Friday, October 29, 2010

October's top 10 public speaking tips and inspiration

While summer's making one last stand, fall is fast approaching in my part of the world. Soon, I'll be looking for ways to get firewood to catch a flame...and this month's most-read tips and ideas will spark inspiration for your next speech or presentation, I'm hoping. Here are October's most popular posts:
  1. 14 ways to integrate Twitter into your public speaking was prompted by a reader question--one shared by many, as it's this month's most-read post.
  2. How dynamic starts can help you get "good on your feet" when presenting also scored high with readers.  Using a dynamic start takes advantage of the already high attention level, and promises even more to your audience--something we'll cover in my workshop next week.
  3. Stephen Fry gets wordy with us, and readers of The Eloquent Woman loved this video on how we use language, word snobs and better vocabulary without attitudes.
  4. Non-anxious ways with Q&A is another skill that tells me you're "good on your feet"--but an area where many otherwise smooth speakers fumble.  These tips were a big hit with readers, and can apply to meetings, in-house presentations, big speeches, testimony, news conferences and more.
  5. As a speaker, are you comfortable with silence?  When I asked readers on Facebook how they defined "good on your feet," a group of speaking coach pros all chimed in on not wordiness, but silence. Their tips on handling silences (and a few of my own) form the core of this post.
  6. TED gave presenters a big gift this month:  A media player loaded with videos of TED talks and a content guide, so you can run TED videos without hooking up to the Internet.  Great way to get direct examples from top speakers with top techniques.
  7. She gave her valedictory speech 42 years late, because discrimination gave the opportunity to the desegregated high school's top white student, on a technicality.  Mary French's story--and very well written speech (yes, she'd written it before she was turned away)--inspired many this month.
  8. Want reasons to talk more, speakers?  I've got 7 reasons I want speakers to talk more (but you can't use them as all-purpose excuses for verbosity, now).  This came out of the vault while my team was on retreat this month, and proved popular once more.
  9. There's a lectern. You can use it, or lose it.  Yes, you have options with lecterns, so these use-or-lose lessons for lecterns might inspire you; another reprise post.
  10. This new resource for finding women CEOs and company founders in New York City suggests itself as a tool for finding women to include as speakers at your next event.  An alert reader sent it, saying she thought it belonged on The Eloquent Woman. I agree--and so did you.
Go here to subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free newsletter that focuses in-depth on one speaking topic 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.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

When "um" became a dirty word

(Editor's note: You have just a few days left to sign up for next week's workshop--links at the end of this post. While I get ready for "Good On Your Feet!", here's a reprise of a popular post about one issue that thwarts many speakers: Verbal stumbles like "ums" and "uhs." You'll learn a lot about why saying "um" is frowned upon today...but wasn't always a problem.)

You’ve probably heard that it’s best to ban “um” and “uh” from your public speaking, but those dreaded pause fillers weren’t always forbidden words. In one of the most fascinating chapters of his book Um…Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, And What They Mean, Michael Erard traces the history of um from invisible noise to “unsanitary speech.”

Um hasn’t been a dirty word for very long, Erard found. Up until the 19th century, great orators barely gave the ums and uhs a mention when they laid out the rules of a good speech. But in 1888, Thomas Edison showed how he could faithfully record a person’s voice using his “perfected phonograph”---and suddenly Americans were asking themselves, “do I really sound like that?” Without a face to look at, the ums in speech became more striking. And with the explosion of radio, speakers discarded the loud, bombastic voices they had used to reach live audiences and replaced them with smooth, uninterrupted patter. Erard spoke about the unsanitary um in a recent interview with the Eloquent Woman:


Eloquent Woman: Do we know if "um" speech became less acceptable in other countries when radio and other recorded speech became more accessible?

Michael Erard: Unfortunately, I have no idea but would love to find out. I recently came across a document for preparing U.S. government officials appearing on Arabic-language television; there is not a single mention of disfluency [such as saying,”um”]. This is notable because it suggests that there are so many other cultural and linguistic factors to master and worry about, and of course, that those audiences don't share the aesthetic of umlessness.

EW: When voice recording began, was it speakers or their audiences that drove the new trend toward umless speech?

ME: The lines between speakers and audiences were considerably fuzzy...early adopters of the phonograph, for instance, could use their machines to listen and to record their voices, either in arcades or at home. As for radio, early broadcasters had small internal audiences of radiophiles, early adopters, and investors, all of whom became influential before socially and geographically wider audiences were built.

So there was ample opportunity -- there are decades between the invention of phonography and rise of commercial radio -- for the seeds of a vague discomfort to be planted in small groups who both produced speech and listened to it, and who would ultimately create the standards at the same time they were adapting their own speech production.

What emerged could be called a culture of dictation...that there should be a match, or coordination, between what one says and how that is written. This culture would have taken a while to emerge.

EW: So who was behind this culture of dictation?
ME: My argument assumes…that taste-makers, gatekeepers, broadcasters, teachers, and the like were the origins of umlessness, and that listeners or audiences wouldn't have natively attended to filled pauses. In other words, people didn't show up asking [Toastmasters founder] Ralph Smedley to create a public speaking group that would clean up American speaking. Smedley and others came up with a program that included the prescription "don't say um" because it was clear, direct item in a recipe for eloquence which could be replicated with a wide number of people from many backgrounds. Maybe it was a pet peeve of theirs.

I'm amused the lengths to which defenders of Toastmasters-style umlessness will go to insist about the naturalness of "um" as a distracter, but there's nothing natural about it -- the distraction is a cultural and historical artifact. It only seems "natural" because it's so embedded in our culture.

EW: So what values did those taste-makers associate with um?

ME: One, it was perceived as a Britishism, which a robust American would want to avoid. Two, it wasted people's time, or was perceived as wasting their time. From a commercial advantage, it would have cut time for advertising. Three, it was considered rude -- maybe because of reasons one and two, maybe because of the additional elite distaste.

