Friday, December 30, 2016

The 10 most important speeches by women in 2016

I've been asked many times to rank what I think were the most important speeches of the year by women speakers, but this is the first time I've turned myself to that task. And what I found in compiling this 2016 list was a mix of themes that are familiar to any woman who engages in public speaking.

2016 was a year of big defeats and stumbles: Five of the women whose speeches made this list were defeated, removed from office, or widely criticized. And yet they spoke up. They achieved power, or came close to doing so, and lost power or reputation, or both. And yet they spoke up. The optimist would say they've made enough progress to have the chance to speak, even in failure, but I think we may hope for more than that. These women's speeches were important despite the failure, and in many cases, they used the speech to make sure their views were noted and counted. In the world of women leading nations, we took 3 steps backward this year (U.S., Brazil, South Korea) and a step forward (England); together, those women leaders make up half of this top-10 list with 5 speeches between them. 

It also was, for women speakers, a year of speaking truth to power, be that power an opponent, society at large, an elected body, or an industry. Those who did so often used a speaking opportunity to witness an ignored truth. I am particularly struck with how many of them called out misogyny this year, plainly and clearly. That didn't end the practice, but helped their audiences understand what was going on. We are at a seismic moment of women using their voices against sexist treatment of women, and that's perhaps the most enduring trend I see from this year. 

Whether you agree or disagree with them is not the point: They have the right to say their piece. As classics scholar Mary Beard has noted, "It is still the case that when listeners hear a female voice, they don’t hear a voice that connotes authority; or rather they have not learned how to hear authority in it..." So let's give these women a listen, shall we? 

Each of these speeches is among the more than 200 speeches collected in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women. At the links, you will find video and text (where available) for each speech, as well as some history, analysis, and tips any speaker can glean from these important speeches. They come from U.S., South Korean, Brazilian, British, and Australian speakers. I hope you find these speeches as fascinating as did I this year:
  1. Hillary Clinton's U.S. election concession speech, given despite her eventual nearly 3 million-vote victory in the U.S. popular vote, is still seen as controversial by her supporters;  her detractors found numerous ways to try to gender it and diminish it. But this speech drew some lines in the sand, and contains a special message to young girls who watched the possible election of the first female U.S. president.
  2. Michelle Obama's "enough is enough" speech about misogyny in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign was a heart-stopper and equally important in its message to women and girls: The bad behavior was noticed, and not normal. As with her Democratic convention speech, it was all about the Republican candidate--but never mentioned him by name. That's a powerful tool for any speaker.
  3. Park Geun-Hye's pre-impeachment speech was one of a few unusually public--and failed--efforts to forestall her eventual impeachment. Perhaps this one was chosen to make sure she got the chance to speak for herself in an important way, since it contains a clear personal message from the woman president deemed to be "neuter" and "not a woman" by some.
  4. Dilma Rousseff's post-impeachment speech also ensured that she had the chance to counter the propaganda against her, and encouraged women to continue their fight for representation. This speech marked her second smackdown by a coup, and gave as good as it got, describing the hatred and misogyny behind what was happening. 
  5. Theresa May's first Prime Minister's questions signaled that Britain's second female PM could hold her own in the no-holds-barred atmosphere of this weekly session with the Parliament, the first of many to come. Her taunt of the opposition party leader used his own words to create a sticky metaphor and deployed it smoothly.
  6. Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination for president in an historic moment for America, and a revealing one for this speaker. If you're an introvert, this big speech is well worth a study. Well-written and well-delivered, it is indeed a presidential speech.
  7. Melania Trump's Republican National Convention speech got attention at first as a novel speech from a beginning speaker, and later for having plagiarized its content from none other than Michelle Obama. The furor and the error offer lessons for all women speakers, getting this now-First Lady of the U.S. off to a rocky speaking start.
  8. Linda Burney's maiden speech in the Australian Parliament wasn't just important because she's that country's first indigenous MP. She also used indigenous song, objects, language, and traditions--as well as strong words on racism--to make what is, today, a one-of-a-kind statement. But I think you'll see more women's speeches get creative in this way going forward.
  9. Beyoncé's speech on fashion and racism, given the night the fashion industry gave her "icon" status, described how it felt to have been rejected by every design house at the start of her music career...and thanked the family members who hand-sewed her costumes instead. I've heard many people wonder, not in a nice way, why her mother designs so many of her outfits. This subtle and powerful speech explains the racism behind that, the only decision left to the family.
  10. Lionel Shriver's cultural appropriation speech used a keynote at a writers' conference to cast aside her stated topic for a diatribe on political correctness, and to argue for the white author's right to appropriate other cultures. It wasn't popular at the conference, thanks in no small part to its mean-spirited tone, but it was famous, covered around the world. It is an example of the backlash against equality movements and identity politics so prevalent today--in effect, the opposite of numbers 8 and 9 on this list. I suspect it is a bellwether for more such speeches to come.
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Our top 10 posts on women & public speaking for 2016

