give an amazing speech, Rep. Rena Moran give the most heartfelt, incredible speech I’ve heard on this House floor, as long as I can remember, watching Rep. Ilhan Omar give an amazing speech ... and looking around, to see, where are my colleagues? And I went in the retiring room, and I saw where a bunch of my colleagues were, and I’m really tired of watching women of color, in particular, being ignored. So, I’m not sorry.
Her refusal to apologize caused a furor of opposition from those white, male colleagues, but Rep. Hortman held her ground. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • If you see something, say something: Using even a short speech to describe what you see around you can be both simple and powerful, as speaking tactics go (and it's well suited to the fishbowl of a legislature and to extemporaneous remarks). The evidence of your eyes is testimony of a different sort.
  • Say it plain: While the reactions focused on how "inappropriate" it was to single out white men, Hortman's remarks had both accuracy and force going for them, because she said plainly what was happening.
  • Use the floor to lend visibility: Rep. Hortman didn't just use her remarks to call out the absentee legislators, but to note the speaking skills of her colleagues who are women of color, a gracious gesture that underscore her point that women speakers were being ignored.
Watch the video of her remarks below.


(Minnesota State Legislature photo)



Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Do your company's meetings and offsites need a code of conduct?

In the recently released "Holder report" recommendations prepared by Covington & Burling for Uber about its corporate culture and needed changes, there was buried a recommendation that women speakers should know about: Codes of conduct should apply to both in-house meetings and offsite meetings.

Why companies like Uber get away with bad behavior puts a finger on this recommendation:
[The report] also said that workplace rules governing sexual harassment and other prohibited behavior should extend to offsite conferences and meetings. “It should not be necessary to draft separate policies for these events,” it added dryly.
You'll find that in section VIII., item A, under "EEO Policies" in the Holder memo linked above. And they're right: You shouldn't need a code of conduct for offsite vs. on-site meetings of your organization. But women in any workplace might want to check on a few policies of their employers just now.

Why? Because codes of conduct help women speakers to speak in a setting that is free of harrassment, one of the more aggressive ways of silencing women. And I'm betting you don't know what your company or organization requires, if anything, of meeting participants, so you should find out. Codes of conduct are often a focus when we talk about attending conferences, but you'll have many more meetings that take place under your own organization's auspices, so why not have codes of conduct articulated there, too? Questions you might want to ask include:
  • Do we have a code of conduct for our organization in general? Is it clear that the code applies to any meeting in which our employees and visitors are participating? If not, why not?
  • Do we have a code of conduct for our meetings, including those with visitors? For our offsite meetings? If not, why not?
  • Have there been complaints of harrassment at any of our meetings, onsite or offsite, internal or with visitors?
  • If we have policies, what are we actively doing to make employees, managers, and visitors aware of them?
My post Does your conference have a harrassment code of conduct? I wish mine did shares a sample code from SecondConf, and there are plenty of examples online if you need a model.

You might get some pushback or questions about why you're raising this issue just now, and Uber has given you the perfect cover to do so. "I've been reading about all the issues at Uber, and I want to make sure none of that ever happens here. The attorneys who did the review made specific mention of company meetings and offsites as situations that should have a code of conduct, so I wondered whether we had one, too," is all you need to say. That'll get their attention. And if you want to be sure there's a record of your request, follow up your conversation with an email, and keep a copy.

What happens if your request is ignored? That's what happened when I complained to my longtime conference about harrassment. Instead of addressing the problem, they consulted an attorney. The following year, attendees were required to tick a box when registering, promising not to sue the organization. That told me all I needed to know, and I stopped attending. You can take your skills elsewhere, too, or you can make that part of a further complaint. It's called "voting with your feet," and many have suggested riders do the same with Uber to make their disapproval known.

We often wonder whether we can make a change in an area as big and amorphous as this one. But if every reader of this blog asked her human resources office about this policy, you'd start seeing change. Feel free to forward this blog post if you like. And if every reader of this blog attending meetings hosted by other organizations--not just formal conferences--asked, "What is your code of conduct for meetings?" you'd find eventual change there, too. Let's use Uber's very public misconduct as a lever to make meetings more hospitable for women speakers, shall we?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Lucas Maystre)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Savvy speakers keep up with my wide-ranging reading list on women and public speaking by following The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where these links and articles appear first. I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. It's a great way to expand your public speaking knowledge:
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Bette Midler at the 2017 Tony Awards

Bette Midler, currently starring in the revival of the musical play "Hello, Dolly!" on Broadway, is what they call a triple threat: She can sing, dance, and act. And on the heels of her moment of triumph at the 2017 Tony Awards, having won the award for best leading actress in a musical, host Kevin Spacey reached for joke material from one of the oldest myths in the book about women in public speaking: That they talk too much.

