Friday, May 29, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Dame Stephanie Shirley at TED 2015

She's been decorated by the Queen of England. Earned and given away hundreds of millions. Founded a thriving tech company at a time when she couldn't open so much as a bank account without her husband's permission. Changed her name to "Steve" on correspondence just to get a hearing from potential clients. And put her fortune to work supporting autism research in honor of her late son. Now that timeline of accomplishment for Stephanie Shirley includes a TED talk, given at the 2015 conference.

Shirley's talk included every aspect of what TED stands for: technology, entertainment, and design. She's a tech icon, fiercely intellectual and focused. The talk's humorous asides and dramatic arc added the entertainment value. And she describes a different kind of design problem, but one entrepreneurs can relate to: How do you create and grow an IT company, powered primarily by women who work part-time and from home as programmers, at a time when most women didn't have careers? Here's how she described that process:
My company, called Freelance Programmers, and that's precisely what it was, couldn't have started smaller: on the dining room table, and financed by the equivalent of 100 dollars in today's terms, and financed by my labor and by borrowing against the house. My interests were scientific, the market was commercial -- things such as payroll, which I found rather boring. So I had to compromise with operational research work, which had the intellectual challenge that interested me and the commercial value that was valued by the clients: things like scheduling freight trains, time-tabling buses, stock control, lots and lots of stock control. And eventually, the work came in. We disguised the domestic and part-time nature of the staff by offering fixed prices, one of the very first to do so. And who would have guessed that the programming of the black box flight recorder of Supersonic Concord would have been done by a bunch of women working in their own homes. 
Shirley added deft humor when she chose to measure her company's accomplishments by recalling the snide comments of men in the industry as she made progress again and again:
When I started my company of women, the men said, "How interesting, because it only works because it's small." And later, as it became sizable, they accepted, "Yes, it is sizable now, but of no strategic interest." And later, when it was a company valued at over three billion dollars, and I'd made 70 of the staff into millionaires, they sort of said, "Well done, Steve!" You can always tell ambitious women by the shape of our heads: They're flat on top for being patted patronizingly.
I'm so glad that, at age 81, Shirley took her story to the TED stage so she could tell it on her own terms--you get the idea that that's how she does things. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Wear color: If I had a nickel for every woman speaker who wears black for a TED talk, I'd be a millionaire, too. Shirley stands out with a multi-colored blouse, vibrant and creative and a good foil for the dark background. No fading into the backdrop here.
  • The founder's story never gets old: We are endlessly fascinated with how companies began, no matter how big or small they are today. These are stories no one else can tell as well as the founder (although every employee of any company should be able to tell, in a compelling way, the founding story). That this story includes universal elements to which anyone can relate--the dinner table founding, the small amount of capital, the employees working at home--makes it even more approachable, sticky in the memory, and captivating.
  • Keep your cool: Not seen on the edited video, but very apparent at the conference, were a few false starts to this talk, thanks to faulty audio equipment. Frustrating as that was, Shirley kept trying that beginning until the problem was solved. It's a moment when practice, and lots of it, comes in handy, ensuring that you won't forget your start after one try.
You can read a transcript of her talk here, and watch the video here or below:

 


Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Public speaking pet peeves from frequent speakers & speechwriters