On the blog, the posts you read the most included uncomfortable moments, skills to build, stretch goals, myths, and easy but oft-forgotten tips to make you a more eloquent and comfortable as a speaker. Enjoy the most popular posts from the year just past:
  1. My 5 favorite fixes for your public speaking are deceptively simple. But since most speakers breeze right past them, these are still rare reminders of what you need to do. The bonus: You'll see improvements if you try them because, um, they work.
  2. Public speaking save: 8 ways to say "I don't know" gracefully answers one of the great challenges of Q&A: The question for which you don't have the answer. And I don't include "I'll get back to you" on this list.
  3. Smart self-promotion: Six must-haves on your speaker page reminds you to have a speaker page, and how to populate it. Trust me, you'll get better speaking gigs.
  4. 6 myths about slides that are holding you back as a speaker are oft-repeated, widely believed excuses. But they're not helping your presentation as much as you think they are. Find out what to do instead.
  5. The prostitute factor: Why we're not serious about women at conferences points out an open secret about conferences that do little to discourage prostitutes or sexist displays in the name of advertising or entertainment. And we wonder why it's tough to get women on the podium?
  6. Your signature talk: Create a talk or presentation that fits you like a glove is the antidote to that slide presentation anyone can give. Why not craft a speech or presentation that's yours alone?
  7. Let's stop tormenting speakers about these 4 normal qualities tackles some perfectly normal behaviors, from "ums" to over-gesturing, that aren't holding anyone back. Find out the truth here.
  8. New official guide to TED talks shares the 'secret:' It's all in your ideas took a look at TED's guide to creating that one-big-idea talk. It, too, busts some myths about these popular talks.
  9. Instead of wincing, 10 things to look for on the video of your talk shares the checklist I give to all my TEDMED and TEDx speakers once their videos are out. Ask yourself these 10 questions to glean more from your video.
  10. Blindspot: When it comes to women, how famous is famous? solved a conundrum I've noticed since starting this blog. It has real repercussions for how we see--and record--the words of women.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by redonion_TEDx)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, December 26, 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, December 23, 2016

Famous Speech Friday: Park Geun-Hye's pre-impeachment speech

The first woman to be elected president of South Korea, Park Geun-Hye also is the first woman to preside over a Northeast Asian nation, and the first elected woman head of state in East Asia. The first words used to describe her were "tough" and "battle-ready," but just a couple of months after taking office, this New York Times article noted questions being raised about her gender and its impact on her ability to lead:
Her mother was shot by an assassin. Her father, a staunchly anti-Communist dictator, was similarly killed. And she survived a vicious razor attack to the face....However, now that South Korea’s prized economy appears to be rattled by months of crisis, critics and supporters alike wonder if Ms. Park may have gone too far in presenting herself as an ultratough leader and what some now call the “neuter president.” Just as some critics accused Hillary Rodham Clinton of becoming more hawkish to win over skeptics, Ms. Park took office seemingly ready to do battle.
That 2013 Times article also notes that "Last month, the North said her 'venomous swish of skirt' was to blame for the tensions besetting the peninsula, a reference to an old Korean expression for women who forget their place." And it quotes one source saying directly, "She is not a woman," noting that that view of the "neuter president" was common. It's also a hardened ancient practice of dismissing women when they take power. Women who defied the ban on women speaking in public in ancient Greece and Rome, for example, were considered unable to bear children, or androgynous. In other words, being a powerful woman and expressing that power publicly neuters you. So this modern slur has ancient roots, persistent in their own way.

