Monday, July 30, 2012

How to fly without slides: 4 tactics for speakers

In a recent presentation I gave at a government agency on the new rules for public speaking, I encouraged my audience to consider opportunities to "fly without slides" where possible, using storytelling and other tactics to put their points across. But for many speakers, flying without slides feels like walking on the wings of a plane in flight--too risky for most to attempt. How to pull off what seems like a stunt?

I don't suggest flying without slides as a stunt, by any means--and slides do have their place in some presentations. But if you're a slide-bound presenter who uses them without thinking about why you do, flying without slides is worth trying. Here are four tactics to make the flight smoother:
  1. Skip the announcement slides that make an outline: You can drop the section headers right away, along with the thank you, about you, and intro slides--most of which are just there to push you along, rather than your audience. We can just listen to you thank the organizers and tell us about you--we don't need a slide to help. And you should know your transitions without help from the slides.
  2. Plan a message you can remember without slides: Too many presenters use slides as electronic cue cards. Plan a three-part message that gives you an outline easy to recall. The bonus: If you can remember it, so can your audience. If you're telling a story, make sure it has an arc you can recall. One effective speaker I've seen recently tied his story to his own life--"something I knew I could recall," he told me. Start out by making it memorable, and you may find you don't need the slides.
  3. Plan sections of your talk for which no slides are needed: If you need to ease your way into slidelessness, plan sections of your talk more dependent on audience interaction, and step away from the slides for those activities. In my own workshops on speaking and presenting, we use more slides in the morning, when I'm teaching principles, followed by almost none in the afternoon, which is devoted to hands-on learning. This is one step toward thinking about why and when you use slides, and making them purposeful, rather than an assumption.
  4. Use the invisible visual, my term for word pictures and images that your audience can "see" in their minds' eyes. That means using precise, vivid words and "drawing" a picture as you talk, verbally sketching something they can readily imagine. Such a visual is always going to be more memorable for your audience than any slide could be.
What are your tricks and tactics for flying without slides? Share them in the comments, please.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Famous Speech Friday: Devon Brooks talks about her sexual assault

(Editor's note: Vancouver-based speaker coach Janice Tomich of Calculated Presentations worked with speakers at TEDxChange in that city earlier this year. I asked her to share this speaker's story as a Famous Speech Friday. UPDATE: We've adjusted the text below to clarify that only one of the assaults described was a rape.)

On two occasions Devon Brooks was assaulted; in one assault, she was raped. The assaults happened when she was 18 and 21­­—the first time in Montreal, Canada and the second time in London, UK.

Jump ahead to April 2012 where a group of grade 10 - 12 students sat in complete silence as they listened to Brooks tell her story at the TEDxChange event held in Vancouver, BC, Canada. A pin could have dropped.

Brooks spoke with bare honesty. She spoke from a vulnerable place with the intent of creating awareness and hoping to change conversations about sexual violation. She said, “It's painful to talk about someone who you know and love getting hurt. So we just don’t ­—but we cannot live in fear of conversation.”

While having the pleasure to work with Brooks on her presentation, we had lengthy discussions about how our culture’s inability to speak about the atrocity of rape or violence lets perpetrators hide and continue violating. Lots of consideration was given to what she wanted her audience to take away and how to ignite them to take their part in changing conversations about rape and assault.

Brooks’ call to action was simple and clear. She asked that we be open to having difficult conversations. She said, “While we can't legislate humanity each of us plays a role in changing the dialogue and perception of trauma, in order to see less victims and assailants. There is no in between—it's time for you to figure out whether you are a bystander, or a difference maker."

Here’s what can you learn from Brooks’ presentation:
  • Speaking from the heart: Brooks’ presentation is one of the most difficult to for a speaker to do—her story is so raw and vulnerable. The repercussions both good and bad need to be considered before committing to such an open and vulnerable platform.  
  • Using “visual only” support: The choice of visuals that Brooks chose was perfectly aligned to her presentation. Each image drew you in, and then allowed you to redirect yourself to her spoken word. The use of the Munch’s “The Scream” in tandem with Brooks speaking about the circumstance of the rape still holds vividly in my mind months later.
  • Knowing her audience: The audience was challenged with difficult and uncomfortable content. But Brooks did not take them so far that they would or could not listen. Post presentation, a few attendees approached her and said that they had been silent about being victimized themselves but now their perspective was changed.
The video clip is below. Looking back, would you want this presentation shared with your teenage self or will you share it with a teenager? 


