Friday, February 27, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Patricia Arquette's Oscar speech & history lesson

Actor Patricia Arquette, who took home the Best Supporting Actress award at the Oscars earlier this week, used her acceptance speech to call for equal rights and equal pay for women. In doing so, she noted that women have fought for the rights of many, only to see their own unfulfilled. Here's what she said, after thanking her film, family, and philanthropic partners:
To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.
The remarks got some notable reactions in the hall from other women actors, but when Arquette was asked about her remarks at later events, her statement was picked apart and held up for scorn in many quarters. She took to Twitter to expand on her comments. And most of the criticism focused on her "politically incorrect" commentary, suggesting that she should not put aside the rights of the LGBT community or people of color in order to get women ahead. Many denied that women have had to step aside for the rights of others. Feminist blogs called her remarks "cringe-inducing," and conservative Fox News declared itself appalled, with contributor Stacey Dash quoting selectively from a John F. Kennedy speech to say that Arquette needed to "do her history."

So yes, let's do our history.

In a New York Times op-ed from 2008 sums up one such historic episode in American history:
During the Civil War, many women, including [suffragette Elizabeth Cady] Stanton, had willingly put aside the fight for women’s rights to campaign for the emancipation of the slaves. After the war, they had even stood by patiently when, in 1866, Congress passed the 14th Amendment, defining citizens specifically and solely as “male” — the first use of the word “male” in the Constitution. The politicians soothed the women’s rights advocates by assuring them their turn would come soon. 
But in 1869, when outraged women demanded to know why they were not included in the right to vote, they were informed by their allies in Congress that public opinion left room for just one minority group to make it through the door of suffrage and that this was “the Negro’s hour.”
Stanton, among other women, expressed frustration because women had fought for civil rights for all groups, not just themselves, and so they felt betrayed after they were cut out of legislative protections, a scene that was repeated over and over in the decades to come. During the black civil rights movement in the 1960s, no less a figure than Rosa Parks noted that women's rights were never a consideration. In England, the suffragette movement stopped campaigning completely in favor of the war effort in World War I. Even the JFK speech on the Equal Pay Act cited by Fox News noted specifically that women had not been included: "[O]ur journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.” The fact that people are still campaigning today for both the Equal Rights Amendment and equal pay laws stands as testimony to the omission.

In making her brief statement, Arquette was reminding us of our history, and the facts. In her later tweets, she echoed Stanton and noted that women are a part of all the other civil rights fights, yet legislation giving them equal rights and wages proves elusive still. She noted that "women" is a group that includes LGBT women and women of color. But the reactions were decidedly negative in most quarters. Both male and female commentators singled Arquette out for scorn for everything from her remarks to her use of notes, and praised the male speakers more than the women on their Oscar turns.

Writing on Daily Beast, Lizzie Crocker was among the few to point out feminists' criticisms and note of Arquette's speech that "Hers was a sensible, plainly worded speech. Nowhere did she imply that she was not fighting for equality for everyone." Crocker went on to call the commentary "a low point for punditry." And later in the week, Hillary Clinton praised Arquette's speech, talking about wage and other inequities for women in the workplace and elsewhere.

What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Don't waste your moment: With a world spotlight on her, Arquette understood the opportunity to make a forceful statement that was relevant to her industry--the audience before her--and the nation. As the Wall Street Journal points out, the gendered wage gap in Hollywood looks a lot like the one you and I experience, so her remarks were sure to resonate in the room as well as beyond it.
  • Remind us of what we've forgotten: Bringing us back into history to shed light on what's happening today is just one of many useful roles speakers can play. Arquette's point had feeling behind it based on her own experience and observation, in addition to her sure stance in historical fact.
  • Speak for women: Arquette used part of her remarks to redefine women as those who "gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation," and to make a crisp, quotable demand for their rights. So should we all.
For myself, I wasn't at all surprised by the reactions. Here's why so many women hesitate to speak publicly, or to speak strongly when they do: They suspect, accurately, that they will face the condemnation--silent or otherwise--of both men and women. This is a very public example, but certainly not the first. It is not a reason to stop speaking, nor to hold your fire when you have something strong to say. You can be aware of the expected condemnation without letting it (or yourself) silence you.

