Thursday, September 30, 2010

The top 10 public speaking tips and issues for September, and a new workshop

September marks a change of seasons, the start of classes for students, and a jam-packed month of tips, issues and topics on The Eloquent Woman. Also this month:  A new workshop's out for you to learn dynamic speaking skills.  But first, here are the posts that were most popular with our readers this month:
  1. I got tired of the debate blaming women for their inability to get speaking gigs.  But I prefer a practical approach, so I wrote Help a woman with public speaking: 13 simple things you can do.  It's September's top post, based on reader choices. 
  2. Is drawing a blank that bad?  Arizona Governor Jan Brewer lost her train of thought in the opening statement of a television debate, and drew widespread criticism. Readers here weighed in, too, on this month's most popular post.
  3. Brr-illiant tips for the technical speaker:  My friend and Wall Street Journal science columnist Robert Lee Hotz gave a TEDGlobal talk on Antarctica, and I culled tips for you on how much detail to use (verbally and in your slides), creating colorful analogies, and making the extraordinary--a trip to the bottom of the world--everyday, so the audience can relate to it, in this next-most-popular post.
  4. Using a sheet of paper (and other ordinary things) as props helped to de-mystify the use of props--and make them easier to find and more portable, two practical considerations for speakers.
  5. Making your slides move:  I gave you 7 reasons you should convert a slide deck to video, along with a link to a tutorial on how to do it.  It's a simple way to expand the viewership of your presentations.
  6. Getting copyright right:  A reader asked about copyright issues for a handout that would reprint a newspaper article, so I gave you five ridiculously easy ways to avoid copyright problems, covering not only your handouts, but pictures and cartoons you might be using in your slides.
  7. Inspiration from a labor of love speech:  Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivered a speech written by her husband, who died recently.  I've got the video and a report on the legal conference where this especially difficult speaker challenge took place.
  8. The stammerer who would be king:  "The King's Speech" is a new film with a high-powered cast, and it's already on the shortlist for an Oscar.  But we care about it because it tells the story of the current Queen of England's father, who overcame a stammer with the help of an unconventional speaking coach.  In this inspiring post, you can see an interview with Colin Firth, who plays the king.
  9. A new iPad app has it all for speakers:  Prompster lets you write, edit, record, listen to and teleprompt your speech.
  10. A new online profile for speakers:  Lanyrd's a new conference social networking site that lets you create a speaker profile to reflect the many conferences and panels you're speaking on. This popular post explains how to use this new tool.
Now, about the new workshop:  Good on Your Feet, a dynamic speaking skills workshop from The Eloquent Woman, will take place November 3 and 4 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.  You'll learn the components of dynamic speaking, from a high-attention start to developing your content, movement, mindset and resilience.  With just 16 participants, there'll be plenty of time for hands-on exercises and practice, so you can walk away feeling more confident and ready for any speaking situation.  I hope you'll share this opportunity with colleagues and look forward to working with you in November!  Go here to learn more and register.
Have you subscribed to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman?  Every month, the newsletter looks in-depth at one issue in public speaking, offering you a dense-packed resource--plus news, discounts and advance information on Eloquent Woman workshops and products.  Go here to subscribe...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.

Want to get good on your feet as a speaker? Try my new workshop, Nov. 3 & 4

Let readers of The Eloquent Woman be the first to know: A new Eloquent Woman workshop is now open for registration. Set for November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop is designed to help you work through the components involved in dynamic speaking, so you can put them together in a variety of speaking situations. You'll learn:
  • Dynamic starts--why you need them and how to create them
  • The 3 Rs of dynamic presenting: Ready, Relaxed and Resilient
  • Ready with effective planned messages that help you go with the flow--but get your content in
  • Relaxed movements, gestures and mindsets of dynamic speaking
  • Resilient and graceful ways with Q&A, audience needs and mishaps
  • Live practice and critique to help you see and hear what your audience sees and hears, plus advice on putting it all together, using The Eloquent Woman's checklist for the whole speaker
The workshop is limited to just 16 participants, so you'll have plenty of time to strategize and practice using the lessons you'll learn.  This will be an active, hands-on workshop!

The workshop will take place from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm on Wednesday, November 3 and Thursday, November 4 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.  There's easy access to public transportation, and your workshop registration includes (on both days) continental breakfast, break refreshments, lunch and all materials and followup resources.

Go here to register and learn more details.  I look forward to working with you in early November!  Please feel free to share this workshop announcement with your friends and colleagues.  In the meantime, check out how readers of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook described being "good on your feet:"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Speaking up when you know what's right: Vocal values

One challenging speaking situation is speaking up when your values come into play.  You know what's right, but you hesitate to speak your mind about it, for a variety of reasons:  Some might disagree, see you as soft or emotional, or perhaps the issue involves what you see as bad choices, unless you speak up.  Now you have a guide: Giving Voice to Values: How to Speak Your Mind When You Know What's RightPublisher's Weekly noted that the book:
....offers a powerful action-oriented manifesto for living with integrity, fighting for one's convictions, and building a more ethical workplace. Arguing that if enough of us feel empowered to voice and act on our values then the business world will be transformed, she shows how to practice and perfect speaking up, thereby building skills and confidence.
Author Mary Gentile describes some of the thinking behind the book and program in this article, and notes two myths that hold many people back from voicing their values:  They think they need a sure-fire argument to make the case, and they think they need to be in charge (whatever that means) to put their values across.  But she disagrees, and shows you how to overcome those obstacles.

