Friday, December 31, 2010

The Eloquent Woman's top 10 public speaking posts in 2010


2010 was a big year for The Eloquent Woman, a year in which the blog was:
  • Liked by more Facebook fans than any other public-speaking Facebook page;
  • Publishing more frequent blog posts, and more unique content on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook;
  • Tripling readership over this time last year; and
  • Doubling our email subscribers, who receive a free monthly newsletter focused on a single public-speaking issue in depth.
Readers also were more active than ever in sharing their questions this year--questions which form the basis of many of the site's most popular posts.  Here are the 10 most popular posts from 2010 on The Eloquent Woman blog:

  1. "How do I establish credibility as a speaker when my age and looks work against me?" is our top blog post for the year, and answers the questions of a young (and young-looking) speaker who's an expert in her field, but often viewed as the intern. Solid suggestions, links and ideas follow to help the young and the expert claim and hold their ground.
  2. "What's the difference when scientists present to other scientists, and to the public?" is a reader question that came from a fellow speaker coach--but it's useful to anyone who has to speak about technical topics to different audiences, so share it with a scientist or engineer you know who gives presentations and public speeches.
  3. If I were speaking at TEDWomen, here's what I'd say about the future of women and girls shares the four persistent myths about women and public speaking that have lasted for centuries and are still silencing women and girls today--along with a plea that we all stop spreading these myths, and the facts you need to counter them.
  4. Taking charge of your conversations and speaking: The language of power looks at a new book that covers speaking as part of ways women can be powerful.  It touches on not just formal speeches, but everyday conversation, which makes it especially useful.
  5. "How do we balance technical v. non-technical for a mixed audience? could be a useful companion to post number 2 on this list. It looks at a similar issue: Presenting technical topics when you have scientific colleagues who want to hear your details, and non-technical types who really don't. The balancing act is dissected, and I share a video of a woman chemist who walks the technical tightrope with ease, so you have a great example.
  6. Why speakers should take a second look at the new Kindle took a midyear look at the device that became 2010's most popular holiday gift (so much so it's on back-order). I'm convinced that speakers should use the Kindle for their notes, preparation, rehearsal and research, and this post lays out all those functions to give you a new look. (It's not too late to put those holiday gift cards to use, either.)
  7. Integrating Twitter into your public speaking: 14 ways might have been popular because more speakers are encountering audiences using Twitter while the talk's going on. But this post shows you have to take the advantage by using  Twitter in savvy ways before, during and after your public speaking gig.
  8. Finding your voice as a speaker started out as a guest post by me for another blog, but in posting it here, I found it was popular with you, too.  I appreciated the chance to write this for Kate's Voice, Kate Peters's very good blog on vocal issues for speakers--it's a topic I've struggled with and one I think is essential to tackle if you're going to truly become the eloquent woman you know yourself to be.
  9. Ruth Bader Ginsburg gives a labor-of-love speech shares a video and insights from Ginsburg after she delivered one of the most difficult kinds of speeches: A speech written by her husband which she had to deliver after his death. A moving and funny talk, plus insights from Ginsburg on her marriage and work-life balance.
  10. Check (out) your audience at the door: 8 reasons speakers should. Knowing your audience is critical for speakers, and the best--and most immediate--way to find out more is to greet everyone as they come in the door.  As a bonus, this one-on-one tactic works especially well for introverts, or for any speaker who fears the audience and needs time to warm up. No wonder it was popular...

