Friday, August 31, 2012

Famous Speech Friday: Elizabeth Glaser and Mary Fisher convention speeches on HIV/AIDS

Election season can bring out the big speakers, and 20 years ago it was two women who commanded the national stages. Their topic was HIV/AIDS, and the speakers were Elizabeth Glaser and Mary Fisher. Both women had been diagnosed as HIV positive, and they spoke out at a time when treatments promised little hope. Their white, young and affluent faces were a shock to many Americans who still saw AIDS as "a disease of others."

Glaser spoke first, at the Democratic National Convention held in July 1992, and some news accounts speculated that Fisher's speech at the August Republican National Convention was meant as a counterbalance to Glaser. You could see them as dueling speakers--and there are notable differences in their approaches--but it's the similarities that stand out 20 years later. In both cases, the women brought the noisy shuffling of the convention halls to an unusual and stunned silence (Listen for this in the videos below--it's a dramatic shift.). Roving cameras captured open weeping in the audience as the two mothers spoke of their children. They finished to thunderous, standing ovations normally reserved for the presidential candidates themselves.

Glaser's speech is the more overtly political, in keeping with her role of speaking in front of a party eager to take back the White House. Her speech directly condemns the George H.W. Bush administration and Congress for what she saw as their inaction, with lines like this: "I believe in America," she said, "but an America where there is a light in every home. A thousand points of light just wasn't enough. My house has been dark for too long."

Fisher's speech had a less pointed but equally urgent purpose, to bring the face of HIV/AIDS before an audience that she felt had looked away for too long. "Learn with me the lessons of history and of grace, so my children will not be afraid to say the word 'AIDS' when I am gone," she concluded. "Then, their children and yours may not need to whisper it at all."

What can you learn from both of these famous speeches?
  • Don't worry about the happy ending. We've said it before, but it bears repeating. Sometimes it's the stories you can't share at first that become the most compelling. It's painful--but remarkable--to hear Glaser describe the lessons she learned from her daughter Ariel as the little girl was dying from AIDS. It's similarly painful and striking to hear that Fisher's 84-year old father refuses to believe that nothing can be done to stop the virus from overcoming his daughter.
  • Leave them with one idea. There's a theme in each of these speeches, and Fisher and Glaser carefully choose their words to keep the focus on these themes. For Glaser, it's "leadership"--how leadership can fail and how it can be renewed. Fisher's theme is "silence." Count how many times she compares the "whisper" or "quiet" surrounding HIV to the "voice," messenger," and "call" that she hopes will replace them.
  • It's OK to "nudge" your host. Glaser and Fisher are invited guests at these conventions, so how did they get away with criticizing their audiences? You may not want to try this in an everyday speech, but this was no ordinary stage for the two women. Both of them were facing the chance of a lifetime to speak from their hearts and advocate for real change. In Glaser's case, she acknowledges that her Democratic audience knows that HIV is a problem, but chides them that good thoughts alone "won't save my family." Fisher points out that in a Republican party touting family values, "...we do the President's cause no good if we praise the American family but ignore a virus that destroys it."
  • Consider your accessories. Fisher and Glaser both wear the red ribbon for HIV/AIDS, but with a not-so-subtle difference. Glaser's ribbon is pinned to her lapel and blends into her suit. It's as if she expects her audience to accept it as a matter-of-fact part of her wardrobe. Fisher wears a dress with a broad white collar. It resembles a choir robe--and convention correspondent Norman Mailer even called her a "Republican angel." Her red ribbon is huge and prominently displayed on the collar, in keeping with her goal of no more silence.
Which speech do you think is more compelling? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Scientists, need to give a talk? Here's a free guide to get you started

If you're a scientist, chances are you'll give many talks--to your colleagues and even to non-technical audiences. But how well-prepared will you feel? Will you ace the opportunity, or wind up giving what one blogger recently called "the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad scientific talk?"

Chances are your comfort levels will go up once you've consulted a newly updated guide on giving science talks from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. The second edition of Communicating Science: Giving Talks walks you through the planning and structuring of a presentation to handling technology and snafus with ease. The guide also features "pointers to inexpensive, approachable resources available in most communities to polish speaking skills and gain confidence."

You'll find a list of further reading on giving presentations at the link, along with the guide itself in PDF, Scribd and Issuu electronic versions--all free. For a hard copy of the booklet, or for copies in quantity, fire off an email to Russ Campbell at news[at] It's all part of the career development and lab management resources available for scientists from the Fund. Women scientists will want to check out A Place at the Bench, a special guide on women's career challenges and opportunities in biomedical science.