Park's impeachment stems from corruption charges that also involve speeches. A longtime friend of hers was, it is charged, allowed to improperly review and influence the content of Park's speeches and otherwise used the connection to enrich herself. Is Park guilty? As with Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's now-impeached president, I don't know enough to say,  but I can observe that this was one of several notable and successful attacks on women leaders in 2016. Park's impeachment was accompanied by several huge and highly organized protests in the streets, as well as a drawn-out impeachment process that, in the end, saw her staying reclusive rather than reaching out publicly. And that backlash, too, was gendered, with both men and women rushing to decry her as a failed woman president.

Before her presidential powers were reduced by the impeachment, and she began avoiding the public limelight, Park gave this speech offering to step down as president if the parliament came up with a plan to transfer power. It was a last-ditch effort to avoid impeachment, and it failed. It begins and ends with apologies to the nation--a custom in Asian cultures that seems foreign to westerners--but also includes these words in her own defense:
Dear nation, as I look back, the journey for the past 18 years that I have been on with the nation has been such a precious time. From the time I first entered politics in 1998 to this moment today as president, I have been making every effort for the sake of the country.
Not for one moment did I pursue my private gains, and I have so far lived without ever harboring the smallest selfish motive. The problems that have emerged are from projects that I thought were serving the public interest and benefiting the country. But since I failed to properly manage those around me, (everything that happened) is my large wrongdoing.
The speech, one of the shortest in our collection, was one of three public apologies Park has made. It almost seems to be the type of statement you'd make privately--unless, perhaps, she saw this as her last opportunity to make a public statement. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Make public your side of the story: Letting others define you, especially during a controversial moment, only gives away your power. And as Alice Walker said, "The most common way that people give away their power is by thinking they don't have any." That goes for a now-powerless president, and you.
  • A long speech is the privilege of those not under attack: Short remarks work in situations like this one, not least because of the burdens already on the speaker, but also because a longer speech under these conditions starts to feel defensive, something this speech avoids.
  • Speak for yourself: "Not for one moment did I pursue my private gains, and I have so far lived without ever harboring the smallest selfish motive." In a nation where she is expected to apologize again and again for even lesser issues, this sentence throws down the gauntlet in its own quiet way, making clear that she does not agree with any charge that she herself committed a crime. While not as in-your-face as Dilma Rousseff's speech under similar conditions, that sentence is a reminder that Park was not about to agree to everything hurled at her.
You can read a transcript of the speech here and watch the video here or below.


(White House photo by Pete Souza)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

You are not throwing away your shot: Don't load up that big speech

"I am not throwing away my...shot!" is now famous thanks to the soundtrack of Hamilton, but it's also a kind of theme song for a certain group of infrequent public speakers. You might be among them if you're an infrequent speaker viewing an upcoming speech as your one and only opportunity to say everything you have to say...prompting you to put all of that into your speech.

I sometimes call that the loaded-down Christmas tree approach: Too many ornaments. Too many threads. One speaker I worked with did this with a TEDx talk. She'd been asked to talk about the inspiration behind her new life's work, a new business she had started in the community, and why she felt it was giving back to her community. But in the talk she developed, we learned about her growing-up days, her decision to come out as a lesbian, her family history, her previous work in three different fields, and then the idea for the new venture...and it was just too much for one speech to bear. But she was truly convinced, infrequent speaker that she was, that this was her one and only shot to say everything meaningful to her.

Here's the problem: Your desire to express yourself is wonderful, but any speech would break down under all that weight. You're asking too much of your 15-minute or 20-minute talk. And you're also underestimating what a good, focused talk will do, which is to generate more invitations for you to speak, creating more opportunities for you to tell those stories you've been collecting.

Whether you are giving a TED-style talk or working in some other format, this is a good time to steal one of the great tenets of TED, that your talk should be about one big idea. Not 10. Not four. Just one. I like to comparing it to one beautiful jewel that you polish and feature for us to look at closely, rather than a gigantic necklace with many baubles. You'll be hard pressed to really talk about that one idea in 18 minutes or less, and we'll capture and retain more of your idea if there's just one for those of us in the audience to focus on.

