Friday, January 29, 2016

Famous Speech Friday: Ellen Terry's lectures on Shakespeare's women

One advantage of the actor is the learned ability to command a stage, something many speakers envy. Here's how Virginia Woolf described the great British actress Ellen Terry in action:
When she came on to the stage as Lady Cicely in Captain Brassbound’s Conversion, the stage collapsed like a house of cards and all the limelights were extinguished. When she spoke it was as if someone drew a bow over a ripe, richly seasoned ‘cello; it grated, it glowed, and it growled. Then she stopped speaking. She put on her glasses. She gazed intently at the back of the settee. She had forgotten her part. But did it matter? Speaking or silent, she was Lady Cicely—or it was Ellen Terry? At any rate, she filled the stage and all the other actors were put out, as electric lights are put out in the sun.
Terry was considered the best Shakespearean actress of the late nineteenth century, and toured the world in performance. But it's her lectures on Shakespeare--particularly on the women in Shakespeare--that have given her a lasting presence in today's world.

Delivered between 1911 and 1921 in Great Britain, America, Australia, and New Zealand, the lectures came at the end of her acting career, beginning when she was 64. It's clear that she relishes the chance to relive roles that made her famous, as well as Shakespearean heroines she never got to play. From her lecture on the "triumphant women" of Shakespeare, she tackles feminism and the Bard's characters:
Wonderful women! Have you ever thought how much we all, and women especially, owe to Shakespeare for his vindication of women in these fearless, high-spirited, resolute and intelligent heroines? Don't believe the anti-feminists if they tell you, as I was once told, that Shakespeare had to endow his women with virile qualities because in his theatre they were always impersonated by men! This may account for the frequency with which they masquerade as boys, but I am convinced it had little influence on Shakespeare's studies of women. They owe far more to the liberal ideas about the sex which were fermenting in Shakespeare's age. The assumption that 'the woman's movement' is of very recent date--something peculiarly modern--is not warranted by history. There is evidence of its existence in the fifteenth century. Then as now it excited opposition and ridicule, but still it moved!
Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, by
John Singer Sargent, 1889.
To place these comments, it's useful to recall that the lectures spanned the years of the suffrage movement for women's votes in both Britain and the United States.

While I say the lectures helped Terry's work stay alive decades after her death, as this writer notes, it's not easy to get your hands on the actual book of Four Lectures on Shakespeare, and in fact, this post waited until I could find my own copy. Those who can do the same will discover the insightful introduction by her female assistant Christopher St. John, who shares Terry's notes to herself on how to deliver the words, good advice for any speaker:
Get the words into your remembrance first of all. Then, (as you have to convey the meaning of the words to some who have ears, but don't hear, and eyes, but don't see) put the words into the simplest vernacular. Then exercise your judgment about their sound.
What can you learn from this famous set of speeches?
  • Share your expertise: The lectures are based on a lifetime of insight on Shakespeare's characters from the inside out, as it were. Terry made full use of explaining the roles from her perspective of a full career studying and interpreting them, and these talks are both clear and compelling as a result.
  • It's never to late to start a lecture tour: Terry began this tour when she was 64, and ended it when she was 74. Not only was it a smart way to stay on the stage as her acting career was waning, it opened a new avenue for connecting with theatre audiences. Terry notes in one lecture the conventional wisdom that, by the time an actress understands how to play Juliet, she's too old to do so--but in the lectures, that age-as-wisdom works just fine.
  • For the sake of us all, preserve your speeches: St. John notes that Terry never wanted to talk about publishing the lectures in her lifetime, preferring them to be heard, rather than read. But even with publication in book form, it can take super-human effort just to find a library copy today. Had St. John not compiled, edited, and published them, they'd have disappeared entirely.
That publication has helped the Terry lectures come alive another way: If you are in London and act quickly, you may be able to see the great Eileen Atkins recreate them at the candlelit Wanamaker Theatre at Shakespeare's Globe, a revival of a show she did in that theatre's inaugural season. It runs until 13 February 2016. Read this interview with Atkins about Terry, and how she was drawn to recreate the lectures, and watch the video interview below in which she discusses Terry:

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Making room for fear: Inspiration for speakers from Elizabeth Gilbert

Author Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, is about bringing your creativity forward, and at first glance, it may not seem like a book for public speakers. But that would require overlooking the words "beyond fear" in the title. And while listening to the audiobook (anyone surprised I like hearing authors speak out loud?), I caught this gem in a section on making room for--rather than running away from--your fear.