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Who are you? What are you looking for on this blog?

(This post is an update of one from 2010 that asked the same questions and got some great answers--including some that went on to be the basis for the blog's most-read posts to date. I'm looking forward to more of the same from you this time.) 

When I started this blog, it was to fill a niche I kept stumbling over, in which women in search of good public speaking advice also could find research and information about why, sometimes, their public speaking challenges were different than those that men face.

The blog was still in the think stage when a longtime friend said to me, "I hope you make it a blog for anyone who might have to get up and talk--at a local club or committee, at a funeral or a wedding--and not just in a huge-audience formal speech, although that will be useful, too."

What's happened since is that men tell me, "That's just great advice for everyone," and "I am dealing differently with men and women and presentations at the office now that I've read about those issues on your blog." And women say, "I shared that video with my husband" or "I'm so glad I found this--I thought it was just me." People have been more forthcoming than I could hope about the speaking problems they are encountering. I knew we were all in the right place when a reader wrote in to ask how she should handle speaking at her mother's funeral--and was able to share readers' advice as well as my own.  All that is more than I expected.

Now, I want to know more about you.  I'm guessing that, too, will be more than I expected.

I'm inviting you to share in the comments your answers to two questions:  Who are you? and What are you looking for here?

I'd like to know whether you're already a frequent speaker, or haven't yet walked up to a microphone; an introverted speaker or one who's at ease with speaking; what motivates you to learn about speaking; whether you're like a friend of mine whose public speaking mostly consists of talking into a speakerphone on hours-long conference calls on which no one can see her.  Don't forget to add what you're looking for, please. Asking what you need to know is what has kept this blog on track for a long time now.

Knowing some of the readers, I will guess that the most valuable part of this exercise will be learning--all of us, together--what's out there in terms of people's hopes and aspirations about speaking.

Now it's your turn:  Who are you?  Share who you are and why you're here in the comments. And thanks for reading.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Putting things in threes: 2 great video examples from women speakers

We've talked before about why crafting your message in an outline of three points works so well. It's almost hardwired in humans as part of our ancient oral storytelling tradition, and in modern times, it's an easy way to organize your content for brevity and clarity when you speak.

But how does it work in practice--in real public speaking? How do you put things in threes when you give a presentation or talk? Luckily, I have two great video examples for you to watch, both by women speakers: Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, and Melinda Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Both of them put their talks into threes that offer you good role models for organizing a speech.

Sheryl Sandberg uses this TED talk to look at the question of Why we have too few women leaders. She uses her three points to suggest the answers to that problem, and her three points are:
  • Sit at the table. 
  • Make your partner a real partner. 
  • Don't leave before you leave.
Watch and listen to how she works her three points into the talk, stating them together at the beginning, then working her way through each one. This talk also is notable, as Max Atkinson has pointed out, because Sandberg conveys a lot of data without slides or charts--and some of that data is used to buttress her three points, carrying the message a step further with data or examples.

Melinda Gates, speaking at TEDxChange on What nonprofits can learn from Coca-Cola, shares three unexpected lessons she observed while doing her foundation's charitable work in sub-Saharan Africa. Seeing Coca-Cola even in remote locations where health care couldn't be easily delivered, she shares the lessons for what nonprofits can do better in these three points:
  • taking real-time data and feeding it back into the product, 
  • tapping into local entrepreneurial talent, 
  • incredible marketing
Gates's big idea uses the element of surprise--you surely weren't expecting a lesson from a corporate giant in this foundation executive's talk--but quickly fills in the outline with concrete steps nonprofits can take from Coke's playbook. In effect, her three points suggest the possibilities nonprofits can reach for when they emulate a successful company working in the same region. Watch how she, too, clues the audience in to her outline, then works her way through it:

What did you observe about how these talks are organized? Share your notes in the comments.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Famous Speech Friday: Diane Kelly on what we don't know about penis anatomy

Diane Kelly studies the neural wiring and mechanical engineering of reproductive systems, and on, the video of her most recent major lecture on that topic is approaching a half-million views at this writing.

That's because it's about penises, how they work, and what we don't know about them. "Now you know why I'm fun at parties," she said, early in the talk.

