Thursday, March 31, 2016

#publicspeaking save: 8 ways to say "I don't know" gracefully

Right behind early-career worries about what if the audience already knows what I want to say? and the risks that go with assuming what the audience knows, there's another speaker fear lurking for junior and experienced speakers alike: What happens when you don't know the answer to the question?

"I don't know" shouldn't be such a big stumbling block--after all, just because someone can formulate a question doesn't mean there's a ready answer, as any scientist knows. And "I don't know" doesn't mean you're stupid, or look stupid, by any means. In fact, it can boost your credibility with an audience.

Even so, when a question arises for which the correct answer is "I don't know," it leaves many speakers shaking in their boots. It feels like a conversation-stopper. You may feel embarrassed, or tempted to fudge or fake it. Don't! It's better to be honest, and have a few practiced ways to say "I don't know" with grace and style, and a little bit of humor where appropriate. Try our collection of back-pocket phrases for those "I don't know" moments:
  1. I wish I knew that: A clever phrasing, this lets you move into explaining why you wish you knew that unknowable thing. If the question is hopeful and forward-looking (When will we be able to solve climate change?), this approach lets you agree in principle with the questioner.
  2. If only I knew that: A little more in the direction of a lament, this variation lets you talk about what could be accomplished or what your work/life/research would be like with this missing piece.
  3. If I knew that, I'd be a billionaire: This needs to be played for laughs, and suggests the answer is truly unknowable, not just unknown. Use it when the question is simply impossible.
  4. Who knows? A philosophical answer, perhaps delivered with a shrug, you can follow this up with many options, depending on the direction you want to take.
  5. That's just one of the many things we don't know about X: This is a great option for researchers with a dense or technical topic. You can use this to talk about the many unknowns, or why and whether this particular unknown is significant to the work.
  6. I don't know, and here's why: Get factual, as long as you can deliver this answer without sounding defensive. More research to be done? Missing evidence? Can't get an answer yourself? Use this to launch into your explainer. 
  7. Wouldn't it be nice to know that? Great with a pie-in-the-sky question or a blue-sky question, it lets you agree with the questioner and perhaps spend a minute thinking out loud about what life would be like if we did know that.
  8. I don't know, but perhaps someone else here does? This is a brilliant way to look generous, honest, and humble. As Gloria Steinem advises, questions are an opportunity to find solutions, and as the speaker, you can be the finder-in-chief. Put the question to the audience, the rest of the panel, anyone in the room, then listen to the responses and make sure those offering answers get to speak. This answer is a compliment to the knowledge base in the room, and audiences will love it, even if an answer isn't forthcoming.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Randstad Canada)

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, March 28, 2016

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

If you want to keep up with my wide-ranging reading list about women and speaking in real time, follow The Eloquent Woman on Facebook where these links are posted all week long--or just head here on Mondays, where I summarize them all for you. Either way, you'll be expanding your understanding of women and speaking:

Friday, March 25, 2016

19 famous humorous speeches by women

They say women can't be funny, and like so many other myths, that one is designed to keep women silent and separate them from this wonderful speaking gift. Fortunately, these 19 women ignored that myth and forged ahead with these famous and funny speeches we've collected in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women. They come from politicians, professional comedians, scientists, entrepreneurs, actors, authors, and activists, showing the full range of how to use humor in public speaking. Stay tuned next week, when we dig further into the concept that women can't be funny, and how that limits women as speakers. But for now, enjoy some laughs courtesy of these famous speeches. At the links, you'll find video, audio, and/or text, where available, along with tips you can use in your own public speaking:
  1. Ann Richards's 1988 keynote to the Democratic National Convention brought the house down with her humor and well-timed jokes--including one about being a rare woman keynoter.
  2. Bella Abzug's parody of an American Express ad was used to deliver a serious message about the time when women couldn't have their own credit cards, an issue she fought as a Member of Congress.
  3. Carol Burnett's live-audience Q&A sessions shows this comic as the improvisational adept that she is, but here, she's playing off the audience in live sessions she held at every taping of her popular television variety show.
  4. Caroline Kennedy's eulogy for Senator Ted Kennedy used a quiet, wry humor throughout this heartfelt speech to reflect their relationship and his outsize personality in a winning way.
  5. Diane Kelly's TEDMED talk on what we don't know about penis anatomy had the audience in inadvertent stitches throughout. A scientist, she deadpans with ease and assured the audience that yes, she *has* heard all the jokes about penises...then tells us something new she discovered.
  6. Weight Watchers founder Jean Nidetch told the story of her epiphany about "thin" as a joke on herself, with a lesson embedded: She shared this tale again and again in talks to Weight Watchers groups and general audiences to share her own self-deception in a clever way that anyone can relate to.
  7. Julie Andrews's 1964 Golden Globes acceptance speech is charming, perfectly correct--and a nose-tweaking of a studio head who didn't cast her in a big role, allowing her to take the role that led to this top award. It's so quickly done, you might miss it, but for her own double-take at the end. The audience of top stars certainly understood it.
  8. Lucille Ball at her Variety Club tribute, a lifetime achievement award, was a serious acknowledgment of her slapstick comedy success and her role as a top television executive. The jokes are there, but used with care amidst her heartfelt response to the tribute, an exercise in judicious use of humor.
  9. Margaret Edson's 2008 Smith College commencement speech is not only remarkable because it's extemporaneous, but because of her sly humor. Pay attention to her use of humor in the speech's acknowledgments, a staple of commencement speeches that, in her hands, became the opposite of rote and boring.
  10. Margaret Thatcher's "Iron Lady" speech, a serious speech that earned her the nickname, nonetheless includes humor as a tool to barb, parry, and thrust her way through a pointed delivery.
  11. Mary Roach's TED talk on 10 things you didn't know about orgasm sees the speaker laughing along with the audience when her topic gets uncomfortable or odd--but she moves on. Here, deadpan delivery and basing her talk in research helps balance the humor.
  12. Maya Angelou's eulogy for Coretta Scott King keeps the funeral from being cloying by sharing personal secrets of her friendship with King, including telling dirty jokes to make her laugh--which got a laugh from the mourners.
  13. Melissa Rivers's tribute to Joan Rivers, honoring the comedy queen after her unexpected death, was a heartfelt tribute that reflected precisely how her mother would have acted at such an event--with humor.
  14. Mindy Kaling at Harvard Law School's Class Day is a skillful study in self-deprecating humor, not something everyone can pull off, but highly effective here.
  15. Nellie McClung's "Should Men Vote?" took an earnest, often humorless cause--votes for women--and turned the tables by staging a debate using men's words about women's suffrage to skewer them and consider whether men should vote. Hilarious!
  16. Norah Ephron's commencement address at Wellesley College demonstrates humor in the hands of the master screenwriter. She skewers her class, her college, and society on the way to sharing important advice with the graduates.
  17. Phyllis Diller on comedy at the 92nd Street Y is a case study in precise timing--she aimed for 12 jokes a minute--in this not-quite-a-lecture that shares insights into how comedy is created from a true artist.
  18. Stella Young's "I'm not your inspiration" uses a big dose of humor to dispel the myth that every disabled person is inspiring by definition, poking fun and holes in her audience members' assumptions.
  19. Rep. Terri Sewell's remarks at the 50th anniversary of the march on Selma relates a funny story about an iconic civil rights "foot soldier" who marched on that historic day--and made President Barack Obama laugh. It's a great example of using levity to make a point on a serious anniversary.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

4 effective ways to read a letter as part of your speech

President Obama is among the speakers who share letters as part of their speeches, but you don't have to be a world leader to read a letter from the stage. It happens in all sorts of speaking engagements. Sometimes, the letter is from a speaker or participant who couldn't be present, or the chair of the meeting wants to share a message from a celebrity or dignitary to open the session. A speaker might read a few letters to convey, in their own voices, viewpoints from several types of people she's talking about. A politician might read a letter from a fan or potential voter. A history talk might include a famous letter, or an obscure one that sums up a point. And any speaker might reach for the letters of some great observer of humanity to make a special point, phrased in a pithy way.

