Wednesday, July 17, 2013

My summer reads on public speaking and women speakers

This summer, I have more reasons than ever to be dipping into great books about public speaking and about women speakers. I've started work on my own book on women and public speaking, and am researching and writing several magazine articles on public speaking topics right now. I'm chairing the European Speechwriters Network conference in Brussels in September, and want to get a handle on the speakers through their books. And I've given some of these books on speaking as gifts, or received them myself. Here's a look at the unusual shelf of 12 books that I've assembled as part of my reading on public speaking this summer:
  1. Um. . .: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean by Michael Erard is among my all-time favorite books on public speaking. Erard's done the research behind this tiny space-filling word that appears all over the world, looking at why it's ubiquitous and why we keep trying to eradicate it from our speaking. It has long been a staple on my reference shelf, and I've been turning to it again this summer.
  2. The Biteback Dictionary of Humorous Political Quotations is by Fred Metcalf, who's among the speakers I'll be chairing at the Brussels conference. Anything that mixes humor with politics works for me. As Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan said, "A voter laughing is half yours..."
  3. The Passage to Europe: How a Continent Became a Union is not about speaking per se. But author Luuk van Middelaar,  speechwriter to the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, is another speaker at the Brussels conference. His book uses perspectives of key players in the formation of the EU, including Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel, so I expect to find some gems there. Perhaps a future Famous Speech Friday?
  4. Friedman's Fables is another longtime favorite. Written by psychologist Edwin Friedman, these fables are intended to share new perspectives on relationships and how we handle challenges, but they're a rich model for speakers and storytellers as well. I gave this to a fellow speaker and speechwriter this summer, and he shared this apt quote from the book: "Communication does not depend on syntax, or eloquence, or rhetoric, or articulation but on the emotional context  in which the message is being heard." This book is like honey for the ear.
  5. The Roar of the Lion: The Untold Story of Churchill's World War II Speeches is from another conference speaker, Richard Toye. It won't be published until November 1, so this will really be on my autumn list, but I'm looking forward to what is billed as the "first systematic, archive based examination of Churchill's World War II rhetoric as a whole." I'll get the preview at the conference in September.
  6. Women Who Run with the Wolves by Jungian analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes was given to me this summer by one of my coaching clients as a source of storytelling about women. It's loaded with stories, fables and fairytales, another set of good examples and frameworks for speaking and writing about women. I'm listening to this in audiobook form so I can catch the vocal cadence that goes into the telling of these tales.
  7. The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients by Irvin Yalom, MD, was given to me by another speaker coach and speechwriter. Coaching speakers is not therapy, but I see many parallels between the two. Yalom's advice to therapists includes "let the patient matter to you," something that echoes my efforts to get out of the way and let the speaker be authentic. I'm enjoying digging in to this unlikely book to inform my public speaking training and coaching.
  8. The Lyceum and Public Culture in the Nineteenth-Century United States looks at the lyceum lecture system of the 1820s to 1880s in the U.S.--the original speaking tours. This wasn't a time in which women were frequent speakers, though there were some exceptions. I'm eager to delve into more of the history of Anna Dickinson, a frequent lecturer on the circuit and a famous woman speaker you'll be seeing on the blog sometime soon.
  9. Available Means: An Anthology of Women's Rhetoric(s) is a reference work I'm glad to have on my shelf this summer. It collects speeches and rhetoric from women ranging from ancient Rome to the present day. Since examples of women's speeches are sometimes hard to find, this was a must for me.
  10. Lend Me Your Ears: All You Need to Know about Making Speeches and Presentations by Max Atkinson has long been on my virtual bookshelf. This summer, I'm turning to it again for articles I'm writing about the impact of technology on public speech, and some upcoming posts for the blog on taking turns in conversations and meetings, a big issue for women speakers in the workplace. Atkinson, based in the UK, also is speaking at the Brussels conference in September.
  11. Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President by Harold Holzer is another longtime favorite. It's not often that you can dig into an entire book about one speech. I've turned back to this meaty work for an article I'm writing, and because we're in the middle of the Civil War 150th anniversary. I waited until after seeing the movie Lincoln before picking this one up again.
  12. 10 Steps to Writing a Vital Speech: The Definitive Guide to Professional Speechwriting by Fletcher Dean and David Murray is designed for the person who isn't sure how to tackle writing a speech. Murray, editor of Vital Speeches of the Day, will be returning to the Brussels speechwriters' conference as a speaker, and the VSOTD website includes the feed from The Eloquent Woman. The conference also includes a one-day workshop on the nuts and bolts of speechwriting, led by Martin Shovel and Martha Leyton.
That's a lot of reading. Can't summer be longer? I hope you enjoy some of my summer bookshelf.

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