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

December's top 10 public speaking tips

December brings many holidays, and here at The Eloquent Woman, we're also celebrating the end of a successful 2010--and a month in which a wide variety of posts from the blog were popular, from those focused on gift ideas for speakers to gender issues in public speaking, language insights and advice for newbies and organizers. Celebrate your public speaking skills with the top 10 most-read posts from the blog in December:
  1. If I were speaking at TEDWomen, here's what I'd say about the future of women and girls was written in November, but zoomed in popularity when the TEDWomen conference convened in early December. It's my take on how we can help women and girls be more confident about public speaking by stopping the 4 myths about women and public speaking that have persisted for centuries.
  2. Getting from "no" to "yes" in negotiation with storytelling shares a video of negotiation expert William Ury talking about his efforts to encourage peaceful relations in the Middle East by using storytelling to break down a negotiation standoff. An inspiring story in itself!
  3. No more pen and pencil sets: My top 10 gifts for speakers was so popular that I hope you're the benefiiciary of one of these great gifts, either now at the holidays or when you give your next speech.  Share this with the program organizers in your professional groups, if you bring in speakers.
  4. Organizing a speech with new tech tools? A no-surprises manifesto took a lesson from what happened during a Steve Martin talk in New York, when the organizers took in messages from online audiences, but didn't tell the speaker--until someone walked onstage with a note to ask him to change the subject, based on email comments.  It's my list of what organizers owe speakers when high-tech audience engagement is part of the deal.
  5. What's your public speaking or presenting resolution for 2011?  I know readers are working on their resolutions, and public speaking improvements are great ones to put on those lists.  Feel free to share your resolution in the comments on this post.
  6. Language works: This is your brain on metaphors takes a neuroscience look at what's happening in your brains when you use complex metaphors. The good news: You and your audience can handle them easily. The post points you to a thoughtful, longer read on why that is so, and how it works in your brain.
  7. The speaker's stocking: Replace your remote with a mini Bluetooth keyboard was one of the most popular of the gift posts this month. Stay in control with this gift suggestion that opens up your options when presenting.
  8. Confessions of a newbie public speaker, a guest post by Georgy Cohen, came just in time if you're considering making 2011 a year of improving your public speaking. That's what she vowed to do in 2010, and this post shares her insights, results and resources.
  9. The speaker's stocking: Speech-bubble gifts, tools and tech are gifts with fun and purpose. They're all shaped like speech bubbles, but run the gamut from whiteboards and chalkboards to stickers, decals, mini-speakers and more. Great for teachers, trainers, presenters, kids and you.
  10. Sheryl Sandberg just might be my Eloquent Woman of the Year helped me end the year with video of a powerful speech from a powerful woman, the COO of Facebook.  She shares insights into why there are so few women in powerful positions, and her three suggestions for how to change that, but also shares what she's learned from other women about her own public speaking and why we may need to start by changing our habits, first.  A moving, powerful talk.
The first issue of the Step Up Your Speaking newsletter for 2011 comes out in the first week of the new year, so now is a great time to sign up at the link below. And later this week, I'll share the top 10 posts for 2010, so you can end the year right. Happy new year!

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What would you like to see more/less of on the blog in 2011?

Help The Eloquent Woman make some New Year's resolutions:  Share in the comments the topics, questions, ideas or challenges you'd like to see more or less of on the blog in 2011.

I'm asking this question on all my blogs and Facebook pages. Readers of The Eloquent Woman are especially generous with their ideas, questions and wish lists, so I hope you will share yours with me.

In the next couple of days, we'll end 2010 with the top posts for December and then the top posts for all of 2010. I'm looking forward to the new year, and as always, appreciate your reading the blog!


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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Making slides special: A presenter's quartet of great resources

If you're tired of the same-old, same-old when it comes to your slides, it might be time to try a new tactic, production tool or concept for them.  Here's a quartet of fresh resources,  ideas and inspiration that will help you think about (and make) a presentation that's more energized and effective:

  1. Do you screencast? Here's how to do it while avoiding common mistakes.  Just as with webinars and conference calls, there's an art to screencasting, an online presentation in which you show what's essentially a movie of how a website changes from page to page, with audio or sometimes inset video narration.  Smashing Magazine has a thorough-going post on how to avoid common mistakes in screencasting that also serves as an excellent how-to guide, including the equipment setup and more.  Screencasting is often used to share documentation and how-to information for websites and you can use ScreenSteps to put one together.
  2. Five slides netted $10 million in funding for entrepreneur Tim Young, whose portfolio includes online profile site About.me, just sold to AOL.  Here's how he winnowed his presentation to venture capitalists to just five slides to get the funding--it's an outstanding example to follow if you have technical material to present, or just too much information to put on the slides and an audience that won't want to see it all.
  3. Need to use PowerPoint and want to make magic with it? That's the focus of Cliff Atkinson's book Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft® Office PowerPoint® 2007 to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire.Here's a video introduction to the book:
  4. You don't need fancy tools to spice up your presentation slides. Heck, you don't even need PowerPoint, especially if you're tired of it. Below is a video of a 450-page presentation, animated and put together using only Google Docs, and assembled collaboratively by different people in different locations.  I don't recommend you use all the bells and whistles here, by any means--and animation is no substitute for content, clarity and pacing. But for demonstrating how much you can do with a simple tool, this video can't be beat. Don't overlook free tools when you're considering how to spice up your slides and presentations.  Gizmodo has the details, including the Google document on which this was based (it's a big file).  And while you're at it, here are five web-based alternatives to PowerPoint (including Google Docs).

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Melinda Gates demonstrates the public speaking rule of three


Many speakers have learned about the "rule of three" involved in message development, the idea that three key points are easier for the speaker --and the audience--to remember. It's a great organizing principle that allows you, with practice, to speak without notes, and to structure your talk, your slides and your performance.  But how do you put the public speaking rule of three it into action?  Whether you're using the rule of three for the first time or trying to perfect the form, seeing a good example of a speaker in action using this principle can help you make the leap to using it yourself.

