Monday, April 29, 2013

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Readers who are fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see these good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. Want to keep up with them? Here are the finds I shared in the week just past:
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Friday, April 26, 2013

7 famous speeches by women about health from The Eloquent Woman Index

A speech about sickness and health may loom like a minefield for some women speakers, planted with all the challenges they've been taught to avoid in public speaking. Vulnerability, emotion, the female body--all of these attributes might be on display in a speech about health, even if the speaker doesn't plan for them to be the focus of her content.


And yet, a glance through the 100-plus speeches collected in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Women's Speeches shows just how powerful these women can sound when they talk about battling disease, or standing up for reproductive health, or urging political and scientific action. They succeed by stepping right into that minefield of vulnerability and emotion, realizing their bravery and determination will carry them through. Let's take a look at a few of these speakers from our index and see what they accomplished:

They spoke about the unspeakable: During the 1992 presidential election, Mary Fisher and Elizabeth Glaser made noisy convention halls fall into silence by talking passionately about HIV/AIDS in a time when the disease was still under the radar for most Americans. Although not as taboo a topic as HIV, straight talk about cancer was seldom heard in 1975 when Betty Ford broke with all kinds of conventions in describing her mastectomy. And after decades of hiding her condition, Elyn Saks lifted some of the stigma of mental illness when she went public with her schizophrenia diagnosis.

They seized the bully pulpit: Glaser, Fisher and Ford are all good examples here, but a few more of my favorites in this category include Margaret Sanger and U.S. Congresswomen Jackie Speier and Gwen Moore. In her 1925 speech "The Children's Era," Sanger skillfully focused on the health and welfare of unwanted children as a way of garnering more support for birth control and the need for women to control their own reproductive health. In 2011, Speier threw away her prepared remarks during a floor debate about Planned Parenthood to give a wrenching description of her own abortion, and Moore spoke about going into labor and being unable to even call for an ambulance. Their impromptu speeches provided short but blistering examples of why women in similar circumstances need affordable healthcare.

They turned powerful stories into powerful actions: Saks' speaking tour about her schizophrenia book prompted her to launch new research projects about the disease, which soon led to a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant. Ford's speech sent thousands of women to get their first mammograms. Sanger helped organize the first World Population Conference two years after her speech--although she and the other women at the conference had to remove their names from the program.

(Photo of Betty Ford touring a breast cancer center courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library)

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Speaking Science: How to reframe your speaker stress

It's no secret that many people find public speaking stressful, and even the speaker who describes herself as calm can find herself puzzlingly short of breath right before stepping to the lectern. But what if there were a different way to look at speaker stress?

University of Rochester psychologist Jeremy Jamieson and his colleagues recently tested whether "reframing" the stress that people feel during public speaking would help them feel less anxious during the task. In their study, published earlier this month in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, they asked 73 women and men to deliver a five-minute speech about themselves--with only three minutes to prepare. They then told half of the group that the stress they were feeling about the task was beneficial, rather than harmful. They even gave them a few scientific articles to read before speaking, which backed up the notion that stress is the body's way of ensuring success under difficult conditions.

"It seems like people just never take the time to consider that stress could be good," Jamieson said, explaining the reframing process. "So when they experience a sign of arousal like a racing heart or sweaty palms, they interpret this as negative."

The study participants then delivered their speeches in front of two research assistants--and oh boy, was it a tough crowd. The researchers had instructed the assistants to "respond negatively" during the speeches, scowling and tapping their clipboards and generally giving the impression that they had better places to be. On top of that, the participants were then asked to count backward by sevens, starting at 996. If they messed up, they got a stern warning from the assistants to start the counting again.

Jamieson's team discovered that the speakers who had been taught to reframe their stress as a good thing were more likely than the other speakers to say that they felt they had the resources to cope with the difficult experience. They were also less likely to notice negative feedback like yawning and that irritated tapping by the research assistants. Physiologically, the reframed group fared better as well: their stress-challenged hearts beat more efficiently.