Still want to up your game? I've collected 13 posts from The Eloquent Woman, all relevant to scientists speaking to public audiences (and to some technical ones) in the all-in-one for eloquent scientists, loaded with resources and role models for you. These posts cover everything from speaking to audiences that mix technical and non-technical listeners, how to handle data in your presentations without overwhelming the audience, what to save for Q&A versus your presentation, and much more. Training scientists of all disciplines to give public talks is among my specialties. Please email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz to learn more about group or individual training for scientists (or other executives).

Friday, August 24, 2012

Closed today

Just a reminder: The blog is closed today. Famous Speech Friday will return next week in this space, and please feel free to leave a comment suggesting other famous speeches by women you'd like to see featured on a future Friday. Thanks, as always, for reading!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Story tutorials for speakers: 4 smart lessons

Storytelling's a critical skill for today's speaker. A story well-told can do more to put your big idea across than all the slides and handouts in the universe. But it takes practice and planning to tell good stories.

Fortunately, I've found four smart lessons for you, all unique takes on storytelling that will help you ponder the possibilities. From Africa's listening culture to the science behind why we tell stories, here's a quartet of resources to advance your storytelling skills:

What listening contributes to storytelling

Novelist Henning Mankell moved to Africa to experience living outside western culture, and learned that listening is a lost art, one that's essential to storytelling. Listen to what he says: "In Africa listening is a guiding principle. It's a principle that's been lost in the constant chatter of the Western world, where no one seems to have the time or even the desire ot listen to anyone else." A thoughtful read that incorporates great stories.

Sometimes, writing kills stories

Take it from a professional writer: Sometimes, wanting to write and polish your story ruins it. She recommends learning to use methods like those of The Moth storytelling events, including making sure of your characters, arc, description, dialogue and voice. Among The Moth's top reminders: Its stories "are told, not read." Put that pencil down and read this one.

The science of why we tell stories

At the World Science Festival, a lively discussion about why humans tell stories looked at everything from how your brain "lights up" when you hear a good tale to how we learn more about ourselves through sharing stories.

Video streaming by Ustream

Storytelling with slides

Yes, it's possible. SlideShare recently featured Samantha Starmer, who directs the eCommerce Customer Experience at REI, as well as her presentation (below) on structuring your presentation in story-form.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Looking at powerful speeches by women in @Toastmasters magazine

I'm delighted to say that my article "Women Who Changed the World" appears in the September 2012 issue of Toastmaster, the magazine of Toastmasters International--and it's the cover story.

The issue is now available online or in print editions if you're a member of Toastmasters, as so many readers of The Eloquent Woman are. Non-members will be able to find it in a few weeks at the link above.

Toastmaster asked me to find and write about speeches by women that were real game-changers, and I chose four that will be familiar to readers of the blog. Nobel laureates Aung San Suu Kyi and Wangari Maathai, International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde and Hillary Clinton all are featured for powerful speeches with effects that lasted long after the speaking was done.

The article also includes a sidebar on resources you can use to find more speeches by women. Please do share the article with other Toastmasters and speakers!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Famous Speech Friday: Julia Child's "The French Chef" cooking demos

Her lectern was a kitchen island, and, as you can see in the photo at right, she had a television crew at her feet while she spoke. Because it was a public television show on a tight budget, she was encouraged to start talking and not to stop, if at all possible, to avoid racking up overtime charges. Oh, and one more thing: While she spoke for nearly a half-hour, she had to make a classic French dish from scratch, explaining clearly how you could make the same dish in your kitchen from planning the dish to serving it at the table. You try it, sometime.

This week, August 15 marked the 100th anniversary of Julia Child's birth, and anyone whose public speaking consists of training, teaching or lecturing would do well to study Child's first and most famous television series, "The French Chef." Launched in 1963, it revolutionized how Americans cooked at home, created a new vision of what public television could be, and stands today as a great example of instructional speaking. "I won't do anything unless I'm told why I'm doing it. So I felt that we needed fuller explanations so that if you followed one of those recipes, it should turn out exactly right," she told Terry Gross in an interview. She became the model to follow, and while today, food television even has its own channel, Child was a pioneer in teaching cooking on television.