A recent example I like is Melinda French Gates's TEDxChange talk on what nonprofits can learn from Coca-Cola.  She takes a surprising conclusion and walks us through it with three clear points that teach you about both Coca-Cola and nonprofit efforts in the developing world.  Here's what she does with those three points that you should emulate:
  • She sets up the three points briefly, and cogently:  Just rattling off your three points isn't enough. You need to give us context for them, and a point of view--briefly. Gates takes just two paragraphs of her speech to set up her three points, and she uses them to share the broad sweep of her work in developing countries, the ubiquity of Coke in those locations, and why Coke inspired her to take a look at the connection between the two. By the time she lays out the three points, we're focused where she wants us to be focused--even though the concept is, at first hearing, improbable.
  • She gives us the three points, together, early in the talk as an outline for what's to come--then launches right in:  After she sets the context, Gates says, "And I think there are really three things we can take away from Coca-Cola. They take real-time data and immediately feed it back into the product. They tap into local entrepreneurial talent, and they do incredible marketing. So let's start with the data."  It's clear, crisp and cogent--a businesslike steering of the audience from big-picture concept to concrete points. Then she launches right in to point number one.
  • She helps you follow along by sharing the conclusion up front, working her outline and tying the three points together.  Instead of holding it back, Gates puts her conclusion right up front, telling you that nonprofits can learn from Coca-Cola's approaches to do their work more effectively. That lets her audience keep the end goal firmly in mind as she's speaking--it's a beacon to guide them.  (Read Olivia Mitchell's useful and excellent post on why you should put your conclusion up front in any presentation.)  Then Gates works her three-point outline, saying, "The second reason...." as a signal to the audience that she's moving through the outline she gave them.  Finally, Gates uses polio and a specific story about an 18-month-old boy to demonstrate how putting all three of the Coke lessons into practice can have a real impact on her foundation's goal in this area. Again, she tells us first that she's going to show us what happens when all three factors come into play together.
Watch the video of Gates's talk, below, and see if you can follow her three-point outline:


Related posts:  How to develop a message with three key points

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Clip and save posts from The Eloquent Woman with Evernote

Readers who want to clip and save posts from The Eloquent Woman now have an easy way to do so, using the note-taking application Evernote.  If you like a post, just click on the "clip" button at the end of the post, and a window will open to let you save it to your Evernote account--or start an account and save the clip, if you don't yet have one.  Evernote offers a free service as well as a premium option that lets you store more capacity in more formats (including video and audio files), makes PDFs searchable, adds secure encryption and lets you offer others the chance to edit your notes to make this a collaboration tool.  Go ahead--click on the "clip" button below to save this blog post to your Evernote notebooks, or to find signup information.  Let me know how you're using this versatile tool.

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Use the calendar to set your speaking resolutions for 2011

If you want to improve your public speaking or presentation skills next year, you've made a great choice: It's a professional development opportunity that many businesses are willing to invest in, and it can help you move farther, faster toward your goals. But if you're feeling like your list of improvements is way too long, try using the calendar to trim and focus you list. Here are four ways to take that 2011 calendar and use it as an organizing tool to improve your speaking:
  1. Take the whole year:  Want an in-depth effort that will push your public speaking forward?  Devote the year to it.  It will help if you write down where you think you are right now, and what you want to try. Then take that list of ambitions and spread them out across the months of 2011. You may be surprised at how much you can accomplish.  Read about two people who decided to devote a year to increasing and improving their speaking: British journalist Robert Crampton and university web expert Georgy Cohen. They're frank about where they started and have a lot to show for the effort.
  2. Do it by-the-speech with the fix-3 approach: Got your speaking gigs lined up already? Then mark in your calendar some time after each one to apply the fix-3 approach to improving your speaking. It's easy: After each speaking experience, based on what happened, make a list of 3 things that went well or that you want to do again, and 3 things you want to fix. Even if your lists are longer, just pick 3--then work on those for the next time. This is a great way for busy or seasoned speakers to build in calendar time devoted to continually improving your speaking skill.
  3. Back up before a big speech:  If you know you're facing a major speech in 2011--a commencement address, Congressional testimony, your first big formal speech, an important presentation--take the calendar and mark off time each week, starting 3 months before the event (or longer, if you can).  Schedule time early in that cycle to get some one-on-one time with a trainer or a good speaking workshop you can take with a small group. Then make sure you have your own practice sessions locked into the calendar twice a week--even a few hours a week will make a big difference.
  4. Take a quarter:  Last year, Stephanie Benoit went through our Step Up Your Speaking 15 weeks of coaching, right here on the blog.  You can follow along on any 15 weeks of your choosing--all the Step Up Your Speaking posts are here, in reverse chronological order--and stand by for the Step Up Your Speaking workbook, coming early in 2011 to help you follow the program on your own, whether you're a beginner or an experienced speaker.
Do you have a public speaking or presentation resolution for 2011? Share it here and keep us posted on your progress.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Closed for the holiday

I'll be celebrating the Christmas holiday with my family this weekend, so your next post from The Eloquent Woman will be on Monday, December 27, 2010--just in time to wrap up the year.  If you're celebrating, I wish you a wonderful holiday!

