Tuesday, August 4, 2009
I'm so excited to have expert help from a panel of three judges who'll help decide the winner of the Eloquent Woman's 15 Weeks to Step Up Your Speaking contest. Each of them has extensive speaking experience, and works with, researches or writes about speakers--between and among them, they know what it takes to get from starting-out to experienced speaker. They'll review our entries and deliberate on who'll win the chance for 15 weeks of online coaching and a Flip Mino HD camcorder. Here's more about our panel of judges:
Jennifer Collins, president and owner of The Event Planning Group, a Washington, DC-based event management company that helps organizations create strategic events and meetings. The company has been named the 2009 Outstanding Women’s Business Enterprise for the DC Region by the Women President's Educational Organization and a Top 100 Minority Business Enterprise, among many other honors. Collins is a frequent speaker and mentor for communications students at her alma mater, The American University, and is active with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and Girls, Inc. of Washington, DC – an organization providing educational programs to young girls in high risk, underserved areas. Dr.Carolyn Kitch, professor of journalism at Temple University's School of Communication and Theater, where she also directs the doctoral studies program in mass media and communication. She teaches, among others, courses in gender and American mass media, and focuses her research on media and memory and on journalism history, with particular attention to gender issues and to the medium of magazines. A frequent speaker, she is a former editor and writer at such magazines as Good Housekeeping, McCall's and Reader's Digest, and is the author of The Girl on the Magazine Cover: The Origins of Visual Stereotypes in American Mass Media. Dr. Jeff Porro, a speechwriter for Fortune 250 CEOs, diplomats, and other government leaders, as well as executives of some of the nation’s leading trade and professional associations. He is also an award winning screenwriter and a PhD with 20 years of experience in research, public policy, and business. Jeff discovered and researched the true story of a Jim Crow–era African American college debate team and helped turn it into the 2007 feature film The Great Debaters, starring Denzel Washington. He is one of the founders of the Debate Consortium, which is reviving the tradition of debate at historically black colleges and universities.
In last week's workshop, one attendee asked about how to convey power and authority without being, well, too overpowering...I'd call it power without the "pow!" So how do you pull off powerful? Here's what works for me, both as a speaker and when I'm observing speakers that I train:
Lecterns: Use 'em or lose 'em
- Show rather than say: British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, "Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't," and I agree: Anytime you have to announce what you are, the impact of your statement is lost with your audience. Don't say you're chairing, in charge or otherwise a leader--that should be obvious from your introduction, your manner and your behavior.
- Control your reactions: Those might be your facial expressions, a physical reaction--like swinging your head around quickly or gesturing broadly--or verbal reactions. Psychologists will tell you that the only thing you can control in an interaction with others is how you react, so do it. Practice composing your face and hands to appear calm, relaxed and friendly. Listen to questions or comments, no matter how extreme, quietly and in control. If need be, practice some time-buying phrases to help you think while you talk, rather than react off the cuff.
- Posture makes perfect: The confident speaker stands tall, not hunched or too relaxed. She's ready to walk into the audience (which looks very confident), take a question or lead us further into her presentation. Make sure your shoulders are rolled down and into your back, your hands are ready to gesture, and your stance is comfortable and strongly positioned.
- Ditch the usual props: The most confident-looking speaker can leave the lectern behind (or lean on it), stop reading from a text and just talk to her audience, and handle Q&A without note cards. Here's my training trick: Practice one of these techniques at a time and incorporate it slowly into your speaking forays, then add another and another.
- Modulate your voice:Louder does not equal more powerful--in fact, the opposite may be true. You'll seem more in control, and thus, more powerful, if you can be seen to restrain your reaction. And certainly, part of controlling your reactions means not trying to one-up the loud or argumentative speaker. Think of relaxed, humorous, yet appropriate reactions, along the lines of Ronald Reagan's gentle riposte, "There you go again," a subtle way to chide a questioner politely.
Lecterns: Use 'em or lose 'em