Jamieson said it's not clear yet how long these effects last, although he is eager to test longer-term reframing as therapy for people with social anxiety disorder. He also says that anyone can try reframing their stress in this way, before a speech or another high-anxiety event.

"The reappraisal techniques we used in the study could very easily be done alone," he said. "Really, the core of what we do is change people's mindsets about what stress is. Rather than viewing stress as a unilaterally negative experience, we point out that stress responses have evolved for specific reasons and that they actually can help us perform better in stressful situations."

Jamieson talks more about the technique in this video produced by the University of Rochester. Is this something you might try before your next speech?





(Freelance writer Becky Ham contributed this post.)
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Monday, April 22, 2013

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
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Friday, April 19, 2013

Famous Speech Friday: Francine Wheeler's radio address on gun control reforms

What if the President of the United States stepped aside and let you give a talk in his place? That alone can make a speech famous, and it happened last week to Francine Wheeler, who gave the president's weekly radio address--broadcast on major television networks, YouTube and the White House website, an audience in the millions virtually guaranteed. It's a rare opportunity for any political leader, let alone a citizen, and the first time in the Obama administration that someone other than the president or vice president has delivered this address. The president even sent out a special email explaining the reason for the switch.

Wheeler is the mother of a six-year-old, Ben, who "was murdered in his first-grade classroom on December 14th, exactly 4 months ago this weekend," as she reminded us three paragraphs into this taut and powerful four-and-a-half-minute message. She and her husband were brought to Washington by the White House to lobby Congress on behalf of stricter gun control laws.

The setting was controlled, scripted and focused, with a teleprompter in front of her and her husband David by her side. Yet Wheeler, with a delivery described as "raw" and "struggling to maintain her composure" in press reports, transcended the limits of the setting to speak as a mother of two sons whose grief is still fresh:
David and I lost our beloved son, but Nate lost his best friend. On what turned out to be the last morning of his life, Ben told me, quite out of the blue, “ I still want to be an architect, Mama, but I also want to be a paleontologist, because that’s what Nate is going to be and I want to do everything Nate does.” 
Ben’s love of fun and his excitement at the wonders of life were unmatched. His boundless energy kept him running across the soccer field long after the game was over. He couldn’t wait to get to school every morning. He sang with perfect pitch and had just played at his third piano recital. Irrepressibly bright and spirited, Ben experienced life at full tilt.
I'll just guess the President isn't likely to lend you this microphone, but I still think you can learn something from this famous speech:
  • You can balance tears and a straightforward delivery: Here, the trappings of the seasoned politician--supportive spouse by her side, tight camera focus, quiet setting, teleprompter and script--help shore up the emotional impact on the speaker. Even so, Wheeler tears up nearly every other paragraph in this talk, underscoring for us what moves her: references to her son, to reactions following the shootings, to the need to the act. It's powerful. Another help: Wheeler's text deftly alternates positive memories with difficult passages, giving her someplace to go with her emotions.
  • Share something of what your life is like now: When you're the focus of attention in a tragedy, perhaps a survivor yourself, even a glimpse of your reality today can lend immediacy and clarity to your remarks. "When I packed for Washington on Monday, it looked like the Senate might not act at all. Then, after the President spoke in Hartford, and a dozen of us met with Senators to share our stories, more than two-thirds of the Senate voted to move forward." A simple statement that conveys action on the issue and the whirlwind in which she finds herself, this pair of sentences cements a connection.
  • A specific call to action makes your talk effective: This wasn't just a memorial speech or eulogy, since Wheeler's role was to encourage other citizens to take action. "Please help us do something before our tragedy becomes your tragedy," her heart-tugging plea, comes at the turning point in this address that is just 12 scant paragraphs. But Wheeler also opens with a signal that she is looking for action, and winds up with concrete action steps and specific reasons why action is needed now.
Ultimately, this plea went unanswered as the Senate bill failed the week after this address. You can read the transcript of Wheeler's address here and watch the video below. What do you think of this famous speech?