Sheryl Sandberg just might be my Eloquent Woman of the Year

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, just might be my Eloquent Woman of the Year. There's no such prize, mind you, but this speech (watch the video at the end of this post) may have changed my mind about that.

Sandberg, one of the few women to reach the top of the high-tech world, is speaking at TED about why we have too few women leaders.  It's timely, coming on the heels of a report that there are no women leading Web 2.0 companies, and Sandberg herself is not the CEO of Facebook, so she knows this topic all too well.  She's widely regarded as capable and savvy, and her three-point message here works:  take a seat at the table, make your partner an equal partner, and don't leave before you leave.

What makes me think of her as "eloquent woman of the year" is that she takes all that and injects into her speech plainspoken reality. She even turns the lens on her own behavior, to illustrate in real-time terms the uphill battles--seemingly minute, but powerful--that women face in the workplace today.  The result is credible, gripping, disappointing and ultimately invigorating listening for the audience, which is exactly what happens when women use the power of public speaking to shed light on their own issues.  Here's just one powerful anecdote, and of course, it involved a speech:

I'm about to tell a story, which is truly embarrassing for me, but I think important. I gave this talk at Facebook not so long ago to about a hundred employees. And a couple hours later, there was a young woman who works there sitting outside my little desk, and she wanted to talk to me. I said, okay, and she sat down, and we talked. And she said, "I learned something today. I learned that I need to keep my hand up." I said, "What do you mean?" She said, "Well, you're giving this talk, and you said you were going to take two more questions. And I had my hand up with lots of other people, and you took two more questions. And I put my hand down, and I noticed all the women put their hand down, and then you took more questions, only from the men." And I thought to myself, wow, if it's me -- who cares about this, obviously -- giving this talk -- during this talk, I can't even notice that the men's hands are still raised, and the women's hands are still raised, how good are we as managers of our companies and our organizations at seeing that the men are reaching for opportunities more than women? We've got to get women to sit at the table.
And that's just point number one.  Sandberg also tells memorable stories about pitching deals in firms where there were no women and the male executives didn't know how to direct her to the restroom, just so you know this stuff happens to her, too.

Watch this speech and think about how you can contribute in a better way to helping women advance in your workplace, be it paid or volunteer, or when you are a speaker.  What do you think about this powerful talk?



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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hitting the brakes: When you're a speedy speaker

Are you a fast talker? Do you try to cram too much into your presentations and compensate with speed? Or is it your nervousness that makes you race to the finish? No matter what reason you use to speed ahead, those of us listening will get more out of your talk if you slow down. Here are five ways to hit the brakes and pace yourself during a presentation or public speaking gig:

  1. Don't speak as fast as you do in conversation.  You might speak as many as 400 words a minute when you're in a lively conversation, but your speaking audience needs you to slow down. Speechwriters generally aim to write speeches to hit about 120 words per minute. You may be slightly faster or slower than that. It takes work to develop a slower presenting style, but you'll be a much more effective speaker. For starters, we may actually hear you!
  2. If the problem is nerves, work on them.  Speaking faster doesn't actually help you or your audience, no matter how much you want to get it over with.  Don't speed up to solve the nerves problem. Take the time to do breathing exercises and get more practice until you're confident enough to pace yourself.
  3. Think about speaking like keeping time in music:  If you're dancing to a band and they're playing too fast, you'll never keep up. That's also true when you speak too fast--you're ensuring your audience won't keep up with you. Invest in a metronome,and enlist a friend to set it close to your current speaking speed (you may be surprised). Then dial it back gradually while you practice to slower and slower beats per minute, until you get used to a slower speaking style.
  4. Program physical pauses into your sentences:  Musicians in symphony orchestras keep time with their toes--inside their shoes. You won't see them tapping their feet, but they're flexing and pulsing in time under that shoe leather. Do that when you need to pause as a physical reminder to slow down. (This is especially effective if you're not working with notes and therefore can't write down your reminders to pause.)  All you need to remember are mental cues, like two beats in between sentences, and let your foot keep track.
  5. Watch out for lists:  When you're speaking a list--particularly when you know its contents by heart--you may rush right through it without giving your audience time to comprehend each item.  Insert longer pauses between the items in a list: "So when we decided to raise more funding, we recruited new board members with fundraising experience [pause], put our renovation plans on hold [pause], and focused on cultivating new prospects."
Do you think you speak too fast? What techniques are you using to slow down? Share them in the comments.