I've had many discussions on this very point in history over the years with my friend Carolyn Kitch, who chairs the journalism department at Temple University. Kitch also specializes in American studies and women's history, so when I heard Arquette's remarks, I heard the echoes of history in them. I'm grateful for Kitch's insights on this volatile but important topic, which help me play a role in reminding you about our history.

Watch Patricia Arquette's gender equality Oscars speech

Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What's missing from your TED-like talk, and what should be

"I'm giving a TED talk."

There's a lot of that going around. I hear hundreds say it casually, many more than there's room for at any of the official TED conferences. Sometimes, the speaker is referring to a locally organized TEDx conference. But more often, if pressed, they'll say they're giving a "TED-like" talk, something in the style of TED. And then comes the "but:" "But I'm going to [insert change you're making to the TED form here]."

I've coached nearly 100 speakers featured on the TEDMED stage, at TEDx conferences around the world, and on TED.com--and scores more for TED-like talks. My advice? Aim for TED quality. To do that, you need to pay attention to the things that are likely missing from your TED-like talks, and some things that should be missing. Here are just some of the missing and should-be-missing items:

What's missing
  • Why we would want to share this idea: "Ideas worth sharing" is the TED motto. That doesn't mean it's an idea you think is worth sharing, mind you, but one we would think is worth sharing. And by we, I don't mean your immediate family, your boss, or your employees. You can't just put the idea forward, you need to make clear why we'd want to pass it around.
  • Intrigue: Even as straightforward a TED talk as how to tie your shoes includes intrigue--in this case, it's the idea that you've been doing a simple task wrong all your life, and how to tell. That's one reason the simple 3-minute talk has 4.7 million views and counting. Draw your listener in with intrigue, often a missing element in a TED-like talk.
  • The real story you should be telling: I can't tell you how many times I hear speakers include in an aside the thing that should be the real focus of the story. This can be tough to spot, and you may be avoiding it because it's the thing that makes you more vulnerable, precisely what we want in a TED talk.
What should be missing
  • Most of your slides: The rule of thumb for a TED-quality talk is never to use a slide to repeat what's coming out of your mouth. Don't use them to duplicate your words. Don't use them as cue cards. Make word pictures we can see in our mind's eye. Talk directly to us without the slide-shield, and you'll connect better. Most of the people I see giving TED-like talks decide to use all the slides they want, and it really does separate the amateurs from the pros in this format.
  • Your branding or pitching: The best TED talks by CEOs don't mention their companies, their taglines, their marketing mantras. Nor do the best nonprofit talks make a plea for funding. TED asks that you not make your talk a commercial in disguise, even for a worthy cause. See if you can meet this bar--you may be surprised at how well it positions you as a thought leader. The program and the introduction may do this work for you, so save your talk time for your ideas.
  • The lovely picture of success: If you view a TED talk as a marketing exercise, one in which you present a smooth front of success, you've failed before you open your mouth to speak. TED talks are loaded with failure, shame, vulnerability...and the lessons, redemption, and connection that go with them. Question yourself on this score. Are you sanding down all the rough edges? If so, you aren't giving us a TED-quality talk.
There are many more factors among the missing and should-be-missing for these important talks. We'll cover this topic in depth at my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant £100 discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April.

I also work with groups to help them prep for TED-quality talks with a mix of group workshops and 1:1 coaching, or with individuals 1:1. Email me at eloquentwoman at gmail dot com if you'd like to try this approach.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by misspixels)

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Charlotte Church's lecture on sexism in music