Inside Voice is the interview series in which we ask speakers and speechwriters to share their public speaking insights, lessons learned, and best practices. We asked each frequent speaker and speechwriter in the series to share a speaking pet peeve, in their speaking or writing roles, and as audience members themselves. Steer clear of these bad habits, tactics and ideas:
  1. "Overreliance on PowerPoint." That's his pet peeve as a speechwriter. But TEDMED chief storytelling officer Marcus Webb says, as an audience member "my pet peeve is speakers who give you a handout, then read it to you...word for word. This is particularly deadly in an office meeting where the audience can’t leave." 
  2. "Listener questions that veer into detailed and extensive individual questions for me." Conscious of the need for Q&A to help many in the room, psychiatrist and author Candida Fink has this pet peeve as both speaker and audience member. She also dislikes "questions that are more about the questioner showing off their knowledge or expertise rather than genuinely asking a question or creating a dialogue of value to the larger group."
  3. "I absolutely loathe the type of speech that demands audience interaction." Deloitte's top speechwriter Caroline Johns says speakers can take this tactic too far. "I don’t mind putting my hand up or being asked to vote on something, but when a speaker starts asking for vocal contributions and, worse, follows it up with 'come on you can do better than that...' or some such exhortation, I switch off completely. In fact, I don’t switch off completely, but the little bit that’s left of me that is still switched on will be smouldering with hostility. Not good... I think it’s lazy," she says.
  4. "As a member of the audience, I would throw rotten vegetables at people who go over their time. However good their presentation is." Speechwriter Brian Jenner, who heads two international networks in his profession, also dislikes "clients who rewrite large chunks."
  5. "Apologizing." Author and public relations executive Liz O'Donnell adds, "I try not to do it."
  6. "Not paying attention to gender, either on panels or speaking rosters. It’s not that hard to find women speakers." Speechwriter Amélie Crosson-Gooderham has a long list of pet peeves you should check out, but I couldn't resist highlighting this one.
  7. "The misconception that they can’t speak." Author and management consultant Gillian Davis adds, "It’s unfortunate that those with really great messages and content don’t have the confidence to speak, and those who have the confidence but lack content do it anyway."

Monday, May 25, 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:
Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Melissa Rivers's Tribute to Joan Rivers

It was three months after comedian Joan Rivers' death before her daughter Melissa Rivers made her first public speech about her mother. By then, the accolades and remembrances had reached flood stage, with celebrities and cultural critics weighing in on the legacy of Joan Rivers as a feminist, a trailblazing comic, an entertainer and a celebrity phenomenon.

What was left to say? Melissa Rivers found a way to deliver a sweet and funny tribute that managed to tie all the remembrances together in a defining package.  It was a speech that her mother probably would have loved for all its takedowns, since Joan worried about being canonized in some way after her death. In a room full of success--the venue was The Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment breakfast--Melissa Rivers reminded the audience that her mother was known most for baring her life of imperfection and striving.

Watching the video of this speech, it's clear that Melissa Rivers doesn't sound exactly comfortable in this talk--or is as polished a performer as her mother was when it comes to delivering the laugh lines. For me, it's not her delivery but her theme that makes this speech a strong one. By focusing on her mother's bravery, she provided a context that could embrace both Joan's personal characters and professional achievements.  Nothing says that better than one of Melissa's closing lines: "If my mother were here sitting this morning, she'd not only be grateful and proud, she would be beyond herself. She'd be sitting at the table beaming, while very discreetly shoving croissants and silverware into her purse."

What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • It's OK to quote, but be sure that their words lend something to your own. A tribute to Joan Rivers naturally tempts a speaker to steal some of her best lines for her own. And there may be too many zingers from Joan in this speech by Melissa, especially since Melissa doesn't seem as adept at the timing needed to pull them off. But she did choose her Joan anecdotes and jokes wisely, since they all the support the theme of bravery and fearlessness in the talk.
  • A tribute is different from an eulogy. This speech is a remembrance, offered not in the first weeks of grief or at a focused event like a funeral, so it doesn't have the weighty, emotional qualities of an eulogy. Appropriately, Melissa's tone and style is lighter but still reflective. This brief and focused speech benefits from the three months' wait that preceded it, I think, especially given that Joan's death was unexpected. The time probably gave Melissa Rivers--and her audience--a chance to consider what still needed to be said about her mother, and how the strands of her mother's life made sense as a whole.
  • Share your speech with the rest of us. We've talked often here about how women should make an effort to publish their speeches and move away from inadvertently silencing themselves. Melissa's tribute at the breakfast appeared first at her own website, which is something we'd like to see others do more often. The more we can see you as a role model and an inspiration, the better.
Here's the video:



Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Talk About the Talk: Lisa Lamkins at the Align health quality summit

(Editor's note: In this new series, Talk About the Talk, I'm asking speakers I've worked with to share their perspectives about giving big or important talks. Lisa K. Lamkins was one of 16 health executives I coached last year for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Aligning Forces for Quality national program. All 16 prepared and delivered 5-minute talks in the style of TED for the Align summit on health care quality in Washington, DC, last autumn. Lisa shares here her perspective on our work together and how the big talk felt. For speakers who worry that they're not "the" expert, that they lack credentials, or that they might freeze on stage, this post is a goldmine of good advice from someone who's been through it. Personally, I think she really did rock this speech.)