Of course, infrequent speakers aren't the only ones with this struggle. You see it in government and corporate speeches that sound like a committee wrote them, with laundry lists of items embedded in them. Those speeches come from a different motivation, but have the same result. The infrequent speaker who doubts whether she will ever speak again is betting on a failure...and almost ensuring that it will happen. If you're feeling this way, try paring that talk down to one topic, and feel good that you have plenty of material for future speeches.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Scarlettaa)

Monday, December 19, 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, December 16, 2016

Famous Speech Friday: Dilma Rousseff's post-impeachment speech

We have so many expectations for our speeches, so many results for which we are hoping in advance--publicity, investors, votes, next steps, a crowd persuaded to our point of view. So it's rare to find the speaker who approaches a speech feeling as if she had nothing to lose, and with that, a willingness to risk all and say anything she wants.

Such a moment came in late August, after Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's first woman president, was impeached by that country's senate, ending her term leading the country. Depending on where you stood, that moment was the answer to corruption charges, or the coup by a parliament of an innocent leader. Is she guilty as charged? I don't know enough to say, but I can observe that this was one of several notable and successful attacks on women leaders in 2016. 

For Rousseff, it was a coup, and her statement following the senate decision minced no words. Following a short greeting, she said:
Today, the Federal Senate has made a decision which shall go down as one of history’s great injustices. The senators who voted for the impeachment have chosen to tear the Brazilian Constitution apart. They have decided to interrupt the mandate of a president who did not commit a responsibility crime. They have condemned an innocent person and executed a parliamentary coup.
And later, she described the coup in terms of how it would affect others:
The coup is against social and union movements and against those who fight for their rights in every sense of the word: the right to work and to protect labor laws, the right to fair retirement, the right to housing and land, the right to education, to health, to culture, the rights of young people in making their own future, the rights of black people, of indigenous people, of LGBT people, of women, the right to express oneself with no repression. The coup is against the people and against the nation. This coup is misogynistic. The coup is homophobic. The coup is racist. It is the imposition of a culture of intolerance, of prejudice, of violence.
At her 1970 trial
In between, she wove data about her popular votes, alluded to her jailing and torture under a previous military coup, and ended with these words of encouragement to Brazilian women:
To the Brazilian women, who covered me with flowers and affection, I ask them to believe they can. Future generations of Brazilian women will know that the first time that a woman became president in our country, sexism and misogyny reared their ugly faces. We have built a one-way road towards gender equality. Nothing is going to take us back.
What can you learn from this famous speech after an impeachment?
  • If they're going to put the spotlight on you, use it: No going gently into that good night for Rousseff, who'd seen enough power struggles to understand that she should speak for herself, even if the occasion was an ending not of her own choosing. Despite the outcome, there's no need to hide or be silent. She must have decided to make a strong showing, whatever happened, and this strong statement puts her marker firmly down.
  • It's not about you: Even if it feels like a referendum on you personally, know your role. If that was to represent a broader set of groups, speak to them and not just on behalf of yourself. Your message will go further that way. Reaching out specifically to women--in the same way Hillary Clinton later did in her concession speech in this year's election--also is a way of saying, "Don't let them try to shame you as well. Hold up your head with pride and move forward."
  • Remind us when history repeats itself: Seen in a larger context, Rousseff's impeachment is the second coup that attempted to put her down--but also could be, in its own way, just as dangerous as the first. If you've witnessed or experienced something similar to what you're speaking about today, lend us your perspective for a more layered and nuanced statement.



(Official photo of President Rousseff. Photo of her 1970 trial from the Records Administration, the National Archive of Brazil Ministério do Exército Arquivo do Exército Praça Duque de Caxias. Note the military dictatorship's judges hiding their faces from the camera.)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Group & 1:1 speaker training for TED talks and more: 4 case studies


If you have a group of executives and want them to do a better job as speakers, there are lots of ways to reach that goal...as my clients have proven in this quartet of case studies from coaching projects I've done over the past few years. In many cases, these coaching projects have included a mix of group and 1:1 coaching.