Midler, like many a top-winning actor whose prize comes at the height of the Tony Awards show, didn't feel compelled to stick to the 90-second limit imposed this year on acceptance speeches. She did a fulsome three paragraphs of thanks, working without notes to name-check many people involved in the enormous cast of her sold-out show. And just before she got to the windup of her speech, the band tried to drown her out, cleverly using Irving Berlin's "There's No Business Like Show Business," in the part of the song where the lyrics say "Let's go on with the show!"

Midler was having none of it. She surfed the music, continuing her delivery. Finally, realizing the music wasn't going to stop, she interrupted herself, getting cheers from the audience in the hall:
And I just want to say, I want to say, revival...shut that crap off!
Then she continued past the thanks to make the core point of her speech, sans music. It's a good one, worth hearing:
I just want to say that revival is an interesting word. It means that something is near death, and it was brought back to life. Hello, Dolly! never really went away. It has been here all along. It is in our DNA, it is in our national songs that will live forever. It is optimism, it is democracy, it's color, it's love of life, it's hilarity. This is a classic. Come and see it. It's not just me! The whole thing is utterly... this thing has the ability to lift your spirits in these terrible, terrible times. Come and see it.  
And lastly, I want to dedicate this, I want to salute the people who actually came before me. The brilliant, brilliant inimitable Carol Channing, who made my life, who was a gift to me. The extraordinary Pearl Bailey, and all of the hundreds of women who came after me and who lit the way, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you all.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, along with her thanks paragraphs, took up just 4 minutes and 10 seconds. Not a crisis in television, nor in public speaking.

In one of his next turns as host, actor Kevin Spacey came onstage with actor Robin Wright, dressed as their characters from the Netflix series House of Cards: President Frank Underwood and First Lady Claire Underwood. In the very short bit, he tells his wife they should leave, and then adds, "I want to get out of here before Bette Midler thanks anyone else." And tellingly, Wright said nothing while onstage, a silent wife witness. See it in the video below:



What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Sometimes, you need to hold your ground as a speaker: Midler's show is sold out for months to come, and, as such, it's a major money-maker for the industry. She won one of the top prizes of the evening. Her cast and crew are enormous, among the largest on Broadway. No apology need be made for wishing to thank them amply and make a larger point, as the best speeches do. And I doubt a man would be shamed in such a way for speaking too long.
  • Make that larger point: Midler took a musical that's set as the 19th century gives way to the 20th, and brought it all the way forward to today with her closing remarks, reminding the audience why Broadway works: "Hello, Dolly! never really went away. It has been here all along. It is in our DNA, it is in our national songs that will live forever. It is optimism, it is democracy, it's color, it's love of life, it's hilarity."
  • Her thanks were a tour de force: Many actors thank a few people well, and many more thank many people poorly. But listen to Midler work her way with relative ease through her long list of thanks. *That* is a bravura performance, and one her work partners surely appreciate.
I love you, Kevin Spacey, and I figure you had that joke set up with a blank where you put Bette Midler up for shame. Next time, think harder. I expect better from you, especially on a night when the rest of your hosting was outstanding.

Watch the video of Midler's speech here or below.




Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Women and power? The double standard of the severed head

When TMZ leaked this photo of comedian Kathy Griffin holding what appeared to be a bloody severed head of U.S. President Donald Trump in late May, the Internet exploded. Griffin was resoundingly mocked and trolled and shamed into apologizing. Pundits and commentators expressed shock and horror. She was widely criticized, with only a few voices coming to her defense. Griffin was dubbed a "tool of ISIS" by many conservative and liberal commentators. CNN and others fired Griffin from lucrative gigs and endorsement deals immediately in the wake of the criticisms.

I was left feeling as if I was the only person whose first reaction was to see a double standard at play. Yes, a severed head is a gory, awful image. It's also an image that has been used for centuries in our worldwide culture...often against powerful women. So why, when a woman uses it, is she shut down and shamed?