What was your motivation for doing this talk?

I was asked to do this talk as a Consumer Representative representing the Wisconsin project for Aligning Forces for Quality. Although my role in the project wasn’t huge, I felt honored to be asked to share my observations with other project participants from around the country.  Plus, I felt like, as a consumer representative, rather than a medical professional, that I could bring a different perspective than that of many of the other speakers.

How did you prepare? Who helped you and how?

I give lots and lots of presentations every year – some for crowds as big as 600 and others for small groups of 5 people. I generally use the dreaded PowerPoint presentation as a guide and then talk somewhat around my key points.

Giving a “TED-like” talk was so different and a little daunting.  Fortunately, we were provided with the services of a speech coach – we were lucky enough to have Denise Graveline.  This turned out to be a lifesaver. I really wanted to shine so I did all the prep Denise suggested – wrote out my speech word for word which is a struggle because I NEVER do that. After I got the written version edited to where I wanted it, I recorded myself reading it.  Then I started practicing it out loud.  I read it tons of times and then practiced giving it.  I stood in my office with the door closed  - feeling only slightly foolish when my coworkers walked by to see me ostensibly talking to myself.  I practiced speaking out loud at home and in the car, and practiced in my head standing in line at the grocery store, while exercising, and in the shower.   I videotaped myself and shared it with Denise for valuable feedback.

What challenges did you face in preparing, and how did you handle them?

I felt like the biggest challenge was lack of time.  I was prepping for this speech as an extra to my very busy job.  I also felt like my speech wasn’t substantial enough.  I’m not an “expert” in health care quality and  it took me awhile (and with much reassurance from Denise) that sharing my thoughts and experiences were OK.  I didn’t need to be the world’s foremost expert on health care quality because I was sharing what I knew best – my own experience.

What was it like to actually give the talk? Tell us about your experience that day.

I was a little, but not overly, nervous on the morning of the presentation. I feel like I was well prepared and I’m not generally nervous about public speaking.  I think the special attention given to the spotlight speakers made me more nervous than thoughts of actually giving the presentation. I was late in the line-up so my nerves did grow a bit as time went on.

It was finally my turn and on to the stage I went. I found my spot, took a deep breath, and began speaking. My introduction started smoothly and as I was talking I started searching the audience for a “face” I could connect with.  But I couldn’t see anyone.  The room was dark and my eyes got caught in the spotlight.  My mind went totally blank and I couldn’t remember a single word of my speech.  I froze.  I knew exactly what a “deer in the headlights” felt like. Lost. Panicked.  For a split second, I considered turning around and running off the stage.

Somehow I remembered Denise’s advice to pause and collect myself.  The pause felt like 5 minutes to me. It was long and uncomfortable. Then autopilot kicked in and I started speaking again. I barely remember the rest of my speech.  The words came out, albeit not with the same smoothness and easy delivery that I had practiced a thousand times. But they came.  I knew this speech in my sleep; good thing because I was giving it in a stage fright coma.

I finished to polite applause and fled the stage. In my eyes, the speech was a total disaster. I felt like I had failed the conference organizers, my fellow speakers, my organization, and most importantly, the AF4Q project I was representing. I couldn’t wait to get out of that ballroom and cry my eyes out.
It wasn’t until weeks later, when I finally watched the video that I realized it wasn’t quite as horrible as I thought.  No, it wasn’t flawless and easy. It certainly wasn’t my best shining moment.  But I was able to finish my speech and get across my main points without running off the stage.

What else should we know that we haven't asked about?

If there was ever an example of “preparation is key” then this is it!  I had practiced my speech what felt like a zillion times and then I practiced it some more.  That served me well when I froze and it just came out of my memory banks to rescue me.