Watch any of the "French Chef" shows and consider them as a recipe for public speaking, mixing clear explanations and definitions with a dash of humor and a flurry of demonstrations using props--a.k.a, kitchen tools and food. In the episode shown here, Child shows and tells us how to make a quiche Lorraine, starting with a pie crust from scratch. "I'll give full details as we go along," she reassures her viewers, and that she does. Here's what you can learn from Child's instructional "lectures:"
  • Musicality helps you vocalize and emphasize points: Much has been made--and made funny--about Child's voice, but if you listen to her, the musicality of it shines through. It's a quality that helps her vocalize better, emphasizing particular words with different tones and rhythms. In an instructional show that conveyed hundreds of facts and nuances, that vocal variety helped her to hold attention and direct the viewer about what was most important.
  • Enthusiasm carries the instruction: Audiences loved watching Child demonstrate cooking, whether live or televised, primarily because her own enjoyment and enthusiasm were evident as she worked. If she loved a dish or an ingredient, or favored a particular kitchen tool, you knew about it.  Too often, speakers who train or teach forget that audiences can be captivated by the instructor's enthusiasm. Here, it's a vital ingredient in Child's success as a speaker.
  • Descriptions and details can help your viewers "see:" Shut your eyes and listen to Child walk you through the recipe. You'll be able to see it in your mind's eye because she's so deft at creating what I call invisible visuals. They make her instruction all the easier to remember--another key ingredient when you're speaking in order to instruct an audience.
Here's a tribute to Child on The Splendid Table, including more interview clips from fellow cooking teacher Lynne Rosetto Kasper. You'll hear how audiences lined up to see her, something every speaker dreams of:

You can read more about Child in the new biography Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child. Here's the video of Child demonstrating that quiche. What do you think of this famous speech/quiche?

Watch Quiche Lorraine on PBS. See more from The French Chef.

(Paul Child photo of Julia Child on "The French Chef" set in its first year on air, 1963, from the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New comments and posting policies

Behind the scenes of this blog and the don't get caught blog on social media and communications, there's been a lot of activity--so I need to share these updates about new policies and frequency of posts:
  • Comments:  Comments have always been an important part of all my blogs. Unfortunately, of late, both blogs have seen a great increase in two kinds of spam comments: the robotic kind--sometimes in massive attacks--and the promotional "I'm going to write a clever comment with backlinks to my book/post/website" kind (which might also be called "get your own blog" comments). Both are in violation of my existing comments policy, and both have proven problematic in terms of attracting robotic spam. Moderation of the great increase in both kinds of comments just isn't feasible. So I'm going to now require you to register in order to comment. It's not a lengthy procedure, and if you wish, you can use the OpenID Foundation's options for accelerating this process safely. I've come close to having both blogs shut down in recent weeks, due to the spam influx. I hope this won't limit your willingness to share on-topic and appropriate comments on any post; I certainly don't want to have to go as far as forbidding all comments. So help me do this well!
  • Posting: I post on both blogs three times a week, but for the next few months, I'll be reducing my posts to two posts per week, per blog. Fridays will still see the "famous speech Friday" posts on The Eloquent Woman, and the "weekend read" on the don't get caught blog. In addition to those weekly features, I'll be posting on Tuesdays on the DGC blog and on Wednesdays on The Eloquent Woman. You'll also find daily links and resources on the DGC on Facebook page and The Eloquent Woman on Facebook page.
  • Closed:  Both blogs are taking a few days off on August 23 and 24.
Happy to hear your questions, comments and concerns, so do register and share them! I appreciate, as always, your readership.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