It might seem as if reading letters as part of your speech would be the easiest of the speaker's tasks, but it often trips up moments that should be smoothly delivered. Here are some tips I've gleaned for speakers who wish to incorporate a letter into a speech or remarks:
  1. Find letters that create a brief, vivid picture: Just as every speech has a job to do, don't introduce a letter unless it serves a distinct purpose in your speech that your own words can't do as well. Try Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience as one potential source.
  2. Do look at the letter: Sometimes, speakers who've memorized their talks also memorize the letters they're "reading" to the audience--then forget to look at the letter in their hand. If you're going to hold a letter, read from it, rather than from memory--otherwise, you create the disconcerting appearance of someone who can read without glancing at the page. Prefer to quote from the letter without actually reading? Then don't hold a piece of paper to convey that it's a letter, and use your words to introduce it as such.
  3. Read a handwritten version: Downton Abbey actor Lesley Nicol, who played cook Mrs. Patmore in the period drama, shares a tip about reading letters you can borrow from the program. It came up in a podcast interview about her last day of shooting on the program, and whether she'd taken a souvenir from the set: "I think Hugh [Bonneville] took one of the letters, which is a very good idea, 'cause that would have been thrown away. And those letters were always beautifully handwritten by somebody, so that when you read it, it would be like reading the actual letter." Reading a handwritten version will help you slow down, so we can hear what's in the letter.
  4. Don't feel compelled to imitate the voice of the letter writer: Some speakers I've worked with turn actor-like when reading letters, aiming for the accent and other speaking styles of the writer. But there's no need for you to turn ventriloquist or mimic. If something about the writer is important--that she is from the South, or spoke in a British accent--just say so as you introduce the letter you are about to read.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by adm)

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

If you want to keep up with my wide-ranging reading list about women and speaking in real time, follow The Eloquent Woman on Facebook where these links are posted all week long--or just head here on Mondays, where I summarize them all for you. Either way, you'll be expanding your understanding of women and speaking:

Friday, March 18, 2016

Famous Speech Friday: Hillary Clinton answers a tough question

"A speech doesn't have to be long!" said fellow speaker coach Peter Botting when he sent this video my way. It's a tough question posed by a Member of Congress during a 2009 hearing in which Hillary Clinton was testifying during her tenure as U.S. Secretary of State.

We've talked here before about how answers are little speeches unto themselves, when done well. And lots of readers have posed questions to me about how to handle tough questions, or questions that are "gotcha" questions, attempts to trap the speaker. Here, Clinton--who is being asked whether the United States's aid to foreign countries includes support for reproductive health and specifically abortion--shows you just how it works. The exchange is brief enough for me to give you the transcript in full:
Representative Christopher Smith: My question: Is the Obama Administration seeking in any way to weaken or overturn pro-life laws and policies in African and Latin American Countries, either directly or through multilateral organizations including and especially the United Nations, African Union or the OAS, or by way of funding NGOs like Planned Parenthood, and secondly, and so we can have total transparency, you know, as a former lawmaker, we always have definition pages when we write legislation, definitions do matter, does the United States definition of the term,"reproductive health" or "reproductive services" or "reproductive rights" include abortion? I yield to the distinguished gentleman. 
Secretary Hillary Clinton: Congressman, I deeply respect your passionate concern and views, which you have championed and advocated for over the course of your public career. We obviously have a profound disagreement. When I think about the suffering that I have seen, of women around the world, I've been in hospitals in Brazil where half the women were enthusiastically and joyfully greeting new babies and the other half were fighting for their lives against botched abortions. I've been in African countries where 12 and 13 year old girls are bearing children. I have been in Asian countries where the denial of family planning consigns women to lives of oppression and hardship. So we have a very fundamental disagreement. And it is my strongly held view that you are entitled to advocate and everyone who agrees with you should be free to do so anywhere in the world. And so are we.

We happen to think that family planning is an important part of women's health. And reproductive health includes access to abortion, that I believe should be safe, legal and rare. I spent a lot of my time trying to bring down the rate of abortions and it has been my experience that good family planning and good medical care brings down the rate of abortion. Keeping women and men in ignorance and denied the access to service actually increases the rate of abortion. During my time as First Lady, I helped to create the Campaign Against Teenage Pregnancy. And while we were working to provide good information, access to contraception and decision making that would enable young women to protect themselves and say no, the rate of teen pregnancy went down. I'm sad to report that after an administration of eight years that undid so much of the good work, the rate of teenage pregnancy is going up.