Now, here's a strong opening for a speech:
I’d like you to imagine a world in which male musicians are routinely expected to act as submissive sex objects. Picture Beyonce’s husband, Jay Z, stripped down to a t-back bikini thong, sex kitten-ing his way through a boulevard of suited and booted women for their pleasure. Or Britney Spears’s ex, Justin Timberlake, in buttock-clenching, denim hot pants, riding on the bonnet of a pink Chevy, explaining to his audience how he’d like to be their teenage dream. 
Before we all become a little too hot beneath the gusset, of course, these scenarios are not likely to become a reality. Unless for comedy’s sake. The reason for this is that these are roles that the music industry has carved out specifically for women. It is a male dominated industry with a juvenile perspective on gender and sexuality.
The speaker was Welsh singer, songwriter and actress Charlotte Church, delivering the 2013 John Peel lecture to an audience at BBC 6 Music, an industry conference. If you remember her as the very young girl with the voice of an angel, this talk will change that view. Here, she looks at the modern origins of how women in music are treated:
The culture of demeaning women in pop music is so ingrained as to become routine. From the way we are dealt with by management and labels, to the way we are presented to the public. We can trace this back to Madonna, although it probably does go back further in time. She was a template setter. By changing her image regularly, putting her sexuality at the heart of her image, videos and live performances, the statement she was making was: “I’m in control of me and my sexuality.” This idea has had its corners rounded off over the years and has become: “Take your clothes off, show you’re an adult.”
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Don't mince words when your industry is your audience: Not unlike Elisabeth Murdoch's taking-to-task of the UK television industry--also a Famous Speech Friday entry--Church wastes no time putting her issue before the industry. For many, including performers and talent, the chance to address top executives is a rare one. Waste no time getting to your point.
  • Dig deep: Church's example of how Madonna's bold approach later "had its corners rounded off" is itself bold, an effort to go past image to reality. In doing so, she calls it as she sees it, speaking truth to power. She digs just as deeply into the impact on her own career, taking time to note that early pressure to present herself as sexualized affected and limited her later choices in how she wanted to be seen as an artist. Using yourself as an example should always have this much impact.
  • Turn the gender tables: Just as suffragette Nellie McClung reversed genders to hilariously question whether men should vote, Church turns the tables on Jay-Z and Justin Bieber to make a crystal-clear point about what women in the industry are asked to do. It's a vivid visual example.
There's audio available of the full speech in the video below, and you can read the full speech here.



(Creative Commons licensed photo from Craig Martin's photostream on Flickr)

Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

From Macbeth to cut-and-paste, exhibits look behind Lincoln's speeches

Lincoln, a month before his second inauguration.
Photo by Alexander Gardner
We pay attention to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's speeches today, 150 years after his assassination, for a wide range of reasons. He was a frequent speaker: Lincoln: Speeches and Writings 1832-1858 and Lincoln : Speeches and Writings : 1859-1865 together share hundreds of speeches and debates, and are the volumes I keep close to hand. Lincoln wrote all of his speeches himself, and made a distinction between his reading copies and those for publication. (For example, the Associated Press text of his delivered Gettysburg Address has subtle differences from the final published version; it's in the second volume, above.) His language was taut, soaring, or healing, by turns and by design. That rich eloquence was steeped in hours of reading and re-reading great texts.

More than that, Lincoln bucked trends to make his speeches work: In a time when the typical speech was a stem-winder of 2 hours or more in length, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is just 272 words, or a little more than two minutes long--the equivalent of giving a TED talk next to a filibuster. He didn't just know how to count words, he know how to make words count. I'm also going to guess that, in some ways, Lincoln's speaking style was closer to what rhetoric calls the "effeminate" or feminine style of speaking, more intimate, conversational, and with greater emotional tone. If so, it's a style he shared with Presidents Reagan and Clinton.

This year, to mark the anniversaries of his second inauguration and his assassination, two exhibits give us a look behind his speeches to their influences and even how Lincoln put his reading copies together. Already on in New York City at the Morgan Library, Lincoln Speaks is an entire exhibit devoted to the great man's speaking. You see his own copies of Shakespeare and other works that influenced him, speeches in his own neat handwriting, and how later presidents like FDR aligned themselves with Lincoln in their own speeches, bringing the material full circle. You can find a complete online version of the exhibit with images of all the documents and the interpretive material.