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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

1 question for the speaker coach: "Effective hand motions and hands at rest?"

If you could ask a speaker coach one question about your speaking or presenting, what would it be?

I asked that question recently on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, and I'll be answering those questions here on the blog. You're welcome to post your questions here in the comments or on Facebook.

LaTracey Copeland asked, "What are the most effective hand motions to be using throughout your presentation, and where do you hold them when not speaking?"

We've managed to make speakers feel bad about gesturing for some time now, and needlessly so. For starters, gesturing actually helps your brain produce speech--so you will speak more fluently if you gesture, and not so much if your hands are immobilized when you speak, so avoid putting your hands in your pockets while you're talking. Gestures also help you think while you're speaking.

The truth is that any kind of gesture--random or planned--will have those effects on your brain as a speaker. Here are some tips for how to think through and choose gestures for your next speech:
  • Can a gesture help you substitute for a chart or slide? Maybe all we need you to do is sketch the upward climb of a chart in the air, rather than show it to us on a slide.
  • If your talk is being recorded on video or you're in a television interview, remember that we won't see your gestures if they are behind the lectern or, on camera, below the level of your head and neck. That's fine if all you want to do is keep the words flowing, but keep in mind that the audience's ability to see the gesture can help us understand you and stay engaged. So hands up!
  • Pointing at the audience is a no-no in most cultures, so use my alternatives if you need to call on a questioner or direct attention to someplace in the room.
  • When your hands are at rest, if you can't rest them lightly on the lectern, stand with your elbows bent and your hands lightly touching at the fingertips. You'll look relaxed, but your hands are in a position that keeps them ready to gesture without looking awkward. But don't put them in your pockets, grip the lectern too tightly, or otherwise immobilize them--it will cause you to stumble more in your speaking, since gestures help your brain produce fluent speech.
What's your 1 question for the speaker coach? Leave it in the comments.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Readers who follow The Eloquent Woman on Facebook are already used to seeing links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog, so all readers can benefit. Here's a look at the week just past:



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Friday, April 12, 2013

Famous Speech Friday: Shirley Chisholm introduces the Equal Rights Amendment

"As a black person, I am no stranger to race prejudice. But the truth is that in the political world I have been far oftener discriminated against because I am a woman than because I am black."

Let other speakers mince words and dodge the difficult. Shirley Chisholm didn't so much speak in public as confront society verbally with its contradictions and inequalities. She wasn't anxious--her diatribes had a calm knowing about them--but she was adamant. Chisholm applied those speaking skills in 1969 as a member of Congress, introducing the Equal Rights Amendment and reminding her fellow members, five paragraphs in, about the two kinds of discrimination she'd faced herself. Later on, she reminds the House of Representatives that this particular piece of business had been before it for 40 years.