EW: Are tastes changing when it comes to um? I’ve read that some speakers are being encouraged to sound more natural and less fluent to connect with their audiences.

ME: I recently heard Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on the radio expressing sadness over the beating of a 16 year-old in Chicago, and I have to say, he didn't sound genuinely sad, outraged, or shocked. It was umless, pauseless, fully fluent. He sounded as if he was reading -- as if his outrage was scripted… the requisite, ritualistic expression of a human emotion by an institution's human spokesperson, but not the genuine interaction between one human and other humans. I think people should talk like people -- why would we want to sound like machines?

I do think we are witnessing a change in the aesthetic of spoken interaction that isn't just about allowing "um" but opens the possibility of a much wider array of stylistic phenomena that happens when humans connect with humans. You see this in the rise of new media (blogs, podcasts, YouTube… You see it in the rising popularity of improv comedy classes as a venue for presentation training. I've done an intro class twice, and at least 50% of the people were there to improve work performance in corporate settings

In the afterword of the paperback version of Um..., I wrote this:

Perhaps the most important point is this: people tell stories about verbal blunders that reflect their vision of what the human self should be like. For someone who believes that the self is beset with hidden struggle, blunders point to that struggle. For someone who thinks that the self should be self-controlled, regulated, and efficient, blunders point to that failure. For someone who thinks that the self should be engaged, authentic, spontaneous, interactive, verbal blunders will be evidence of those qualities.

Freelance writer Becky Ham interviewed Michael, to whom we give many thanks for taking the time to speak with us about the history of um -- especially as he finishes up Babel No More, his new book about language “superlearners,” (and awaits the arrival of a new family member). You can follow him on Twitter to hear more about his latest projects.

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. 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.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

4 video pep talks, inspirations & diversions to help you de-stress before speaking

The Eloquent Woman can't always be there with you (although we're a mobile-friendly site and working on other virtual ways to be at the ready when you speak).  If you need to dial up short, confidence-building reminders, here are a handful of videos you can watch just before speaking to de-stress. focus and get brave. Find a quiet stairwell and watch away:

Actor and acting and vocal coach Patsy Rodenburg talks about acting and being "present in the moment." But mainly, this is about how she used acting skills and being present to listen to someone she thought would be a difficult audience member--and learned his real story. Keep this firmly in mind.



Patrick E. McLean spoke at Ignite! Charlotte on where ideas come from, but you'll want to listen to his words on how truly successful creative people "do not attach to failure" and keep moving. So should you:



Laughter's a great stress-breaker, and watching the funny "Whose Line Is It, Anyway?" crew improvise will inspire you on how to wing it while making you smile:



And yes, the Super-Positive Little Girl video: "I can do anything good!" End with this one, then go off and speak!





Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. 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.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

12 ways to get the most out of a speaking or presentation training session

I'll be leading the "Good on Your Feet" workshop on dynamic speaking skills next week--you have signed up, haven't you?--and I've been thinking about how to give the participants a great experience and valuable learning opportunities. But if I'm honest, the participants themselves can make or break a training session.  Here are a dozen things you can do to make sure you can get the most out of your next presentation or public speaking training session.  And if that's my workshop, you'll find registration links above and below. Sign up now--we're doing this next week!

Before you arrive:
  1. Alert the instructor to special needs or issues.  If you're the only trainee, your special needs or issues may be the basis for the training--or an area in which your trainer isn't expert, so clue her in early.  If you're in a group training, be aware that special issues or particular points you want to cover may or may not be covered. If you're in doubt, ask first.
  2. Think about whether you want to get focused or go general.  It's fine to come to training with a particular presentation in mind. If that's the case and you're in a one-on-one training, it will help your instructor to know your goals, audience and any special factors you want to address. If it's in a group training, fit your responses to the exercises to your task, and clue the instructor in when you can.  Going general? Feel free to make up a topic and audience and focus on learning the basics.
  3. If your visual image is of concern, wear what you'd wear to a presentation.  I always say my sessions require just "business casual" dress, but if you want to rehearse in an outfit you plan to wear for the big event, by all means, wear it to your training and ask for feedback. At a minimum, you'll get to experience what it means to be in the shoes (and clothes) you chose.
  4. Rest up.  You'll do better if you're rested and ready for the training. Trust me on this.
After you arrive:
  1. Arrive on time. Whether you're in a personal training or with a group, we can't start without you--and you're wasting precious training time.  And if we do start without you, we're not going back.
  2. Unplug.  Normally, I encourage people to tweet during presentations--but not when they're trying to learn how to do a presentation. That's because speaking skills require your full attention. The lessons involve movement, thought, speaking and listening, so put that mobile device or laptop away.
  3. Share your goals, wishes and aspirations.  Don't just share with the trainer, share with your fellow participants, if you're in a group training. Being able to air your concerns and questions helps make the training better for everyone.
  4. Understand the limits of the time allotted.  We won't get you to Winston Churchill status, no matter the length of your training. But you should be able to have time to practice, watch, listen and pick up tips, as well as ask plenty of questions. Not sure? Ask the instructor.
  5. Keep an open mind.  Much of what goes into a great presentation involves skills that seem counterintuitive--so when you encounter those tips, try them before you decry them.
  6. Watch your fellow trainees if you're in a group session. No two trainees are alike, but you can learn as much from others as from your own efforts, if you're attentive.
  7. Embrace the video.  If video recording is part of the training, jump to volunteer. You don't have to be recorded, but you'll get to see what no speaker ever sees in real time: Herself, as others see her.  You'll see the things you don't realize you're doing and get visual cues it's tough to get any other way.
  8. Stay open to suggestion.  If you're coming to a workshop with a skeptical attitude, that's one thing. But if you find yourself rejecting every idea and piece of feedback, you may miss out on what's holding you back.
Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. 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.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Do you have a favorite post from The Eloquent Woman? Share it for a new project

Do you have a favorite post (or two) from the archives of The Eloquent Woman? Something that's been helpful to you, a new idea you were able to put in practice or an inspirational read?