Gilbert uses the metaphor of a road trip for exploring your creativity, and suggests that you invite fear along for the ride, with some conditions. She even created a short "welcoming speech" inviting fear along. The speech gives fearful public speakers something they can read to themselves (and their fears) before embarking on the next presentation or speech:
Dearest Fear, Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you'll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently. your job is to induce complete panic when I'm about to do anything interesting, and may I say you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. 
But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There's plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home. But understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. 
I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still, your suggestions will never be followed. You're allowed to have a seat, and you're allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You're not allowed to touch the road maps, you're not allowed to suggest detours, you're not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you are not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you're absolutely forbidden to drive.
Now that's a way to face down your fear. I think of public speaking as an immensely creative act, as well as one on which fear comes along for the ride. Try this out when you're coaching yourself for the next speech or presentation you do.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

If you want to keep up with my wide-ranging reading list about women and speaking in real time, follow The Eloquent Woman on Facebook where these links are posted all week long--or just head here on Mondays, where I summarize them all for you. Either way, you'll be expanding your understanding of women and speaking:

Friday, January 22, 2016

9 famous TV and radio speeches by women

We've featured many famous speeches by women that were covered on television and radio, but this collection of seven speeches were planned precisely for TV or radio delivery. They run the gamut from politics to humor and popular issues like cooking and weight loss. All of them are drawn from The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women, and at the links below, you'll find text and video, where available, as well as tips you can translate into your own public speaking:
  1. Comic and actress Carol Burnett's live audience Q&A was an extemporaneous masterpiece, week after week. She listened and played off questioners with ease and great humor.
  2. Jackie Kennedy's 1962 televised tour of the White House was an astonishing accomplishment for a shy 32-year-old speaker who proved you can do much if you know your content. As if that weren't enough, it had an audience of 56 million, the biggest ever to that point--and outstripped her husband, the President's, ratings. 
  3. Evita Perón's 1951 Renunciamento turned down a popular movement to draft her as vice president of Argentina, using the radio as her medium of choice for this, her most famous speech. No balcony needed for this speech to have lasting impact.
  4. Francine Wheeler's radio address on gun control came when President Obama gave her the chance to take his place in his weekly radio address. Her six-year-old son, Ben, had been killed just a few months earlier in a mass shooting at Connecticut's Sandy Hook School.
  5. TV anchor Jennifer Livingston spoke about her weight when that became news, thanks to a critical viewer. She chose the medium where she makes her living to make a statement about bullying and respond to her critic.
  6. Julia Child's cooking demos on 'The French Chef' were public speaking tours de force, translating her cookbook into talk-and-demonstrate shows, among the earliest on television. She pioneered methods that are still in use today.
  7. Eleanor Roosevelt's radio address on Pearl Harbor happened on the very day of that attack, preceding her husband's famous radio speech the next day. With millions listening, she updated the audience on what was happening in Washington and urged them to turn from uncertainty to the certainty that America would prevail against its enemies.
  8. and 9. Queen Elizabeth II paid tribute to Princess Diana after her death in what was the queen's very first televised live remote speech, drawing record audiences. This post also includes the queen's very first speech, on radio, when she was just a teenager and not yet the queen.
Need more coaching on how to be a better panel moderator? Order the new ebook The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 and available in many formats, it's a great back-pocket coach to take on stage with you in your smartphone or tablet. Find more tips on public speaking on The Eloquent Woman blog.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

5 ways you can analyze your speech once it's done (and how I do it)

I know, I know. You hate watching video of your speeches and talks. You deny that they exist on the Internet, so others won't look at them (like that works).