Giving Voice to Values also is a business education curriculum, which is available for free to educators; pilot programs using the curriculum are in place at these universities around the world.  Go here to learn more and to sign up for the program's mailing list.

Check out the community on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, and sign up for Step Up Your Speaking, my free monthly newsletter, here. A new newsletter comes out soon--now's a great time to sign up.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Use a signal to break into speaking on audio- or video-conferences

This New York Times article on staying professional on conference calls and video conferences offers tips on everything from whether to multitask to a favorite topic on this blog: How to break into a conversation if you're distant from the main meeting room.  The bottom line? You need to give the group a signal:
If you want to cut into the discussion during a teleconference, you need to prompt the group first, so say something like “Excuse me” or “Question” and then wait a couple of seconds before continuing...In a videoconference, the speaker will be the biggest image on your screen, but there is usually a smaller window where you can see everyone else, so prompt the group by raising your hand, or by raising your hand and saying, “I have a point I’d like to make."
Those are the do-it-yourself options, but you also should take the time to ask for these extra helps to make it easier to break in and contribute:
  • Email the session leader in advance and ask her to establish that people should say "Question" or raise their hands when they have something to contribute--and ask her to keep tabs on who needs a turn;
  • If you see or hear someone signaling and not getting a turn, point it out. Say "I have something to say, but Janet has had her hand up earlier. Janet?"  It's a reminder to all to share the mic.
  • Request a "catch up and questions" time after each agenda item, to make sure all contributions are heard.
What are your tactics for breaking into a conversation when you're not in the same room as those with whom you're meeting? Share them in the comments, where there's room for everyone to take a turn.

Related posts:  Speaking when the audience isn't visible: Tips for conference calls

Check out the community on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, and sign up for Step Up Your Speaking, my free monthly newsletter, here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Help a woman with public speaking: 13 simple things you can do

When people ask me why I put a particular focus on women and public speaking--asking, in essence, "why do women need more or different advice on public speaking?"--the following types of events come to mind:
  • Politico, a powerful website, announced a new opinion section featuring a voice from the left and a voice from the right. The pundits? Two white men. The announcement, referencing an old Saturday Night Live skit, used the word "slut."
  • NPR reported that, while it has plenty of female hosts, women are rarely chosen as commentators (just one of dozens) or as sources in news stories (outnumbered by men about 3 to 1), so that women's voices are rarely heard as authorities on topics of the day.
  • A tech blogger whose conference routinely includes 10 percent or fewer women among its speakers, wrote an inflammatory post that suggested women in tech "stop blaming the men."  He defended that percentage, noting many women turn down the opportunity to speak, or that qualified women just can't be found. One of many women who responded to this diatribe on his site was called a "c***" in the comments.
  • A prominent speaker who wasn't told that a live Twitter feed from the audience would be projected behind her during a keynote learned later that audience members were laughing because men in the audience were tweeting whether they wanted to "do her."  They removed the tweets later, but it gave us an insight into what some men are thinking about instead of a woman speaker's topic.
  • Every day, people spread these 4 common myths about women who speak in public--mostly to make them feel uncomfortable about speaking, and hoping to silence them. If you've ever joked about women talking more than men do, you've passed on one of these myths.
Calling women crude sexual names is another, especially offensive way of trying to silence them.  I have a male professional colleague who likes to walk up to me at conferences and say things (to me, in the hearing of the person talking to me) like, "Let's go have a threesome!" -- and I know full well he does that to embarrass and silence me, so I won't seem so much of a threat to him.  Hearing these other recent examples reminded me that this happens more than we like to think or talk about.  Add to all that a culture in which women generally feel more comfortable speaking privately than publicly (gee, I wonder how that happened?) and get less practice at speaking in public, and you've got the rationale behind this blog.  Women aren't broken or worse at speaking, yet we (men and women) generally view them more negatively than we view men when they speak.  And women bring many advantages to public speaking that they should get the chance to use.