Chisholm had just become the first African-American woman elected to Congress the year before this speech, and it's an example of how she waded right into the task. Here, she tackles a common argument against an equal rights amendment protecting the rights of women:
One is that women are already protected under the law and do not need legislation. Existing laws are not adequate to secure equal rights for women. Sufficient proof of this is the concentration of women in lower paying, menial, unrewarding jobs and their incredible scarcity in the upper level jobs. If women are already equal, why is it such an event whenever one happens to be elected to Congress?  
It is obvious that discrimination exists. Women do not have the opportunities that men do. And women that do not conform to the system, who try to break with the accepted patterns, are stigmatized as ''odd'' and "unfeminine." The fact is that a woman who aspires to be chairman of the board, or a Member of the House, does so for exactly the same reasons as any man. Basically, these are that she thinks she can do the job and she wants to try. 
Just a few years later, Chisholm would run for president in 1972, the first major-party black candidate to do so. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Don't mince words: "The happy little homemaker and the contented 'old darkey' on the plantation were both produced by prejudice," said Chisholm, unafraid of echoing stereotypes to make her case. This is a plainspoken speech--an important quality when you're standing up for what's right or challenging the status quo. She leaves no doubt about where she stands, and where she thinks you stand in taking this position.
  • Reveal secrets as well as public positions: Chisholm spoke not only of overt discrimination, in the form of the only question asked of women job candidates ("Do you type?"), but called out "a calculated system of prejudice that lies unspoken behind that question....The unspoken assumption is that women are different. They do not have executive ability orderly minds, stability, leadership skills, and they are too emotional." Much as suffragette Nellie McClung did in 1914, Chisholm here gives voice to men's unspoken assumptions, the barriers that stood between women and equal opportunity.
  • Draw unexpected parallels: Speaking at a time when the civil rights movement was making strides, Chisholm knew from personal experience that women were discriminated against even in that movement. Knowing that civil rights had begun to gain political support, she ends her speech with a call to reject the "male supremacist myth," equating it with the white supremacist myth.
Chisholm was the subject of a PBS film, Unbought and Unbossed, which takes its title from Chisholm's autobiography, now updated as Unbought and Unbossed: Expanded 40th Anniversary Edition. You can read the text of this famous speech, and watch this series of clips of Chisholm speaking around the announcement of her candidacy for the presidency in 1972. You'll get a great sense of her pacing and cadence, and her sharp enunciation:


As an extra treat for our speechwriting readers, here's speechwriter Jill Franklin on writing for Chisholm:

 

A hat tip to reader Matt Shipman for the pointer to this text. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Take charge of that meeting: 8 ways to make sense of Robert's Rules of Order

If you're going to chair meetings or rise to a high post in your professional society, you're likely to run up against Robert's Rules of Order. In the U.S., it's the most widely used authority on parliamentary procedure--and many a meeting chair has struggled to follow those rules. A reader of The Eloquent Woman wrote in recently to say:
I've been trained in facilitation, but now chair boards that follow Robert's Rules of Order which I'm not that familiar with--and have not found a good resource (only one that is dense and antiquated). It would be great if you could identify one.
I've found 8 resources--all sizes and styles--for you to dip into if you need to master Robert's Rules. I find it helps to keep in mind the purpose of the rules, which help establish important meeting issues for women, such as who gets to speak next, allowing speakers to speak without interruption in favor of turn-taking, making sure that there's room for debating issues to be voted upon, and more. More recent editions of the book include versions of the rules for videoconferences and conference calls, an area where most of us need help taking turns and getting a word in edgewise. Check out these useful aids to learning the rules:
  1. Start at the source: Robert's Rules publishes its own Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief, not quite a pocket guide at 208 pages, but an abbreviated version you may find useful. It also offers a plan for study if you're starting your own group to learn the rules.
  2. Motion study: Robert's Rules also publishes a free, printable quick chart of motions you can make, including at-a-glance information on whether they need a second, whether you can be interrupted and more.
  3. Cheat sheets galore: Many organizations have watched their members and staff struggle with the rules, so cheat sheets abound. Try the civil engineers cheat sheet, the dummies cheat sheet or the city of Madison's guide. Or, if you're working with a particular organization -- like 4H, a PTO, or a homeowner's association -- search for the generic group name along with "Robert's Rules." Someone may already have anticipated your need and produced a guide for it.
  4. Charting your way through the rules is this six-page chart version of Robert's Rules Of Order, useful for posting in your office if several of your colleagues need to have a ready reference.
  5. Bully pulpit? The Guerrilla Guide to Robert's Rules takes a different approach, comparing parliamentary procedure to guerilla warfare. It applies Robert's Rules to keeping bullies in check in meetings, and using the rules to get your way when decisions are being made. I like that it discusses how bullies use misconceptions to sway the debate, a good tactic to keep in mind.
  6. Plainspoken rules: Robert's Rules of Order in Plain and Simple English aims to clarify the entire rule book in simpler language; this book comes in Kindle and paperback versions.
  7. Smart option: Robert's Rules For Dummies breaks it down for you in the classic "For Dummies" format that's anything but stupid. Included in this guide are sample agendas and minutes, as well as other easy-to-follow checklists and advice. This volume was updated in 2012.
  8. Robert's Rules Made Simple offers DVDs and books to guide you through the process of learning the rules. Watch a preview on YouTube about mastering the three most important motions.
Need more help than a book can provide? The National Association of Parliamentarians certifies professional parliamentary experts and you can even hire one to help your board meeting or assembly follow Robert's Rules smoothly. In my own experience, it's helpful to designate someone officially as the parliamentarian and give her the training she needs to advise you on a case-by-case basis. Please do share your own favorite resources on the rules in the comments.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Speakers and speechwriters are always in search of the kinds of ideas, reads and resources that fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see in addition to posts from the blog. I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog. Here are the finds I shared in the week just past:
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Friday, April 5, 2013