I'm asking readers to share their favorite posts from the past of The Eloquent Woman for a new project I'm working on--you'll be the first to know the details.  Share your favorite posts in the comments, or email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz with your thoughts. I'm looking forward to finding out your favorites...

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. 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.

What will you forget when you start speaking? Readers weigh in

Do you find yourself forgetting things once you start speaking?  On The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, I asked readers to fill in the blank: "When I get up to speak, I'm most afraid that I will forget _____________________________."  Here's how they replied, followed by some helps that might let them (and you) sail through the next time without forgetting.  We'll also be working on the tools you need to avoid forgetting important factors in my "Good On Your Feet" workshop next week, Nov. 3 and 4. There are seats left, but only a few days remain to register--go to the links at the end of this post.  Now, before we forget....

Dana Vickers Shelley said, "to smile...and to breathe..."  and Dianne Bergstedt said, "How to breathe."  Smiling and breathing are two of the first things to be lost when you're nervous--it's part of the normal fight-or-flight syndrome.  (Ironically, smiling actually releases body chemicals that help you calm down--so make sure you smile.)  Other readers have had this problem, and I wrote "When the speaker needs to catch her breath" just for them.  You'll learn about breathing exercises you need to practice regularly that will provoke a "relaxation response" that will help you react by breathing, rather than losing your breath.

Heather Miguel Kelson said, "everything. I am horrible at public speaking."  Probably not true, but check out "Confidence: Fake it until you make it" if you are your own worst critic. Most of the time, the audience can't tell you're nervous, so make the most of that!

Tilly Evan Jones said, "the names I need to introduce."  Here's where notes are essential, and there's no shame in using them.  If you don't have a lectern in front of you, hold some large index cards--or a Kindle,
which I like to use for introductions.  You can email a document right into this e-book-reader, adjust the type to the right size for you, and read from it even in direct sunlight. Read my review of the Kindle for speakers to learn more.

Natasha Burnett said, "All the important points." Boil them down into an easy-to-remember three-point message, a great way to organize your thoughts so your audience can easily follow them and, better yet, you can recall them when you need to. With enough practice, you can use this method to speak without notes.

Yvette Cook said, "To make eye contact" and Emily Culbertson said, "to speak slowly," highlighting two factors that audiences appreciate.  And here again, notes come in handy.  If you are speaking from a text, annotate it with reminders to yourself.  For eye contact, you might want to write in "LOOK UP" or "LOOK LEFT" every paragraph or so, and for speed, a "SLOW DOWN" reminder can help, as can building in pauses and ellipses into your text.  So one example might look like this:
I especially want to emphasize [LOOK UP] how important your feedback will be during this public comment period.  [PAUSE]  We are hoping that you will write....phone in....or share your comments [LOOK UP] between now and November 30. I know this group is not full of shy people [WAIT FOR LAUGH, LOOK UP, SMILE], so I'm counting on you.
You also need to practice those techniques. Ideally, notes like the ones above are used in practice, but you can certainly use them in real time if they won't trip you up even more.

Jennie Poppenger said, "deodorant."  To which I can only say, tape a note to your bathroom mirror.  If perspiration is an issue due to nerves, check out the breathing exercises noted above to focus on the real issue, your speaking anxiety.

What do you think you're going to forget once you start speaking? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. 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.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Stephen Fry muses on our language use [video]



Eloquence, at its core, is about language and how it's used to persuade, warn or move audiences. Here's an animated-text video from British actor Stephen Fry, musing about why more people don't use an eloquent vocabulary, word snobs and more. Enjoy this Friday treat!

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. 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.

Need to find a female founder to speak in New York City? Look no further...

Reader Allison Ehrich Bernstein wrote in this week to say "Just saw this via the blog swissmiss and thought it belonged on The Eloquent Woman." And she's right, because "this" is "A Field Guide to the Female Founders, Influencers and Deal Makers of the New York Tech and Media Scene."  Swissmiss suggested using this list as a guide to finding powerful women who can serve as speakers for your next event. List founder Sara Holubek, herself a CEO and founder of Luminary Labs, urges you to mine the list for speakers, mentors and good examples of women who've risen to the top. It now includes about 300 women, with the option to search by name, title or company--or to suggest another influencer for the list.

It's another example of a practical response to the suggestion that "we can't find any qualified women" to speak on panels, part of the perennial issue of getting women on the program that's often just an excuse to exclude women speakers. (And it's a problem even in female-dominated professions.)  Lists like this one serve an important purpose--as a resource and as a stopgap against the excuse that "we can't find any qualified women" to be on the program.

Related posts:  Organizers: Get women on the program (video)

Can men help to get women on the program?

Historic examples of women's difficulty getting on the program

Research on what it takes to get women on the program

Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. 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.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Another look at 7 reasons I want you to talk more, speakers

(Editor's note: Today, I'm concluding a strategy retreat for my team so we can bring you more new products, services and information like this classic post, part of my plucked-from-the-vault series this week.  One new venture is our "Good on Your Feet" dynamic speaking training coming up Nov. 3 and 4 in Washington, DC--I hope you'll register using the links at the end of this post!)