One tip I would give in all that practice:  Give a few practices speeches in front of real live people – you coworkers, your kids, your yoga group, whatever.  Getting a feel for audience reactions might have helped me with timing and with conjuring up the vision of a friendly face when I couldn’t see the audience.

I could say I’m grateful for going through this nerve-wracking  experience, but I’d be LYING.  I would have much rather rocked this speech.  But I did learn that it really, really, really wasn’t as bad as I thought. The audience learned from my presentation, and more importantly, I learned to believe in myself and see even a rough road through to the end.

Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Monday, May 18, 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:

Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Women's diverse perspectives on LGBT issues: 6 famous speeches

They speak about existence, identity, personhood. They talk about parenting, marriage, and relationships. Rights, wrongs, discrimination, hatred and love pepper their speeches. And in this collection of famous speeches by women about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, the women speakers include actresses, parents, a student and a legislator. Click through to see text, audio or video (where available) for each of these speeches from The Eloquent Woman Index, as well as what you can learn as a speaker from their efforts:
  1. Laverne Cox on transgender activism: The star of Orange Is The New Black keynoted a conference on social change and LGBT issues, recalling her own struggles as well as giving shout-outs to local activists.
  2. Sally Field at the 2012 Human Rights Campaign dinner: Honoring her gay son as she accepted an award for her support for LGBT issues, Field had a message for parents in her speech.
  3. Rep. Maureen Walsh's speech on gay marriage:  During a Washington State legislative debate on a gay marriage bill, this representative surprised herself and her audience by talking about her lesbian daughter and urging passage of the bill.
  4. Lady Gaga's speech at Rome Europride: Both formal and flamboyant, this speech reached for traditional rhetoric on a nontraditional topic, before a rock-star-sized crowd outdoors--something with which the speaker is certainly comfortable.
  5. Debi Jackson on her transgender child: In describing her child's transition from boy to girl at age 4, Jackson delivered a short but powerful retort to the stinging comments her family has endured about having a transgender child.
  6. Kayla Kearney comes out to her high school assembly: This speaker may be young, but she's also brave, using the typical boring high school gathering to share something essential about herself with her peers.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

5 books that capture commencement speeches by women

Commencement ceremonies often feature women speakers, but their speeches are less frequently published than those of male speakers. So if you're looking to give a new graduate a gift that will help her emulate a great woman speaker--and inspire her at the same time--consult this list of books that capture commencement talks by an impressive array of women speakers:
  1. Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination is the latest entry in this category, publishing the words of author J.K. Rowling in a now-viral Harvard commencement address.
  2. Unlike many anthologies, The World Is Waiting for You: Graduation Speeches to Live By from Activists, Writers, and Visionaries includes commencement speeches from several women speakers: Gloria Steinem, Anna Quindlen, Marian Wright Edelman, Barbara Kingsolver, Toni Morrison, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Martha Nussbaum, Isabel Wilkerson, Ursula K. Leguin, and Cecile Richards. In fact, the gender ratio tilts slightly in favor of the women included in this collection.
  3. A Short Guide to a Happy Life preserves Anna Quindlen's planned 2000 commencement address at Villanova University, which was never given. It's one of my all-time favorite speeches, and a favorite gift I give.
  4. Remembering Who We Are: A Treasury of Conservative Commencement Addressesincludes addresses by Marilynne Robinson, Carly Fiorina, and Mary Eberstadt--otherwise, it's a mostly male speaker collection.
  5. This is Your Moment: Inspirational Commencement Speeches shares commencement speeches by Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton, the lone women among a male-centric collection. But it's an audio version, which may prove inspiring in a different way.
  6. Wear Sunscreen: A Primer for Real Life was a Chicago Tribune column by Mary Schmich that went viral--and was falsely attributed to author Kurt Vonnegut, a frequent commencement speaker. Never actually given as a commencement speech, the book is nonetheless a charming one.
Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Monday, May 11, 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:
Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Marilyn Mosby on Freddie Gray homicide

At 35, she's the youngest chief prosecutor in a major American city, and just four months into her elected post. She had the task of making two announcements: That the recent death in police custody of a 25-year-old black man named Freddie Gray was considered a homicide, and that she would be bringing charges against the police officers involved.