When the recent dust-up over the tech blogger's inflammatory remarks arose a few weeks ago, I held off commenting, in part because I didn't want to drive traffic to his site (one reason I believe he writes posts of this type).   But I had to challenge myself, and I want to challenge you, too:  Instead of blaming women or saying this can't be done, what are some practical and simple things that any of us can do to help a woman with public speaking?  Unlike some observers, I'm not suggesting that only women should do these things.  These are tasks any woman or man can do.  I welcome your additions to this list in the comments:
  1. Talk about this issue--with your friends and colleagues, with your boss, with your professional organizations. Ask what they can do to help. Share this list as a starting point.  When you see people helping to keep women silent, point it out. 
  2. When you organize or moderate a panel, take the time to look for, invite and encourage women speakers to join it. Got an all male panel? Include women.  (This is a problem even in female-dominated professions, by the way.) Get your organization to make this a rule of thumb.
  3. Share speaking resources with women you know.  I always hope you'll recommend The Eloquent Woman or The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, but please also share the many books, blogs, seminars and other resources you find useful with women interested in speaking.
  4. If you're a manager, offer support for speaker training, particularly for younger women on your team. Use a low-cost alternative like Toastmasters, private coaching, or team training for the women on your team. Insist that women working on your team get speaker training. Encourage them to keep trying.
  5. Managers also can make public speaking and presentations skills a professional development goal for female team members, both to indicate their importance and to cause training to happen.
  6. Not a manager? Then ask for presentation and speaker training at work, and ask to make it part of your professional development plan. Suggest group training for you and your colleagues. Feel free to use my memo to the boss for this purpose.
  7. In a meeting, ask a woman what she thinks about the matter at hand. Listen to what she says.  If a woman's having trouble getting a word in edgewise, help her out: "I'd like to hear what Emily has to say on this score" is all it takes.
  8. If a female friend or colleague is speaking, go hear your speaking friend. Congratulate her. Encourage her to do it again. Ask intelligent questions during her presentation. Tell others to go see her.
  9. If you're a woman who speaks on a subject with authority, make yourself known to program organizers, and publiclyWomen are sometimes penalized for putting themselves forward in this way. Do it, anyway. It's okay to "toot your own horn."
  10. Offer to help a friend practice public speaking.  Watch a video playback with her, watch her rehearse, or sit in the audience and offer observations afterward.
  11. Mentor another woman with less speaking experience.  Let her watch you speak, and talk to her afterwards so she has the chance to ask questions.  Help her get speaking gigs and opportunities to practice. Show her how to network in ways that will help her be noticed as a speaker, and talk to her about how to promote her speaking.
  12. Speak up and shut down the myths, mocking, negative talk and sexual slurs that attempt to silence women. A simple "that's unacceptable" should do it; if it doesn't, make a complaint.  Don't let women around you be intimidated into silence.
  13. Before you register for a conference, figure out the proportion of female speakers.  Send a message to the organizers if it's out of whack. Let them know the problem has been noticed--and ask what they're going to do about it.
Please add to this list--and share it with your colleagues. I look forward to your thoughts and ideas.

Check out the community on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, and sign up for Step Up Your Speaking, my free monthly newsletter, here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wal-Mart speaker sums up real economic impact: 3 must-read paragraphs

You wouldn't think that a presentation by Wal-Mart's U.S. CEO at a Goldman Sachs retail business conference would yield a stirring bird's-eye view of the economic downturn, in terms anyone could understand. But that's just what Bill Simon's talk last week did. It took just 3 paragraphs: the first, a business-minded view of how economic trends affect a gigantic retail business, followed by two more that use just 156 words to leave an indelible impression of what that means for the people shopping in the store:

The paycheck cycle we’ve talked about before remains extreme. It is our responsibility to figure out how to sell in that environment, adjusting pack sizes, large pack at sizes the beginning of the month, small pack sizes at the end of the month. And to figure out how to deal with what is an ever-increasing amount of transactions being paid for with government assistance.
And you need not go further than one of our stores on midnight at the end of the month. And it’s real interesting to watch, about 11 p.m., customers start to come in and shop, fill their grocery basket with basic items, baby formula, milk, bread, eggs,and continue to shop and mill about the store until midnight, when electronic — government electronic benefits cards get activated and then the checkout starts and occurs. And our sales for those first few hours on the first of the month are substantially and significantly higher.
And if you really think about it, the only reason somebody gets out in the middle of the night and buys baby formula is that they need it, and they’ve been waiting for it. Otherwise, we are open 24 hours — come at 5 a.m., come at 7 a.m., come at 10 a.m. But if you are there at midnight, you are there for a reason.
Wal-Mart has made available the presentation and a full transcript of this talk, so you can glean more from the full context. This is a wonderful example--for speakers and speechwriters--on how to take a dry, dismal technical topic and make it relevant to anyone. It's no mistake that these three paragraphs have been widely circulated on the web in less than a week.

Want more? Sign up for the free monthly newsletter, Step Up Your Speaking, which focuses on one speaking skill or issue each month. Then join The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, a vibrant community that gets to discuss these topics before they appear on the blog; or contact me about your public speaking training and coaching needs. Most of the popular articles listed here started as threads on the Facebook page. Thanks for reading and participating!

A new kind of online speaker profile: The topic cloud

I know I just told you about Lanyrd, the "social conference directory" that lets you explore conferences, speakers, topics and more--and better yet, add past and present speeches and presentations (your own or those of others), making it a good roster of experience for speakers.

But Lanyrd's moving fast with new features, and  now supports specific conference sessions as well as whole conferences.  As a result, when speakers tag their topics within sessions, the tags become a "word cloud" on your profile under the heading "Speaks about," as shown in the sample profile at left. The session pages have shorter URLs, making them perfect for sharing on your slides or on Twitter. I think that makes this an even more useful online networking tool for speakers who want to promote their experience and expertise.  Let me know in the comments if you're trying this new tool.

Related posts:  The networked speaker: 10 ways to make the most of your next gig

Want more? Sign up for the free monthly newsletter, Step Up Your Speaking, which focuses on one speaking skill or issue each month. Then join The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, a vibrant community that gets to discuss these topics before they appear on the blog; or contact me about your public speaking training and coaching needs. Most of the popular articles listed here started as threads on the Facebook page. Thanks for reading and participating!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Using quotes in speeches? Figure out why and take it to the next level

Stop and think about it: How may times have you used a quotation in a speech? For some speakers (and speechwriters), a speech isn't a speech without a quotation...or three. I'm just wondering whether you know why you're using a quotation...and whether it's working for you as well as it might.