Related posts: Speaking science: Speaker speed limits

Got lots to say? Save it for the questions and answers

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Are you hiding behind your written remarks? Stand and deliver

The way some speakers hide behind their written remarks, you'd think those notecards and sheets of paper were bullet-proof shields. There's absolutely nothing wrong with using notes or a fully crafted text for your speech.  A written text--and reading from it--is required for important speaking situations like legislative testimony, and advisable in a host of other settings. But if you're going to use a text, you need to make sure it brings you closer to the audience, rather than protect you from reaching it.  Here's how to come out from behind the notecards to stand and deliver:
  • Be frank with your speechwriter.  If there are phrases that will never pass your lips, jokes that fall flat with you, quotations you'd prefer or points that are missing, speak up and share those insights. A text that you don't like won't make you want to face the audience. No one who's writing for you wants to make you stumble, so give them some clues to you.  Writing your own speech?  Get a pal to read it and listen to you read it to catch those false notes.
  • Practice out loud, with a trainer--and the writer--in tow.  I've trained many clients for specific speeches that were entirely based on a written text, and it works best when speaker, trainer and writer can all be present during the rehearsals. There's no better way to adjust a text to fit you; think of it as a custom tailoring session for your words. You'll hear where you stumble or hesitate, and the trainer and writer can collaborate on solutions on the spot.  You'll also hear from them what does and doesn't work, so you can focus on those sweet spots and changes as you keep practicing.  Bonus: If you work with a speechwriter on a regular basis, she'll do a much better job if she can sit in on your practices.
  • Nail your opening.  Affix it in your memory, and practice a strong start. You'll grab the energy and attention that's in the room, and it will enliven the by-the-book parts that follow.  But don't wing your opening, especially if you're using a text because you're nervous. It's not a good time to experiment.
  • Read with verve, style and enthusiasm. Gonna read? Then read like you're the storyteller-in-chief. Mark up that text with words you want to emphasize, insert pauses and inflections, add reminders to smile and breathe.
  • Build your non-script confidence by including one story you can tell without reading.  Rather than have to memorize a written story or read the entire script, ease into some extemporaneous moments by practicing a personal story you know well. You'll still have to rehearse it again and again, to get it short and crisp, but if you know the particulars by heart, you won't need a script. Make sure the writer puts "Tell vacuum story here" in your text instead of trying to write your story down. Then just look up at that point and tell the story. Go right back to your text when you're done.
  • Look up and around at your audience as you read.  This isn't as difficult as it may seem, even if you're super-nervous. Remember that you're there to deliver a speech, not just read--and if your audience can't look you in the eyes, they won't feel a connection.  Try looking up when you have short sentences to read, an especially good line that will get a laugh, or a few words to emphasize. If you're reading a list, for example, look at different parts of the room for each item in the list, with pauses in between.
  • Use your facial expressions and gestures to add energy and emphasis.  Just because you're reading doesn't mean you have to go expression-less. Smile, frown, wink; use your hand to sketch an image you're describing or indicate the room in one sweeping move. You can write these into your text, too.
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Friday, December 17, 2010

Giving a keynote when you've just had bad news

Here's a keynote story you don't hear every day: Breast cancer physician Marisa Weiss was in the process of being diagnosed with cancer when she had to leave to do a keynote speech in front of a large crowd of women about that very thing, all before she knew the outcome of her tests and the extent of her cancer.  Weiss, who also is the founder of the website breastcancer.org, gave a gripping interview on NPR's Fresh Air this week. From the interview transcript, she tells host Terry Gross about the day after she'd had an irregular mammogram and needed more tests:

Dr. WEISS: ....I had to come back and I was lucky to get an appointment to come back the next day for extra pictures, so extra mammogram pictures to zero in on the area that they were concerned about - and ultrasound. And each of those tests showed more reason for worry and concern. Then I had to race out of the hospital to be the keynote speaker for a luncheon of 400 women an hour away, and then drive back for...


GROSS: About breast cancer, no doubt.

Dr. WEISS: About breast cancer, of course. That's, as I said, is my life...

GROSS: Your life.

Dr. WEISS: ...and for my MRI scan at the end of the day. And after that test I came out and looked at the faces of the radiology technicians who operate the machines and they wouldn't look at me. They were just avoiding my glance. So I knew then it was, you know, it was serious. And then I went from there to radiology reading room and met with the radiologist who was going to, who pulled the MRI images fresh up on the screen. And like a light bulb, there it was, this tumor in my left breast that was clearly a cancer. And while it hadn't yet been biopsied, I've been doing those for so long; I knew I had breast cancer.

You can go here to find full audio for the interview and related material.

Clearly, this is an unusual circumstance--but if anyone knows of other examples of speakers pulling themselves together to deliver a great talk, I know you eloquent women and men do.  Please share them in the comments.

Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

Try The Eloquent Woman on your mobile device with this new QR code

Blogger has begun beta-testing a new mobile interface for blogs on the platform, and I've turned it on for my blogs. I'd love your help in testing it out. Just use the barcode scanner on your mobile device to copy this QR code, which will load it directly on your phone, or check it out at http://eloquentwoman.blogspot.com/?m=1. (If you view it on a laptop or desktop, make the screen narrower to get the mobile effect.)

I'd love to get your feedback as the beta continues, so I can share it with Blogger.


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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Elizabeth Smart speaks publicly as a voice for victims



Last week, the public heard the voice of Elizabeth Smart for the first time. She spoke to reporters after the guilty verdict in the case of the man who abducted and raped her daily when she was just 14 years old, holding her for nine months. And the special meaning of being able to speak to a wider audience was not lost on the 23-year-old, who said:
I'm so thrilled to stand before the people of America today and give hope to other victims, who have not spoken out about their crimes, about what's happened to them...We can speak out, and we will be heard.
The guilty verdict was credited in large part to Smart's willingness to take the stand and testify in court, a highly specialized form of public speech, and a high-pressure situation. There's no video of her testimony, but the Salt Lake Tribune produced its own transcript of Elizabeth Smart's testimony so you can read her spoken words, which contain a great deal of graphic language and description.

Her story's being told as one of redemption, and as an empowering example to others who've been abused. Her father told CNN Elizabeth is thinking of a career as a prosecutor -- certainly one that will involve speaking--so she can help other victims. The difficulty of telling her story, and the high contrasts between her long periods of silence, her testimony and last week's public statements, make this young woman already experienced in some of public speaking's greatest challenges.  The NBC News video above gives you a taste of her poise and confident style.  What are your reactions? Share them in the comments

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Presentations can help you get credit for your work--and more money

Have you ever associated work presentations with your paycheck? Maybe you should, according to finance blog Mint.  It notes presentations as number one in its list of six strategies to make sure you're getting credit for your work.  Under "give presentations when possible," it reminds you that when it comes time for a promotion, your manager is going through the equivalent of a "highlights reel" in his head....and you need to be sure your best image appears in that mental image. The post advises:

People don’t just remember great presentations and ideas; they remember the people who delivered the message. If someone else is delivering your message, even if they give you credit, they are stealing the spotlight from you.
Instead of handing the work off to someone else, take every opportunity to present your ideas to upper management yourself. People remember good ideas based on where they came from, so you need to make sure when they recall your good idea, they remember that it came from your mouth. This is a really easy tactic to help you get credit for your work.
That's a great incentive to volunteer to give more presentations, to share your slides after the session with follow-up notes, and to send your boss a list of your successful presentations before your next performance review.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Telepromptitude with a free tool: CuePrompter

CuePrompter is an online teleprompter--which means you just need to get to the website on your computer or mobile device to use this new tool.  All you need to do is cut and paste your script into the window right on the home page, and click on a button to start.  You can adjust speed; scroll forward, stop or reverse; and take advantage of two screen sizes and two font sizes. This post on 10,000 Words suggests CuePrompter as a portable tool for journalists in the field.  But whether you use it on the fly or in the comfort of your office, it's another great tool in your speaker toolkit.

Related posts:  Practice at your desk with a teleprompter--for free

An iPad app that's a speech writer, recorder and teleprompter, all in one

Speaker speed limits and what to watch out for when using a teleprompter

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

The speech that gave us "military-industrial complex:" new light shed

The New York Times today is reporting that new documents released by the National Archives shed new light on the origins of the term "military-industrial complex," first uttered in then-U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower's farewell address and still in use today.

While durable--aides to the president later said they were surprised it lasted so long--the phrase was in fact toned down a few times and considered "vanilla."  Despite that, it was potent enough to define much of the era, giving protestors something to rail against, and setting the stage for a buildup of American military power.

The article notes some interesting speaker details: Eisenhower underscored the phrase, and put into all capital letters some of those words in the version of the speech he read. Was the delivery part of what propelled the phrase forward?

(Photo by jamiedfw on Flickr via a Creative Commons license)

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Friday, December 10, 2010

A lesson for speakers in finding your voice, from Elizabeth Edwards

One of the most popular pages on this blog is "Finding Your Voice as a Speaker," in which I remind women speakers to:
Pay attention to the stories you find it too difficult to tell right now. At one of the greatest times of personal challenge in my life, I stopped keeping a journal—the situation was too awful to contemplate. Those big life-changers may be too much for you to tackle today. But later, I promise, if you can bring yourself to share them in a speech, you’ll have the most compelling content and a riveting voice.
And that's a lesson we can take again from Elizabeth Edwards, who died this week at age 61 and grew to be a compelling speaker for so many  people.  She transformed as a speaker over the course of her life, and it appears that her first responses to the troubles she faced--the death of her son, her own cancer, and her husband's infidelity--were deeply private responses.