And in early March, for just four days, the Library of Congress will display Lincoln's second inaugural address, famous for the line, "With malice toward none, with charity for all." From the library's announcement:
Visitors will be able to view all four manuscript pages in Lincoln’s own handwriting; see his two-columned reading copy, comprised of text cut and pasted from the printer’s proof; and view photographs, a contemporary news account of the inauguration and an assessment of the speech by abolitionist and human-rights leader Frederick Douglass, all from the Library’s collections....The March display will allow visitors to see not only those documents but also major collection items placed on public view in the ongoing exhibition "The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom" including the "I Have a Dream" speech by Martin Luther King Jr. and several items on special display from the collection of civil-rights pioneer Rosa Parks, including her Presidential Medal of Freedom.
That's a lot of public-speaking greatness in one place, for just four days. This article takes a closer look at the cut-and-paste work Lincoln did to create his two-column reading copy. That alone is a great delivery tip to steal from a great speaker: Have you ever tried a two-column reading copy?

I saw the Morgan Library exhibit on the day it opened last month, and I'm so fortunate to live in Washington, where it will be easy for me to get in line for the Library of Congress exhibit. I don't just get excited about seeing these speech texts because I've written, coached, and delivered speeches, but because they bring home in a way nothing else can the enormity of work that went into each speech. Every word is seen as chosen, edited, and delivered for a purpose. These words helped prevent my country from failing its experiment in democracy. How much more weight can words have?

(You can see the photo of Lincoln here in Washington at the National Portrait Gallery.)

Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Lupita Nyong'o on following your fear

Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o has already made her mark as an actor, as a style icon, and as a public speaker. She has tackled even the briefest acceptance speeches thoughtfully and eloquently, which you can see in her first Famous Speech Friday entry, a short speech on black beauty. And in late 2014, she tackled a more challenging speaker role, as keynote speaker at the Massachusetts Conference for Women.

The conference is a great example of the trend in women-focused conferences, which--unlike many other conferences--seem to have no trouble fielding women speakers, nor making money with a platform full of women. In 2014, the audience at this conference exceeded 10,000 people, which gave Nyong'o an opening: "So this is what one, no, ten thousand women look like! Wow! It’s a real honor to be here today, to be asked to address all of you: women who understand how important it is to step outside your comfort zone, to better yourselves and the communities you live in." She got laughs as she acknowledged fellow speaker Hillary Clinton, whom she called "a leader among men," and gave shout-outs to her mother and her managers.

And as many speakers do, she lifted the veil on the speaker early in her speech by talking about getting ready for this day. But this detour was purposeful, setting up the topic of fear and the need to face your fears, neatly:
I was asked to speak today in the spring. It was a very busy time and I was still coming down on off of the whole award season whirlwind and I have to admit that I agreed to it only because it seemed like it was far, far away. But you know, with things that are far, far away, with time they get nearer and nearer, and as they got nearer and nearer, I got more and more afraid that I wouldn’t know what to say, and then I thought, that’s it: I’ll talk about overcoming fear in order to achieve your goals and your dreams, and I thought it was perfect, but then of course I was crippled about the fear of talking about my fear. I tried to find other people’s examples that illustrate the things I have learned about dealing with fear, but I couldn’t remember them well enough to borrow them. I thought I would hire someone to write my speech, but then they’d know everything about me including my neuroses. And then I thought I should find another subject to talk about, but then I realized I was doing that actor thing of trying to hide behind something. That’s what we do as actors: We tell the truth by pretending to be someone else. So I finally managed to qualm my fear, and put aside my actor, in order to tell you how I got to be an actor in the first place.
Nyong'o's keynote grabbed many headlines and social posts, many of which highlighted the moment when she teared up describing the moment she allowed herself to acknowledge that what she really wanted to do was act. What can you learn from this famous speech?