Here's a recent example: The CEO of the Chrysler Group's talk to a convention of dealers was covered by a newspaper that noted the following about his message:
He may look like the rumpled guy next door, but when it comes to culture, Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne is ivy league. In a lengthy speech to 2,400 Chrysler dealers meeting in Orlando, Fla., last week, the sweater-clad Marchionne sprinkled his remarks with references to literary, political and military icons, such as English writer Charles Dickens, American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli and U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower.
That's a lot of people to share your stage -- and that's exactly what you're doing when you choose to quote someone, or many people.

Like any tactic, quotations in speeches or presentations need to be purposeful. Here are some reasons speakers use quotations--and how you can take them to the next level:
  • To open your speech:  Far too many speakers open with "As the famous [fill in the blank] once said...." -- perhaps because openings are high-pressure and using someone else's words momentarily takes the pressure off. But people have come to hear you speak, and to hold an audience's attention, you need a strong, fast start.  Come up with an original beginning and hold the quotes for later.
  • Because the quote's so well known: This might be the worst reason to use a quotation. Rather than serve up the expected and known, keep attention and intrigue high with an unexpected but apt quotation they're less likely to have heard.  Audiences love to learn and hear something they didn't know that will make them see something new. Even better:  Find what was said right after a famous quotation that might refute it, add new perspective or expand the point in a direction you want to take. (Yes, this requires more research.)  Can't find one? Pass on the quotation.
  • To rev up your presentation:  Quotations often seem livelier to the person speaking them or the speechwriter looking for inspiration than to those hearing them. After all, you've had more time to get enthused about that quote. But before you use it to prop up your presentation, consider whether you can use other tactics, from props to physical movement, to enliven your show.  Or go live, and get fresh quotes from a source your audience is bound to like:  Ask people in the audience to share observations.
  • Because the famous person said it so much better than you could:  Again, the audience is here to hear you.  You won't find your own voice or grow as a speaker if you're going to rely on others' words all the time.  Figure out whether the quotation is masking your own apprehension, fear or nervousness, then figure out your own words--that authenticity will bring your speech to heights you can claim all for yourself.  U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson was reported by his own speechwriters to routinely cross out the names of the famous men whose quotes were inserted in his speeches, preferring to preface the quotes with, "As my dear old daddy used to say...." -- suggesting that he understood it was the words, not the famous label, that mattered.  As speechwriter Liz Carpenter learned: "Leave Aristotle out of it."
  • To remind us of something we've forgotten:  A corollary to the magic of the underused or little-known quotation is the one that brings us back to a home truth, especially one that's been ignored, put aside or lost in the shuffle of a big debate. If a quotation--particularly from a speaker from the past who shares something with your audience today--does that, make a special place for it.
  • To bring two sides together:  Some of the best political quotations show us a glimpse of what we have in common with our enemies and opponents. If you're facing an audience with warring factions and can find a quotation that mends the fence, even momentarily, give it a go.  In this case, using the quotation lets the original speaker of those words serve, in effect, as an oratorical diplomat for you--it's not you saying this, it's Abraham Lincoln or Hillary Clinton.  Of course, a lot rides on the voice you choose to carry those words, so use caution here.
  • To create a debate without another partner:  If you want to add drama and debate without sharing the podium, quote someone famous--and then refute them.  Argue your side against the words of your virtual opponent, adding contrast, drama, and energy to your side of the debate. One of the oldest rhetorical tricks in the book, and one of the most effective, when it's done right.
  • To turn one point in a direction you choose, with a twist:  Aphorisms (like Eleanor Roosevelt's line, "A woman is like a tea bag--only in hot water do you realize how strong she is") make for great quotes, because they're short and end in a twist. You can use that twist to move from one point to its opposite, to turn a debate on its head, or to add humor while making a point.  Check out these five rules for aphorisms and a good reference for finding them on our sister blog at don't get caught.  Then take it to the next level and write your own aphorism, rather than quoting a famous one.
Use these two resources to find quotations from women, and to find women's speeches from which you can quote.  Share your rationale for quotation use in the comments.  Do you use, overuse, avoid them or something else?


I'm delighted that this post made it into the roundup of the best speaking posts in the blogosphere for the week of October 8 on the great Six Minutes blog by Andrew Dlugan. Thanks, Andrew!
Want more? Sign up for the free monthly newsletter, Step Up Your Speaking, which focuses on one speaking skill or issue each month. Then join The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, a vibrant community that gets to discuss these topics before they appear on the blog; or contact me about your public speaking training and coaching needs. Most of the popular articles listed here started as threads on the Facebook page. Thanks for reading and participating!

Monday, September 20, 2010

iPad app Prompster is all-in-one speechwriter, recorder & teleprompter

Teleprompters were once the province of conventions and television studios.  I've told you about open-source software that will put a teleprompter on your desktop or laptop.  Now, iPad owners can take the teleprompter with them with new app Prompster, demonstrated in the video at the end of this post.

From its announcement, Prompster includes features that let you:
  • record your practice or live speech, with playback options;
  • transfer recorded audio files to a Mac or PC using iTunes file sharing;
  • create, edit and store your speech, moving between document and prompter modes;
  • import documents from popular word processors like MS Word and Apple Pages;
  • scroll the text at variable speeds, speeding it up or slowing it down "on the fly;"
  • start or pause scrolling with a tap;
  • track how much time has elapsed since the start of your speech;
  • increase or decrease font size "on the fly;" and
  • share your speech via email or iTunes.
I'd be especially pleased to hear from iPad users who are trying this new app. Let us know how it works for you in the comments.