There were layers of double standards at play here. One was in the world of comedy. For example, comedian Hasan Minhaj earlier in May hosted the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington. Even though the president had said he would not attend, the correspondents' organization asked Minhaj not to roast Trump; normally, roasting the president not only happens, but happens with him sitting right there next to the comedian doing the roasting. In an interview, Minhaj explained why he felt free to ignore that request:
The irony to me was the theme of the night was about honoring the First Amendment, and you want me to censor myself? That to me — I couldn't do it. ... Especially given the fact that the person that I'm roasting, the president, is someone who has so exploited that incredible privilege of free speech. The man who tweets whatever enters his head doesn't even want to honor the amendment that allows him to do it. That to me just blows my mind. So I wanted to make the conscious choice of, Hey, I will roast his merit and I will roast the decisions he's made. I will try to be as tasteful as possible, but I have to talk about this.
Minhaj went ahead with that plan, with no or minimal outcry following. The comedy double standard reminded me of The 'women can't be funny' myth, and the power of making people laugh, in which I quoted Gloria Steinem saying, "...the power to make people laugh is also a power, so women have been kept out of comedy. Polls show that what women fear most from men is violence, and what men fear most from women is ridicule."

So you've seen the ridicule of a man in the image at the top of this post. Here's the violence against women, in its mirror. It demonstrates the gendered double standard at play here. Having written about classics scholar Mary Beard's lecture on women and power for our Famous Speech Friday series, I had this image, shared in her lecture, firmly in mind:


It's a depiction of Trump as Perseus, victoriously holding up the severed head of Medusa as Hillary Clinton, an image widely used in fan-generated promotional material during the Trump campaign, as Beard notes:
This scene of Perseus-Trump brandishing the dripping, oozing head of Medusa-Clinton was very much part of the everyday, domestic American decorative world: you could buy it on T-shirts and tank tops, on coffee mugs, on laptop sleeves and tote bags (sometimes with the logo TRIUMPH, sometimes TRUMP). It may take a moment or two to take in that normalisation of gendered violence, but if you were ever doubtful about the extent to which the exclusion of women from power is culturally embedded or unsure of the continued strength of classical ways of formulating and justifying it – well, I give you Trump and Clinton, Perseus and Medusa, and rest my case.
Let that sink in again: "the exclusion of women from power is culturally embedded...the continued strength of classical ways of formulating it and justifying it." I inserted the link in the quote above so you can see for yourself how these shirts and other products are still available.

Pouncing on Griffin and shaming her so thoroughly, then, reflects something embedded in our culture, just because she is a woman.

Clinton is not the only woman leader to get this treatment, which has been used to depict powerful women over and over again, but depictions of her as Medusa were, as Beard notes, among the "starkest and nastiest" of all. And was there any outcry? Why, no, there was not, save for Beard. Neither did the Trump campaign decry these fan efforts, nor try to stop them.

Imagery is a major part of public speech, and images are important--witness that the severed head of Medusa has been used for centuries, so durable and memorable it is. Comedy, more recently, has been an important area where women have been able to find their voices and say the outrageous, just as men have done for centuries. But when a woman comedian reaches for that durable, memorable, outrageous image, why do we silence her? If only the reaction from the media and the public were as fierce when the severed head was Hillary Clinton's. If only.

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Savvy speakers keep up with my wide-ranging reading list on women and public speaking by following The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where these links and articles appear first. I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. It's a great way to expand your public speaking knowledge. This week, a short report following my June hiatus from the blog:
  • Two decisions: While on hiatus, I made two decisions about my social media presence. First, I'm going to stop posting on @NoWomenSpeakers on Twitter, because there are so many good eyes and ears on the task of identifying and calling out conferences with few or no women speakers--something that was not the case when I first started that account. If you follow me there, please follow me @dontgetcaught instead. Second, I'm going to fold the Moderating Panels blog into this blog, so you'll be able to see more coverage of panel moderation right here. The MP blog will stay up as an archive, but any new posts will be on The Eloquent Woman. I love both these projects, and think the changes will allow me to provide you with even better public speaking information in the months to come.
  • Case in point: Why we aim for 50% of speakers at Digital Freedom Festival to be women, and why it matters for everyone shares another case study for change from a conference organizer in Latvia who woke up after she organized a conference with just one woman speaker.
  • About the quote: Your voice matters, eloquent women. Wisdom from Hillary Clinton.
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Taking a blog and social media hiatus for June 2017