  • Work your tears into your remarks, rather than avoid them: Most speakers look for ways to avoid or move past showing emotion, but even tears are appropriate when what you are talking about is emotional. In this speech, Nyong'o worked with, not against her tears, using seven words to incorporate them. "There was no saving me from the agony of indecision, and until I stopped running away from myself, and listened to myself. I took a timeout, silenced the voices, stopped the chatter and really thought about what would make me happy. I admitted it, first to myself and then out loud, that what I wanted more than anything was to make believe for a living. I wept as I am doing now because it was so hard [Applause. Reaches for tissue, dabs eyes]...it seems like this is what I do best, really [laughter]."
  • Dress for the occasion: We're used to seeing Nyong'o in cutting-edge fashion that's more often suited to the runway or the red carpet. Here, she dresses as a keynote speaker, including her glasses for reading from her text. In that subtle way, the speaker narrows the gap between herself and her audience, and signals that she understands that outfits also play a role in public speaking.
  • Put the audience first: Nyong'o's first words are all for her audience, reflecting them back to themselves in a highly effective but often missed moment all speakers should include in their openers. That goes beyond her reaction to the size of the crowd. Right after that, she furthers the typical "It's a real honor to be here today" line and calls the audience "women who understand how important it is to step outside your comfort zone, to better yourselves and the communities you live in." She's about to tell them how she stepped outside her own comfort zone, but in this moment, she's explaing why it's an honor for her to be there, instead of merely stating that it is an honor. By making the audience the reason for the honor, the speaker thereby elevates the listeners and helps frame the significance of the gathering. That's meaningful to the listeners, and to the organizers who invited her, a powerful way to show your gratitude for the invitation. That she also presages the theme of her talk is simply smart writing.
This speech is enthusiastic, charming, moving and funny, by turns. Watch the video at the link or below, keeping in mind that most actors dislike public speaking. Not this one. I expect we'll see many more excellent examples of Nyong'o as a speaker in the months to come.





Please join me for my next workshop: What goes into a TED-quality talk, April 15 in Cambridge, UK, is a preconference session at the Spring Speechwriters & Business Communicators Conference which follows April 16-17. There's a discount at this link if you register for my workshop, which will  help speakers, speechwriters and TEDx organizers get a head start on TED-quality talks, whether you're aiming for the TED stage or for giving a talk in that style for everyday purposes.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My effort to reform the panel discussion, starting with the moderator

Panels, in my view, are often dreadful or just plain boring. One reason I like attending the speechwriters conferences I go to in the UK and Europe: They won't include panel discussions. And that's happening all over, an indicator of how awful the form has become. Yet few take the time to get the panel ready for success, let alone to meet the conflicting goals of organizers, speakers, and the audience.

Despite that, all eyes turn to the moderator, the person who's rarely trained for this special speaking task, but is expected to be a magician, nonetheless. Even an experienced speaker like Guy Kawasaki says, “Moderating a panel is deceptively hard--harder, in fact, than keynoting because the quality of the panelists is usually beyond your control.” That's why I'm excited to present my first public-speaking ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panelsnow available for purchase in a wide variety of ebook formats for just $3.99. It may not be a dramatic topic in public speaking, but it's one we face over and over again in the course of our careers as public speakers. And there's no reason we can't do it better.

Call this my little effort to reform the panel then, starting with the moderator. There's no magic involved, just planning and preparation. But in this ebook are many ways to help you meet the goals of the panel while staying in charge of the clock, the speakers, and the audience. I have checklists and questions you can use again and again as you plan and prepare, as well as tactics to pull out of your back pocket during the panel. I'd love to think you'd have this ebook booted up on your tablet or smartphone as you moderate, your back-pocket coach.

Here's what the book covers:
  • What it means to be a moderator: The job description. What are you really responsible for? 
  • 7 types of moderators: Variations on the job description, from bland to complicated.
  • How moderators relate to others' roles in a panel session: The organizers want one thing, the speakers want another, and the audience has its own expectations. Where does the moderator fit in?
  • What to ask when you're asked to moderate: Questions to ask the organizer, and questions to ask yourself that are both logistical and philosophical. 
  • 9 reasons to turn down an offer to moderate because not all moderator gigs are worth it.
  • What to do before the panel outlines a preparation process you will carry out with the speakers and the organizer in advance of the event.
  • 5 last-minute tasks for moderators, or that list of things you should do right before you head for the stage.
  • Better panel introductions, an area where moderators can shine--but often don't. Here's how to change that, and make speakers adore you.
  • Moderator muscle: The one tactic you'll use over and over again is a simple but effective solution to most of the problems moderators face. Start using this, and you'll notice the difference.
  • 13 ways to keep speakers on time. Moderators struggle with this, but there are many tactics you can use--some in advance, and some on the fly.
  • Smart ways to interrupt speakers, because you will need to do this from time to time.
  • Moderator moves: Gestures and movement helps you think through how you'll handle the physical aspects of moderation.
  • Creative panel themes offers ideas you can propose to the organizer and share with the speakers in advance to make the discussion livelier and original.
  • Creative lines of questioning does the same for your questions to the panel. Have these in front of you when you moderate.
  • Graceful ways with Q&A helps you manage the dance going on between the speakers and the audience. Both of them look to you as a partner. Find out how to do the dance gracefully.
This ebook grew out of some posts here on The Eloquent Woman, but most of the book contains new material not published before. It offers checklists and questions you'll want to refer to every time you moderate, as well as practical advice for how to negotiate your role and the discussion.