7 secret advantages of the speaker who allows extra time

How many times have you said, "They want me to speak for an hour?"  Here's a secret: There may be an hour on the schedule for your talk, but if you're a smart speaker, you won't fill the time allotted. The speaker who allows extra time gets 7 secret advantages, such as:
  1. A happier audience: No one really wants the speaker to speak the full amount of time. No one. A speaker who shows not just a healthy respect for time limits, but errs on the less-is-more side, will win the day and get more praise, applause and love from the listeners. Leave them wanting more.
  2. A more engaged audience: Most audiences come to talks wanting to participate in some way, and I don't just mean by applauding. People arrive with questions, things to add to the discussion or points they want to argue. Leaving extra time lets them contribute and feel satisfaction from doing so.
  3. Less stress in the room: When speakers skirt too close to closing time, you can feel the stress in the room, from the person in front who's mouthing "Five minutes!" to the people in the back checking their watches and cellphones. Some of that stress comes from people realizing their questions won't get answered, some from people who need to be somewhere next. All of them are hoping you'll conclude before the clock or the moderator tells you to do so.
  4. More time to show off your deep knowledge: If you've got lots to say, I recommend saving some of it for the Q&A. Instead of front-loading your talk with all your data and knowledge, open things up for questions and show your smarts in the answers. This is a great tactic for making sure you don't overwhelm the audience with data, and for looking confident in Q&A.
  5. Ease in handling the unexpected:  The speaker who doesn't plan a wall-to-wall approach benefits when anything unexpected hits the fan, from a late-arriving moderator to a crisis that requires you to shorten your remarks on the fly. At one major conference this year where I was coaching speakers, a fire alarm and evacuation required several speakers to shave their presentation times dramatically so we could keep the program on time. If you've already allowed some air in your remarks, you'll have less last-minute angst in a situation like that.
  6. A chance for better, more dramatic pacing:  If you're not jamming in every fact and story you know, you can stretch out your stories and use dramatic pauses and varied pace. Speakers who are more focusing on putting too much content into a short time have only one choice: Talk fast and keep going.
  7. Better comprehension from your audience: The speedy speaker loses out in another way, because audiences need you to slow down when you speak or present, compared to the way you speak in conversation. If you're more intent on filling your time, you may have spoken all the things you want to say, but your audience might be catching less of your message overall--so is that really a win? I think not.

Monday, August 13, 2012

5 ways to look your best on Skype, video chat and Google+ Hangouts

Most of us do our "public speaking" at work in meetings and on conference calls--and these days, the options for visual conferencing are everywhere, from Skype to Google+ hangouts to traditional videoconferencing. If you're used to telephone conference calls, the rise of the visual call adds another layer of checklist items before the meeting. Prepare yourself with these five resources, tips and ideas to appear your best:
  1. Take it from Skype: This interview goes right to an expert from Skype for five tips to help you look good on video chat, from sitting up straight to putting the webcam level with your forehead (try this Griffin Technology Elevator Laptop Stand for that purpose). The author tries the tips and shares a before and after photo of her results.
  2. Get a better focus on the person you're talking to: Not so worried about your face, but that of the person you're talking to? Botiful can help you keep that other caller's face in the frame. It's a small thing, but that might help you look more engaged--and engaging--if you're not trying to follow a moving target.
  3. Consider HD-friendly makeup: If you do enough work in front of HD cameras for your videoconferencing, webinars or video chat, you may want to explore the new foundations and other makeup products designed to smooth out the flaws made more visible by high-definition cameras.
  4. Get familiar with new platforms: You'll look and feel more confident if you've practiced using different video chat and call platforms. Try ooVoo, a Skype alternative with a good primer here, or OnTheAir, where you can host your own live chat. Don't forget to try video chat from your mobile phone. You can now start a Google+ Hangout from your Android phone, for example. Ask a colleague to practice with you until you're both at ease.
  5. Tilt your head forward:  This video (a full 15 minutes' worth) shows examples from portrait photography, but these tips will work for you on video chats, too. It's worth practicing, because it will feel awkward at first.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Famous Speech Friday: Debbi Fields on Building Your Small Business

First, a warning: this famous speech will make your mouth water. There's lots of talk about chunks of melting chocolate, the smell of cookies straight from the oven and how much butter is too much butter. If you're sold on having a snack after you've read it, then Debbi Fields has done her job.

Or one of her jobs, at least. The founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies sold her famous baking business to investors in 1993, but she's still the spokesperson for the company and one of the most recognizable women entrepreneurs in the world. Fields' story of how she took her personal recipe and turned it into a multibillion-dollar business is nearly as irresistible as her cookies. As a result, she is in high demand as a motivational speaker for business groups and philanthropies.

Fields has said that she recalled her company's motto, "Good Enough Never Is," when it came to starting her career in public speaking. "The idea of getting in front of a group, not as Mrs. Fields but really as Debbi, made my knees shake, and I'd get all dry-mouthed," she said. She joined Toastmasters International to help her feel more comfortable about speaking in front of large audiences, and received its prestigious Golden Gavel award in 2003.

This 2008 talk for the Council of Smaller Enterprises is Fields' signature motivational speech, in which she pairs scenes from her life with lessons learned for her business. It's a particularly good approach for this audience of small business owners, who understand how the personal and professional inevitably blend. "When I go to people's homes I'm still always toting my cookies that I made from scratch because it makes me happy," Fields says toward the end of the speech. "And so, for me, I'm just a believer that every day is grand opening day."