But if you're lucky enough--and I do mean lucky--to have a video recording of your speech or presentation, it can be one of the best learning tools you'll ever have for improving your public speaking. I hope you're already using my no-wincing checklist for what to look for on the video of your talk. But you can get even more from your review if you take the time to do the five kinds of reviews I do for clients after a speech:
  1. Video with the sound off: At least one viewing without audio lets you focus on appearance: How you move and gesture, facial expressions, wardrobe, lighting, setting, and more. You may be surprised at what you notice without the audio on.
  2. Audio without the video: This pass lets you focus on your vocal delivery. Shut your eyes or turn away from the screen, and listen. Think about speed and pace, montone versus varied tones and volumes, pauses, emphasis. 
  3. Audio and video together: The whole package helps you see how everything works together--say, when you combine movement and voice for emphasizing a particular point. But watch the full audio/video combination after you've watched the video only and listened to audio only.
  4. Transcribed: There's nothing like a transcript to help you see how you really talk during a presentation. If you planned your talk with a script and wrote it to 120 words/minute, did you keep to that pace? Were you faster or slower? If you're hiring a transcription service, be sure to specify that you want the ums and uhs included in the transcript, otherwise, common practice is to leave them out. But in this case, you want to see them. And if you want to see which words you repeat more than others, put the text of the transcript into a word cloud generator. If you scripted yourself in advance, a transcript helps you see what you skipped, changed on the fly, or added--all good things to know about your speaking self. Lots of asides may make you feel more comfortable, but total the time they take. Did you go over because you were overly expansive on your topic?
  5. Odd moments of hesitation: If you're able to watch the video soon after you deliver the talk, you'll be better able to analyze odd moments of hesitation. It might be a passing look on your face, a particular kind of pause, an out-of-context gesture, or some other clue that you were thinking about something else while speaking. If you can pinpoint what was going on in your mind at that moment, you'll have a better chance to prepare a workaround so it doesn't distract you again next time.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Devon Christopher Adams)

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

If you want to keep up with my wide-ranging reading list about women and speaking in real time, follow The Eloquent Woman on Facebook where these links are posted all week long--or just head here on Mondays, where I summarize them all for you. Either way, you'll be expanding your understanding of women and speaking:

Friday, January 15, 2016

Famous Speech Friday: Chai Jing's "Under the Dome" Documentary

The video debuted on Chinese websites on February 28, 2015. A week later, more than 200 million Chinese--about a third of the country's online population--had watched it. On March 6, 2015, official censors ordered the video removed from all Chinese sites.

Viral doesn't even begin to describe this spring's wild ride for Chai Jing's "Under the Dome," a 104-minute documentary on air pollution in China. Chai, a journalist and environmental activist who worked for China Central Television until 2013, financed the film with more than one million renminbi ($160,000) of her own money. She did extensive reporting among scientists, industry leaders, government officials and even schoolchildren to put together this devastating critique of China's smog problem.

The documentary is similar to Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth," blending a TED-style talk on stage with short filmed pieces and a blizzard of charts and graphs. Much of what Chai included in the documentary has been reported before, but she skillfully weaves together topics like diesel refining and bureaucratic corruption with information on atmospheric chemistry and the history of smog across the globe. It was a personal touch, however, that seemed to strike a nerve with her Chinese audience. One of my favorite parts of the documentary comes toward the end, where she asks a few of her interviewees--scientists, corporate leaders, municipal government workers--to describe the gone but not forgotten blue skies of their childhoods.

The impact of Chai's film also reminded many of Rachel Carson's 1962 book Silent Spring. (Chai mentions Carson in the film, along with another Famous Speech Friday alumna, environmental activist Severn Suzuki.) "Under the Dome" does feel like the same kind of rallying cry for a generation, and Chai even sounds a little like Carson when she says:
We have no right to consume without restraint, we have no right to complain without building anew. We have a responsibility to prove...that a world illuminated by energy can, at the same time, be clean and beautiful.
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Your choice of clothing can speak for you. It's difficult to find a review or news article about "Under the Dome" that doesn't mention Chai's outfit on stage: casual white blouse and jeans, no flashy jewelry or expensive-looking shoes. In interviews, Chai said she was prompted to make the film out of concern for her newborn daughter's health, and the outfit plays up the mom in her. She wears a variety of other outfits in the investigative video portions, including a field jacket at a steel plant and business suit inside government offices. But her personal narration on stage is underscored by her simple, down to earth clothing.
  • Use questions to give structure to your speech. This documentary is a master class in the many ways to use questions within a speech. Chai uses questions as a lead-in to explain the science ("What would I say if my daughter asked me, 'What is smog?'"); as a way to point out what's going to come next in the talk ("I decided I needed answers to these three questions..."); and as a way to anticipate arguments ("People in China all grew up on coal stoves to stay warm, so why didn't they all have cancer?").
  • Use the invisible visual. In a documentary that includes animated pollution particles dressed as gangsters and footage of lung cancer surgery, you'd think there would be less need for descriptive language. But "Under the Dome" is full of invisible visuals as vivid as any video. Here's one of my favorites, about the city of Harbin viewed from the filthy air: "When you looked down, it was like 12 million people were buried under cement."
It's still banned in China, but you can watch the full documentary, with English subtitles, below.