I'm waist-deep when it comes to the river of blogging and social media, with three blogs, the two oldest blogs turning 12 and 10 years old this year. That's a lot of blogging, and that's not all. My total tally in the social media world includes
  • three blogs
  • two Twitter accounts
  • two Facebook business pages, along with my more private personal account
  • one Google+ account and one Google+ community
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • and I'm very likely forgetting something, which is not a good sign.
This post isn't about expanding that universe, but about letting it contract a tad. Specifically: I'm taking a social-media hiatus for the month of June 2017. 

Here's what that means for me: I'm really not going to post anything, including on my non-public accounts. That will mean not sharing photos, not writing posts, not observing, not sharing. 

Social media posting doesn't take up a ton of my time on any given day, but reviewing material, deciding what to share, monitoring comments and interactions, and writing are the biggest time-users. I put in plenty of screen time, and am hoping that that's what will be missing in June while I spend time the old-school way, in person.

I'm not burnt out on the blogs--indeed, they are a constant source of renewal for me--but I am curious about such hiatuses when I hear of them. So now's the time to try.

Of course, if you're a client or a would-be client wishing to get in touch, I encourage that heartily. Email me directly at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com. A social media hiatus is not, for me, a work hiatus, so I will continue working with clients and looking for new ones. But I also expect I'll have some time for longer-form projects like books, and I'll be back in July with some fantastic posts for you.

Thanks for reading, and see you in July!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by nchenga)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Savvy speakers keep up with my wide-ranging reading list on women and public speaking by following The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where these links and articles appear first. I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. It's a great way to expand your public speaking knowledge:
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, May 26, 2017

7 famous poetic speeches by women

Spoken-word poetry is a challenging format for the public speaker. But when used well, poetry in your speech--whether the entire speech is a poem, or you recite just a few lines--adds color and connection to your public speaking.

These seven poetic speeches cover a range of topics and feelings, rhythms and rhymes; many of them use body language as another tool to convey the passion and poetry. They're all included in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women, and at the links, you'll find text, audio, or video (where available), along with lessons you can use in your own public speaking:
  1. Tackle football player and poet Holly K. Peterson inspired her "fellow" female athletes with this spoken-word poem and its vivid imagery at a football summit.
  2. Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner delivered her poem at the United Nations Climate Summit. From the Marshall Islands--a place in the path of climate-related sea rise--her poem was both a promise to her daughter and a warning to world leaders.
  3. Dominique Christina tackled menstruation in "The Period Poem," breaking a taboo and connecting with her audience all at the same time.
  4. Lily Myers's "Shrinking Women" shared a personal and uncomfortable observation that embodies the very choices that eloquent women face whenever they decide to speak up.
  5. Ashley Judd performed "Nasty Woman," a poem by Nina Davenport, in front of close to 1 million people at the Women's March on Washington earlier this year. The post includes both Judd's recitation, and that of the author.
  6. Maya Angelou's "Phenomenal Woman," the most famous of this group, is a sassy, confident, loving ode to womanhood, and often used in public speaking competitions since its publication. You'll feel better just reciting this one out loud.
  7. Sarah Kay's "Tshotsholoza" creates a story from a picture, and puts you right in the middle of the action, in the great way that talented storytellers do. A mesmerizing spoken-word poem.
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, May 25, 2017

Why did you say yes to this speaking gig? Why the coach needs to know

I had just one hour by phone to coach this speaker, an academic professor, for a five-minute pitch to be delivered in a public competition for extra grant funding. We could have started anywhere: With my notes on her slides, questions about delivery and timing, the actual content.

Instead, she spent 15 minutes telling me why the coaching and this speaking task were far, far beneath her. Her department chair had ridiculed the competition and forbidden its name to be spoken or written in emails. Her colleagues pitied her. She had no idea who the audience was, nor why they would care. She herself didn't see why she was wasting her time on it. After 15 minutes of that, I wondered that for myself. So I asked what I always ask:

"Why'd you say yes?"

