Monday, June 29, 2009

help teenage girls with an eloquent video

UPDATE: Submit your videos to Nina Simon at nina[at]museumtwo[dot]com. I know I've already asked you to make a short video of yourself to enter the Eloquent Woman's contest to win 15 weeks of free coaching to step up your public speaking. But while you're at it, make another video -- this one to help a camp for young girls interested in technology. I'll let Nina Simon, who created Museum 2.0, tell you more about what she's looking for in these videos:
I'm developing a camp for teenage girls (rising 9th graders) with the Girls Math and Science Partnership about expressing yourself through technology. It's a weeklong camp, with the pilot happening this summer at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh and then spreading next year to several science museums around the country.

As part of the camp, we want to give the girls access to videos by inspiring women who express themselves uniquely through technology. I'm particularly looking for women from diverse backgrounds (a lot of the girls in these camps are immigrants, African-American, and Hispanic, and we want to reflect that women like them can be successful in tech). These girls are at the point where they don't even know the range of possibilities of where tech can take them professionally, and while we'll be introducing them to several cool avenues in camp (electric fashion, codebreaking, circuit-bending, game design), we also want to expose them to real adults doing this stuff every day.

Would you consider making a short (3-5 min video) for us? It would be internal to the camp website and would not be publicly available. I'd want you to share your name, city, and age, and cover some subset of these topics:

- what career do you consider yourself? how do you name it?
- where did you start?
- how do you express yourself through technology?
- what do you use as inspiration?
- how do you solve tough problems?
- what are your big dreams
- how do you think differently?

What do you think? I know the girls would love to hear about your work. I'd be hoping to receive final videos by July 10.
Please contribute if you can to this important project...a wonderful way to show young girls how eloquent women use technology to express themselves.

many interviews at one blow

Editor's note: Seven at One Blow is an old Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a tailor who killed seven flies in a single strike...and went on to be king. Nowadays, in order to rule her own publicity, an eloquent woman might well find herself doing something like a lot of live radio interviews in a morning or over a week...a true test of her speaking skills. I asked Sarah Milstein, reader of this blog and co-author of a popular new book about Twitter, to share tips from her recent "radio tour" of interviews with you. Keep in mind that on radio, you'll need to describe what might otherwise be seen. Here it is.)

I recently wrote a book, and to help promote it, my publisher sent me on a "radio tour." Set up by Newman Communications, the tour involved approximately 30 radio interviews over the course of a week. Most of the interviews were jammed into two marathon days, and they were all conducted on the phone, in calls that ranged from three to 30 minutes.

In doing so many interviews, I've hit on a few tips that eloquent women may find useful:
* If your interviews start early in the morning, as many do, make sure you wake up in plenty of time to make coffee and exercise your voice. I chatted with my dog and read the headlines out loud to warm up.

* To give your voice more energy, sit up straight on the edge of your chair or stand.

* Practice answering likely questions and end your statements with a tone of voice that suggests you've concluded that answer. That usually means bringing the your intonation down (the opposite of upspeak).

* Radio moves fast: keep your answers short but don't speak too quickly (practice helps!).

* Do spell out any oddball URLs or search terms you share.

* For most interviews, the station calls you at a prearranged time.
There's a slim chance you'll be going on live when you answer, so I trained myself to pause before saying anything, and then if there was no sound, I simply said, "This is Sarah."

* Be prepared to promote your book/site/show/whatever. Often, at the end of the interview, the DJ will ask where listeners can go for more info. In my case, the answer was, "Head to Amazon and search for 'The Twitter Book.'"
What tips have you hit on for interviews?

Buy The Twitter Book

Improve speaking skills with improv

Editor's note: I'm delighted to repost with permission this guest post from the excellent blog of speaker coach Angela DeFinis, who works in California's Silicon Valley and Bay Area. When I read this post, I thought, "That's just exactly what I wanted to say about improv skills!" (I've added links and some boldfacing to emphasize a few points.) So here it is. You can find out more about Angela here--please do check out her blog, full of great ideas and inspiration:

You show up to your speaking engagement only to realize that your PowerPoint presentation isn’t opening, the A/V system is down, and there’s a car alarm blaring right outside the window. There’s a full room of people eagerly waiting for you to begin and there is no turning back now. So what are you going to do?

Situations like this one happen all too often, and they require quick thinking and creative problem solving with little or no guidance. Improvisation is a must-have tool in the public speaker’s repertoire. Without it, speakers often find themselves in what I call “The Big Freeze”—that paralyzing moment of fear, physical immobility and mental shut down that leaves them unable to act. But if speakers utilize the teachings and techniques of improv, they can learn to overcome this fear and actually enjoy flying by the seat of their pants.

In his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, author Malcom Gladwell explains that improv requires split-second, spontaneous decisions and hours of highly repetitive, structured practice. Think of a play in basketball. The players on the court all have defined positions, and they’ve spent hours practicing in order to execute properly. But often the play breaks down. Maybe the defense switched a match-up or there is an injury. Do they just stand there, paralyzed? Of course not! Now the play becomes an adaptation. Because they’ve practiced so much, they’ve experienced the variables and can alter the play. The point-guard thinks on his toes, makes an extra pass, and the team ends up with a jump shot instead of a layup. As Gladwell puts it, “How good people’s decisions are [made] under the fast-moving, high-stress conditions of rapid cognition is a function of training and rules and rehearsal.”

The paramount improv rule, according to Gladwell, is the notion of agreement. As you can see in the video above, the comedians accept everything that comes their way. The key to their hilarity is the speed at which they “go with the flow.” There is a full commitment to agreement. All of a sudden, the issues that would normally hold a situation hostage due to incompatibility are accepted and incorporated. The answer is always “yes.” Gladwell notes, “Bad improvisers block action…Good improvisers develop action.”

So envision yourself as a basketball team or comedy troupe of one. When you find yourself presented with a public speaking distraction, limitation or challenge, think of it as just one more tool to make your presentation stand out.

With these lessons in mind, what would you do if the PowerPoint is down for the count, the microphone is on the fritz, and the Jeep outside your window just won’t quit?

NPR: Breathe Like a Baby

If you've focused on your breathing when you speak, as many of our readers do, you may have found that over-thinking your breath trips you up more than anything else. That's part of the message in an NPR story out this morning, "Baby Steps to Better Breathing," which features several vocal coaches helping singers and others to relax and, well, regress, to baby-like breathing. The difference, in part, is breathing naturally versus breathing as a stress response, something we've covered before. Here's what the story says about stressed-out breathing, that sharp intake of breath you make when an accident nearly happens, for example:
The quick inhale brings more oxygen in and sets off a flood of hormones that heighten our senses and help us respond quickly. "It helps us survive."

The trouble comes when chronic stress sets in. Under stress, a lot of interactions start to feel like near-collisions. "It becomes a part of us and we never release out of it," says Bilanchone. When we're stressed we may cheat the exhale or even hold our breath for moments. As adults, we can develop these bad habits that interfere with the natural rhythm of breath.
Spending time re-learning how to breathe should become part of your speaker practice, and you may find you'll benefit by excusing yourself about 10 minutes before a speech (a handy stairwell or restroom will do for this) so you can get in some long, slow, calming and deep breaths. Want to see your physiology? NPR offers this link to a page about how the diaphragm works and to how respiration works and how it applies to performers (like speakers).

Related posts: Speakers: 7 Reasons I Want You to Talk Less

When the Speaker Needs to Catch Her Breath (with relaxation response tips)