Want more? Sign up for the free monthly newsletter, Step Up Your Speaking, which focuses on one speaking skill or issue each month. Then join The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, a vibrant community that gets to discuss these topics before they appear on the blog; or contact me about your public speaking training and coaching needs. Most of the popular articles listed here started as threads on the Facebook page. Thanks for reading and participating!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Speakers: Ridiculously easy ways to avoid copyright problems with your handouts

An event planner I know emailed me this week to ask about a speaker's upcoming event.  She wrote:

Question for you Madame Communications Guru…if an article is online from a publication such as Washington Times or National Review, do we need permission to reprint? Especially if we're giving it out as handout material?

That's a question few speakers or organizers bother to ask, perhaps because they know the answer is "yes." If you're reprinting material published elsewhere, and it's protected by copyright, you likely need permission to reprint or reproduce it in full or in part.  That goes for those cute cartoons you like to show, for many photographs or copyrighted infographics, and much more, including some video and audio files.

Although it sounds like an infernal pain to get compliant with copyright, there are lots of easy ways to do so. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Give up the paper handouts.  As you can see on the Washington Post's permissions page, the one thing you're free to do with its content is to link to it.  So go paperless, and create a special blog or webpage for your background material, or send it in a followup email.  I decided it was "handouts no more" for me a couple of years ago, and find my audiences like the ease of going to a blog post, email or website with the information.
  2. License those one-of-a-kind options.  If you like New Yorker cartoons, the Cartoon Bank will sell you often reasonably priced licenses to use them in slide presentations, with prices varying depending on the use and format (handouts are included as one option). For that special cartoon, you may pay just $25.
  3. Seek out free and shareable content:  Creative Commons is a nonprofit that helps creators license their content, with options ranging from all rights reserved (that is, you'd have to ask permission) to free and shareable.  You can see this at work on photo-sharing sites like Flickr, where all the photos have some form of Creative Commons licensing. Just look for those marked "some rights reserved."
  4. Get the permissons when the item first appears--and you're thinking of it.  Like that article that covered your last speech, or the op-ed you wrote that's in the paper?  Ask for permission to reprint it while it's still fresh in your mind.
  5. Use stock options.  Stock content sites like Shutterstock offer graphics and photos. You pay a subscription fee and agree to terms, then download stock photos for your use.  (Shutterstock will give you two free downloads of featured photos and graphics each week if you register.)

Want more? Sign up for the free monthly newsletter, Step Up Your Speaking, which focuses on one speaking skill or issue each month. Then join The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, a vibrant community that gets to discuss these topics before they appear on the blog; or contact me about your public speaking training and coaching needs. Most of the popular articles listed here started as threads on the Facebook page. Thanks for reading and participating!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Remaking the sermon: The School of Life's in session


Barbara Ehrenreich - On Optimism from The School of Life on Vimeo.

A monthly series of "secular sermons" launches again this month in London, where the School of Life mimics the form of sermons, with a public-speaking set of twists. The New York Times notes:
Each sermon features twists on the conventional church service, including a Sunday-morning starting time and singing by the congregation (recent selections have included tunes by Nina Simone, Jane’s Addiction and “Weird Al” Yankovic). Attendees are greeted at the door by a strikingly tall devil, and are encouraged to mingle afterward with their fellow parishioners, discussing the sermon over tea and snacks. But the heart of each Sunday’s event — and the key information that an attendee can leave with and ponder — depends on the speaker delivering the sermon.
Thus, in the video above, author Barbara Ehrenreich, whose topic warns of the dangers of optimism, was preceded by the audience singing "Accentuate the Positive." (Nice way to get the audience another data point to consider about the topic, and get them warmed up and engaged, by the way.) Check out more videos of these unconventional sermons here, on topics ranging from uncertainty to punctuality.  Would you try this kind of unconventional format for your next talk?

Want more? Sign up for the free monthly newsletter, Step Up Your Speaking, which focuses on one speaking skill or issue each month. Then join The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, a vibrant community that gets to discuss these topics before they appear on the blog; or contact me about your public speaking training and coaching needs. Most of the popular articles listed here started as threads on the Facebook page. Thanks for reading and participating!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Brrr-illiant tips for technical speakers from a TED Talk on Antarctica



My longtime friend and colleague, Wall Street Journal science columnist Robert Lee Hotz, gave this TED Talk about Antarctica, a cold, distant, hard-to-imagine place--and does it in under 10 minutes. His slides have no bullets, just pictures of a foreign, frozen world, both inside and outside an Antarctic laboratory. Hotz is a bit of a ringer when it comes to translating technical topics for public and non-scientific audiences, but here's some of what you can glean from his talk and technique:

  • Give us some (well-chosen) detail:  One thing that surprises my scientist-trainees, over and over again, is that detail--used judiciously--can make a public talk a success. Here are two that work especially well: These scientists are working in the coldest place on earth, and inside a lab that is itself a refrigerator, in order to keep the ice-core samples at optimal temperature....so they keep gloves in an oven, ready when their hands are close to freezing. The hot gloves and the cold lab are sticky images that almost don't need a visual, as the mind's eye can conjure them.
  • But don't put the details in the slides: None of the visuals here use words, but they're packed with meaning--and Hotz's narration fills in the data blanks. Leaving the pictures free of facts helps the audience listen and absorb them, but with ample visual evidence to make the facts concrete and memorable. (Feel free to use words in your slides, but don't overload them with data.)
  • Analogies help pack in the facts:  The drill that pulls the ice cores out of the snowmass is "like a biopsy needle"...the cylinders of ice come out of the barrel like spent shotgun shells. Analogies make a mind's-eye connection that's memorable and concrete for your listeners.
  • Make the extraordinary ordinary:  This research site was selected precisely because snow accumulates here 10 times faster than any other spot on Antarctica. Hotz explains what this means in real terms for the scientists--terms we all shudder to imagine in our own lives: "They have to dig themselves out every day. It makes for an exotic and chilly commute."  The entire talk does what I wish more scientists would do:  Share the daily grind, so we understand what failure, frozen fingers and your work surroudings look like, up close.
  • Ask the dumb or skeptical questions your audience is thinking:  "But don't we already know what we need to know about greenhouse gases? Why do we need to study this anymore? Don't we already know how they affect temperatures? Don't we already know the consequenses of a changing climate on our settled civilization? The truth is, we only know the outlines, and what we don't completely understand, we can't properly fix. Indeed, we run the risk of making things worse."  That's how Hotz at once includes climate skeptics and makes specific--and brief--the answer to their questions.
Want more? Sign up for the free monthly newsletter, Step Up Your Speaking, which focuses on one speaking skill or issue each month. Then join The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, a vibrant community that gets to discuss these topics before they appear on the blog; or contact me about your public speaking training and coaching needs. Most of the popular articles listed here started as threads on the Facebook page. Thanks for reading and participating!

Monday, September 13, 2010

7 reasons you should convert a slide deck to video--and how to do it

You've done your slide deck; you've even shared it online, on your website or blog or SlideShare (which you can use right on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook).  So why bother making your slides into a video? I have seven reasons for taking that extra step:

  1. Not everyone uses your slide program.  Shocking, perhaps, but true. You'll reach a wider audience for this reason alone.
  2. You'll bring more people "into the room."  For absent friends, a video presentation of your slides can help you get your points across directly.
  3. Let your viewers be lazy.  Video advances the slides for them. What could be more appealing in a busy day? You're removing one more barrier to the presentation being seen.
  4. Speak to the people.  Video comes with audio narration options, which adds another dimension.
  5. It's the gift that keeps on giving. Users can watch your presentation more than once, or share it with their friends if you upload it to YouTube or a similar site.  Even if your presentation is only for internal consumption, you can put the video on a shared drive for viewing company-wide.
  6. Online video is the strongest social media trend, which means any networked speaker should be taking advantage of it. More than 80 percent of Internet users are watching short videos these days, clearly making it the place you want to be.
  7. You'll find an audience you didn't know you had.  Sharing your presentation with a video will make it available to viewers you couldn't anticipate. What if one of them is your future boss, a potential donor or investor, or someone who can introduce you to a new world of contacts?
Fortunately, the How-To Geek blog has step-by-step instructions (including screen shots) to walk you through the process of converting a PowerPoint 2010 presentation to video.  Five it a try!

Want more? Sign up for the free monthly newsletter, Step Up Your Speaking, which focuses on one speaking skill or issue each month. Then join The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, a vibrant community that gets to discuss these topics before they appear on the blog; or contact me about your public speaking training and coaching needs. Most of the popular articles listed here started as threads on the Facebook page. Thanks for reading and participating!

Boost your speaker profile with new conference site Lanyrd

Over on the don't get caught blog, I just told communicators about Lanyrd, a new site that aims to become a social network about conferences.  Among the features Eloquent Woman readers need to know:  Once you have a profile, speakers can upload links to all their speaking gigs, past and future, making your profile on the site a wonderful online resume of your speaking experience.

Eventually, as more features are rolled out, you'll be able to upload video, add books you've written and share slides. Speaker profiles (see a sample below) list not only where you've spoken or are going to speak, but who else on the site appears with you as a speaker, and which conferences you are tracking.

The site also makes it very easy for you to follow conferences on Twitter or the web; each conference is encouraged to post a website, conference hashtag and conference Twitter account, making it a one-stop shop for those of you who like to use Twitter to follow speakers and conferences.

Let me know if you are trying this new tool, which I think will be a great addition to your online profiles--and don't forget to link your Lanyrd profile to your other online profiles on LinkedIn, Google and more.

Related posts:  The networked speaker: 10 ways to make the most of your next gig

Want more? Sign up for the free monthly newsletter, Step Up Your Speaking, which focuses on one speaking skill or issue each month. Then join The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, a vibrant community that gets to discuss these topics before they appear on the blog; or contact me about your public speaking training and coaching needs. Most of the popular articles listed here started as threads on the Facebook page. Thanks for reading and participating!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A king's stammer inspires a film: "The King's Speech"



