Monday, October 20, 2014

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:
If you found this post useful, please subscribe or make a one-time donation to help support the thousands of hours that go into researching and curating this content for you. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

8 famous speeches by young women in The Eloquent Woman Index

They ranged in age from 12 to 25 when they gave these famous speeches, but each of these young women had enough impact to make it into The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women. From causes like education and the environment to personal revelations and skilled storytelling, these young women are speakers to watch. In each post, you'll find video, text and tips you can take from their outstanding speeches:
  1. Severn Suzuki's 1992 UN Earth Summit speech happened when she was just 12 years old, making her the youngest speaker in the Index. She cuts right to the point, schooling her elders who were in Rio arguing over what to do when. For her, the answers were clear.
  2. Kayla Kearney came out to her high school assembly at age 17, using the theme about talking about things that matter as the entree to sharing her difficult topic. It's a short but powerful tour de force.
  3. Sarah Kay's "Tshotsoloza" showcases this popular young storyteller's art in a spoken word piece that she created after seeing a photo in a South African museum. It's a rhythmic and mesmerizing piece, her trademark speaking style.
  4. Devon Brooks used a TEDx talk to share her sexual assault and to change the conversation about sexual violation. Just 25 when she shared her story, she made sure it would reach her peers as well as the more senior adults who can do something about her cause.
  5. Lily Myers's "Shrinking Woman" speech debuted at a spoken-word poetry slam when she was 20. It's an observant and uncomfortable insight about women and men, the space we take up, and body image.
  6. Malala Yousafzai's UN address on youth education took place on her 16th birthday. It's a decidedly feminist speech and one that went viral with her positive focus on education for girls and boys everywhere.    
  7. Malala's first public statement since her shooting is the briefest of these speeches, given when she was 15 and just a few months after the Taliban attacked her. Contrast this one with her UN speech to see her amazing progress.
  8. Rashema Melson's high school valedictory speech wowed audiences worldwide because she was at the top of her class despite living in a homeless shelter. But the speech itself is compact and compelling, demonstrating restraing and good rhetoric.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Why "but all my slides are pictures" isn't a smart public speaking strategy

When I'm coaching executives who are using slides in their presentations, I feel as if I've heard every excuse in the book. Most of them are designed to justify an enormous number of slides--often, too many to get through in one sitting. But of late, one excuse seems to recur with frequency, and I think it's a dangerous one: "But all my slides are pictures." And no, these speakers aren't photographers for National Geographic.

I'm not a fan of all-or-nothing solutions in general, and when it comes to presentations, it's rare that they work. But what bothers me is the subtext I can hear behind that "all my slides are pictures" rationale. Often, it seems as if it's about something other than images. Think again if these real reasons are behind your embrace of an all-image slide presentation:
  1. You know I'm going to object to a large number of slides. Sadly, making all your slides pictures doesn't soften the blow of a 300-slide deck. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but 300 pictures? More like a memory blur for the audience.
  2. "I notice that those TED speakers prefer pictures in their slides." Please don't blame TED and TEDMED for your picture-mania. Many people, myself included, think that the best TED talks are those without slides. What's more, the TED Commandments for speakers don't mention slides at all (a hint, perhaps) while TEDMED's speaker guidance says "I will use visuals to enhance my words, not duplicate them." TED speakers most often use pictures for things their words can't capture, not as repetition.
  3. You have one slide for every point you want to make, and think it won't be noticed in pictures. Many coaches, seeking to make each slide simpler, advise "one point per slide." But no one advocates one slide per point, even if they are visual. Trust me, we'll still notice.
  4. You're using your slides as cue cards. Many, if not most, speakers rely on their slides as cue cards. News flash: The audience can tell that you're doing it, and visuals don't change that.
  5. You think a picture makes the point better than you can. This can be true--just not on every slide. If you think you need a picture for every moment of your message, let's work instead on your confidence in yourself as a speaker. 
  6. You can't tell me why all your slides need to be pictures. What's the real rationale? Because just having all pictures is not a rationale for a good presentation, in and of itself.
I'm not against pictures, but they are not a magic medicine to be sprayed all over your presentation. I'd much rather see you challenge yourself to use your words to create what I call invisible visuals, the word pictures that are so vivid we can see them in the mind's eye. Those are the pictures that will stick with your audience long after your talk is over.

Monday, October 13, 2014

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:
If you found this post useful, please subscribe or make a one-time donation to help support the thousands of hours that go into researching and curating this content for you. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Famous Speech Friday: Kerry Washington on the risk of public speaking

No one who watches her intrigues in Scandal would be surprised to hear that actress Kerry Washington gave a speech about a speech she didn't give. Earlier this year, she used the occasion of accepting an award at the Women In Film Los Angeles Crystal + Lucy Awards to talk about the risk of public speaking, and why she--and other women--often turn down speaking gigs. This, at a ceremony where she was described as "fearless" and "bold."