Some early comments and reviews:
  • Emily Culbertson: Denise Graveline has been my go-to guru for advice on all manner of public speaking issues. Now she has written this ebook and shipped me a copy, and I am here to say that it. is. awesome. Give it to the moderator in your life!!!!
  • Joan Kornblith: I'm pretty good at this already...but I picked up Denise Graveline's book before Folk Alliance International, because I want to be better! 3.99, can't beat it! Especially great for new moderators...it isn't as easy as it looks!
  • Julie Landry Peterson: Kudos Denise Graveline! I know a lot of people who could use this e-book, whether as moderators themselves or even just planners of good conversations.
I hope you'll read the book and pass along the information about it to conference and panel organizers you know. Go here to order your copy today! And if you've read it, I'd appreciate your reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Friday, February 6, 2015

For Black History Month, 29 famous speeches by black women

Black women speakers from all over the world are often featured in The Eloquent Woman Index of famous speeches by women. Whether African, American or from elsewhere in the world, they make up close to 20 percent of the speeches we've collected and featured so far.

No shortages here: Check out the 29 famous speeches from the Index given by black women speakers, arranged in chronological order. It's our way of kicking off Black History Month:
  1. Sojourner Truth's 1851 speech "Ain't I a Woman?" is oft-quoted, but has a disputed source, illustrating why it's often tough to find famous women's speeches. In this case, that happened because Truth could neither read nor write. That doesn't detract at all from her message about equality for all women of all races. Read Soujourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman" Speech: A Primary Source Investigation for more about the many versions of this speech, only one of which contains the most-quoted phrase.
  2. Ida B. Wells's 1909 "This Awful Slaughter" busted the myth that women's safety was the reason lynchings were carried out, and used a mix of data and defiance to fight against the practice of mob killings of black men. Read the book To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells to learn more about her campaign.
  3. Josephine Baker at the March on Washington shares the brief remarks of the lone woman to share the program with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and scores of other, male speakers. Those who thought of her as a notorious showgirl learned more about her self-enforced exile to France as a way of seeking racial equality.
  4. Fannie Lou Hamer's 1964 convention committee testimony failed to gain her a seat at that convention, but succeeded in raising the visibility of violence against blacks attempting to register to vote. Four years later, she became an historic convention delegate. You can read more about her public speaking in The Speeches of Fannie Lou Hamer: To Tell It Like It Is.
  5. Coretta Scott King's 1968 "10 Commandments on Vietnam" -- a speech she gave in her husband's place, just weeks after his assassination -- took scribbled notes found in his pockets and made them into a powerful call to action. Desert Rose: The Life and Legacy of Coretta Scott King is a recent biography.
  6. Shirley Chisholm introduces the Equal Rights Amendment wasn't a first. This member of Congress was re-introducing the legislation, 40 years after it was first proposed--and did so in her usual fiery and forthright style.
  7. Barbara Jordan's 1976 Democratic convention keynote broke barriers for women and for blacks in one speech, suggesting that "the American Dream need not be deferred." It's loaded with elegant rhetoric and is a wonderful listen, thanks to Jordan's vocalizing skills. A Private Woman in Public Spaces: Barbara Jordan's Speeches on Ethics, Public Religion, and Law takes a focused look at the speeches of one of America's most eloquent women.
  8. Anita Hill's 1981 Senate testimony about Clarence Thomas disrupted the Senate confirmation hearings of the then-nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, leveling sexual harrassment allegations against him that ultimately did not prevent his appointment to the court. "It would have been more comfortable to remain silent," she said in this televised testimony that stunned viewers and brought harrassment into the open as an issue. In Speaking Truth to Power, she tells her story.
  9. Maya Angelou's 1995 poem, "Phenomenal Woman," often delivered by her and others as a speech, summed up for me and many others what made this frequent speaker so special. Listen closely to her charming delivery.