Each of these projects vary in approach, but the most effective approach starts with a workshop, so everyone learns the basics together. It's a good team-builder and way to ensure a basic level of understanding of the style. That's followed by 1:1 coaching to help them develop individual talks or presentations that meet their particular needs and goals. Take a look at these examples, just some of the group training projects I've conducted for corporate, nonprofit, and government clients. Want to discuss your training needs? Reach me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com.
  1. Coaching a cadre of health care conference speakers to give TED-quality talks: Supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, these 16 speakers each represented one local project in a national demonstration program on health quality in communities. Their challenge: To come to the conference marking the end of the program with a five-minute TED-style talk that shared a challenge or roadblock they'd faced along the way, and how they conquered it. They were the hit of the show, and each one has a talk they can use again and again. In this case study, we used an initial workshop; 1:1 coaching for all 16 speakers; and backstage coaching at the conference.
  2. Coaching a big group of tech evangelists: Mozilla has a lot of volunteer tech evangelists speaking on its behalf, and a program, Mozilla Tech Speakers, to help provide training and support to improve their public speaking. We coached 18 rounds of five-minute talks to help this very global group of young speakers learn a host of skills, and Mozilla was kind enough to share these details on the program and the coaching. It's a shorter approach that combined workshop with individual talks that were not coached in advance, but immediately after delivery to the group.
  3. Coaching speakers in a 'Shark Tank'-style pitching competition: Wanting to break out of the same-old panel discussion format, the nonprofit Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities set its higher education members a tantalizing speaking task: Win money in a competition in which you had to pitch your innovative idea to a panel of judges, Shark Tank-style. Another set of five minute talks, these also cleverly limited slides, props and other add-ons. Speakers had an advance conference call as a group, followed by 1:1 coaching, before the event.
  4. Coaching a cadre of scientists to give TED-quality talks: For a leadership development program for its scientists, The Nature Conservancy added TED-style speaking to the mix of career enhancing training and projects in the program. The scientists could choose the length needed for their talks, from 5 to 18 minutes (same limits as TED), and learned how to plan, script, memorize and deliver their talks. Here again, a workshop started the process, followed by 1:1 coaching for each talk. This case study involved remote coaching for speakers living in China, Mongolia, Australia, Belize, Canada, and U.S. locations, and with it, coaching for scientists for whom English is a second language.
Clients often ask what's the best array of training when teaching a group of executives to learn TED-style speaking in particular. I always encourage a one- to two-day workshop for all participants to get started (the time depends on the size of the group), followed by 1:1 coaching over a few sessions to develop an individual talk or presentation. This is best followed by a scheduled event at which the talks or presentations are to be given--even if that's just in-house to a friendly audience--to give the trainees a fixed deadline to meet, which sharpens the mind wonderfully. But as these case studies show, many options are possible.

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, December 12, 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, December 9, 2016

FSF update: Lady Bird Johnson's 1964 whistlestop tour

(Editor's note: The very first post on The Eloquent Woman blog was about this speaking tour, and I later updated that post to make it part of our Famous Speech Friday series. Now two new online resources about Lady Bird Johnson's whistlestop tour prompt me to update the piece again--including new photos from these online exhibits. Enjoy!) 

Lady Bird Johnson died just a few months before The Eloquent Woman blog launched, and it was during her funeral services that I realized there are few people today who recall her shy start as a public speaker. Robert Caro, prolific biographer of the late U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson, her husband, describes in Means of Ascent (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 2)  just how she sabotaged her own speaking early on:
So deep was her shyness that, as a high school senior, she prayed that if she finished first or second in her class, she would get smallpox so that she wouldn't have to be valedictorian or salutatorian and have to make a speech at graduation.
Eventually, circumstances forced her to face -- and speak to -- the public. When her husband was John F. Kennedy's running mate in the 1960 election, she was pressed into service to give dozens of speeches when Jacqueline Kennedy's troubled pregnancy made it impossible for her to travel. After her husband become president, Lady Bird was the first of the First Ladies with her own press secretary, made hundreds of public appearances and wound up giving as many as 16 commencement speeches, if only to accept her own honorary degrees.

Read the eulogy to her written by PBS journalist Bill Moyers, a former special assistant to President Johnson. He divulges a tip she gave him about speaking early in his career:
She was shy, and in the presence of powerful men, she usually kept her counsel. Sensing that I was shy, too, and aware I had no experience to enforce any opinions, she said: “Don't worry. If you are unsure of what to say, just ask questions, and I promise you that when they leave, they will think you were the smartest one in the room, just for listening to them. Word will get around,” she said.
Despite all that shyness, Lady Bird Johnson demonstrated courage as a public speaker during a 1964 campaign whistle-stop tour of Southern states. It took place just after her husband had signed the Civil Rights Act--a time when political advisers decided he could not himself risk personal appearances in the South, so unpopular was the new legislation. So they sent the First Lady on a four-day, 1,600-mile, eight-state train trip, stopping in small towns and giving her speech off the back of the "Lady Bird Special" train, as shown in the photo.