(Freelance science writer Becky Ham contributed this Famous Speech Friday post.)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Talk About the Talk: Connie Trimble, MD, on kicking cancer's butt

(Editor's note: In this series, Talk About the Talk, I'm asking speakers I've worked with to share their perspectives about giving big or important talks. Just this week, President Obama announced in his State of the Union speech a new "cancer moon shot" effort to speed results from cancer research, appointing Vice President Joe Biden to spearhead the effort. This talk is about the kind of results I think they are hoping for: Connie Trimble, MD, spoke at TEDxBeaconStreet in 2015 about her groundbreaking work to develop a vaccine for cervical cancer, a cancer with few treatment options. In early clinical trials, therapeutic vaccines are curing half the patients. These are setting the stage for developing immune-based therapies for cancer patients. It was such a thrill for me to work with her on a talk that doesn't dumb down the research, yet makes it clear for all. I think you can see and hear that in the audience's response. While it's not unheard of for a TEDx talk to be interrupted by applause and get a standing ovation, it's not a frequent occurrence. Please do go here to see the video of her talk or watch it below!)

What was your motivation for doing this talk? 

For me, the talk was an incentive to do something I knew I had to learn to do, with a hard stop deadline. I wanted to be able to articulate what I do, why I do it, and how I do it. I am pretty introverted, so I knew this experience would be a great opportunity to step out. Plus, we are really starting to make headway with our work, and I wanted to tell a story that could give hope. I wanted to meet the challenge of telling a complicated science story as a narrative that anyone could understand and appreciate.

How did you prepare? who helped you and how?

OMG. I worked and worked on my slides. Actually, I started having fun working on them. I wrote out what I would be saying with each image, using the ‘notes’ view in Power Point. Once I got close to a ‘story’, I practiced it on everybody. I practiced it on my cousins. I practiced it on my colleagues who do not do what I do. I practiced it on my gym buddies. Heck, now my cats know all about cancer vaccines. I edited my narrative until it was understandable to everyone.

After that, I memorized it. No joke. It’s the first time I have ever done that. I practiced it with a dear friend who is an NPR guy, so I learned about “NPR voice”. It is very different, much more cadenced, from the voice I was accustomed to using when giving a talk. He also showed me how to start moving, just a little bit. He is a conductor, so he showed me how to come on stage and acknowledge the room. At first, I was too stiff, and he told me to loosen up already, that I looked like Lurch. J Ohhhhhh, I get it.

I recorded myself, looking at my notes when I forgot bits. That was useful because even though I thought I was relaxed, just reading to myself, it was clear that my throat was tighter than I realized. My voice was annoying and reedy. Use ‘singing voice;' support your breathing from your diaphragm, and keep your throat loose. Even though I tried to keep that in mind, there are still parts of my talk when I think that I sounded like Howard Cosell.

I practiced it at least 50 times on another dear friend, who, in another life, was a presentation coach. That friend tweaked my narrative in ways that would never have occurred to me, and explained the rationale for each change. Each adjustment was right on the money. When I watched my video afterwards, I could see it. (‘scuse me while I go light a candle to that friend!)

Bookends: I worked with Denise, who made broad brushstrokes changes at the beginning of the process, which was very useful. I mean that she really went over my text. Toward the end, she also tweaked it. She gave me a lot of very practical advice about pacing, that kind of thing. She also did a post-mortem with me, which was also hugely useful.