So we disagree. And we are now an administration that will protect the rights of women including their rights to reproductive health care.
It's a Q&A that is just shy of 3.5 minutes in total, and it's up to 2.7 million views on YouTube at this writing, as much as a major TED talk. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Acknowledge where you do and do not agree: Why not be clear about what everyone's thinking? Clinton underscores, at the top and bottom of this answer, the fact that she disagrees with the premise of the question--a good tactic for responding to a leading question, one that takes the "gotcha" out of the gotcha question. Note that, in doing so, she is careful to point out that those who disagree are free to express those views freely--she's clear that, in putting her view forward, she isn't stifling anyone else's opportunity to disagree. It's a confident, clear stance.
  • Don't match an anxiety-provoking question with an equally anxious answer: The congressman's question, while respectfully delivered, is formulated as a classic "gotcha" question. In effect, it asks Clinton, "Can you testify truthfully that you are not doing this?" In her calm, non-anxious response, she aligns herself with the question by saying "we disagree" rather than many other options she might have chosen. If you don't let the question make you visibly anxious, your answer will carry more weight. Answering need not mean agreement, even though many speakers assume that to answer means they must agree. Not so!
  • Use "I" statements to speak for yourself: She is, after all, giving testimony, so it's appropriate for Clinton to speak about what she has observed around the world. Doing so with "I" statements avoids any hint of attempting to overstate agreement with her viewpoint, while subtly sharing the views of affected women via her observations.
Watch the video here or below.

 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Smart self-promotion: 6 must-haves on your speaker page

Forget "shameless self-promotion." What's smart self-promotion for a public speaker?

Whether you create a speaker page on your own website or blog, or on another platform, it's helpful to have a place you can point people to when they inquire about you as a speaker--or when you are pitching a proposal for a talk.

Showing organizers and committees that you are an available, experienced, and interested speaker will make all the difference in your ability to get more and better speaking gigs. Here are my priorities for your speaker page:
  1. Video of yourself speaking before a live audience: I don't care whether this is video from your friend's iPhone, or professionally shot video, but such a video (or several) should be prominently featured. This is the single most-sought-after item on the list of conference organizers, since it's an easy way to see how you deliver a talk. Organizers love known quantities, but if they don't know you, video's the next best thing. Again, they're interested in you, not the quality of the production, so don't let amateur video hold you back. However, do not, as one speaker I know did, hire an audience to look uniformly enthralled with your talk on the video--we can tell fake from real audiences. If you've given a TED or TEDMED or TEDx talk, that video is pure gold for your speaker page. Don't have any such video? Get a friend to record you giving a talk, then add a video with a live audience once you have it.
  2. Photos of you, both portraits and in action on stage: Right behind video come photos. Share an appealing portrait photo, and get photos of yourself on stage. Again, sometimes your conferences will handle this for you, and your job will be to get permission and credit the photographer on your page. But if not, put your friends into action. Always ask after a gig whether the organizers had photos taken, and whether you can use and share them.
  3. A biography, focused on your speaking and your expertise: Take the best version of your biography, emphasizing the full range of your expertise, and edit it to include your speaker characteristics. Are you experienced at keynotes? Workshops? Lectures? Adept at audience interaction and Q&A? Comfortable on stage and in a variety of formats? A TED speaker, or a speaker who's taken the stage in impressive halls and venues? Share enough detail that an organizer can get a sense of what you have done and what you like to do as a speaker. One paragraph about yourself as a speaker will do wonders to your existing bio. 
  4. An up-to-date list of your speaking engagements: This will be easier if you update it promptly. Include the location, date, sponsoring event or organization, title of your talk, and any other important details: Were you the keynote? A featured speaker? Include links to the conference or event page that lists you.
  5. Make sure your list of speaking gigs includes social buzz: For many conferences, demonstrating that you bring an audience with you--whether online or in the room--helps tip the balance when selecting speakers. How did the audience react? Put the evidence on this page, and link to announcements about your talk, transcripts and video, photos, Storify summaries of tweets during your talk, and other social media commentary. The social-media links aren't to give you a Kardashian-style buzz. Sharing audience commentary--which, these days, is most often shared on social media--offers organizers another independent source of information about you as a speaker.
  6. Text, transcripts, blog posts, slides, or talk notes: Read Why and how you should publish your speeches, then make sure your speaker page has links to your published text, transcripts, and any blog posts, slides, or talk notes you've published related to each speech. With slides, don't forget that you can post them on SlideShare, LinkedIn, and Pinterest...but always make it easy for organizers and embed them right on your speaker page.
Finally, your speaker page is only as good as your updating skills. Keep this info current!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by TEDxTaipei)

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

If you want to keep up with my wide-ranging reading list about women and speaking in real time, follow The Eloquent Woman on Facebook where these links are posted all week long--or just head here on Mondays, where I summarize them all for you. Either way, you'll be expanding your understanding of women and speaking:

Friday, March 11, 2016

11 famous speeches by women in engineering & technology

Women are underrepresented in engineering and technology, and when it comes to speaking, often find themselves at conferences with no or few women speakers. That makes these famous speeches by women who have been leaders in technology companies, government agencies, and academic institutions all the more valued. Not surprisingly, most of them tackle gender bias and other kinds of bias head on. They all come from The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women, and at each link, you'll find a post about that specific speech, with video where available, and tips you can use in your own public speaking:
  1. Former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz told graduates to "embrace failure" in her 2012 commencement address, embracing her own high profile firing to inspire the new grads.
  2. Entrepreneur Cindy Wu used a 3-minute pitch at Y Combinator's Demo Days to net $1.2 million for her project, a crowdfunding site for scientific research that wouldn't otherwise get funding.
  3. Bartz's 2010 keynote at the Grace Hopper Celebration was one of those gripping talks where the speaker tosses her notes at the start, gets personal, and pulls off a masterful speech.
  4. Keila Banks, age 13, gave the keynote at OSCON 2015 and defied the audience to define "undefinable me." She codes, cheerleads, and does much more.
  5. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg got her "lean in" movement started with a commencement speech at Barnard College. Her talk made a point of resonating with all ages of graduates in the audience.
  6. It was up to celebrity interviewer Maria Klawe, Microsoft board member and dean of Harvey Mudd College, to correct Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella when he suggested that women in tech trust in karma rather than go after salary increases. She was interviewing him onstage at a women in computing conference.
  7. Pioneer and engineer Grace Hopper, in later years, started giving demos anyone could understand about nanoseconds. She used lengths of wire to let each audience member get a sense of the new measure, making the foreign more familiar.
  8. Engineer Sheila Widnall, whose focus was aeronautics, told it like it is to women engineers in a frank talk that called out sexist behavior and gender bias. If you've ever wondered how to do that, she puts fierce language to the task.
  9. Dame Stephanie Shirley told the TED conference that you can tell ambitious women by the shape of their heads--flat, from having been patted and patronized. Then she told the audience how she got around, over, and through that to succeed as a tech entrepreneur.
  10. Danielle George gave the Royal Institution's annual Christmas lecture on hacking your home. The radio and microwave communications engineer was only the sixth woman to do so, and claimed two more firsts: She was the first engineer, and the first person to give the lectures while 8 months pregnant.
  11. Carly Fiorina spoke just two weeks after the 9/11 attacks, in a speech on leadership in the knowledge economy which talked about the power of diversity and, at the end, extolled the accomplishments of the Islamic world. Given when she was CEO of Hewlett-Packard, with employees--including Muslim employees--all over the world, it was used against her in her presidential bid this year.
Need more coaching on how to be a better panel moderator? Order the new ebook The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 and available in many formats, it's a great back-pocket coach to take on stage with you in your smartphone or tablet. Find more tips on public speaking on The Eloquent Woman blog.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

3 smart ways to space out--not cram in--your slide content

If highway signs looked like your slides...
When you plan your slide deck's content--particularly if you are in the habit of outlining the presentation within your slide-making program--you can easily fall into a content trap.

I'm talking about the tendency too many presenters have of cramming loads of content on each slide, and continuing to speak in front of a slide for which the content has already been covered. It's as if your thinking was "Let's leave no slide space uncovered, and let's be sure that a content slide is viewed at all times, whether it's relevant to what I'm saying right now or not."

But that would be to assume this is a strategy. Instead, I find a lot of clients just haven't given any thought to spacing out the content so that the audience has a prayer of absorbing it. It's the slide equivalent of talking really, really fast. Jam in the info! Keep going! No pauses to think! That might benefit the nervous speaker who's just trying to get through the presentation. Maybe. But it won't benefit you if the audience can't take away anything meaningful. Try these three ways to space out your slide content instead:
  1. Declutter individual slides: A good rule is one thought per slide--but not one slide per thought. Think about that for a minute. In other words, some thoughts should be expressed verbally, but not on a slide. And no slide should have 3, 5, or 10 thoughts crowded together. Let us consider each of the thoughts in your presentation on their own. This, more than anything, will help you declutter slides. Yes, you may end up with more slides, which is a different issue. But at least, then, we will be able to follow them.
  2. Differentiate your narration from the visuals: A rule of thumb often used in TED talks is avoiding the verbal repetition of the words on the slide--otherwise known as "don't read it to me." A common example would be quotations. If you wish to display the utterances of Albert Einstein or Mother Teresa, go right ahead. But don't also read them to us. Your audience can read, and we'd rather do that while you explain the significance of this quote to your thesis. You may find that going through a draft presentation with this rule in mind helps you to eliminate slides. It also means you can't use your slides as cue cards, a tactic to which your audience is savvy.
  3. Move to a slide without content when you're done with the previous slide: So many business presentations hang on one slide until the speaker is ready for the next bit of content--but long after what's on this slide has been covered. A better solution? A "blank" slide, devoid of content, against which you will simply be speaking. This means your audience won't have to multitask. Instead, the focus will be on what you are saying, right where you want it. If you've been doing this with black or white slides already, take another step and make your "blank" slide a graphic pattern like the one above. It's pleasant to view, but won't compete with your words--and it's less jarring a switch, visually. Your slide template can easily be adjusted to use one of the full-slide background patterns for this purpose,
If you're adjusting to this approach, practice is the key, particularly if slides have been your cue cards. Once you're comfortable with this approach, however, you'll find your presentations more engaging and effective.