When she began finding her voice, it was in writing. She shared some of her troubles in Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers.  When her husband's infidelity was added to her grief and struggle with cancer, she wrote her last book, Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities It drew from her difficult experiences and talked about managing disappointment--one of the toughest topics you can own up to as a speaker.

And those books helped propel her as a speaker, first in her husband's presidential campaign, then on her own as audiences sought her out to speak about her cancer and later, her husband's infidelity and what it took to overcome them.  Along the way, Edwards spoke about many more difficult topics, even using her last speech two months before her death to remind women to get preventive physical exams, and revealing:
I did not take advantage of the tests that we knew we had for breast cancer...Like many women, I made sure my children had their annual check-ups, and I did not have mine.
In the end, her ability to speak calmly about her own death made her voice even more clear.  Today, she is remembered as someone who has prompted a discussion about what it means to have a "good death" and to face it with dignity.

Later, as this writer points out, Edwards added an epilogue to Resilience as a way of defining herself, rather than letting the events of her life define her.  That's the ultimate reason, eloquent women, to find your voice and use it, whether you do so at work or home, in public or privately.  And how do you test that? In Edwards' case, this video shares what North Carolina residents thoughts about her. You'll hear the words "strength" and "brave" and "resilience" over and over again -- words that would not have come to mind if Edwards hadn't found her voice and shared it with us. Share your own thoughts in the comments.



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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The speaker's stocking: Speech-bubble gifts, tools and tech

At The Eloquent Woman, we love a speech bubble--that recognizable symbol from cartoons that says "someone's talking."  During this holiday season, we've found a collection of presentation tools, tech and gifts that make use of the speech-bubble shape, rounded up here to give you some more ideas for gifting the speaker--or adding some fun to your classroom, training session or presentations.
  • MOMA's speech-bubble mini speakers, aptly called the Speak-er, attach to your iPod, MP3 player, or your laptop, which makes them a fun thematic tool to use in presentations. This weekend, MOMA members get shopping discounts, by the way. Regular price: $100, or $80 for MOMA members (before the sale discount).
  • The chalkboard speech bubble at the Photojojo store costs $29.00. Get some ideas for using it from the video below:


Buy the Chalkboard Speech Bubble at the Photojojo Store!

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Guest post: Confessions of a newbie public speaker

(Editor's note: Georgy Cohen is manager of web content and strategy for Tufts University and someone I follow for her insights on social media. But she also spent much of 2011 focused on increasing her public speaking. I'd noticed her frequent talks, but didn't realize it was her 2010 resolution until this post came out this week. It's a great read if you are planning your 2011 speaker resolutions, because it will show you just how much you can accomplish with a year-long goal like this one. Cohen has graciously given permission to reprint the post in full; it originally appeared on her blog here.)

Back in May, I signaled that I was looking to get more experience with public speaking and presenting. My first such experience at Ignite Boston 7 back in Marchwas exhilarating and terrifying — like skydiving, really. And once I had a taste of the rush, I wanted more. I declared 2010 “The Year of Speaking Publicly.”

So here we are in December. In the past three months, I have spoken at #140conf BostonHighEdWeb 2010 in Cincinnati and Stamats Integrated Marketing and Technology Conference in Las Vegas. Back in May, I didn't see that happening. But, it happened — and it was amazing. And I still want more.

While things are relatively quiet, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on these whirlwind past few months.

Why is this important to me?


I think some people would be surprised to learn that I am shy, especially given how often I volunteer myself for public displays of varying types (like, uh, karaoke). Blame my Leonine tendencies. But for me, public speaking is very different.

When I do goofy things in public, my aim is just entertainment — both for myself and those around me. There is not a lot riding on it. But when I am presenting, people are relying on me to be valuable. In some cases, they’ve paid good money to sit there and listen to me, so I take that responsibility seriously. I can’t regurgitate crap. I have to be insightful and engaging. I have to be ready for questions. If I have weak links in my content, they will surely be exposed. And, dear God, what about the backchannel?? It’s a lot to worry about.

So, in pursuing public speaking opportunities, I want to share my knowledge and add value to my professional community, but I also see it as a personal challenge to feel confident that I have something to contribute and am worthy of that responsibility.

How did I prepare?

Solid preparation can defend against the pitfalls listed above. For my HighEdWeb/Stamats presentation, I spent hours doing research, poring over my sources, outlining, organizing, writing and making sure I knew what the hell I was talking about. For me, the real litmus test was the person who came up to me five minutes before I was scheduled to start and asked me to explain what I would be talking about, so she could decide which session to attend. It’s essentially the elevator speech for your presentation. If you can explain it well and succinctly, and you see the spark of comprehension and even of interest in her eyes, that’s a nice shot of confidence right there. And I think I passed that test.