A senior research fellow at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Kelly gave what might be the most-talked-about talk at this year's TEDMED conference, and it was a merry mashup of science, real-life questions, and her curiosity about the questions that didn't have answers. That curiosity led her to her current research focus, even though it was "a socially embarrassing question with an answer [my adviser] didn't think would be that interesting." In her summing up, she noted, "He couldn't have been more wrong…We still have a lot to learn about the normal structure and function of our bodies.”

For this talk, Kelly--a mom who had just explained how penises work to her nine-year-old the week before the talk--used the same kind of fun, relaxed and easy-to-understand language she has put to use in card games and children's books she's written about science. Her explanations included lines like "Most animals don't support their tissues by draping them over bones, but they're more like reinforced water balloons" or "when they're functioning, penises don't wiggle. So there had to be something going on."

On her blog Science Made Cool, Kelly wrote about how she prepared for the TEDMED talk:
[W] hat's it like to give one of these big public talks? It's certainly different from a university classroom. First off, the audience is bigger. A lot bigger. Average size of my audience when I teach? About 50. TEDMED was held at the Kennedy Center's Opera House, and every seat on the main floor was filled. And that's not counting all the medical schools who were livestreaming the event. Intimidating? You bet. Add in the knowledge that the video was going to be on the internet, maybe forever, and you can understand why I was motivated to put a lot of time into writing and rehearsals The talks are also shorter than a class or a seminar. Classes and department seminars usually take about 45 minutes. The TEDMED limit? 12 minutes....So when I planned my talk, I had to pick exactly one result from my research and build the talk around it. No graphs, no statistics, just the story leading up to that result and the reason it was meaningful.
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Make it clear why your odd or unusual topic is relevant to this audience: Early on, Kelly clearly states her belief that studying anatomical and tissue similarities and differences across species can yield important insights for human health. She studies animals, but her findings have broader application, and she wants to make sure they won't be overlooked as a source of insight. For the assembled audience of health care professionals and policymakers at TEDMED, this answered the "so what?" question that's usually on the minds of the audience. And her deadpan delivery allows for the fact that the audience is thinking in double entendres--but it doesn't slow her down.
  • Be a three-dimensional expert: Without effort, Kelly lets you know by the end of her talk that she's a mom who just had to explain this to her nine-year-old, that she's fun at parties (and has heard all the obvious jokes), and that she's not afraid to stick up for her research when she's been told it's all been done before. For scientists and other subject-matter experts, it's important to show us all the sides of your personality and those parts of your life to which we non-experts can relate.
  • Enthusiasm carries the crowd with you: Public audiences and audiences of non-scientists may not know every nuance of your research, but boy, can we go along with someone who's clearly enthused about her explorations and willing to take us along for the ride. It's impossible to watch this talk without understanding Kelly's passion--and seeing how it drove her to a major advance in a field once considered to be a closed topic. That makes us wonder what else there is left to learn, and helps us understand the scientist's quest a bit better. No slides, charts or graphs were needed to put that across, just Kelly's expressive vocals and energetic delivery.
This talk is not-quite-but-almost-safe-for-work, but it is a must-see. I had the chance to see this one up close at TEDMED, and it's a personal favorite of mine. What do you think of this famous speech?


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Is my goal as a speaker to be perfect?" The myth of the polished speaker

Perfection dogs the speaker. It's the sense that you need to be perfect, and won't be, that creates all the barriers between would-be speakers and actual public speaking: the fear, the hesitation, the over-preparation. Fear of not being perfect makes speakers turn down invitations or refer them away to others. If you do get up to speak, it's the goal of "perfect" that's behind the catch in your throat and the fumbling with technology. You can accurately predict that you won't be perfect, even before you start. And after you're done, the nagging sense that you weren't perfect is what makes you say, "Oh, not really" when you're congratulated for your performance.

So perhaps it will surprise you that this not-being-perfect quality is what's sought after in speakers. Top conferences, in which I include TED and its offshoots, are skeptical of the too-polished speaker, the one with no sharp edges, flubs or all-too-human qualities. No one trusts a speaker who's too glib, too ready with the prepared answer, too smooth by half--the one who starts with "unaccustomed as I am to public speaking," while pulling out a prepared text. At the same time, the unprepared and unfocused speaker, the one who doesn't hear directions, isn't at all wanted.