Take a look at this good example of a clean, clear talk by psychiatrist and mindfulness researcher Judson Brewer, one of the speakers I had the pleasure of working with at TEDMED 2015. You'll see a good mix of thoughts disconnected from slides, clear technical slides, and "blank" slides that use a pattern that isn't a big break from the format.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by David Matthew Parker)

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

If you want to keep up with my wide-ranging reading list about women and speaking in real time, follow The Eloquent Woman on Facebook where these links are posted all week long--or just head here on Mondays, where I summarize them all for you. Either way, you'll be expanding your understanding of women and speaking:

Friday, March 4, 2016

39 famous speeches by women to open #WomensHistoryMonth

When you have a treasure trove as large as The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Women's Speeches, you can use it as a lens on the topic of women and public speaking. For Women's History Month, I've collected 39 speeches that occurred 50 years ago or earlier from the Index, and the group demonstrates interesting themes in the history of women and speaking.

You'll notice a big gap--nearly 300 years--between the earliest speech in the Index by Queen Elizabeth I in 1588 and Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" speech in 1851, and that's no mistake: For many of those years, women in many cultures were forbidden to speak in public. "History has many themes," wrote Kathleen Hall Jamieson. "One of them is that women should be quiet."

It was still rare for women to speak publicly in the 1800s and the following decades, but more publicly acceptable in Western cultures for them to speak about issues like temperance, slavery and religion. That's what makes some of the Index speeches from this era so remarkable, because they ignored social conventions to speak about lynching, war crimes, free love, anti-war themes, and yes, votes for women, the right that would help women gain authority to speak on other issues. Later in this collection, you'll see women enter new spheres: politics, science, human rights and television. This grouping from The Eloquent Woman Index includes women speakers from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, England, Ireland, Poland, and the United States.

Dip into this collection and share it with other women and girls. Clicking through the links will take you to text, video or audio (where available), along with what you can learn as a public speaker from these famous speeches. I've updated this list to include posts on the Index through 2016.

1588: Elizabeth I's speech to the troops at Tilbury, a rare battleground speech by a great queen. We have three versions of it, none of them from her own time, so this one likely was rewritten and it's unlikely she actually said these stirring words.

1851: Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" is moving--but also was rewritten by others after its delivery, including its most famous line.

1866: Clara Barton's Andersonville testimony to the U.S. Congress is bald, gorey and honest on the topic of conditions for prisoners of war, and sparked a rare speaking tour for this battleground nurse in the Civil War.

1871: Victoria Woodhull's "Principles of Social Freedom" was well ahead of its time with its advocacy of free love, as was the speaker, who also ran for president of the United States.

1879: Sarah Winnemucca's San Francisco lectures brought the plight of Native Americans to the public.

1873: Susan B. Anthony's "Is it a Crime for a U.S. Citizen to Vote?" was a seminal speech in the battle for U.S. women's suffrage.

1909: Ida B. Wells "This Awful Slaughter" came at the first convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, taking on lynching directly at a time when it was rarely spoken of publicly.

In the same year in Ireland, Countess Markievicz shared her vision of the ideal woman--one that flew in the face of traditional views of women and their roles and abilities.

1911: Rose Schneiderman's speech on the Triangle fire was itself fiery, a speech about the poor working conditions that led to the deaths of so many women garment workers.

In the same year, Marie Curie's 1911 Nobel lecture--for her second Nobel Prize--was careful to take full credit for her contributions to her science, as men who spoke about her did not. 