Just like the counter at a Mrs. Fields shop, we'll offer a few free samples here to whet your appetite for more.
  • Step away from the stove. Fields breezes right past the lectern after her introduction, and remains pacing the stage during her entire talk. She gestures constantly and generally has a high energy style of speaking that probably wouldn't fare as well if she had to stand in one spot. Not everyone likes or benefits from this sort of speaking style, but it's something to experiment with if you think it might work for you. And if this is your speaking style, be sure to check out your venues ahead of time and speak with organizers to see if they will have the space and equipment to accommodate this type of talk.
  • Don't be afraid to throw out a bad batch. For a speech about being an entrepreneur superstar, Fields sure does share a lot of her failures, often in painful and funny detail. I winced when she recalled how her husband's client tossed a dictionary at her after she said "orientated." But it's the kind of detail that makes the story of her success that much sweeter when it happens. And as a motivational technique, it provides a clear path--from days of aspiration to days of accomplishment--that her listeners can recognize.
  • Nutritious bites aren't a bad idea. A motivational speech doesn't have to be all about platitudes and slogans about passion and belief. Yes, there's plenty of those things in this speech, but Fields also offers practical advice for entrepreneurs on how to implement day-to-day financial goals and evaluate the return on foot traffic. (The company's pioneering use of software to streamline ordering, hiring and store operations is the subject of a Harvard Business Review case study.) Most motivational speakers can deliver the sweet nothings, but these specific insights make her a uniquely memorable and useful speaker for her audience.
Here's the full video of her 2008 talk. What else can you learn from Fields' famous speech?

(Editor's note: Regular contributor and freelance writer Becky Ham penned this entry in our Famous Speech Friday series.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The all-in-one on giving a eulogy: 8 tips and models for speakers

"I gave my mother's eulogy yesterday without tears and used some of the tips from The Eloquent Woman," wrote one reader, who consulted our blog and our readers for advice, then reported back. This saddest of speaker tasks has come back again and again in our coverage, and this roundup has inspiration, tactics and real-life examples to help you speak under tough circumstances. Here are eight tips and good examples on giving eulogies effectively:
  1. How do you give your mother's eulogy? asked a reader. Readers and I responded with tips and examples, and we got the inquirer's tips in return, based on her successful effort. Her personal goal: Not crying during the eulogy. Find out how she pulled it off.
  2. How to approach a tough topic: 5 ways is a post that applies to many difficult speaking challenges, eulogies included. It's a good way to step back and see the eulogy in context, with practical steps toward getting it done.
  3. Should you use notes--or not? That's a question many speakers have, but there are particular considerations about notes for a eulogy. Learn about them here.
  4. Maya Angelou's eulogy for Coretta Scott King is among the most popular entries in our Famous Speech Friday series. This post includes video so you can see her thrilling delivery, and hear her vivid descriptions and funny, very personal stories--the factors that make this a eulogy to remember.
  5. Remembering the deceased's toughest moments might be part of your task as a eulogist. In this post about Lady Bird Johnson, Bill Moyers--an aide to her husband--recalled her strength as a speaker in the face of hostile audiences, part of the reason she's in our Famous Speech Friday series.
  6. Caroline Kennedy's eulogy for her uncle Edward Kennedy, another of our Famous Speech Friday entries, is a great example of how to weave laughter, personal details and emotion in your eulogy for a special person in your life.
  7. Is your eulogy a tribute? Perhaps you're delivering a tribute to a famous person, rather than a eulogy for one you knew personally and well. Jennifer Granholm, then the governor of Michigan, delivered a stirring tribute to civil rights leader Rosa Parks at a memorial service with a standing-room-only crowd.
  8. Is your eulogy for a large group? War-zone journalist Marie Colvin gave this moving account of her fallen colleagues at a special memorial service. She used the moment to make clear what their work is really like, from risks to ordinary moments. It's a eulogy all the more moving in retrospect, as Colvin herself was later killed in action.
Speechwriters (or anyone else) tasked with writing a eulogy will find some good models in A Wonderful Life: 50 Eulogies to Lift the Spirit, and useful tips in A Labor of Love: How to Write a Eulogy.

Monday, August 6, 2012

How did you get started in public speaking?

Was it a conference call? A work presentation? Or did your first public speaking effort vault you before a big audience? I'm curious to hear where you took your first step in public speaking, about how you got started. It doesn't have to be a speech, but I'm thinking mostly about out-of-school experiences in the workplace or the community.

Tell us about your audience, your subject matter, the setting and especially, tell us how did it feel to try public speaking for the first time? What kind of reaction did you get? How did you react to it? What kind of preparation (if any) did you do? What would you advise someone else who's new to public speaking?

