Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Why (and how) you should publish your speeches

If you give a speech, but don't take steps to publish or preserve it afterward, did you make a sound? The answer could be contributing inadvertently to silencing women all over the world.

I wish more women speakers would ask themselves that if-a-tree-falls-in-the-woods question about their speaking practices. As I hunt down famous speeches by women, I'm struck by the sheer lack of volume of available women's speeches--even when the speech is well-known, and certainly when it's not. That's true historically and in our time, and I'm coming to believe that it's not just because women have difficulty getting on the program in the first place.

Some speakers shake off this question because they think their talks are not important enough to save. If that's your view, it's good to keep in mind that only history can be the judge of that--and a failure to preserve your talk leaves nothing for later audiences to use to make that decision. Speakers who work without a text may feel they have nothing to save, but in fact, you have plenty of publishing options, text or no text.

How and whether you publish your speeches also has a greater importance to women everywhere. Without examples--and lots of them--of women speaking in all sorts of situations and on many topics, we're all missing thousands of sources of inspiration and good role models. If you want to silence yourself, failing to publish your spoken presentations is a great way to start. If you want to find your voice and your audience, publishing your speeches helps you to do both. Consider these options for making sure your words hang in the air longer than the time it took to speak them:
  • Choose your version: If you're working from a text, you can publish it labeled "prepared for delivery," if you're using the text as written, or "as delivered" to indicate it's what you actually said. 
  • Transcribe: No text? If you've recorded your speech (about which more below), transcription services are less expensive than you think, and worth using for this purpose. Remember, no matter how much audio and video you have, text is needed to make your speech easier to find in search engines, so invest in getting those words out there.
  • Translate: If your language is not in wide use around the world, consider investing in a translation or asking someone to volunteer to do it. Many women speakers would see wider audiences and spread their message further with translation of speeches.
  • Publish it yourself: Use your blog, website, ScribdTumblr, or SlideShare to publish your own text or slides, or use a site like Lanyrd, the social network for conferences, to compile a portfolio of your speeches and presentations. You may want to do this even if your employer, the conference organizer or another group publishes your speech, to make sure it stays published and as a record of your own body of work as a speaker. After all, you might change your place of employment or the organization may change its web content without letting you know. Since publishing tools are free and plentiful, there's no reason not to use them in this way.
  • Publish what others heard: Collect the tweets from your audience on Storify and publish them as a different kind of transcript. You'll get the highlights and what struck the audience most. Likewise, compile links to any blog or media coverage of your talk, and publish them alongside the text.
  • Submit it to another publisher: If you take the time to produce the text, audio or video of your speech or presentation, you can submit it to someone else for publication: Your professional society, the conference where you gave the talk, your local newspaper, your local historical society, Vital Speeches of the Day. Turn your speech into an op-ed and submit it to a newspaper. Just make sure you've published it independently, too.
  • Publish the sound of your voice speaking: Verlyn Klinkenborg muses about how we take many snapshots of ourselves, but rarely preserve the sounds of ourselves speaking, creating a missing picture of many famous speakers. He writes, "What would we know if we could hear the voice of Cleopatra? How odd would Napoleon’s Corsican accent sound to modern French speakers? And what if we had two minutes of the voice of Shakespeare, who managed to leave so little of his personal self behind?" Your vocal intonations and cadence are a vital part of any speech or presentation, so preserve them. You can create and publish audio files directly, or use the slidecasting feature on SlideShare to add audio narration to slides.
  • Publish video: It doesn't have to be network quality video, but a video of your speech lets us see expression, movement, gesture, audience reactions and questions, what you're wearing and how you look--all things a text can't offer. You can easily publish video on YouTube or Vimeo, or capture live-streamed events on LiveStream. Here's a nice example from the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, which includes speeches from its Grace Hopper Celebration conferences on the institute's YouTube channel.
  • Make it shareable: No matter which format you use to publish or preserve your speech or presentation, please make the format one which can be shared easily. Putting your material on SlideShare, Scribd, YouTube, Facebook and Pinterest (which supports both video and SlideShare) makes that possible automatically. Keep those embed codes turned on, so the rest of us can spread your work around.
  • Make it normal to do this: If every organization with a women's committee, every professional group, every conference organizer and every company or nonprofit made publishing speeches and presentations routine, we could make this process the new normal. (Government agencies, the keepers of public record, are better at publishing speeches as a matter of practice.) Take that up with your management and the organizations to which you belong. Insist on it when you are the speaker, and if the group won't go along, do it yourself and encourage other women speakers to do it.
Now will you start preserving and publishing your speeches and presentations? Please? I hope you'll make this a habit, rather than something you hesitate to do. Women everywhere are waiting to hear what you have to say.

UPDATED: Want to make the case for doing this in your workplace or organization? Use the SlideShare presentation I created, based on this post:

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