I've used that question over and over with speakers, backstage at TEDMED, on the phone for coaching calls, in person when we're alone for a training session. It's a question I use most often for the speaker who objects to being the speaker. And I don't accept pat answers like, "Well, it's an honor to be asked" or "My boss told me I had to." I really want to get at the speaker's own motivation for having taken on this apparently abhorrent-to-them task. After all, public speaking is a choice you make, even in work situations where you are required to speak. You chose the job that came with public speaking tasks. More often, though, this comes up with speakers for whom the talk actually is optional.

With a nice, nervous speaker, the answer becomes a helpful prompt to bring them back to the reason they are going through with it: To get investors, build a reputation, share a story, finally have the chance to get on stage. But with a speaker who's a bad cocktail of nerves and narcissism, I sometimes don't get a chance to get that question in. The worst example was a top executive who used 2 hours and 45 minutes of our 3-hour half-day session to explain to me why he did not now need, had never needed, and would never need speaker coaching. Sometimes, like the professor, it's 15 minutes out of an hour. And, while I hate to point this out, I get paid either way. Your choice to spend that money in complaint is your choice.

With the professor, at the 15-minute mark, I asked my motivation question, which silenced her--she didn't have a ready answer. So I jumped in and pointed out that she'd just spent one-quarter of our time telling me that she didn't want to do this, and did she want to spend any of the remaining time finding out what she could do to make the presentation a winning one? To her credit, she stopped whining and got focused, but who knows how much further we might have gone in the wasted 15 minutes?

These examples are why I spend considerable time vetting clients in advance of signing a contract to coach them for speaking. If the client is hiring me to coach others, I urge them to screen participants so that the group is willing to be coached, rather than showing up for reasons that have nothing to do with wanting to be there. That makes all the difference in the world to the success of a coaching project in public speaking.

You may not be hiring a coach anytime soon, but you can borrow my question and ask it of yourself in those moments when you doubt your ability to get up and speak, or your practice is going badly, or you're just not sure whether this is worth the trouble. Ask yourself why you said yes to this, and be honest. Sometimes, the answer will be, "You don't have to like it, you just have to do it." But other times, you'll find a deeper motivation that's meaningful to you. Often, keeping that motivation in mind will carry you through even the most difficult of speaking tasks. And next time, say yes with that firmly in mind.

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Savvy speakers keep up with my wide-ranging reading list on women and public speaking by following The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where these links and articles appear first. I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. It's a great way to expand your public speaking knowledge:
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Patty Duke's 1970 Emmy Awards Acceptance Speech

When Patty Duke won an Oscar in 1962 for her portrayal of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker, the 16-year old gave one of the shortest acceptance speeches ever: "Thank you." Seven years later, she won an Emmy for her work in the television movie My Sweet Charlie. Her acceptance speech for that award was also memorable--for all the wrong reasons. 

Watch the video--only a few minutes long--and you'll see why the audience and presenters were taken aback. The speech is really just one long pause, punctuated by some spacey half-sentences, as she surveys the theater with wary eyes as if she is afraid of someone pulling her offstage. It's uncomfortable and embarrassing to watch. News stories speculated that she was drunk or on drugs when she took the stage that night.

"The truth of the matter is that my condition had nothing to do with drugs or alcohol," Duke said in an interview 20 years later. "I was having a serious emotional breakdown. Unlike most people in trouble who fall apart in the privacy of their bedrooms, I fell apart on network television."

Duke had been ill for years at that point, but her disease went unnamed. She recalled weeks where she couldn't stop crying and never left her bed, followed by weeks where she went on outrageous spending sprees and acted like "queen of the world." She had not slept for three weeks before the Emmy broadcast. Finally, in 1982 she saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with bipolar disorder (then called manic depression) and began the lithium treatments that probably saved her life.

The 1970 Emmy speech was a disaster, so why feature it here? There's not much in the speech itself for a speaker to learn from or emulate, that's for sure. But it does remind us of a few things:
  • A famous speech isn't always a good speech. We've featured speeches in this space that aren't well-written or delivered, or positively received. But like those speeches, Duke's few words certainly meet our standards for a speech that garnered a wide audience and made a strong public impact.
  • A bad speech isn't the end of the world. Duke said that the 1970 Emmys were the first time that the public might have noticed "a chink in the armor," and she was frightened that she would lose work as a result of the bizarre performance. But she continued to act, receiving two more Emmy awards and two Golden Globe awards later in her career. After she was finally treated for her disease, she went on to become a vocal advocate for mental health and was even elected president of the Screen Actors Guild.
  • Some speeches serve as the opening salvo of a longer conversation. I think it's possible to view Duke's halting, stumbling, painful words at the Emmys as the first lines of a much longer speech she gave for the rest of her life, after her diagnosis. She was one of the first celebrities to go public with her own struggles with mental illness. She was candid in discussing how the disease made her behave, how she attempted to cope with it, and what the fallout had been for her personal and professional life. In the second half of her career, she spoke out often about efforts to diagnose mental illness and to remove the stigma from mental illness so that people would seek treatment. She spoke on behalf of the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, discussed bipolar disorder in countless interviews and even testified before Congress on the topic. Her Emmy acceptance might have been a disastrous start, but it led to a lifetime of speaking that has made a difference in the lives of many.
Duke died in 2016 at age 69. Watch the short video of this famous speech here or below:

Patty Duke Wins Oustanding Single Performance Emmy for MY SWEET CHARLIE | Emmys Archive (1970)

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

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Instead of shutting down controversial women speakers

In doing research for this blog, I've been reading Deborah Kops's fine book, Alice Paul and the Fight for Women's Rights: From the Vote to the Equal Rights Amendment. The book relates that, around 1908, Paul went to Birmingham, England, to study. She decided to see suffragist Christabel Pankhurst give a speech at the university. Here's how Kops describes the scene:
...as soon as Christabel Pankhurst began her speech that day, unsympathetic students shouted, blew horns, sang, and generally made so much noise that no one could hear a word she was saying....When the head of the university learned, to his horror, what had happened, he invited Pankhurst back and made sure the audience stayed in line.
That had a real impact on Paul, who went on to help American women win the vote. And so many decades later, it impressed me with the thought, "What if that had been done for Ann Coulter at Berkeley?", thinking of the recent silencing of the conservative speaker, who withdrew from speaking at the University of California at Berkeley under threat of violent protests. I also thought of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who recently gave the commencement speech at a historically black university, facing a crowd of students, many of whom jeered or turned their backs to her. And of Linda Sarsour, the Women's March co-founder, who faces a campaign from the conservative right that's trying to unseat her as the City College of New York commencement speaker before she ever takes the stage.

You don't have to agree with these women or their views to understand that these are ways of silencing women speakers. And silencing women speakers seems to be a theme of 2017, whether it's shutting Senator Elizabeth Warren down on the floor of the Senate or Michael Moore chewing up women speakers' time at the Women's March on Washington. It's nothing new, but it's a persistent tactic.

A couple of readers demanded tips for what to do when facing down an angry crowd. But I don't think this calls for tips, nor for things women speakers must fix about themselves. This is a problem of our society. You certainly may not agree with what I have to say, but you also are free to ignore it, as opposed to trying to change me, or the writing, or my ability to publish. Public speaking, too, is a series of choices. The speaker chooses what she wants to say, and you choose whether to listen. But that doesn't mean you also must silence her, and it doesn't mean she needs to fix anything about herself or her speech. Let's let her speak. Speakers aren't forcing their views upon you, just airing them. You can choose whether to listen or leave.

Today, most of us look back at Pankhurst and Paul and think of their speeches as heroic efforts to gain equality for women. That equality surely demands that we give women of many viewpoints their platforms and let them have their say. I am sure that those who fought for suffrage--a movement that felt that a vote is part of your voice--did not fight for it only on behalf of women with whom they agreed.

I find instructive the early 20th century solution that Alice Paul saw in action. Motivated to hear Pankhurst, she went to both speeches: The one she could not hear, and the one she could. When we silence speakers, we're also silencing the audience members who want to hear them. As for Pankhurst, so important was it to get her message out, she gave the same speech twice. She knew to expect resistance, and spoke, anyway.

You need not agree, and your results may vary. But if we want women speakers--including ourselves--to have platforms, consistently and with equality, we need to let them speak.

For more on the current struggle to let controversial speakers speak, read my post on the Moderating Panels blog, When the moderator meets the mob: @AKStanger speaks out. It's by a woman moderator who attempted to help a conservative male speaker continue his presentation on a campus, and got herself injured in the process. Despite that, she writes movingly of the need to avoid silencing the speakers we don't agree with.