1912: Mother Jones speaks to striking West Virginia miners in her trademark "hell-raiser" style, giving voice to their working conditions. The only reason we have the text is because the mine owners hired a stenographer to take it down, hoping to prove Jones was a violent danger.

1914: Nellie McClung's "Should Men Vote?" tweaked the nose of Canada's male politicians, turning around their words about why women should not get the vote in a funny mock debate that turned the tide for women's votes in that country.

1915: Jutta Bojsen-Møller's victory for votes speech came after Denmark gave the vote to women, summing up the struggle poetically. Great perspective and a great metaphor here.

1916: Helen Keller's "Strike Against War" reflected her pacifist views during World War I, an unpopular stance. And yes, this blind, deaf, nearly mute woman was a public speaker.

In the same year, journalist Ida Tarbell's "Industrial Idealism" speech was a rare speaking circuit lecture by a woman--who was sometimes advertised as "the woman who talks like a man."

1920: Nancy Astor's first speech in Parliament was the British institution's first "maiden speech" by a woman. This first woman MP more than held her own in a debate that began to change history.

1924: Juliette Gordon Low's Girl Scouts speech reflects the changing times of her day, including voting as one of the Scout's civic responsibilities.

1927: Aimee Semple McPherson's "speech in a speakeasy" was on one of the safer topics for women giving speeches. But this early televangelist did anything but play it safe to bring her message to the masses.

1928: Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" lectures took the time to parse why we have so few women writers, let alone speakers. These lectures became an inspiring book.

1903: Annie Oakley's libel cases and courtroom speeches were to defend her reputation, a one-woman effort that turned around a smear campaign.

1913: Emmeline Pankhurst's "Freedom or Death" explained this British suffragist's view of the stakes for women's votes--a more militant and even violent view than that of her U.S. sisters.

1935: Amelia Earhart's "A woman's place in science" brings radio into the picture. She broadcast this talk to encourage women to be consumers, careerists and researchers in the sciences.

1940: Eleanor Roosevelt's convention-saving speech, famous for its phrase "no ordinary time," kept her husband from losing the Democratic nomination, no small feat in this contentious conference.

1941: Eleanor Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor radio address came the day before her husband's more famous speech on the attacks, and sought to prepare the American people for what was to come.

1943: Dame Enid Lyon's "Strike a Human Heart" speech reflected the unique perspective of Australia's first female parliamentarian.

1944: Huda Shaarawi's speech at the 1944 Arab Feminist Conference called for women to get their political rights, and dispelled the myth that Islam and feminism were incompatible.

1947: Novelist and scholar Dorothy Sayers lectured on the "Lost Tools of Learning" in postwar Britain, making the case for a classic education--one evident even in her mystery novels.

1949: Eleanor Roosevelt on the UN Declaration on Human Rights shared her life's great work with women college students, and raises the curtain on the endless meetings needed to achieve this diplomatic tour de force.

1950: Margaret Chase Smith's "Declaration of Conscience" was a rare defiance of McCarthyism and communist witch-hunts--delivered on the U.S. Senate floor with Sen. Joseph McCarthy in attendance. A brave and important speech.

1951: Evita Perón's Renunciamento, in which she declined calls for her to become Argentina's vice president, came in the form of a radio address that reflected her personal approach to public speaking.

1961: Weight Watchers founder Jean Nidetch often told this story about her own epiphany about her weight, and what "thin" meant.

1962: Frances Perkins on the roots of Social Security was a lookback speech from the first female Secretary of Labor in the U.S., who was present for Rose Schneiderman's Triangle Fire speech, a lasting influence in her own efforts to help the working class.

1962: Jackie Kennedy's televised tour of the White House took a relatively new medium and made it her own. This wasn't just a tour, but a tour de force.

1963: Rachel Carson's "A New Chapter to Silent Spring" brought her message of environmental dangers to the gardeners of America, a major speech given despite her public speaking fears.

1963: Julia Child's "The French Chef" cooking demos took television by storm, giving a woman an unusual platform for extemporaneous speaking-while-demonstrating.

1964: Fannie Lou Hamer's convention committee testimony says out loud what black Americans went through in the struggle for civil rights. Her testimony didn't get her a seat as a convention delegate, but did reach a much wider audience.

Also in 1964, Lady Bird Johnson's whistlestop tour took place in town after town before U.S. southerners angry at her husband's signing of the civil rights legislation. Grace under pressure doesn't begin to describe it.