The next step is the visual presentation. This is sort of a second step of the synthesis, as you try to translate what you’ve outlined and learned into a balanced aural and visual experience. I quickly learned how challenging this is — heck, I don’t think I’d ever created slide deck before this year. It’s challenging to learn how to use the visual space to complement and enhance what you are saying without distracting the audience, but I also think it’s a lot of fun. Because of my personality, my presentations were definitely speckled with humor and pop culture references, whether it was my “Spaceballs” shoutout at #140conf or the LOLCats and Legos I dropped into my content curation presentation. Some people play it straight, some people go for the personal approach, and I can’t help but fall into the latter category. Whichever route you take, you have to make sure that the whole package is clear and effective. (Presentation Zen provides some helpful guidance to that end, and I’ve also come across some great tips on designing effective presentations by Design Shack10,000 WordsSocial Brite and Dan Schawbel.)

The thing I probably didn’t do enough of was demo the presentation for other people. Aside from one trusted friend, no one saw this thing before I took it on the road. I think this is because I was scared of being told it was crap. I did, however, do lots of solo runthroughs, to make sure I knew my talking points back and forth (though I did create a little crib sheet for the points at the heart of my talk). In the future, I’d like to get more human feedback before the real deal.

How did I feel?

I still remember how I felt before my 5-minute Ignite talk — more or less like I was going to throw up, possibly approaching the threshold of a mild panic attack. In the hours leading up to my 10-minute #140conf talk, which came toward the end of a full day of such talks, I fretted about the value of my talk, took a stab at memorizing it on the fly so I could be as cool as some of the speakers who roamed around the stage unbound by slides or prepared text (a plan I soon abandoned), but I did not feel ill or panicky. By the time I gave my second 45-minute presentation on content curation, I was nervous, sure, but not consumed. (Though giving the same presentation two weeks in a row was unexpectedly rough, if only because I felt like I had already gotten the presentation out of me the week before :-) ) The all-consuming fear of speaking publicly receded each time I did it, survived and received positive feedback.

Sometimes, though, you need to tap your support network. The best advice I got came the night before my talk at HighEdWeb, as I confessed my nervousness to a couple of fellow conference attendees watching the Phillies game in the hotel bar. One of them reminded me that I was selected to present at this conference for a very good reason, so I should trust in the smart folks who made that decision. The second was that, when it comes to the topic I am presenting on, I am the expert in the room and people are there because they want to learn from me. Those two insights, while seemingly obvious, were extremely comforting to hear.

Is this real life?

I remember attending HighEdWeb back in 2006 and 2008 and marveling at the speakers. It seemed like such an unattainable goal and an incredible privilege to present at a national conference — on any topic. But what I’ve learned over the years is that good content always wins out in the end. If you have a good idea and valuable information to share, you’re halfway there.

The thing I didn’t realize before is that there are tons of ways to jump into public speaking and presenting. Whether it’s an Ignite event, a Podcamp/Barcamp/Wordcamp event, even a monthly meeting of a local organization (they often look for speakers), the opportunities are out there. Heck, how about your own workplace? Or, failing all else, try recording short videos on YouTube — you can’t see your audience, but at least you’ll get to look your webcam straight in the, er, lens and practice speaking directly and clearly.

But much like listening on Twitter before jumping in to engage, I found it very helpful to simply begin paying closer attention to presentations I was already attending. TEDxBoston in July was extremely valuable, not only for the content of the talks, but for the opportunity to learn from how the speakers delivered them. Whose slides worked, and whose didn’t? What made a talk compelling, and what made it fall flat? (Conveniently, lots of TED Talks are available online if there are no events nearby.)

Who can help me?

    What’s next?


    More, I hope! The experiences of the past year have certainly lit a fire, and I am already building up a list of presentation ideas and possible outlets for them. But while this is exciting and fun and everything, I am not forgetting the most important question to ask: is this valuable? Not for me, but for the audience. If the answer is no, then I move on. But if the answer is yes… just hand me the clicker.


    Photos by Michael Fienen from SIMTech 2010, Las Vegas, NV, Oct. 21, 2010


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    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    Step Up Your Speaking newsletter out Wednesday

    In this month's edition of my free email newsletter, Step Up Your Speaking, I'll be offering you an A-Z guide of resources to help you set your 2011 speaker resolution. Whether you choose to make it an entire year of improving your speaking or focus on just one skill or issue, this newsletter will help you think through your options and get you on the right track for next year. Sign up at the links below, and start your gift-giving early by forwarding this post to a friend who speaks, presents or wants to try it.

    Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free email newsletter that looks at a different speaking topic in depth each month...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.