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Savvy speakers keep up with my wide-ranging reading list on women and public speaking by following The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where these links and articles appear first. I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. It's a great way to expand your public speaking knowledge:
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, May 12, 2017

15 famous commencement speeches by women speakers

(Editor's note: It's commencement time again, so we've updated this 2013 post since it first appeared with new additions to The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women. If you're a woman commencement speaker, or the speechwriter for one, here's your inspiration.)

Cue the Pomp and Circumstance, it's that time of year again. Commencement is the start of something new, yes, but we're often stuck listening to the same old tired speeches in celebration. Can you remember your commencement speakers, or any memorable speakers at the graduations you've attended?

Admittedly, the commencement speech is a tough gig. Speakers want to be inspiring, and to avoid  cliches. They want to be broadly appealing to a diverse-age audience, but not so broadly appealing that every line they deliver has lost its bite. And they want to be memorable, but they're speaking at an event that rarely changes from year to year.

With all that in mind, we've compiled a list of commencement speakers from The Eloquent Woman Index who managed to meet these challenges, in ways that pleased the people who heard them live and that echoed long after the graduates shuffled off the stage.

1. Carol Bartz's 2012 commencement speech at the University of Wisconsin, Madison was full of plain speaking from the ex-CEO of Yahoo!, including jokes to bridge the gap between parents and students. She also decided to talk about the importance of failure--an unusual and memorable topic at an event held to celebrate success.

2. Viola Davis' 2012 speech at Providence College was full of the deep emotion and dramatic flair that you might expect from the Tony Award-winning actress. But a speech that included a scene from The Exorcist as a way to encourage graduates to find their authentic selves? Maybe not so expected.

3. Also in 2012, teacher and author Margaret Edson spoke beautifully at Smith College. Her speech, along with several other commencement speeches in the Index, used gentle humor to take the pomp out of the day's events. She also spoke without notes, allowing her to look out at her audience and establish a strong and instant rapport with them.

4. Nora Ephron's 1996 commencement address at Wellesley College is a terrific example of how humor and deft language can give new life to a standard speech. The journalist and screenwriter spoke directly about the year's top stories, from O.J. Simpson to Hillary Clinton. That's somewhat daring in a commencement speech, to be so topical when the occasion itself is so timeless. But I bet the graduates appreciated hearing where they fit into a moment in time.

5. and 6. Ursula K. Le Guin's commencement speeches at Mills College in 1983 and at Bryn Mawr in 1986 are some of the most poetic calls to action for women that you'll ever hear. The Bryn Mawr speech, in particular, has been considered among the 10 most memorable commencement speeches.

7. Before "lean in" became a buzzword and a best-selling book, Sheryl Sandberg was exploring the idea in a 2011 commencement speech at Barnard CollegeThe Facebook COO was especially good at reaching out to today's mixed audience of graduates, speaking not just to the obstacles facing women in their 20s, but also those facing women earning their mid-life degrees.

8. When Maria Shriver spoke at the 2012 University of California Annenberg School graduation, she urged students to consider "the power of the pause." Like Carol Bartz, she chose a topic that was memorable because it strayed away from the usual gung-ho, march-to-the-future rhetoric that graduates are accustomed to hearing.

9. Public speaking, including an earlier commencement speech, created lots of trouble for Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who shared her experiences at Harvard's commencement. She stirred all that trouble into inspiring lines like, "If you dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."

10. Also from Liberia, Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee told Barnard graduates in 2013 that, before they could lean in, they needed to "step out of the shadows" instead of following the self-effacing, supporting role so many women adopt.

11. Arianna Huffington's "Thrive" speech, given in 2013 at Smith College, shared the story of how sleep deprivation caused her to have a serious accident. It's a moment that has shaped her latest business venture.

12. Former New York Times editor Jill Abramson's "to anyone who's been dumped" commencement speech in 2014 drew on her experience--right before the speech--of getting fired from a high-profile post.

13. IBM chair, president, and CEO Ginni Rometty's 2015 Northwestern University commencement speech was what every commencement speaker should aim for: structured, relevant, and able to move calmly past a verbal flub.

14. First Lady Michelle Obama's 2016 commencement address at Tuskegee University looked at racism in history and today, from a personal perspective--and was slammed by accusations of "reverse racism."

15. Hillary Clinton's 1969 commencement speech was delivered as a rare student speaker. She used the opportunity to criticize the distinguished guest speaker, and then to rally her fellow graduates in a speech that made national waves, even then.

(Freelance writer Becky Ham contributed this post.)