Just as saying too much can be a speaker problem, so can the opposite. While all coaches advise brevity, giving someone room to ask a question or add a point, and keeping your remarks limited and focused, it's entirely possible that you're a speaker who needs to offer more words, rather than fewer. Here are seven situations where I'd like to hear more from you, if I'm in your audience:
  1. Answering a question: A simple "yes" or "no" don't work for me. I want to hear more, even just a little bit. Help complete the thought for me and reinforce the point that's being made. So if I ask whether you enjoyed speaking in Italy at a major conference, don't just say "yes." Tell me why. Describe something. Use the opening to tell me more. (Media interview tip: Answering more than yes-or-no is essential in a news media interview, and will help get your answer into the story--just keep it brief.)
  2. Agreeing or disagreeing: Likewise, if you're going to agree or disagree--whether it's with an audience member, the speaker who preceded you or a fellow panelist--tell me why. Add some data, share perspective, and use the opportunity to enlighten me. Please don't assume that I know, or that your point is obvious.
  3. Telling me a personal story: Personal stories can rivet an audience--if you give them room to do so. Think through the pacing and the plot. What hints can you drop early on that let me get the moral of the story later? What makes it funny or touching? Don't skimp when telling an anecdote.
  4. Telling me a technical story: Sometimes, explaining the technical will talke longer, or more words. In that case, just be sure to give it to me in manageable bites, if I'm part of a non-technical audience. Start with three key points, then elaborate on them one at a time.
  5. Explaining why speaking here matters: It may be just a formal stop for you: cutting a ribbon, opening a new facility, marking the organization's anniversary, an historic event. Make it sing for me by telling me why your being here today is significant to you, or better yet, to all of us in the room. Are you at my chapter meeting on a special anniversary? Tell me what else was going on in history the year my chapter launched. Give me something to make the experience even more meaningful.
  6. When my question is circumspect: Maybe I'm a shy questioner, or just don't want to take up too much time, or I don't want to give away my position up front. If you're not sure where I was headed, talk to me before you answer, and use the time to ask me some questions about my question. I guarantee we'll both get more out of the experience.
  7. If I don't normally hear much from you: The quieter you are normally, the more I'll want to hear from you as a speaker--and the more power you'll have, because I probably will sense that you choose your words with care. Give me more now, and you can keep mum later.
Speaking as your coach, the list above is not your excuse to talk all you want. Check out the equal number of reasons I want you to talk less in the links below!

Related posts: Who talks more: Men or women?
Speakers: 7 reasons I want you to talk less
Factor in your personality type when speaking

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. 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.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Reviewing those use-or-lose-the-lectern lessons

(This week, my team and I are on retreat, discussing new ventures and the upcoming "Good on Your Feet" speaker training workshop coming up Nov. 3 and 4--registration details are at the end of this post. This time last year, I was in the middle of the "Step Up Your Speaking" online coaching of Stephanie Benoit, so I thought I'd share again this post on 7 things every speaker should know about when to use--or lose--that lectern. Enjoy!)

Choosing whether you'll use or lose the lectern is a major factor in adding presence to your presentation. In this week's coaching session for Stephanie Benoit, I want to give her enough to consider so she can choose the speaking style and setting that works best for her. Stephanie's just starting as a speaker, so here are some things to consider and know about lecterns, whether you use them or avoid them:
  • Lecterns are the slanted stands that prop up your speech and hold the microphone. Some people call this the podium, but a podium is really the platform beneath your feet.
  • Lecterns have advantages: They're a natural focal point for the audience. They can hide your notes, a glass of water, your technology controls, a laptop, a picture of your kid...and you, the speaker. They can give you something to hang on to.
  • Lecterns have disadvantages: They hide you, the speaker. If you hang on to them too tightly, you're immobilizing your hands, which will make you more likely to stumble verbally--and may tense you up. And they keep you boxed in, so you become a static image to the audience. To gesture, you have to make sure your hands are up high so they can be seen. And because no two lecterns are the same height, it seems, you may find they swallow you up if you're short, or keep your script perilously far from your eyes if you're tall. (Solution for the short speaker: Stand on a box. Solution for the tall speaker: Put a fat book under your speech to raise it up.)
Some speaking situations make it easy for you. Formal events--graduations, church services, funerals and award presentations--almost always demand a lectern, especially if you must frequently refer to notes with people's names (if you're presenting awards or degrees, for example). But in most other speaking situations, you get to choose.

To help Stephanie consider a range of styles, I've pulled some videos from our top women speakers series to illustrate three ways to use or lose lecterns effectively:

Use it...right: Michelle Obama, in this speech at last year's Democratic National Convention, manages to avoid all the disadvantages of using a lectern. Her gestures all can be seen over the top of the lectern, and you should practice to be sure you do the same. She rarely holds on to the lectern, choosing sometimes to gently rest her hands on it. To counteract that boxed-in look, she makes the effort to look at and turn toward different parts of the audience as she tells her story. Finally, she's telling a personal story she had already told in many campaign stops, so it's energetic and flows well.



Lose it but use it: Here's one of my favorite examples of using a lectern without letting it get in your way. This is a public lecture by chemistry professor Carolyn Bertozzi, who (after setting up her slides) quickly moves to one side of the lectern and leans on it, but doesn't hide behind it. It makes her seem much more approachable, and it suits her friendly speaking style--important if you are sharing a technical topic like chemistry with audience of non-technical people. (She has a great analogy using a peanut M&M...watch for it.) Notice the difference between Bertozzi and the man who introduces her. He uses the lectern to hold his notes for the introduction, and you see just his head and shoulders. You get a more complete picture of Bertozzi, and she can move freely during her talk:



Lose it, don't use it: For speakers used to a lectern, losing it entirely may seem scary--or freeing. More and more, this is the style of speaking I prefer, for a variety of reasons:
  • It lets me more directly connect with the audience--as a whole, and as individuals. I can walk right up to a group or a person to make eye contact. I'm more able to sense whether I'm losing the audience, and if that's the case, I can move into the crowd to change the situation and recapture its attention.
  • Moving around keeps me energized, and that energy translates to my speaking.
  • I can use a wider range of motion and gestures to punctuate my talk. My entire body becomes a source of motion and animates the words, as needed.
  • It lets me be more responsive in Q&A, when I can walk up to a questioner and respond directly.
Speaking without notes or something to prop them up does take practice. Here's another of our top women speakers, Jacqueline Novogratz of the Acumen Fund, who works completely without a lectern in her TED talk. (If you're going this route, be sure to work with the audio-visual technicians to be sure your microphone can move with you). Watch how she makes a personal story come alive without the need to hang on to a lectern:




Stephanie, this week, I'd like to hear what you think about using lecterns. And if you can get access to a room with a lectern, go ahead and try it out with a few remarks (perhaps practicing your message) then come out in front of it and say the same remarks. What are your questions about speaking while moving, or speaking at a lectern? What do you think about the different styles shown in the video? Which one do you think would work best for you?