Updated: 16 famous UK & European speeches by women in The Eloquent Woman Index

I'm giving the closing keynote at this year's spring conference of the UK Speechwriters' Guild and European Speechwriter Network in London in May (and readers of The Eloquent Woman get 10 percent off the registration price with the code "EloquentWoman"). So it seems a good time to gather up the UK and European speeches in The Eloquent Woman Index. This group has speeches given in the region by American speakers as well as speeches by UK and European natives. It's a diverse and forward-thinking collection:
  1. Lady Gaga's speech at Rome Europride is a formal effort at speaking from a flamboyant performer. Look past her wig and costume and listen to this inspiring and heartfelt human rights manifesto that follows the first rule of speakers in foreign lands with a nod to "when in Rome..."
  2. France's Christine Lagarde at the Global Women's Forum demonstrates the economic importance of women in a speech from one of today's most eloquent women. Lagarde, among many other qualities, speaks as fluently in English as in her native French.
  3. Elizabeth Murdoch's lecture to the UK television industry took to task its lack of invitations to women speakers, and acknowledged the honor of being asked to give the lecture as "a pain in the ass." A forthright speech that knows its audience well.
  4. Britain's Princess Diana spoke out in favor of a ban on landmines in a speech that represented her effort to find and express her own voice. Sadly, this one was delivered three weeks before her death; the mission wasn't fulfilled until it was too late for her to see it.
  5. Elizabeth I's speech to the troops at Tilbury is the oldest speech in the Index, so far--and with three different recorded versions, we can't be sure it's what she said. Still, it's among the most stirring of speeches, one that inspires speakers and speechwriters alike.
  6. Queen Elizabeth II's tribute to Princess Diana represented a first for this frequent speaker of a queen: It was her first speech on live television, with an audience in the hundreds of millions. In giving up the control of a recorded speech, this Elizabeth gained a much-needed connection with the audience. Our post also includes audio of her very first speech, given at age 14 in 1940 on the BBC.
  7. British author Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" lectures took place at Cambridge University in 1928 in an "acoustically dreadful" setting. But the essays based on them have inspired women writers ever since.
  8. Primatologist Jane Goodall knows what separates us from the apes, and today this British scientist spends most of her time speaking in public. Her 2002 TED talk draws on her studies of Shakespeare and her Welsh ancestry to tell stories that captivate.
  9. British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst described her violent fight for votes as "Freedom or Death," and she wasn't kidding. This talk--given in the U.S. as she evaded another jail term--is noted for the line "you cannot make omelettes without breaking eggs; you cannot have civil war without damage to something."
  10. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher got her nickname from the "Iron Lady" speech at the height of the Cold War, and made jokes about it in subsequent speeches. The foreign policy speech that sparked the nickname was a strong and serious example from an adept public speaker.
  11. Journalist Marie Colvin's moving eulogy for fallen war correspondents took place in London. Though an American, she worked for British news organizations in war zones, losing an eye in the process. Two years after this eulogy, she herself was killed in a targeted attack in Syria on the day she was scheduled to leave the war zone.
  12. Swedish golfer Sophie Gustafson stutters, and rarely speaks in public. So when golf writers gave her a special award, she videotaped her acceptance speech. It's a rare chance to see a stutterer conquer a speaking task and still convey her innate humor and humanity.
  13. Tilda Swinton spoke about David Bowie at the opening of an exhibit about him at London's Victoria & Albert Museum, and made it more personal and detailed than most ribbon-cutting speeches. This is a tribute that encompassed the crowd and the exhibit lovingly...and with an eye to the freak in all of us.
  14. Caroline Criado-Perez spoke out about cyber bullying, based on her own experiences after she successfully campaigned to get women's images on UK currency. Her frank speech laid out many of the violent and sexual threats made against her, as well as changes in policy she wants to see for dealing with these actions as hate crimes.
  15. British Olympic cyclist Nicole Cook gave a retirement speech in which she took on the cycling doping scandal as well as the sport's lack of support for women riders.
  16. Christine Lagarde's speech on "dynamic resilience" at the World Economic Forum covered everything from social media to climate change in a sweeping view of what's ahead for the world economy. We've got her prepared text and a look at what she changed in delivery.
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Thursday, April 4, 2013