So where's your mark to aim for, speakers? Here are a few thoughts, and I welcome more in the comments:
  • Be prepared: Listening to and absorbing all the directions--your time limits, the big idea the organizers are counting on you to deliver, the tenor of the audience--are non-negotiable musts. Ditto showing up on time, being rehearsed and being available to interact with the audience.
  • But also be human: If you flub something, can you laugh at yourself and with us? Can you be human enough to cry about something or pause to let us absorb a horror you just shared? If you're just moving on cue from line to line and not letting us emote and reflect, you're not thinking about the audience. If you're not acting like a person we can relate to, you'll lose us.
  • Know your topic well enough to stray from your key points: Many smooth speakers crumble during Q&A because audience questions rarely line up with your key points. Remember that your points are just an organizing principle, and make sure you've anticipated questions that go beyond your topic. 
  • Have some nerve(s): Nervousness just tells you you're like the rest of us, and that's a good sign. Lack of nerves? Maybe you need to get in touch with us more than with yourself.
  • Handle backlash and questions: If you haven't anticipated or clearly can't tolerate negative reactions, we'll think less of you--and wonder if you can't get off-script. Bend a little.
  • Attend to your audience: A good speaker hears and reacts in real time to the little noises and reactions of an audience. Can you work us into your talk? If so, we'll admire you more.
  • Don't run away from training: Contrary to what some believe, training need not make you too polished--but that depends on you and the trainer. Don't forget the irony of public speaking: The most relaxed, effortless-looking speaker is the one who has practiced. Tell your trainer you want to avoid the robot look, and address the things that will make you feel most prepared.
What do you dislike about a too-polished speaker? What stands out to you as awkward or difficult to relate to in a polished speaker? Share your feedback in the comments.

Monday, July 16, 2012

What do you most dislike about slide presentations? Readers spout

Let's face it: Slides bring out the best and worst in both speakers and audiences, and there's plenty to dislike about how they're used and misused.

Recently, I asked followers of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook what they most disliked about slide presentations--either as speakers themselves, or as members of the audience. Here's a sampling of the response, in which reading slides and too many bells and whistles took the fore:

    • Ann Simeoli When the presenter reads all the slides to me, I can read. Thanks!
      Thursday at 11:47am ·  · 1

    • Kelli Stevens Levey When the print is too small to read and when the presenter reads from them rather than adding details not on the slide.

    • M.E. Steele-Pierce Thumbs down to presentations in which the slides are "documents," text-heavy. Pet peeves: clip art and animation.
      Thursday at 11:56am via mobile · 

    • Aimee Barnes Smith Presenters who use animation to make the text "spin" onto the screen, and those who do not use PPT's animation tools when they would really be effective to help make your point (i.e. Zooming to highlight part of a diagram that you are talking about). And please no sound effects unless you are sharing a related audio or video clip!
      Thursday at 5:23pm via mobile · 

What about you? What are your major dislikes about slide presentations--either as a speaker or as one in the audience? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Famous Speech Friday: Nora Ephron's commencement address at Wellesley

Writer Nora Ephron died late last month at age 71 and, along with many other reprints of her famous movie scripts and humorous essays, this 1996 commencement speech to the graduating class of Wellesley began making the rounds in tribute to her genius as a writer and speaker.

And while many speakers might think, "Oh, a writer--well, she has a built-in advantage as a commencement speaker," in fact, it takes a good ear as well as a sharp pencil to make a good speech. Plenty of beautifully scripted speeches fall flat on delivery, but not so Ephron's speeches. It's difficult to say whether this was influenced by her screenwriting (just think of the conversational style of When Harry Met Sally) or just inherent in her work. And this speech works, whether you read it to yourself or listen to it in the video below.