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. 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.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Send it again: Memo to the boss on 8 reasons I need speaker training

(Editor's note: This week, my team and I are holding a retreat to plan for new initiatives, training and content for The Eloquent Woman, so I'm turning to the vault to share past posts you may have missed--which are still relevant. If you hesitate to ask your boss to support training you need in presentation and public speaking skills, you can draw from this popular post, which offers rationales any boss could love.  I hope you'll put this to use and attend my November 3 & 4 "Good on Your Feet" workshop--we have registrants from government agencies, nonprofits and a labor union, and I'd love to have you join us. Read on for the memo. -- Denise Graveline)

In these tough economic times, you may be hesitating to ask your boss for training in public speaking and presentation skills. Here's my "memo to the boss" about why investing in speaker training's one of the best professional development investments you can make. (If you're a boss, it's even more important for leaders--so consider this a reminder list to yourself, in that case.)
  1. Right now, we can't afford to miss out on opportunities to make our case. I want to be sure I'm as effective as possible so we can continue to hold our own in winning [the budget fight/new donations/an increase in funding/the right to name our own cuts/the legislation we need/a chance to improve our base].
  2. Few training options are as versatile as speaker training, which can help me in one-on-one meetings, group meetings, in-house presentations, external communications, speeches, investor or donor presentations, customer relations, chance encounters with the CEO in an elevator, and much more. I'll be briefer and more organized when I'm communicating with you, too.
  3. Women often get fewer opportunities in public speaking, so I need the training even more. Consider it a diversity training, if you will. (Need some backup? Explain why women today have trouble getting on the program at major conferences, and have done for centuries.)
  4. If you want to advance more women to management roles, public speaking skills are essential for leadership and influence, internally and externally.  It's a practical way to boost diversity, visibly.
  5. I'm interested in advancing and have identified this as a skill I need to develop. I think this will help me in supervising, communicating and representing our division and company internally and externally.
  6. I'd specifically like to improve skills in [choose one, many or all]: extemporaneous speaking, handling questions and answers, media interviews, what I wear when I present, using humor in presentations, vocalizing, using gestures, delivering a long speech, delivering a short speech, using slides and technology effectively, working on my confidence as a speaker, getting ready for [insert specific major presentation or speech here], persuasive speaking.
  7. I want to find new ways to incorporate our organization's message in our external and internal presentations. We need to be more consistent and effective, and I'd like to develop ways to do that, starting with my own presentations.
  8. Really, our entire team could do a better job presenting. I'd like to be the first to try, and give you some suggestions for what we can do better as a group.
When it comes to professional development, most managers welcome it when you actively identify your skills-building needs. Why wait for someone else to define them? Here's my bonus tip: Investing in your speaking skills first makes it easier for you to make your case for developing other skills later. For information on my individual or group coaching or training, email me at inf0[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Segregation silenced this valedictorian: Mary French's inspiring speech, 42 years late

I want you to bookmark this blog post and pull it out on another day when you need encouragement in public speaking and persistence, because it is a tale that will make your speaking troubles look small.

Kevin O'Neal of The Indianapolis Star reported a remarkable story today about special education teacher Mary French, who got to give her high school valedictorian speech...this week, 42 years after her graduation from Arkansas's Foreman High School.  French, who is black, attended the all-black half of the high school until the two merged during her years there. But when she graduated in 1968 with the highest grade-point average in the school, it was determined that she hadn't attended for all four years--since some of them were spent in the segregated side of Foreman, across town.  A white girl in her class gave the valedictory address instead.

From the article:
Over the years, French has returned to Foreman -- a town of about 1,100 just a few miles from where Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas come together -- and each time, she has felt disappointment when walking past a display honoring the school's valedictorians. French, now 60, shared her story with her colleagues at Fall Creek Valley Middle School, a Northeastside school where she has taught special education for 20 years.  "We heard that story, and our jaws hit the floor," Kathy Luessow, principal at Fall Creek Valley Middle School, said Wednesday. "We asked how that could happen, and she said that was a different time."
French finally got to give her valedictory speech--the one she intended to give decades ago--at a special after-school gathering for family and colleagues, and she got all the ceremonial extras that come with being a valedictorian, thanks to the school where she now teaches.  Here's a taste of what that 18-year-old wanted to say at the time:
We know this is only the beginning of a long journey. We understand as we go to college, we still will be confronted with obstacles that will certainly deter us. But remember, all things are possible if we believe....Let's travel. Let's start our own businesses. Let's become teachers. Let's become lawyers, doctors or whatever we desire. We should commend ourselves that we can be whatever we want to be.
You can read the valedictory speech she wrote, in full, here.  Yes, the words read poignantly today, in light of the story--her "all things are possible if we believe" theme turned out to be true.  But more than that, this is an excellent valediction, with simple but stirring language, a hopeful view of the future, a focus on students and teachers, and fitting, rather than overdone, rhetorical flourishes.

If someone knows of video out there of this late-in-coming valediction, please leave a link to it in the comments.  I'm so delighted to share this wonderful story with you, and welcome your reactions.  Please do pass this on to a friend or colleague and share this inspiring tale.

 Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. 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.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

As a speaker, are you comfortable with silence?

The question is posed, still hanging in the air. And you're silent--and uncomfortable, because you don't have the answer immediately at the ready. Or it's the other way around:  You ask your audience a question, and no one speaks right away.  Crickets chirp, or at least it seems that way. Those seconds feel like hours.

It may sound counterintuitive, but for many speakers, silence is the biggest challenge, the thing that undermines confidence, derails your train of thought, prompts stumbling responses, or causes you to freeze in your tracks, physically as well as verbally.  When I asked readers of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook about what it means to be "good on your feet," three professional communicators and coaches pointed out that your ability as a speaker to handle silence is one of the hallmarks of being "good on your feet."  Here's what they said: 
  • Dana Bristol-Smith observed, "People are so afraid of silence! They mistakenly think that if they take a moment to give a thoughtful reply to a question that they are showing a weakness. I think being good on your feet means that you are comfortable enough to present and respond to questions and you know how to handle yourself if you don't know the answer."
  • Cathy Carlozzi noted, "I'm working with a client now on a speech and I'm helping her anticipate the questions she's likely to receive, especially the negative ones. And I agree that there's nothing wrong with taking the time to marshal your thoughts rather than shooting from the hip."
  • Claire Duffy recommended staying "staying animated, not freezing. Thoughtful silent spots are OK but clamming up is not. I've a client so terrified of 'improv', she can't take a meeting. I just saw a presentation on a fascinating topic but the speaker froze like a rabbit in the headlights when the audience wanted to know more. It's got to stay warm and alive regardless of what you actually say."
To me, dynamic speaking doesn't just involve those high-energy, animated, smooth-talking moments that speakers and audiences crave, but that everyday ability to be comfortable with your silences or those of the audience--and to know what to say when you don't know what to say.  No speaker will be able to avoid silences, and no speaker will have the answers to all questions, but you can learn skills to handle them deftly, including:
  • time-buying phrases that give you seconds to think when you're thrown off-balance;
  • a developed message you can use to reinforce your points and bring the conversation back where you want it to be;
  • graceful ways to engage further with the questioner, both to give you more background information and to buy yourself time;
  • ways to handle questions when you don't know the answer--and don't wish to speculate; and
  • ways to keep your comfort level high when you're in extemporaneous speaking situations, particularly when taking questions.
Those are among the skills we'll be focusing on in "Good on Your Feet," my forthcoming workshop on dynamic speaking skills. Registrations are coming in now, and you'll find the details for joining this small-group training below.  I'm keeping the group size small so you'll have plenty of time for practice--and for asking questions!   Feel free to share your thoughts on silences--and how you handle them--below.

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. 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.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Integrating Twitter in your public speaking: 14 ways

Some time ago, a reader wrote in these questions about Twitter and its use during presentations and speeches:
I'd like to know your thoughts on how to integrate your speaking with Twitter during a presentation. (I'm assuming that afterwards is effectively too late.) Sometimes the verbal few don't represent the majority -- sometimes they do -- we know that from market research focus groups, jury duty, etc., the most verbal responders tend to represent either end of the tail, not the median. So, would you actually stop mid-stream, take a pause, and say "I'd like to gauge your feelings on (such and so) before moving on. Any comments?" What if no one piped up? What if a lot of people did? To what extent do you "own" your presentation and to what extent are you responsive -- on the fly? What if the tweeters don't represent the views of majority? There is individualism, and there is the needs of the collective. At what point is it considered disruptive?
I decided to wait, watch and cover interesting cases of Twitter use during presentations on the blog while I formulated an answer.  For starters, many of the questions here could apply to live questioners as well as to those using Twitter--every audience has its share of overly talkative contributors and questioners, as well as those who say little in front of the group.  Speakers need to balance that mix "on the fly" by encouraging questions but also guiding the conversation and handling disruptive questioners with tact and a respect for the entire crowd, no matter whether the questions are electronic or in person.

We have, however, learned quite a bit about the point where it's considered disruptive to have an audience tweeting.  In some high-profile cases, speakers have learned the hard way that having a Twitter stream projected behind them can lead to trouble. On occasion, a spectacular speaking failure led the audience to take most of its commentary to Twitter, rather than out loud in the room.  At the same time, trying to forbid tweeting can be counterproductive (and impossible to enforce).   Over time, the utility of having a Twitter moderator--someone solely focused on monitoring the Twitter stream about your presentation and giving you a heads-up when you need to respond--has become recognized as an important part of the process.