How Roger Ebert rethought public speaking without a voice of his own

(Editor's note: Film critic Roger Ebert died today at age 70. This post originally appeared in 2011, and I am still struck with the effort he made to speak--and speak out--about his cancer, and much more, even after he lost the use of his voice. I'll miss hearing him.)

Most of us take for granted how we sound when we speak, and don't like hearing our own voices recorded. But what if you lost your voice permanently?  You'd miss it, says film critic Roger Ebert, a self-described "motor mouth" who lost the ability to speak naturally due to cancer surgery. That hasn't stopped his public speaking, however. Ebert's TED talk, "Remaking My Voice," looks at how the presence or absence of a voice affects the speaker, and how he had to completely reconsider speaking.

You can't just listen to the audio on this one, because Ebert makes full use of the other communications tools at his disposal: Gestures and facial expressions. He also uses other readers, including his wife Chaz, since he's found that the electronic voice he can use through his computer is monotonous to listeners (and continues to gesture while they are speaking). You'll note that most of them read from a text, an important nod to the fact that these are not their words, but his. Near the end, Chaz cries as she reads his words about how people treat him when they assume things about his disability, and she notes, "You should never let your wife read something like this." It's an amazing moment--the silent speaker and his substitute doing the crying as she speaks for him. But you'll laugh more than cry watching this, and he concludes, "I have a voice, and I do not need to scream."

The talk also ponders what it's like to feel disconnected from the audience, and his efforts to find an electronic voice that was based on recordings of his own voice, from thousands of hours of audio and video recordings--and you'll hear some samples of that famous voice.In the process, he teaches us important lessons about why intonation, phrasing and cadence are so vital to speaking. You'll want to make full use of these tools after watching someone do without them, just one insight I took away from this unusual and moving TED talk, which coincidentally occurred during Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness month.


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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What you miss when you mock the role of fairy tales in public speaking

When I'm training a group on the public speaking "rule of three," the rationale for using three key points or chunks of information, I can point to a variety of sources to confirm that organizing your talk into three points or categories makes it easier for the speaker and the audience to remember. Neuroscience tells us that our brains like, look for and remember patterns, particularly in threes. That's because we recall three things most readily in our working memory, which is why phone numbers are grouped into three chunks of numbers. But I like to take my trainees back to the source, the oral storytelling tradition, where people entertained one another by telling stories long before language was written down. And that's when the Three Little Pigs make their entrance.

That's because fairy tales are just the written-down capture of the stories from that long-ago era of storytelling. You can use just the concept of three points to echo the fairy tales, or put them to work as analogies or metaphors to organize your presentation.