What challenges did you face in preparing and how did you handle them?

I did not have any local ‘help’. But after getting over it, I contacted a graphic designer who helped me with two of my slides. I think I would have liked to have had more interactions with the TEDxBeaconStreet people. They were in Boston, and I most definitely was not. When I did fly there for orientation, and again for one rehearsal, I really enjoyed working with them, and listening to other people develop their stories. I learned a lot by watching the process. One of the people working on this year’s event introduced me to a catalyst who was a lot closer to me, and that was helpful, especially the ‘dress rehearsal’ we had the week before the actual event.

What was it like to actually give the talk? Tell us about your experience that day.

That day was a little bit surreal. I was surrounded by a lot of love; family and friends. That was wonderful. There was so much going on that a lot of it was a blur. OK, a happy blur, but a blur. It was difficult finding a quiet place. In the Green Room, a ‘handler’ introduced herself to me, and asked if I would like to run my talk on her in a quiet room. YES! She was terrific. (Merci bien) They wire you up and do a voice check while the guy ahead of you is talking. Then they say, “There’s two screens in the back of the room. One is what your slides are behind you, and the other is how much time you have left. Go out to the red dot, and try to stay toward the front of it.” Out you go. Guess what. The introduction by your session moderators counts towards your 15 minutes in the lights.

Once on stage, for many reasons, I wasn’t that nervous. For one thing, the lights were so bright, I couldn’t’ see anything beyond the first row of seats in the audience. I could hear them, though, and when I heard people reacting to what I was saying, it became a really interactive experience; it was fun.

What kind of reactions did you get to your talk?

S T A N D I N G      O !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Afterwards, people from every part of my life told me, “I understood the whole talk!!!!” That was a relief, because I had been explaining a pretty complex issue. But it’s a great story, and I appreciate having had that kind of forum to tell it.

What else should we know that we haven't asked about?

Hmm. The experience was a game-changer for me. Every interaction is different now. Preparing and giving this talk underscored something I already knew; that you have to convey to your audience not just your story, but first and foremost, that you cared enough about and respected them to put your guts into telling them about it. I learned about presentation. As an introverted person, I don’t make a lot of sound. That was not going to work at all. You have to reach out to your audience and engage with them. If you don’t, the message you convey is that you don’t give a rat’s a-ss about what they think. Now I am much more cognizant of how I interact with people, even one-on-one.

The curators are amazing people. I met people who are insanely intelligent, and yet are not cynical. People were thoughtful, articulate, and generous of spirit. It was all such a relief.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

If you want to keep up with my wide-ranging reading list about women and speaking in real time, follow The Eloquent Woman on Facebook where these links are posted all week long--or just head here on Mondays, where I summarize them all for you. Either way, you'll be expanding your understanding of women and speaking:

Friday, January 8, 2016

Famous Speech Friday: Weight Watchers's Jean Nidetch on 'thin'

As many make resolutions to lose weight at the start of a new year, it's hard to resist a Famous Speech Friday about diet and weight loss--especially if it comes from the woman who turned her weight loss into a business, Jean Nidetch, founder of Weight Watchers.

Her obituary last year in the New York Times opened with the story she told over and over again in hundreds of speeches to people hoping to lose weight. She'd talk about being over 200 pounds but feeling as if she were "having a thin day." Then one day, that idea was blown to smithereens. From the Times:
She never ate dessert in public. But at night, by the dim light of the refrigerator, she gorged on goodies. Then one day in 1961, Jean Nidetch, a 214-pound Queens housewife with a 44-inch waist and an addiction to cookies by the box, ran into a neighbor at the supermarket. 
“Oh, Jean, you look so good!” the neighbor said. “When are you due?”
That story not only tells about a moment of epiphany for Jean Nidetch, overweight woman. It's the moment in which Weight Watchers was born. Nidetch put her newfound knowledge of weight loss to work, incorporating Weight Watchers just two years later, in 1963. The Times points out that just a few years ago, a visitor found she weighed exactly what she weighed back in the 1960s after she lost 72 pounds, testament to Weight Watchers's emphasis on keeping weight off.