In Washington's case, it wasn't just a speaking gig, it was the chance to speak at TEDxWomen. She used the invitation phone call from conference director Pat Mitchell to explain:
She called and said, ‘I’m going to be running TED Women and I would love for you to speak.’ And I said, ‘You know, gosh, you know what, Pat, I really appreciate the invitation, but I just don’t know really what I would say, I’m not sure what my story would be, I think I should decline, and maybe when I’m ready I’ll come do that.’ And Pat said to me, ‘Kerry, I’ve worked with TED for a really long time. No man has ever said to me, I’m not ready to speak, but for TED Women you are part of a long list of women who have denied me by saying they’re not ready.’ And I realized that what that meant is that we as women put ourselves in this situation of feeling like we can’t take a risk, like in order to step out there we have to be perfect, because we’re scared that if we don’t say the right thing, or do the right thing, that we’ll reflect poorly on ourselves and our community, whether that community be women, people of color, both.
So sometimes, we don’t step out there. And I’m telling on myself, because I didn’t [speak], even after Pat said to me, ‘This is so unfortunate, this is so wrong, women have to feel comfortable speaking out and stepping up, and standing in their light, and owning their voice.’ I said, ‘Yeah, you’re right. Good luck.’ I don’t do that often, but when I do, I know that it’s not good for me, and it’s not good for other women. 
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Personal experience, used judiciously, can make a speech sing: Not every minute of your personal story can be included in short remarks, nor should it be. And not every speech needs a personal story. But used judiciously, a personal moment can make a speech sing. In this case, it works because it's something the audience could not have seen or known previously, making it more surprising. 
  • Be real: Adding to that surprise was the ending: She knew it would be better to say yes, and she still turned down that TED talk. You may not be getting offers to do TED talks, but I'll bet you've turned down at least one speaking opportunity that you knew you should have said yes to. That becomes the fulcrum for her message, and it's a strong one--much more effective than if she'd decided to do the talk, because the rest of us can relate to it.
  • Share an unlikely call to action:  Washington could have urged women simply to do more public speaking, but her call to action gets to those inner actions and feelings that come before you say 'yes' to a speaking gig: "We need to be willing to be uncomfortable, to be flawed, to be imperfect, to own our voice, to step into our light, so that we can continue to inspire other people and employ other people, and make room for more and more voices and presence." It's a two-step call -- we need to do this, so that we can do that -- and a more complex version of the form.
You can read the speech on BuzzFeed, which helped this one go viral. Unfortunately, it's the only record of the remarks on women and speaking. The video below is just part of this speech, focusing on her tribute to Shonda Rhimes. What do you think of this famous speech?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Sam Javanrouh)

If you found this post useful, please subscribe or make a one-time donation to help support the thousands of hours that go into researching and curating this content for you. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

From the vault: Via Coco Chanel, what's "too much" in a presentation


(Editor's note: This 2012 post is always timely and a good reminder when you're working on slide presentations.)

I nearly fell into that night-before-your-presentation trap a couple of weeks ago. You know this feeling: You're reviewing your slides and rehearsing what you'll say against them, and then decide to throw in one more tactic, one more audience interaction, one more slide or video.

In this case, I almost upended the order of my presentation so I could make use of a tactic that has worked well before. It even fit with my topic. Fortunately, I stopped myself, thinking, "Remember Coco."

That's Coco Chanel, the epitome of elegance, who's said to have advised women "Before you head out the door, take one thing off" from among the accessories you've put on. It's advice that speakers would be wise to consider, lest their presentations start looking like a Christmas tree, decked out from top to bottom. There's a temptation to think that just one more thing will "make" the presentation, when in fact it might detract from your impact.

When gauging what's too much in your presentation, you might need to remove:
  • Slide jewelry, like animations, transitions, bullets, videos and sound, or too many charts, pictures and graphics. Pile on those cone charts and shadings only if you want us to start counting how many times you've done that.
  • Audience stylings, like putting questions upfront, taking polls of the audience or using volunteers to demonstrate key points. At some point, you may look as if you're distracting us from a lack of content.
  • Technology tinsel, from laser pointers to slick videos. You may dazzle us, but will we remember your point?
  • Language lightshows, such as using an alliteration with an analogy with a story. Too many rhetorical devices make us think about your machinery, not your point. Be confident in your content, and don't deck it out with boughs of holly.
Have you seen presenters who piled on the equivalent of too many necklaces? Share your pet peeves about presenters overdoing it in the comments.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by rosarodoe with words added)

Featured on BlogHer.com


This post was featured on Ragan.com