In all, she made 47 speeches in as many towns in four days, reaching about a half-million people in person. And she liked the idea of a whistlestop, in part because it would reach local people who didn't usually get to see or meet national leaders. But her fears were still there. She alluded to her speaking fears right at the start, according to a PBS documentary:
"For me this trip has been a source of anxiety and anticipation," Lady Bird said at the start of the whistlestop. "Anxiety because I am not used to whistle-stopping without my husband; anticipation because I am returning to familiar territory and heading into a region I call home."
On this tour, she listened to catcalls that said her husband--and her daughters--were "nigger lovers," and more. Moyers' eulogy noted that in the face of jeers, protests and name-calling on the tour:
She never flinches. Up to forty times a day from the platform of the caboose she will speak, sometimes raising a single white-gloved hand to punctuate her words — always the lady. When the insults grew so raucous in South Carolina, she tells the crowd the ugly words were coming "not from the good people of South Carolina but from the state of confusion." In Columbia she answers hecklers with what one observer called "a maternal bark." And she says, "This is a country of many viewpoints. I respect your right to express your own. Now is my turn to express mine."
That's something any speaker can use today with a heckler. Here's an audio clip from her whistle-stop in Tallahasse, Florida, October 8, 1964. As the PBS documentary notes, her speaking was an astonishment in 1964: "Lady Bird had embarked on her political tour at a time when only 30 percent of married women had jobs, and only 20 percent of women with children were employed."

So she was asked not once, but twice, to pinch-hit for other speakers in presidential campaigns. I'm guessing that those who asked her had little idea of how much she dreaded speaking. Now the whistlestop tour she did in 1964 is getting its due online with two new resources, and they are extensive enough to warrant this update of my previous posts:
What can you learn from this unusual speaking tour? In the two anecdotes in his eulogy, Moyers captures several smart tactics employed by this eloquent woman:
  • Ask questions. More than a stall tactic for the shy speaker, asking questions of your audience--whether it's one person or 500--will help you to better understand your hearers. You'll be less likely to make a misstep with the help of this "market research." It builds your confidence, and theirs in you. And it's a great attention-getter.
  • Word will get around. Whether you're quiet or loquacious, people are watching. Your reputation rests on moments when you're resting, as well as when you're actively speaking.
  • Speak calmly and for yourself. Lady Bird Johnson was spit on, yelled at, had things thrown at her, heard her children insulted, and still remained calm in front of the angriest of audiences. In some cases, she confused and silenced the protesters who were seeking to embarrass her, simply by acting as she planned, rather than reacting. And she spoke for herself: In disagreeing with the protesters, she used "I" statements, saying, "I respect your right" to disagree, but insisting on her own right to express her views.
The National First Ladies Library offers this extensive biography of Lady Bird Johnson and I wish there were more of her speeches available for you in text and video. The two new online collections do much to remedy that problem. You also can read and listen to quotations from her speeches, interviews and conversations with her husband. Here's video of Bill Moyers's eulogy for her, loaded with great stories that bring her alive:

Bill Moyers eulogy for Lady Bird Johnson

(Photos courtesy LBJ Presidential Library)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Personal story practice: What's your dining-out story?

If you're struggling with how to incorporate a personal story into your speeches, talks, or presentations, there's an easy way to practice: Use a story on which you've been dining out for years to practice shaping and delivering a personal story.

You know the one I mean. You've told that story over and over, to many different groups of friends, or every year at the family reunion, or when you want a sure-fire tale that will entertain, shock, or surprise your closest friends. It may be funny, self-revealing, or somber, but it's one you know backwards and forwards. You've added to it or eliminated lines here and there over the years, so it's familiar and well-worn and comfortable.

Such a story is the perfect practice tool. Take that story of yours and write it out fully. Use the 120-words-per-minute test to see how long it is. Then edit and polish it. Can you make it into a talk of five minutes or less? That's usually easy to do with a dining-out story, since no one wants to bore their nearest and dearest. A five-minute talk is a useful tool to have in your back pocket.