So what's a speaker to do when she wants to integrate Twitter into her presentation? Here are 14 ways to consider:
  1. Use Twitter as part of your presentation audience research.  Search for last year's conference hashtag and read audience reactions; then search for this year's version and see what your audience is talking about, and who they are.
  2. Issue a hashtag for your specific presentation and share the meeting hashtag--in advance and in the presentation. Then use it consistently, yourself, so that all tweets about your presentation can be easily found.
  3. Announce your presentation topic, date and time.  Letting Twitter users get familiar with your Twitter account and your presentation in advance helps to set the stage and puts your talk into the context of Twitter. (And you may boost attendance, too.)
  4. Elicit questions on Twitter well in advance of your talk.  There's no better way to find out what's on audience members' minds than to ask them. Twitter is ideal for this purpose, and will help you plan your talk as well as learn about your listeners.
  5. Share links to resources from your presentation in advance.  Head off misunderstandings at the pass, and help develop a more knowledgeable audience by sharing fact sheets, your bio, links to your websites and even your slides in advance. Not everyone will consult these in advance, but it's helpful for those so inclined.
  6. Ask who'll be attending.  Get a sense of who's coming to your presentation and which of those attendees are active on Twitter, so you start with an understanding of your potential shadow audience. Remember that you may hear from attendees in the "other room"--those who will be following your talk via Twitter, but not attending in person. It's an equally important audience.
  7. Follow audience members who identify themselves in advance.  Rather than stay disconnected, follow your audience members so you can see what they're discussing, and converse with them ahead of the meeting--when you meet in person, you'll already have a connection.
  8. Search for related hashtags and use them in your advance tweets.  Find out what others are saying in general about your topic this way.  Using these topical hashtags in your tweets will broaden your audience on Twitter by reaching those searching for your subject matter.
  9. Identify your Twitter moderator and regular moderator.  Make sure everyone on Twitter knows how to identify and reach your Twitter moderator as well as the regular moderator (and share that information with the people in the room for your presentation as well).
  10. Decide ahead of time whether to project the stream live during your session.  If you choose to use this tactic, make sure the stream is placed where you, the speaker, can see it at all times--perhaps on either side of the room, rather than behind you. Work with the organizers to make sure your preference is reflected in what happens.
  11. Explain to Twitter users and your live audience how you will handle their questions.  Will you answer them all? Right away? After the presentation? Will you choose a selection or a certain number of tweeted queries? Share that on Twitter and out loud with your in-person audience.
  12. Consider a Twitter break.  Giving attendees time to tweet, upload a photo or otherwise share what you're saying may help people in the room to focus more on your presentation. If you choose this tactic, announce how it will work and at which points the breaks will occur, as well as what they're for.
  13. Don't prefer one audience over the other.  Take at least a few questions from folks outside the room and do the same for those in the room.  Ignoring one audience -- whether live or virtual -- won't help its view of your presentation.
  14. Use Twitter for thank yous, new follows and follow-up.  Answer the questions you couldn't get to during the session, thank those who added to the discussion, follow back your new followers and send additional material as requested.  Don't forget to point people to your resources, using the hashtag from the presentation.  After-the-fact communication isn't too late!
Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. 

Subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, my free monthly newsletter, then head over to The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where you'll see an ongoing discussion of public speaking skills.  Newsletter subscribers get a 25 percent discount on the Good on Your Feet workshop!

Monday, October 11, 2010

How dynamic starts can help you get "good on your feet" when presenting

When you're seeking ways to make your presentations or speeches more dynamic, it's tough to beat the impact of a dynamic start. Audience attention is as high as it will ever be when you begin, but many speakers fritter away this advantage, filling the beginning with jokes, rambling comments or long lists of thank-yous to the organizers or decision-makers in the room. Worse, some speakers use the start to give the audience something to dread, as in the speaker who announces he's going to go off-topic or overtime.

A dynamic start, on the other hand, is full of promise. It offers the prospect of a prize to the audience. Done well, it gives the audience members a taste of what's to come, a sense that this isn't going to be just another boring presentation.  I often recommend that you leave planning your start until the rest of the presentation is ready.  Think of it as the advertisement, the enticement, the prize that's going to get your audience to come along with you for the duration of your talk.  Sometimes, it's best to plan that enticement once you know where your presentation is headed.

That doesn't mean that you need to do magic tricks or stand on your head to get attention. Dynamic starts can be quiet and serious, funny and energizing, or thoughtful and reasoned--and that's a big part of your planning. What tone do you want the start to set?  Which themes, directions or conclusions do you want to plant in the audience's mind at the start--and come back to at the end? How can you capitalize on their attention and focus on you and your stated topic?

Speakers mean many things when they speak of "dynamic" presentations, but at its base, the word connotes energy and movement--and therefore, for an audience, something visual, even if the visual is you moving across the room. Even if you expect to spend the rest of the presentation at a lectern, a beginning that includes high energy and movement will make that dynamic impression you're seeking.  Again, it need not be frenetic or funny.  I can envision a thoughtful, quiet, compelling start for a speaker who's posing several difficult questions by walking around the audience, appearing to think out loud while expressing a range of viewpoints on a serious topic--and that's just one example.

Best of all, in my view, having a well-rehearsed dynamic start will energize you, the speaker--and often, that's enough to carry you through what would otherwise be a difficult presentation.

We'll be learning about and trying some dynamic starts in the workshop "Good On Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop" in Washington, DC, on November 3 and 4. Will you join us? Registration details are below. Please feel free to share good examples of dynamic starts--or your thoughts about them--in the comments.

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. 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.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Good on your feet: Non-anxious ways with Q&A

Most speakers think about fear and public speaking as it relates to their part of the presentation. But when I train speakers or watch them in action, the real anxiety seems to kick in--and trip them up--when they take questions from the audience.  That's why I put deft handling of Q&A on my list of what it means to be "good on your feet" as a speaker.

That anxiety seems to take several forms. I've seen some speakers act almost affronted to get questions (prompting my list of 17 reasons to welcome audience questions).  Some quickly pass over questions they don't want or like.  Some don't allow enough time for questions (there's an easy dodge--just fill the time yourself).  Some accomplished speakers make their worst flubs during this, the portion of the presentation they feel they can't control.  Some dread questions; others fail to anticipate them and get caught by surprise.