At the time this speech was given, Ephron was more than 30 years past her own graduation, so much of the speech details in real terms the graduates might appreciate what her life was like at Wellesley in the early 1960s. But Ephron does that not to reminisce, but to set the tone for a feminist message that's the core of this speech. After describing the overt sexism of her college days, she introduces modern-day antagonism toward women and explains that the graduates should "take it personally" when women are under attack:
Understand: every attack on Hillary Clinton for not knowing her place is an attack on you. Underneath almost all those attacks are the words: get back, get back to where you once belonged. When Elizabeth Dole pretends that she isn't serious about her career, that is an attack on you. The acquittal of O.J. Simpson is an attack on you. Any move to limit abortion rights is an attack on you -- whether or not you believe in abortion. The fact that Clarence Thomas is sitting on the Supreme Court today is an attack on you.
In the days after her death, however, it's the summing up in her final lines that's been the most-quoted part of this speech--lines that bring home her feminist message in a simple way: 
Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.
Here's what you can learn from this famous speech:
  • Pay attention to the arc of your story or speech: Ephron uses wit, detail and a bald and unrelenting view of her days at Wellesley to start the arc of this speech, which moves from witnessing sexism and its relation to her life and career, to how discrimination against women happens in the lives of these graduates, taking her finally to her call to action, in which she urges them to follow their dreams despite antagonism toward women--and to work on behalf of women. It's a speech in three acts, and easy to recall and follow, as a result.
  • Use devastating detail: Maybe you think it's just a throwaway funny story when Ephron talks about the Harvard newspaper story about women's college students that appeared during her time at Wellesley, dismissing them as if they were tunicata, "small fish who spend the first part of their lives frantically swimming around the ocean floor exploring their environment, and the second part of their lives just lying there breeding." But it underscores her underlying message, in effect: They said we had no options, and look what I managed to do--now just imagine what you can do. Details make that memorable.
  • Humor lets you speak truth to power: Truth be known, Ephron takes the commencement speaker's (and humorist's) advantage of being able to skewer the host in a way even the host can appreciate. Far from staying in safe territory, she skates on the edge and it gives her credibility and many, many laughs of recognition. It's also a fearless way to demonstrate the confidence she's urging the graduates to adopt.
Read the transcript of Ephron's commencement address here, and watch the video below. What do you think of this famous speech?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

7 secret advantages of the speaker who practices

As a speaker coach and trainer, I can tell you that the one thing I always recommend is the same thing my trainees rarely do: Practice, and lots of it.

I don't just recommend practice for your speech or presentation because it sounds good. I know there are seven secret advantages--some of the best advantages in public speaking--reserved for speakers who practice. And by practice, I don't mean flipping through your slides an hour before the presentation. I mean run-throughs, full of stops and starts, until you're able to deliver that talk as you envision it. Helpful observer friends and cameras optional, although they both can help the practice process. Whether you do it solo or with a team, practice will help you:
  1. Look like you didn't need practice: Call it the Great Irony of Public Speaking: The speaker who practices winds up looking relaxed, unruffled, at ease and extemporaneous. The speaker who gets up to speak without preparation looks like, well, she isn't prepared. The unprepared speaker is more likely to run overtime, stumble, forget and otherwise look forced. You can only get that extemporaneous, casual look through practice--and it's the biggest practice advantage.
  2. Remember more of what you wanted to say: No question about it, repetition through practice means your brain will retain more of what you wanted to say. Every speaker has those moments when her mind goes blank. Practice means that the words have a better chance of coming out of your mouth, anyway. 
  3. Roll with the punches: If your slides don't work, you can still speak. If the room changes, the mic doesn't work, or you wind up with lots of other last-minute public speaking snafus, you can still speak. Knowing you have practiced your speech--including what might go wrong--keeps you cool under difficult and changing circumstances.
  4. Work out your stumbles ahead of time: Keep tripping over that troublesome word or phrase? Hesitating to say that strong, pointed statement? You'll get better at it with practice. And who doesn't prefer to make the mistakes in private, rather than into a microphone? If you're working with a speechwriter, let her sit in on your practice so lines can be rewritten on the spot to make them easier to say.
  5. Try a new speaking skill with lower risk: If you're trying something new to you, from storytelling to speaking simply about technical topics, practice makes that first foray less risky...because it won't actually be your first foray after you've practiced many times. 
  6. Build a stronger structure for your speech or presentation: Want a strong, fast start to grab and hold your audience's attention? A big ending? A section of your keynote that gets the audience engaged and active? Practice can make sure you have the time to plan, try out and perfect those key sections of the presentation.
  7. Hit those grace notes: Whether you want to polish the delivery of that special quote to use your vocalizing well, maneuver the stage smoothly, or get creative with your special thanks and acknowledgements, grace notes are practice-worthy. The things that can take your speech from good to great are best nurtured with time to practice.
Don't think you have time to practice? Check out my 5 stealth ways to find the time for public-speaking practice. You can do this.