The King's Speech is a new movie making the film-festival rounds, and speakers, coaches and stammerers and stutterers will all find something to watch.  The story focuses on England's King George VI, father to the current Queen Elizabeth, and his efforts to overcome his stammer with the help of an Australian speech coach.  From Wikipedia:
Because of his stammer, Albert dreaded public speaking. After his closing speech at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley on 31 October 1925, which was an ordeal for both him and the listeners, he began to see Lionel Logue, an Australian-born speech therapist. The Duke and Logue practiced breathing exercises, and the Duchess rehearsed with him patiently. As a result of the training, the Duke's opening address at Australia's Federal Parliament at Canberra in 1927 went successfully, and he was able to speak subsequently with only a slight hesitation.
Colin Firth plays the king, and Helena Bonham-Carter plays Queen Elizabeth (mother to the current queen).  Geoffrey Rush plays Lionel Logue, the unconventional speech coach.  But the real star here may be the screenwriter, who took some of the story from personal experience.  From the Los Angeles Times review:
As a young English child with a terrible stammer, David Seidler would listen to radio broadcasts of King George VI, who also had an almost incapacitating speech impediment. The king’s World War II addresses reminded Seidler that if the monarch could overcome stuttering, so could he: The king was his elocutionary inspiration.
Seidler grew up to become a screenwriter, writing “Tucker: The Man and his Dream” and numerous television programs, but he never forgot what he heard over the wireless so many decades earlier. He eventually adapted the story of the king and his relationship with his unconventional speech therapist, Lionel Logue, into a play, and the play has now become the movie “The King’s Speech,” which had its world premiere at Labor Day weekend's Telluride Film Festival.
Will you go see this one?

Want more? Sign up for the free monthly newsletter, Step Up Your Speaking, which focuses on one speaking skill or issue each month. Then join The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, a vibrant community that gets to discuss these topics before they appear on the blog; or contact me about your public speaking training and coaching needs. Most of the popular articles listed here started as threads on the Facebook page. Thanks for reading and participating!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Is drawing a blank that bad? What to learn from the Arizona governor's speechless moment



Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, in the only debate in the state's current election campaign, went blank for several seconds during her opening statement last week--a moment when no one was going to interrupt her--and the coverage created a small firestorm of attention.

The Associated Press coverage (from which I won't quote, since AP likes to go after and charge bloggers for doing so) goes into excruciating detail in describing the silent moment and concludes it's a disaster for Brewer.  But the Christian Science Monitor, looking back at other politicians' debate bloopers, wondered whether going silent was "really that bad," and took the view that it was poor preparation:
On Thursday, there was a chance for both candidates to make a statement at the beginning of the debate, and Brewer did not have one – either on paper, or in her head. That is flat out bad political preparation, due to either her own slip or bad work by a staff member. If it’s the latter, that staff member’s ears are probably smarting.
I asked readers of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook what they thought. Here are some of their responses:
  • Jennie Poppenger wrote, "She's human. Better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. :) Collecting your thoughts can be good - in theater sometimes silence is used for dramatic effect."
  • Colleen Carey Luther said, "I think she was woefully unprepared. Nor did she listen to the questions. It was bad communication all around."
  • Andrea J. Wenger weighed in: "I think this matters more to newscasters than to anyone else. Newscasters would be mortified if this happened to them, but the rest of us can relate. This seems like a case of journalists creating the news rather than reporting it."
  • Marcy Lynne noted, "She lost her train of thought during her opening statement with notes! This women is the Arizona state Governor and is in charge of the Arizona National Guard, etc. I don't think her silence was really that bad. It was what she said when she wasn't silent that was terrifying."
  • Dana Vickers Shelley said, "She wasn't prepared. Bad staffing. It made me sad mostly."
  • Diana Bruce observed, "We have 'DID,' now ain't that a kicker!!!! If her grammar is that bad, I should be President of the United States of America."
And in that set of reactions, you're seeing a pretty typical range of views, in my experience, of the speaking mishaps of politicians--who are in a special group, and not at all typical.  We subject politicians to a high bar when it comes to eloquence, and their failures when speaking are attributed to everything from poor intelligence to poor staffing. 

If politician-speakers are in a special hothouse of attention, are there things you can learn from Jan Brewer's drawing a blank? I think so. Here are my insights for everyday speakers worried about coming up short:
  • Preparation is the key to remembering what you want to say, and I think developing a 3-point message is essential to preparation.  Focusing your remarks on three themes or points makes remembering your outline easier. And who doesn't want to make that easier?
  • If you think nerves are the cat that's got your tongue, or if you find your flow interrupted by other factors--shortness of breath, for example--you need to practice the relaxation response to get your butterflies under control.
  • If you have lots of distractions, particularly right before your talk, use my 7 bite-size ways to get speech ready. Making sure you are focused before you start will help you stay on track.
  • When you really don't know what to say,  be prepared with time-buying phrases--things you can say that add content, while buying you time to think of where you meant to head next.  You'll need to have these practiced and in your back pocket, but trust me, it's worth the practice. (They're also a great antidote to "ums.")
Want more? Sign up for the free monthly newsletter, Step Up Your Speaking, which focuses on one speaking skill or issue each month. Then join The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, a vibrant community that gets to discuss these topics before they appear on the blog; or contact me about your public speaking training and coaching needs. Most of the popular articles listed here started as threads on the Facebook page. Thanks for reading and participating!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Using a sheet of paper (and other ordinary things) as props

You think your presentation could use a prop, a visual, three-dimensional object to focus the audience and help you reinforce your theme.  But you're on the road, without time to hunt for something stunning or room in your suitcase to lug it with you.  What to do?

Easy. Find a piece of paper. It's one of several low-cost, easy-to-find and portable items that you can use as a prop.