I think you should spend as much time preparing for questions as for your formal presentation (perhaps more so if your speaking gig is testimony before a legislature or other formal group of quizzers and questioners).   We'll be learning how to be resilient when it comes to taking questions during my next workshop, Good on Your Feet, coming up November 3 and 4.  Here are four steps I recommend any speaker take to prepare thoroughly for Q&A and to combat the anxiety that may come with it:
  1. View Q&A as your "second presentation."  When you start to consider question time as a separate block in your presentation, you can give it the attention it needs in preparation.
  2. Don't just anticipate the questions you expect or fear.  Of course, do think through those questions, but save time to practice how you'll handle the questions you want.  Many speakers fail to do so, and find themselves at a loss for words just when someone's handed them a golden opportunity.  Be sure you know how to describe your vision, what you'd do with an extra million dollars, your ultimate goal.  Make the most, not the least, of this question.
  3. Give yourself time to think.  Use my time-buying phrases to slow yourself down and give yourself time to think on your feet. Acknowledge the question or questioner ("What an important issue. I'm so glad you brought that up") and talk about the context, then answer.
  4. Learn to love the questioners.  Don't separate yourself from question-askers. This is a great time to move closer, physically, to your audience and narrow the visual gap between you and those asking you for more information.  If you find yourself thinking, "That's obvious. Why would she ask that?" stop yourself.  Remember there may be more behind the question than you are imagining. Then ask the questioner, "Tell us why you asked about that in particular--I'm curious." Listen to the response before you answer.
  5. Leave the audience something to ask.  Want to feel great and look even smarter during questions? (That's one good way to lose your anxiety.) Leave some information out of your already packed presentation and let the questions arise. Then you can use Q&A to add information and layer your audience's understanding over a longer period of time.
Share your tips for handling questions -- or your questions about Q&A.  Details on registering for the workshop are below.
Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. 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.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

New TED media player comes pre-loaded with talks, content guide

TED, the conference with high-profile talks, has been great for speakers who want to watch short, well-planned speeches and presentations that use innovative visuals and approaches.  And now you can download TED talks with a new Miro media player.  The free, open-source player comes pre-loaded with TED talks and lets you search them by themes and topics; there's also a content guide included.  The idea: It's a more reliable way to show TED talks if you're using them in a classroom or training session.  You do have to do some setup: Downloading and installing the player and Adobe Flash, subscribing to specific TED talk feeds, and downloading specific talks. But once they're on your player, you won't need Internet access to play them.  The Miro player also gives you access to lots of other audio and video podcasts and content.  The player is one of 4 ways to get more out of TED talks (the others are its newsletter, transcripts and RSS feed). Will you use this new tool--and if so, how? Share your ideas in the comments.

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. 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.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Making your speech more than a one-note wonder

Two women speakers recently blogged about their speaking experiences and used social networks and social media to make the experience more than a one-note wonder.

Perhaps you've seen the one-note wonder speaking at a conference. That speaker sees his speech as the event, an opportunity to push out ideas, rather than the start of an experience or conversation that includes others. It's the same approach bemoaned by Arik Hansen in Can great leaders be followers too?  He describes one-note wonders this way:
These people who are too smart to think they couldn’t learn a thing or two from anyone else at an event or conference. These people who are way too busy to sit in an audience and listen to someone else talk about their area of passion or expertise (God forbid anyone else steal the spotlight). These people who are basically saying, “I’m smart and I have no need to be here other than the fact that I want to tell you how smart I am.”
Having read that, it was all the more refreshing to find these two perspectives from women speakers:
  • Let more people hear your music by widening the size of the hall, virtually: Amber Naslund, who hasn't yet made it to a TED conference as a speaker, nonetheless picks up on its tagline "Ideas worth spreading" and share these great ideas for 4 ways to give legs to your presentation.  Her take: Using social tools to share your ideas, notes and slides can let your presentations "stretch their legs and visit new places."
  • Use all the other players around you, and listen to the notes they strike to make a symphony:  Philanthropy consultant Lucy Bernholz gave a keynote at a conference of philanthropy communicators, and writes here about how she started listening first to a conversation on Twitter that took place before the conference began, incorporated it into her slides, and continued relaying other conversations through this blog post.  Here's her great speaker attitude: "I'm trying to see patterns in the chaos, connections between the dots, and links between the conversations. If I can find meaning from the rivers of ideas and offer insights then I can help others navigate the multiplying choices.
What do you do to avoid being a one-note wonder and to incorporate your audience into a long-playing hit? Share your ideas and tips in the comments.

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. 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.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

For Wed.: Newsletter, & workshop discount for subscribers

It's a great day to sign up for Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly newsletter from The Eloquent Woman. This month's issue will be out tomorrow, and it focuses on dynamic speaking skills--also the topic of my early November two-day workshop, Good On Your Feet! to be held in Washington, DC.

An even better reason to sign up: Subscribers can take 25 percent off the registration fee for the workshop.  Details on how to subscribe or how to register for the workshop are below.

Every month, Step Up Your Speaking looks in-depth at a particular speaking issue, so you have lots of resources from The Eloquent Woman in one place.  I welcome your ideas and thoughts about content for future issues--please do leave them in the comments.  Looking forward to seeing you at the workshop!

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.  If you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll qualify for 25 percent off the workshop registration fee.  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.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Marlo Thomas dissects humor and how the pros use it

Humor, when done well, looks effortless but takes work. It helps if you grow up in a cauldron of comics, as Marlo Thomas did.  Now her new book, Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny, offers speakers a perspective on how humor works. It doesn't hurt that it'll make you laugh, as well.

What I like about it: Thomas, daughter of comedian Danny Thomas, exhibits and describes humor that includes formal jokes as well as clever lines or humorous storytelling.  You'll see the variety and range of humor you can incorporate into your presentations, even though this book isn't specifically geared to speakers.

I wish this were available in an audiobook (it's not, at this writing) but you can get a sense of this humor vocally by listening to this interview with NPR's Scott Simon about the book; in it, Thomas tells rapid-fire stories about the comedians she grew up with as well as those she interviewed for the book.  What comes across: humor is a craft, and humorists need not start from a place of anger to put good humor into their audiences.

Thomas also is a great storyteller, and the interview (and the book) share some gems, from Billy Crystal recalling how he used to move his kid's chair next to the television so he could pretend he was the next guest on a talk show, to Robin Williams's mother making rubber bands drop out of her nose to entertain her son and his friends. She doesn't spare herself, sharing a great story about a Catholic school prank she played, and how her father managed to keep her from getting expelled with a sly joke.

Related posts:  When self-deprecating humor doesn't work for you

The joke-teller's memory problem: Why you may not want to start with a joke

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC.

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.