And in the same year, actor Julie Andrews's acceptance speech at the Golden Globes was short, sweet--and saucy, as she tweaked the nose of a studio executive who'd turned her down for a big role.

1966: Dolores Huerta's speech at the Delano Grape Strike march let the world know that "the workers are on the rise."
    There are many more--and more recent--famous speeches by women in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Women's Speeches, and we add more nearly every week. Please share this unique resource on women and public speaking!

    Thursday, March 3, 2016

    Gloria Steinem's public-speaking "Road"

    My Life on the Road, Gloria Steinem's new bestselling book, is part memoir, part travelogue. She was an early role model for me as a writer and a feminist, so I'm delighting in this behind-the-scenes look at her life--not least because it's studded with gem after gem about public speaking, speechwriting, and speaking up for women. It's the first selection in actor Emma Watson's feminist book club, Our Shared Shelf, and I think it belongs on your public-speaking shelf, too...even if her recent remarks on the U.S. presidential political campaign annoyed you. Maybe especially if they did. You'll find a nuanced portrait of a woman who has paved the way for you far more than you may know--particularly in speaking.

    Early on, Steinem admits:
    Take public speaking: I spent all of my twenties and early thirties avoiding it....Then in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the editors I'd been freelancing for were gigantically uninterested in the explosion of feminism across the country. I finally got angry enough and desperate enough to partner with a woman who was much braver than I, and to travel to campuses and community groups. Over time and far from home, I discovered something I might never otherwise have learned: people in the same room understand and empathize with each other in a way that isn't possible on the page or screen.
    Gradually, I became the last thing on earth I would ever have imagined: a public speaker and a gatherer of groups. And this brought an even bigger reward: public listening.
    Steinem, by now a stellar speaker and listener, uses this book to share the stories she's collected over the years. (One chapter winningly shares stories she's had from the thousands of taxicab drivers who have ferried her to airports all over the world.) Her introduction tells us she thinks our stories are important, too, saying, "If I could, I would leave an open space for your story on every page." And her stories show that she has been a fortunate witness to so much history, including the history of modern American public speaking. Among her many tales, she relates:
    •  Witnessing the March on Washington and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, as a journalist, and marching alongside an older black woman who pointed out to her the absence of women speakers on the program. "Mrs. Greene's daughter rolled her eyes as her mother told me about complaining to her state delegation leader. He had countered that Marian Anderson and Mahalia Jackson were singing. Singing isn't speaking, she told him in no uncertain terms."
    • How she partnered with Dorothy Pitman Hughes to speak jointly, a black woman and a white woman who wound up drawing more diverse and larger audiences as a result of their teamwork. There was a more practical rationale for the pairing: "we could each share our different but parallel experiences, and she could take over if I froze or flagged." It's still a great tactic today.
    • So much wisdom about audiences, Q&A, and speaking up in public settings, based on Steinem's hundreds of lectures and appearances. "I've also noticed that, if an audience is half women and half men, women worry about the reaction of the men around them. But in one that is two-thirds women and one-third men, women respond as they would on their own, and men hear women speaking honestly." It's true as well, she says, when people of color are the majority in the audience. She covers handling hostile questions, and that magic moment where one audience member answers another's question, an excellent sign of engagement.
    • From a speechwriter's perspective, there are many gems, including time spent with Ted Sorensen, President Kennedy's speechwriter; participating in a frustrating meeting with presidential candidate and Senator Eugene McCarthy, who didn't want to give the speechwriters anything new and kept asking another aide to give them quotes he'd said before; and her own speechwriting for presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm for a key televised speech.
    At one point, this formerly scared speaker describes the breadth of her now-extensive public speaking skills:
    I've spoken in backyards to a dozen neighbors, at huge concerts of rock and grunge bands, at teas in quiet living rooms, on flatbed trucks with bullhorns, and on foot while door-to-door canvassing. Once the women's movement was really underway, we sometimes found ourselves speaking at marches in Washington of more than a million people. I recommend all these tasks, high and low. 
    Women of all ages also will appreciate hearing the many, many times Steinem second-guessed herself, didn't speak up when discriminated against, and learned over time to respond and stand up for herself. These are great lessons from a great woman, and you'll enjoy hearing her stories.

    (Photos: 1971 Esquire Magazine Image by Dan Wynn and 2014 Women Of Vision image by Dan Bagan, both of Steinem and Hughes, then and now)