I'm delighted that Andrew Dlugan's great Six Minutes blog chose this article for his weekly roundup of the best blog posts on public speaking for the week ending July 14. Thanks, Andrew!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The TED Commandments & TEDMED Hippocratic Oath: Guides for speakers

If you've wondered how to figure out the secrets of speakers at high-profile conferences like TED and TEDMED so you can use them in your own speaking, wonder no more. The keys lie in two documents that are sent to every speaker these conferences select--documents with guidance that any speaker can use to excel.

At TED, the document's called "The TED Commandments," and it reads:
I.  Thou shalt not simply trot out thy usual schtick.
II. Thou shalt dream a great dream, or show forth a wondrous new thing, or share something thou hast never shared before.
III. Thou shalt reveal thy curiosity and thy passion.
IV. Thou shalt tell a story.
V. Thou shalt freely comment on the utterances of other speakers for the sake of blessed connection and exquisite controversy.
VI. Thou shalt not flaunt thine ego. Be thou vulnerable. Speak of thy failure as well as thy success.
VII. Thou shalt not sell from the stage neither thy company, thy goods, thy writings, nor thy desperate need for funding, lest thou be cast aside into outer darkness.
VIII. Thou shalt remember all the while laughter is good.
IX. Thou shalt not read thy speech.
X. Thou shalt not steal the time of them that follow thee.

At TEDMED, the speaker's guide takes its cue from the physician's Hippocratic oath, and it reads:
I swear to fulfill to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will speak from my heart, not from my notes.
I will speak in plain English so that all may understand.
I will present only one big idea.
I will use visuals to enhance my words, not duplicate them.
I will share my true character on stage.
I will showcase the thinking, not the thinker.
I will not sell or solicit the audience.
I will rehearse for timing, clarity and impact.
I will hand over the stage when my time is up.
I will attempt to reveal something the world has never seen before.

Good advice for speakers everywhere...will you follow this guidance or share it with others?

I've coached the speakers for TEDMED for two years and many TEDx speakers. Can I help you get ready for a TED talk, or a TED-quality talk in a different venue? Email me at eloquentwoman[at]gmail[dot]com. I work with groups and with individuals.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Famous Speech Friday: Emmeline Pankhurst, "Freedom or Death"

I would have liked seeing British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst in action. When we say her movement fought for votes for women, it really fought: The suffragette movement in the UK was unusually violent. Pankhurst, known for her theatrics, addressed crowds from a stretcher, broke out of prison, got smuggled into lecture halls to avoid the police, and spoke (as shown in the photo here) from automobiles and pretty much any venue she could find.

Her "Freedom or Death" speech, considered her most famous, happened in Hartford, Connecticut, on a fundraising tour of the United States that took place late in 1913. She traveled there with a warrant out on her head. Feminist and author Germaine Greer sets the scene:
During the preceding 18 months she had been imprisoned 12 times, but had served no more than 30 days, all of them on hunger strike. According to her daughter and comrade, Christabel Pankhurst, prison staff never dared to force-feed her. In response to public revulsion, force-feeding was abandoned in 1913 and the "Cat and Mouse Act" brought in, which provided that fasting female inmates whose health was suffering be released until their health improved, then rearrested as often as necessary until their sentence was served out.
In this fundraising speech, Pankhurst announced early on that she would not be defending the right of women to vote, but instead to explain why the movement had turned to more aggressive and violent means to achieve its ends. "I do not look either very like a soldier or very like a convict, and yet I am both," she said frankly, and much later, having cast the movement as a civil war, said, "you cannot make omelettes without breaking eggs; you cannot have civil war without damage to something." It's interesting that her speaking style, as noted in her obituary in the New York Times,was not itself loud and fiery. Here are some things you can learn about public speaking from this speech:
  • Find a comparator to throw your argument into high relief: Pankhurst uses the speech to compare the women's vote movement to other international uprisings unrelated to her topic, and compares herself to Sir Edward Carson, who was leading the Ulster rebellion in Ireland at the time. She's effective in noting that he had done everything she had, but was not imprisoned for it--and had the privilege of the vote, to boot. The comparison deftly demonstrates an injustice.
  • Call it what it is:In 1913, men could vote, but women, the poor, criminals and the insane were forbidden to do so. Seizing on that status as part of the dregs of society, Pankhurst spoke to men direcctly: "It is quite evident you do not all realise we are human beings or it would not be necessary to argue with you that women may, suffering from intolerable injustice, be driven to adopt revolutionary methods." In doing so, she got back to her primary point: The violent methods stemmed from a real injustice.
  • Create a local angle: Pankhurst asks her audience to imagine these issues were playing out in their own streets, and among men, rather than women: "But let the men of Hartford imagine that they were not in the position of being voters at all, that they were governed without their consent being obtained, that the legislature turned an absolutely deaf ear to their demands, what would the men of Hartford do then?" In playing to the locals, she takes what might have seemed like a faraway issue and brought it home.
You can read an edited version of this speech, part one and part two, which appeared in a 2007 top ten great speeches of the 20th century list compiled by the Guardian (Pankhurst, Margaret Thatcher and Virginia Woolf were the only women to make that list). Greer's appreciation appeared alongside the speech. Pankhurst's book, My Own Story, is available for free on Amazon Kindle, and you also can consult the biography Emmeline Pankhurst.