Both those revelations would bring to a climax a week of violent protests in Baltimore, Maryland, and in cities around the U.S. So Marilyn Mosby, the Maryland State's Attorney for Baltimore City, delivered her remarks on the steps of the city's War Memorial before a crowd of press and citizens, and divided them into three parts:
  • The legal requirements: A recap of the events leading to Gray's death, based on her office's investigation, and the homicide charges being brought against the police officers. If she did nothing else, she needed to press those charges publicly and state them precisely, so this portion of her remarks sticks to the script.
  • Setting boundaries and acknowledging frustrations for police and citizens: The second portion of this speech turned to setting boundaries. Mosby, who noted "I come from five generations of law enforcement officers," made a public point of telling police not to leak information from the investigation, and assuring them that charges against a few are not an indictment of all police. She also spoke directly to the citizens, particularly the young people of Baltimore, to urge them to continue to play a part in the justice process. She said,"I have heard your calls for 'no justice, no peace.' However, your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of Freddie Gray." Listen to the emphasis in these particular lines--the delivery makes them clear.
  • Answering questions: Finally, Mosby answered questions from the press, another requirement when public and elected officials face the media and the citizenry. Here, too, she set boundaries for herself based on due process, noting when she could not answer questions because it would involve sharing an opinion or would interfere with the legal process. This last section let us see her speak extemporaneously as well.
There's much to learn from all the parts of this famous statement, but my favorite part came in an exchange with a reporter:
Reporter: What do you think needs to be done so that what happened to Freddie Gray doesn't happen again?
Mosby: Accountability.
Reporter: How do you think we're going to get that?
Mosby: You're getting it today.
She was bold, straightforward, and in control of these remarks and exchanges. People took to the streets of Baltimore again after she spoke, but to celebrate this time, and she's being credited with diffusing tensions with this speech. While her remarks had an important job to do and legal boundaries to respect, they also inspired and shared the bigger picture, echoing this Gary Haugen TED talk on justice as the answer to poverty. The Washington Post said the emotional tenor of her remarks were spot-on: "Mosby struck a beautiful balance between the righteous anger of the community and the necessary respect for law enforcement." What can you learn from it, eloquent women?
  • Slow down your lists: The initial, scripted, formal part of Mosby's statement involved many lists: Lists of individual charges, lists of involved officers and their titles, lists of events that occurred. Any time you are reciting a list in a speech, slow it down with a distinct pause between each item. It's not too much to include two short beats of silence in between items in a list, a pause that will be imperceptible to your audience and allow them to hear what you are specifying. After all, if it's important enough to put in a list, shouldn't you slow down so we can hear it? Mosby's delivery here was well-paced and clear as a bell, on a day when that specificity mattered greatly and legally.
  • Connect with your wider audience: As a public official, and an elected one to boot, Mosby's remarks needed to go beyond the formal charges to the justice system, and speak to the protestors. Uniquely able to do so because of her age, she made a point of ending her statement to them in fellow feeling: "Last but certainly not least: to the youth of this city, I will seek justice on your behalf. This is a moment, this is your moment. Let's ensure that we have peaceful and productive rallies that will develop structural and systemic changes for generations to come. You're at the forefront of this cause, and as young people, our time is now."
  • Own it: Mosby's entire delivery could be summed up in four words: "The buck stops here." She's confident in her facts, carefully laid out and confirmed by independent investigators. She's anticipated the challenges she may receive, and can answer them. She takes responsibility. She takes the time to address those who may disagree, and those who might take her remarks to a violent place, moving beyond her to-do list to her must-do list. Her delivery isn't cocky, but certainly confident and forceful. Would that we all felt this level of conviction when speaking!
Watch the video here or below, and stand by for more from this forceful and eloquent woman. These remarks are well worth a watch and listen to see the most difficult kind of public speaking, covered live by media around the world and in the wake of violence.


Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

3 easy, evidence-based ways to calm your public speaking nerves

These are among the simplest tools in my coaching toolkit--so simple, many speakers dismiss them out of hand as ineffective. But there's research behind each of these smart, small tactics you can put to use to help your mind and body reframe the stress and anxiety you feel before you give a speech, talk or presentation:
  1. Power posing: You really can use body motion to get your confidence boosted--and quickly. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy researched using power posing--posing with your arms taking up as much space as possible above your waist--before high-stakes speaking tasks, specifically those in which you might be evaluated, like a job interview or public speaking. And it works. To see how to do it and learn about the findings, watch Amy Cuddy's TED talk on power posing, now one of the most-watched-ever TED talks, and read the research behind it.
  2. Smiling: Research shows that simply smiling has surprising benefits, from lowering your blood pressure and stress-inducing hormones to improving your emotions and how you process them. There's another TED talk at the link to clue you in to all the special physical and mental benefits you get from simply pushing your cheeks up into a smile (that's what triggers the brain chemicals to release). Best of all, no one will know while you're doing it. My advice: Start smiling before the talk. You may as well get all the feel-good benefits before you're on stage.
  3. Coaching yourself with the right pronoun: Pronouns matter when psyching yourself up, new research shows. So instead of saying to yourself, "I need to look at the audience more," try the second or third person, and say "You need to look at the audience more." Tested on people about to give a five-minute speech, the researchers found "participants who silently referred to themselves in the second or third person or used their own names while preparing for a five-minute speech were calmer and more confident and performed better on the task than those who referred to themselves using 'I' or 'me'."
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Nan Palmero)

If you're moderating a panel discussion or organizing a conference with panels, make sure you get my new ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. Available in all ebook formats for just $3.99, it's a coach you can use to prepare--and take onstage with you, using a smartphone or tablet.

Monday, May 4, 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:
Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Shabana Basij-Rasikh on educating Afghan girls

This TEDxWomen talk by Shabana Basij-Rasikh is a small wonder--so much emotion, insight and exhortation packed into a brief but elegant space. You may think you've heard the story of the educational struggle faced by girls in Afghanistan, but this is the speech that impressed me more than all others....me, and close to 800,000 viewers, at last count.

Basij-Rasikh is the president and co-founder of the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA), the first girls' boarding school in that country. The school draws students from all ethnic groups, tribes and religions in Afghanistan, and SOLA has provided more than $7 million in scholarships. Many of the young women also get a chance to study in programs around the globe. This work as has made Basij-Rasikh an international education superstar: in 2014, she was named one of National Geographic's Emerging Explorers, and one of CNN International's Leading Women.

It's difficult to remember how young she was--only 22!--when you listen to this talk from 2012. She speaks with the kind of poise and conviction that you might associate with long experience. But for Basij-Rasikh, with half a life lived under Taliban rule, that experience taught her exactly what she needed to tell the world about being a secret student during a dangerous time:
I would want to quit, but my father, he would say, 'Listen, my daughter, you can lose everything you own in your life. Your money can be stolen. You can be forced to leave your home during a war. But the one thing that will always remain with you is what is here, and if we have to sell our blood to pay your school fees, we will. So do you still not want to continue?'
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Seize the audience with your opening. Basij-Rasikh opens her talk with an immediate, lyrical start: "When I was 11, I remember waking up morning to the sound of joy in my house." How can you resist that? Instantly, I needed to know what the sound was, who or what was making it, and why the house was full of it. Studies show that there are all kinds of reasons to use a strong, fast start like this in a speech.
  • Illustrate with the "invisible visual." On that memorable morning, Basij-Rasikh tells us, the joy in the house came from "a small gray radio." And later in the talk, we hear about books covered in grocery bags to disguise their true purpose, and about the winter coziness of a living room packed with a hundred students. These descriptions are such small things in a speech about war and women's rights, but they do heavy lifting when it comes to helping the audience understand and empathize with Basij-Rasikh's cause.
  • Show how your story fits into a larger context. Basij-Rasikh uses her family experiences here, notably the support of her father and grandfather, as stepping stones to talk about the broader issues of educational opportunities for Afghan girls and women. By tying the personal to the political, this choice even allows her to speak briefly about the contrast between the growing strength she sees in Afghan families and the international perception of Afghanistan's "fragility."
You can watch the full TED talk here:


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

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!