I just did a training in which the participants more or less roundly rejected this concept, even though there's plenty of experience and research behind it. I heard snorts of derision, it must be said. None of these folk- and fairy-tales for them. But if you're tempted to mock the role of the fairy tale in public speaking, you're going to miss a wide range of useful tools that you can deploy in your next presentation or speech. Many of them are noted in this On Being interview with Maria Tatar, the John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University, where she also chairs the Program in Folklore and Mythology. It's a wonderful listen, and I caught several speaking tools in the interview that are not easy for a good public speaker to dismiss:
  • They're a proven way to get audiences to talk about your points:  In the interview, Tatar says, again and again, that fairy tales "get us to talk about things," even difficult or disturbing things. In your presentations, maybe your cause seems like a lost one, or you want your listeners to consider the possibilities of as-yet incomplete research. Tatar notes that the "once upon a time" approach of the fairy tale "says this is not the here and now. You can let your imagination run wild. You can go in places that you'd be scared to go otherwise. You can say things that you're afraid to talk about." All useful tools for speakers who want to give audiences new ideas and leave them discussing your talks.
  • They're recognizable (and proven) the world over: While there are cultural tweaks and changes to these tales, they occur in the history of diverse nations and cultures all over the world--so if you are speaking to an international audience, they're more likely to resonate. Tatar notes that "You can find a 'Little Red Riding Hood' in 17th-century China, there's a version. The girl doesn't have a red riding hood, but she behaves very much like the girl in the woods."
  • The Brothers Grimm were writing for adults--and it was a scholarly effort: Tatar notes that the Grimms were attempting to save and record what they felt was a disappearing tradition of oral storytelling, and never imagined these would become easily dismissed children's stories. She says, "They wrote to others scholars, writers, and then they listened. They listened to the stories in their own milieu, getting the stories, grabbing them from wherever they found them, putting them into this volume, and discovering that they were actually selling copies of this book. That parents were reading the stories to children...It was not part of their plan."
  • We're retelling these ancient fairy tales in some of society's most successful storytelling efforts, from the Kardashians and makeover programs on reality television to romantic or adventure movies ranging from Star Wars and Star Trek to Pretty Woman and the more overt TV series Grimm, Game of Thrones and Once Upon a Time. You don't need to emulate those examples, per se, but they're certainly successful proof that that format works.
  • If you're not great at storytelling, these are ready-made options: In the uncut interview, for which there's no transcript, Tatar confesses that she herself isn't great at making up stories so, with her children, "I relied on the great storytellers." If that's the case for you, adapting a fairy tale for your talk can give you a proven structure that's easy for you to use and easy for your audience to grasp. And if you're a good storyteller in your own right, it might be fun to compare your art to those of the masters.
If you want a deeper-than-surface dive into using fairy tales and their structure to aid your next speech, The Annotated Brothers Grimm (The Bicentennial Edition) and a broader collection, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, both edited by Tatar, will help serve as reference points for the stories, though Tatar cautions against calling any of them "the originals," since we'll never know the true origin of these stories from the oral canon. Tatar's book, Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood, is a wonderful aid to understanding why these fairy tales are so powerful, how they strike a balance between beauty and horrific detail, and what having both things in the story accomplishes for the storyteller and the reader or listener. You'll learn why fairy tales are so captivating, not only in childhood, but to your likely listeners today.

For thorough discussions of the rule of three in oratory and public speaking, check out a chapter on the rule of three in Christopher Booker's The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, which looks at subtle and overt uses of the rule of three that you may want to borrow in your storytelling. Max Atkinson's Lend Me Your Ears: All You Need to Know about Making Speeches and Presentations notes the use of the rule of three in presentations and in jokes, and his harder-to-find Our Masters' Voices: The Language and Body-language of Politics breaks down famous speakers' three-part phrases and how they are used to generate applause.

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Monday, April 1, 2013

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

I know it's April Fool's Day, but I'm not fooling: Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see lots of good reads, resources and ideas from other sources that I post there, in addition to posts from the blog. I'm summarizing that extra content every week and putting it here on the blog. Here are the finds I shared in the week just past:


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