  10. Angelou's 2006 eulogy for Coretta Scott King might be any eulogy from one close friend for another, as Angelou tells stories about the civil rights icon that only a girlfriend would know. This is a lovely, simple and moving tribute.
  11. Edwidge Danticat's 2007 testimony on death in detention gave the novelist a gripping real-life story to tell, about her uncle's treatment at the hands of U.S. immigration and customs officials when he was held in detention. It's moving, direct and powerful, just like her fictional writings. You can read more about this dramatic story in her book Brother, I'm Dying.
  12. Rep. Gwen Moore's 2011 floor speech on abortion rights and family planning came during a debate about federal funding for family planning. She chose to use her status as a member of Congress to share a personal perspective as a former teenage mother.
  13. Michelle Obama's 2011 speech to young African women leaders took place in a powerful setting, and used that visual reminder to call these young women to action. Michelle Obama: Speeches on Life, Love, and American Values collects speeches of our current First Lady, preserving the legacy of a frequent speaker.
  14. Viola Davis's 2011 awards acceptance speech, "What keeps me in the business is hope," went far beyond the usual platitudes and confronted what it's like to be a black actress in the movie industry. An eloquent extemporaneous speech.
  15. Chimamanda Adichie's "we should all be feminists," a 2012 TEDxEuston talk, has inspired pop icons and women and men around the world with its frank, funny, and fierce viewpoint.
  16. Michelle Obama's 2012 Democratic National Convention speech follows a formula for memorable speeches recommended by President John F. Kennedy's speechwriter, Ted Sorensen. And it worked with today's audiences, garnering more than 28,000 tweets per second from those who watched it.
  17. Viola Davis's 2012 commencement speech is titled "Go out and live!" It's a stunning example of what you can do with a tired speaking format, and is like no college commencement speech you've ever endured. Perhaps my favorite line: "The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you discover why you were born."
  18. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's 2013 Harvard commencement speech shared the dreams and roadblocks in the Liberian president's stellar career. She says, "If your dreams do not scare you, they're not big enough."
  19. Essie Washington-Williams's 2013 "I feel completely free" told the world a secret she'd kept most of her life: She was the daughter of a black woman and Senator Strom Thurmond, a white segregationist who campaigned against civil rights.
  20. Joyce Banda's tribute to Nelson Mandela at his memorial service in 2013 wasn't a remarkable text--until the Malawi president went off-script and put in the color and creativity she got in part from her mentor.
  21. Myrlie Evers-Williams's invocation at President Obama's second inaugural in 2013 marked the first time the invocation at the ceremony was given by a woman, and by someone other than a member of the clergy. The widow of assassinated civil rights activist Medgar Evers summoned the spirits of the leaders of that movement to witness the day's proceedings. Read more about her story in her memoir Watch Me Fly: What I Learned on Becoming the Woman I Was Meant to Be.
  22. Leymah Gbowee's 2013 Barnard commencement speech had the Liberian Nobel laureate urging women to "step out of the shadows" and get more credit for their work.
  23. Gabourey Sidibe's speech at the 2014 Gloria Awards used an iconic photo of her aunt and Gloria Steinem to honor Steinem, and to talk about being confident despite how she's taunted because of her weight.
  24. Michelle Obama's eulogy for Maya Angelou in 2014 echoed words from "Phenomenal Woman" and told how the poet inspired her as a child.
  25. Kerry Washington spoke in 2014 on the risks of public speaking for women and women of color, admitting she'd turned down the chance to give a TED talk in an award acceptance speech.
  26. Rashema Melson's 2014 high school valedictory speech made headlines because the speaker overcame homelessness to graduate at the top of her class and get into Georgetown. A short, fierce, fantastic speech.
  27. Laverne Cox gave a 2014 keynote on transgender activism for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force meeting, offering inspiration and encouragement to local activists.
  28. Lupita Nyong'o used a 2014 acceptance speech at a Hollywood luncheon to talk about the conflicting views we have about black women and beauty in a revealing, resonant talk.
  29. Viola Davis's 2014 acceptance speech focused on hunger, taking a Hollywood audience to the dumpsters where she dived for food as a child, and speaking abou the importance of public speaking to shed light on so-called "unspeakable" issues. A riveting short speech.

Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The commute communicator: Practicing speeches in your car

"I'm still practicing my speech on my way to the office! Okay, not every day, but many days...It's hard to break habits."

So wrote one of my speaker coaching clients after having given a successful talk. He's one of many speakers I coach who don't have much time to practice, thanks to their busy schedules. Yet I know that practice may be the single most important determinant in whether their speeches are a success. That's when I point them to their cars.

The car-as-practice-cubicle is one of my favorite stealth ways to practice your public speaking. These days, I usually recommend you use this tactic once your script is frozen or done. All you have to do is make an audio recording on your smartphone (or, if you lack a smartphone, on an MP3 recorder) of yourself giving the very best reading you can from the script. Feel free to plug it into your dashboard's audio system.

For this recording, you want to capture every word as written. Then, on your commute, all you have to do is play it once and listen, then spend the rest of the time trying to repeat it from memory. That gives you at least two trips on a daily commute in which to practice, more if you travel in your car frequently. And you can replay the recording as much as you want.

Practicing in your car is useful if you're a speaker who is:
  • An introvert. The commute time alone in your car couldn't be more private, which will help keep your energy higher. Other drivers will assume you're singing along to something.
  • Trying to memorize a script so you can deliver the speech without notes: For talks in the style of TED, or for situations where notes are impractical or just forbidden, you need to memorize. I'm not a big fan of rote memorization, in the style of kids reciting long poems in school ("The boy stood on the burning deck..."). Instead, I advise speakers to memorize the structure, and as much of the content as possible, letting any lines that drop to stay where they're dropped. But listening and repeating your content audibly will do better than most tactics at helping you remember what you wrote in your script.
  • Pressed for time and loaded with interruptions: Carving an hour or two a day to practice in your office may be impossible, with calls and people at your door every few minutes. Or your office may lack the privacy you need. The car in these cases is your public-speaking friend.
Practicing out loud has many additional benefits. You'll find out right away whether that script actually works when the words are being vocalized, and can change anything you trip over verbally. You'll get a sense of your speed and cadence in a way no amount of silent reading can do. And you can try out different types of delivery and emphasis until you hit your stride.

Recently, I coached a cadre of 16 speakers, all of whom were to give five-minute talks without scripts. I had people commuting and practicing in cars from Maine to Oregon and many states in between. "I'm getting in my car to drive two hours to a meeting across the state, so I'll practice on the trip," was a typical comment when we'd check in on Skype. You'll find yourself reaching natural progress points when you practice daily in this way, as in that drive when you don't need the recording to say the entire piece.

Despite efforts to encourage car pools and public transportation, most Americans drive on their commutes, and most drive alone, which is why I can recommend this practice tactic. But if your commute doesn't include solo time in a car, you can still get in some practice. Just listen to the recording as you run, walk, or take public transportation, then find a quiet time or place to practice out loud when you reach your destination. Or do it while you exercise: I have just as many clients who take an afternoon walk or run with their speech recording in their earbuds. Take "commute" broadly, and see what happens!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Sameer Vasta)


Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Feb. 12 webinar: Public speaking scares me. Should I do it, anyway?

I'm happy to say I'll be presenting on the topic "Public speaking scares me. Should I do it, anyway?" on February 12 at 4pm EST. 

The webinar is sponsored by Medium and organized by the editors of Technically Speaking, which covers public speaking tips and opportunities in the tech world. A reader asked TS to put on content aimed at women who are nervous about public speaking, particularly when they're putting themselves out there with strong opinions. So we'll cover that, along with the variety of things that can prompt nervousness or fear in public speakers and what to do if that's happening to you.

I'm looking forward to a lively discussion. We're doing the webinar as a Hangout on Air, so many can watch the broadcast. Sign up here in advance. I'm looking forward to a good discussion!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by TEDxTalpiot)

Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!