Paper, for example, can be folded into elaborate origami shapes to explain mathematical constructs and scientific theories...made into an airplane that can fly over the audience...creased or made into a cone to make a point (or a megaphone)...folded like a greeting card, an envelope, an accordion...ripped, pierced with a pencil or crumpled to convey emotion...cut into strips or confetti to share with your audience....turned into a temporary spyglass.  You get the ideas--they're only limited by your imagination.  Here's an early trailer for the documentary Between the Folds, which looked at how scientists, artists and math teachers are using origami:

In the same way, a bar of chocolate from the hotel gift shop, your cell phone, a cup of tea from the break station, a pen, an earring, a shoe--all handy--can be turned to your advantage as visual props.

The advantages of these basic props goes beyond convenience to you. All of them are:
  • Universal and familiar, making them more likely to be understood and related to by a wide range of audience members
  • Small and easy to transport
  • Hard to forget, since you're more likely to have them with you already
Your job, of course, is to change how they are viewed, taking them from the ordinary to the extraordinary in the eyes of your audience. I asked readers on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, "What's the most creative prop you've used in a presentation or public speaking gig?" and got paper--and a host of other responses. Here's what our readers have used as props:

Mary Sias nominated "A can of soup" and "a large pinata sign to prove a point in my scholarship workshops."

Rachel Miller has used "My rabbit."

Leslie-Ann Howard -Martin Redweik has used "The audience themselves."

Weeze Bernier did it with paper, noting "I once told a true story of how receiving a document in the mail over 25 years ago, had changed my life. Throughout the story I referred to a crumpled and tattered piece of off white paper. When I was done, at least 3 people noted that it was great that I still had the document. The story was true, but I guess I did a pretty good job making a blank piece of paper look real too."

Hillarie Turner has used a prop you can consume later: "Chocolate!"

Linda Lamb Neckel's prop was "A plastic skull."

Akkana Peck also went with paper: "A paper airplane."

Toni Rosati might win for most unusual prop: "poster sized images of bras - for a communication talk (ie:support)."

Jean Wolfe recalled, "One of my mentors used a can o' green beans, fresh green beans, spoiled green beans and frozen grean beans. She's awesome. Her presentation was on presentation skills....and how to keep it fresh!"

Want more? Sign up for the free monthly newsletter, Step Up Your Speaking, which focuses on one speaking skill or issue each month. Then join The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, a vibrant community that gets to discuss these topics before they appear on the blog; or contact me about your public speaking training and coaching needs. Most of the popular articles listed here started as threads on the Facebook page. Thanks for reading and participating!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ruth Bader Ginsburg gives a labor-of-love speech



Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently gave a speech on behalf of her late husband--his words, his witty and wry language, much of it recounting stories from their shared past. It has to be among the toughest--and most moving--speaking challenges. Slate notes:
Martin Ginsburg had been invited to deliver his remarks at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' conference in Colorado Springs, Colo., but he died in late June of metastatic cancer. As Ginsburg explained Friday evening, "He had his speech all written out." And so she read it—with a handful of interpolations—in its entirety to several hundred rapt listeners.
This article explains the talk, which focused on a pro bono case the Ginsburgs took on. It led to a Supreme Court appearance for now Justice Ginsburg, and to many more related gender discrimination cases. Slate notes that, following the reading of her late husband's speech, Ginsburg took part in a roundtable discussion.  When work-life balance came up, she shared this story, as reported by Slate:
In response to a question about work-life balance, Ginsburg explained that in the early '70s, her son, "what I called a lively child but school psychologists called hyperactive," was forever in trouble and that she was constantly called in to his school, even though she and her husband both had full-time jobs.

"One day, I was particularly weary," she explained, and so when the school called, she said, "This child has two parents. I suggest you alternate calls, and it's his father's turn." She said calls from the school came much less frequently after that, because the school was "much less inclined to take a man away from his job."
Have you ever had to give a speech in this type of situation? Share the experience in the comments.

Vital Speeches of the Day named this Ginsburg speech its "vital speech of the week."

Want more? Sign up for the free monthly newsletter, Step Up Your Speaking, which focuses on one speaking skill or isse each month; the next issue comes out next week, so it's an ideal time to sign up. Then join The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, a vibrant community that gets to discuss these topics before they appear on the blog; or contact me about your public speaking training and coaching needs. Most of the popular articles listed here started as threads on the Facebook page. Thanks for reading and participating!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Guest post on Kate's Voice -- my web 2.0 casserole

I wrote this post about using your voice to put a story across and was nearly done with it when I caught up with news that fellow coach Kate Peters, author of the Kate's Voice blog and a guest poster here, was going through a tough time with a medical crisis in her family.  So I offered this one to her, to take one thing off her plate--my version of a web 2.0 casserole for a colleague in need. The post looks at a recent NPR story on how storytelling gained importance for humans, usinge a "Get Mortified" public speaking performance as its main example.

Kate's a vocal coach with a great blog, well worth following there or on Twitter.  Enjoy the post and her blog!

What's the worst public speaking advice you've ever been given?

I posed this question on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, and it took almost no time for a gang of readers to agree that the advice to picture the audience naked was their pick for worst speaking advice ever.  (Even so, I Can See You Nakedis one of the best-selling presentation books ever.)

But there were a couple of other nominees: Bobbi Newman voted for the advice "that feedback forms are important and useful" and Claire Duffy offered, "From my 5th grade teacher: 'To quell nerves let your eyes float above their heads'. Even then I knew it was stupid."

If you've had some other awful public speaking advice that did not stand the test of time (or even the first try), share it in the comments.