Below is the first part of a BBC documentary, Suffragette City, that puts the movement and Pankhurst's leading role in context. What do you think of this famous speech?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Eloquent Woman in Toastmaster magazine

If you're a member of Toastmasters, you'll see my short article on using Twitter to enhance your speech on page 10 of the July 2012 issue of Toastmaster, the member magazine. (Members are getting the magazine first in the mail, and you'll be able to find the digital edition here when it goes online.) No need to wait, however: The article's adapted from this post right here on the blog. I'm pleased to have so many Toastmasters members as followers of this blog, and am delighted to be a part of their magazine this month.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Read the Declaration of Independence aloud today

It's an American tradition, on our Independence Day, to read aloud the Declaration of Independence-- in part, a recollection of the way it was originally communicated to the people, via town criers who brought the document from city to city to read it out loud in the town square.

For public speakers, reading the Declaration aloud isn't just a nice way to honor the holiday. Reading any famous and familiar text aloud is a great way to practice how you vocalize. The familiarity of the text lets you focus on pronunciation, inflection, pauses and other ways of emphasizing particular words.

You can find a great model to follow in National Public Radio's own tradition of asking its hosts and reporters to read the Declaration aloud--each person gets a couple of sentences. Listen to their vocalizing to hear several different examples in one reading (and if you're a regular listener, it's fun to see whether you recognize who's reading what). For your own reading, here's the actual transcript of the Declaration, from the U.S. National Archives, and NPR's read-aloud version from last year.

Happy Fourth of July to my U.S. readers--and if you live elsewhere, think about a famous and familiar text from your own national heritage to read aloud.

Monday, July 2, 2012

5 books for the introverted speaker

Introverts can be great public speakers--with plenty of time to prepare and the chance to be by themselves before and after. Consulting a good book is an activity true to the introvert's way, so I've rounded up five good guides to help introverts consider their speaking situations of all kinds, from networking to speeches. Many books have been written about introverts, but all of these are very recent and well-received guides, so I hope you'll find the help you need in their pages:
  1. Lessons from an introvert who tackled speaking in a big way: Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, writes in the book about public speaking being her biggest hurdle as an introvert. Later, during her book tour, she went on to give a TED talk about being an introvert--a big turnaround. You'll appreciate her writing about public speaking and her tips and clues about how to find your "sweet spot" as an introverted speaker.
  2. Take advantage of the introverted edge: The Introvert's Guide to Success in Business and Leadership author Lisa Petrilli has a host of suggestions for ways to take conferences and meetings and other business exchanges and make them more comfortable and effective for introverts. Since we do most of our public speaking at work, it's invaluable. Petrilli's angle: Your introversion is a business advantage, since it will lead you to be more prepared, a better listener and much more.
  3. Let's face the networking happy hour together: Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected tackles the public speaking situation many introverts dread: Networking events. It's easy to get overwhelmed in a roomful of people, each of whom requires a new introduction and conversation. Here's your life preserver and preparation kit, all in one.
  4. Tooting your own horn, quietly: Many of my readers have told me they enjoyed Self-Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead in part because it helped them steer between the shoals of needing to speak up about their accomplishments and dreading that very thing. A smart guide to making sure you don't miss out on opportunities, even when putting yourself forward is uncomfortable.
  5. Putting the energy back into interaction: Good energy is key to good speaking and to speaking up, and Energised: An Introvert's Guide to Effective Communication looks at methods of speaking and communication that don't drain introverts' energy--as being around lots of people usually does. It's another effort to put the positive back into what many introverts see as a lose-lose situation.