Then work on memorizing the polished version of your story, which also shouldn't be too tough, since you know it so well. Use my memorization tactics so you can see how they work. Now you have a talk you can give at any time in your back pocket, a real advantage should someone call on you to give an impromptu speech--that's just what I did for a high-stakes, last-minute speech. The fact that you know it and are comfortable with it will work in your favor, and let you apply yourself to the grace notes of the talk: laugh lines, pauses, dramatic effects.

You may find, at the end of this practice, that your dining-out story has some relevance to a work situation or lets you make a personal or larger point in a talk for a public audience. That's the goal. My impromptu speech linked above would not have worked for a different audience--it was precisely relevant to the event and the group. And not all of your dining-out stories will be appropriate for work settings, but if they are and can help you get your point across, so much the better. If your story involves big emotion or something personally significant to you, do practice it in front of people other than your dining-out gang first, so you can see whether emotion overtakes you in a different speaking situation. Then put this polished personal story into your repertoire as a speaker.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by _SiD_)

Monday, December 5, 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, December 2, 2016

8 famous speeches by women before the U.S. Congress

Some would say there's no more high-stakes talk you can give than testimony or an address before the U.S. Congress...and that's true whether you're a senator or representative, a witness, an executive branch official, an expert witness, a citizen, or a foreign head of state. We've got them all in this collection, and each of these speeches brought controversy and frank talk to the Congress. Each of these speeches also is part of The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women, and at the links, you will find, where available, video or audio or text of the speeches, along with an analysis and at least three tips you can use based on these speeches for your next speech. Testify along with these bold speakers:

  1. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's 2009 address to both houses of Congress shared a personal memory of growing up in postwar Germany, as well as a rebuke to the Americans about support for climate change measures.
  2. Anita Hill's Senate testimony against Clarence Thomas's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court set the nation afire with public speaking about sexual harassment, and prompted thousands of women to speak up about their own harassment in the workplace.
  3. Clara Barton's Andersonville testimony to Congress was a graphic description of what she saw in an infamous prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War, delivered at a time when women rarely spoke in public, let alone before the Congress.
  4. Hillary Clinton answered a tough question before a congressional committee during her tenure as Secretary of State, demonstrating how to disagree with a leading question calmly and with control. 
  5. Margaret Chase Smith's 1950 Declaration of Conscience was a rare rebuke to fellow senator Joe McCarthy about his witch-hunt tactics against rumored Communists in America. So strong and singular was this statement that it was later said if a man had given it, he'd be elected president.
  6. Shirley Chisholm introduces the Equal Rights Amendment--not the first time, but again, during the women's movement of the 1970s. Perhaps based on her own experience, she said, "If women are already equal, why is it such an event whenever one happens to be elected to Congress?"
  7. and 8. Representatives Gwen Moore and Jacke Speier on abortion rights and family planning were floor speeches these members of Congress used to share their own personal experiences with unplanned pregnancies in moving, impromptu remarks.

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both, and you'll get the best discount if you sign up by August 1.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Our 9 most popular posts on using slides (or not)

I write about all aspects of public speaking on this blog, but it's the posts about slides that get the most traffic...which suggests to me that many of you are struggling. Here are the most popular posts we've published on slides in the last few years, nine gems that should help you reform your bad habits and use slides (or not) to your advantage. In general, there's nothing wrong with slides...if you use them thoughtfully and have real reason to use them. See if my reasons differ from yours:
  1. Myth-busting: Learn the 6 myths about slides that are holding you back as a speaker. Are these what you're telling yourself?
  2. Space exploration: Crowded slides? You need these 3 smart ways to space out--not cram in--your slide content
  3. Data nerd? How many slides you use, and how long you spend on each one, are among the 6 kinds of speaker data to know about yourself
  4. Come out where we can see you: Slides also are among the 6 things you might be hiding behind as a speaker
  5. The life preserver: Are you hanging on to one slide for dear life? I had one client who used to spend 2 hours on his title slide...before we worked together. Here are 7 fixes for that.
  6. Lose them now: Prepping a TED-style talk? Slides might be among those things that should be missing from your TED talk.
  7. Not every picture tells a story: "But all my slides are pictures" isn't a smart public speaking strategy.
  8. First to go: From NASCAR slides to "any questions?" here are 8 kinds of slides to delete right now.
  9. Fly free: Want to fly without slides? Here are 4 good tactics.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Devon Christopher Adams)

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