Please share your getting-started-in-speaking story in the comments. I'm sure the newbies in our readership will appreciate hearing your stories--and you'll get the chance to see how far you've come.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Eloquent Woman Index: My treasure trove of 70+ women's speeches

The Eloquent Woman Index--and its source, our Famous Speech Friday series--has grown considerably. I introduced the index at the start of 2012 to make it easier for readers to find and use this cache of women's speeches, and it has been gratifying to find that these famous speeches by women now rule the most-read list on this blog. In lieu of a famous speech this Friday, I want to take the time to share with you how the index has grown and all the new options available to you for making use of its contents:
  • The Eloquent Woman Index now includes 73 famous speeches by women, from historic speeches to the speeches of today. With only a couple of exceptions, most of the list doesn't repeat speakers, so the index represents a diverse range of women. So much for all the people who say they can't find speeches by women.
  • The Pinterest board titled "The Eloquent Woman" has a new Famous Speech Friday post added each week as they are published. All you need to do is click through the photo or video to get to the post.
  • Another Pinterest board, "Great quotes by eloquent women," shares quotes from our Famous Speech Friday posts. I hope you'll follow both boards on Pinterest and share our posts there.
You can always follow our Famous Speech Friday posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ as well.

I'm always interested in your suggestions for new additions to our Famous Speech Friday posts. It helps to keep in mind that we are looking for speeches that are famous--defined in various ways--but that the speakers themselves don't need to be famous. (In many cases, it's the speech that winds up making them famous for the first time.) We look for speeches from corporate executives, government leaders, nonprofit executives, university professors, scientists, engineers, attorneys and more--but also from individuals who might never have given a speech before. I'm equally interested in speakers from the pages of history as I am current-day speakers, and we are aiming for a highly diverse mix of viewpoints, ethnic backgrounds, professions, geographic locations and topics. Every Famous Speech Friday aims to focus on not just a famous speech, but one that addresses women's issues in whole or in part, so that we can not just learn from speakers who are women but think about the issues women face.

We'll resume the series next Friday. In the meantime, please share in the comments your ideas for speakers or speeches you'd like to see, and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

7 secret advantages of the speaker who smiles

That speaker over there who's smiling...does she know a secret? Yes, seven of them: the secret advantages of the speaker who smiles. Ron Gutman summarized much of the research about the benefits of smiling in a 2011 TED talk, and I've reviewed it to share with you the points most relevant to speakers, along with some smiling tips I share with my trainees. The speaker who smiles:
  1. Feels better. When you pull your muscles into a smile, your face sends feedback to the brain that modifies how your brain processes emotional content. The end result: You feel better when you smile. Some research suggests that smiling even feels better to your brain than eating chocolate (you may wish to test this out at home). 
  2. Doesn't look grim or bored: When your face is at rest, your physiology works against you, since most people's mouths are either a flat line or slightly downturned. Even a small smile will counteract that appearance. (A quick look at people on television who don't think the camera is on them will show you those flatlines or downward turns of the mouth, if you need proof). 
  3. Can hide what she's thinking: A benign smile is a great safe mask to wear, particularly when you're speaking in a tough negotiation. What is she thinking? they'll wonder. Make like the Mona Lisa to keep your face from belying your feelings, whether you're angry, nervous or feeling not-so-confident. Smiling's the best fake-it-until-you-make-it trick I know.
  4. Is more engaging and impressive to watch: How the audience perceives you is a big part of public speaking success. Some studies show a beneficial boost in perception of the speaker who smiles--specifically, smiling makes you look courteous, likeable and competent.
  5. Will look better in pictures or on video: If you've ever winced when you saw video or photos of yourself speaking because you looked grim or angry, confused or sad, just smile. It's especially good to keep a smile going when you're listening (say, during the Q&A portion of your talk). Make it your default "at rest" expression.
  6. Will get more positive feedback from the audience, because research shows "it's difficult for us to frown when looking at someone who's smiling." Smiling is "evolutionarily contagious," Gutman says.
  7. Feels less stressed while speaking: Smiling lowers your blood pressure, increases the mood-boosting hormone endorphin (think runner's high), and reduces the hormones that enhance your stress, like cortisol, adrenaline and dopamine. I coach speakers to start smiling 10 minutes before their talks for just this reason.
Below is Ron Gutman's TED talk on the hidden power of smiles. You also can order the Kindle Single based on his talk, titled Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act. Are you smiling yet?

This post also appeared on, and was selected by Six Minutes blog as one of this week's top public speaking blog posts.