Like any good founder, Nidetch told that founding-moment story to audiences again and again. What can you learn from this famous and oft-told speech?
  • Tell a story on yourself when it's useful to do so: Self-deprecating stories can be double-edged swords for women, who already lack credibility on the speaking stage. But every story in a speech must have a job to do, and this self-deprecation served many purposes for Nidetch, making her audiences of would-be Weight Watchers feel they were just like her, and letting them talk about difficult and hidden issues with overeating in public, just as she was doing.
  • Be authentic and relatable: In the speech snippet in the video below, Nidetch talks about filling her basket at the grocery store, using a possible storm as the excuse. It's a small but telling detail that must have hit home with her audiences. She never talks about deluding herself directly. She just tells you how she reframed things in her mind in a way to which anyone can relate.
  • Don't forget funny: Losing weight isn't easy and keeping it off can be even more difficult. Nidetch understood that the path for motivation would be eased with some humor, and put her voice, gestures, and story toward that goal.
We've got a snippet of this story so you can see Nidetch in action, hamming it up and playing it for laughs. Watch the video here or below. Unfortunately, it cuts off the final line--"When are you due?"--and isn't, as labeled, from 1961, but a later speech. [UPDATE: Since we posted this, the YouTube account has been discontinued for this video, but we've found another version.]

Need more coaching on how to be a better panel moderator? Order the new ebook The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 and available in many formats, it's a great back-pocket coach to take on stage with you in your smartphone or tablet. Find more tips on public speaking on The Eloquent Woman blog.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Reader Q&A: Over-preparing & last-minute speech changes

In the webinar I did last year with the editors of Tech Speak Digest, one participant said, "I've found that the closer the time comes to the talk, the more clouded my mind gets and I can't stop changing things and second guessing everything up to the very last minute, leaving me feeling completely unprepared even though I've spent hours preparing."

I hear two problems here: Last-minute changes and over-preparing. British Labour party candidate Ed Miliband, who lost the recent UK election, learned the hard way what even one last-minute change could do. One of his advisers credits just that for getting the candidate off-track so much that he forgot to mention a key issue--the nation's deficit--in an important speech. A useful and rare description of how that happened appeared in The Guardian:
On 23 September 2014, Ed Miliband prepared to take the stage at the Labour party conference in Manchester to deliver the most important speech of his career. But instead of rehearsing the speech he had memorised, he was being forced to concentrate on a new opening section, endorsing the proposal David Cameron had made that morning to join the US bombing of Isis in Iraq. 
“Stupidly, none of us had thought the late changes could have an impact on the quality of what he would deliver in the rest of the speech,” one of the advisers most involved in its writing recalled. “My sense is that looking back, it knocked him off course slightly. He started with the Isis passage, and it went over relatively poorly in the hall. He was off his game.” 
“What’s worse,” the adviser continued, “for the whole of the speech, he was improvising more than you might imagine. Ideas dropped from earlier drafts – such as a joke about being mistaken for Benedict Cumberbatch – suddenly reappeared. He was not quite sure in his head where he was, so when he got to the bit where the deficit should have been, he just started a different section. I remember immediately thinking ‘shit’, but I thought perhaps he had shuffled it around because I had seen him do that before.”
That describes the perfect storm of last-minute changes: You lose recent additions or important bits, and discarded but memorized lines come to to forefront of your mind, so you use them.

When your talk is TED-like, delivered without notes and from memory, it's essential to "freeze" your script as final early in the process if you are to have any chance of success in remembering it. Changes made up until the last moment are the enemy of memorization. In my detailed guide to memorizing a talk, I noted that a good rule of thumb is to limit alterations once your script is "frozen" to the fix-it variety, correcting words you repeatedly stumble over or forget, but nothing else.

This approach, of course, requires you to commit to your plan and your presentation up front, and allow yourself time for practice (and in my world, practice does not include editing if we can help it). What's really behind over-preparing and last-minute changes, most of the time? I think it's anticipatory stress, leading to an impossible-to-win effort to create the "perfect" presentation, the one that will answer all questions, cure all diseases, and prevent all naysayers from rising to their feet.

Even more insidious, over-preparing is a constant reminder that you don't trust yourself to give a good talk, and there's nothing worse than undermining yourself, is there? When speakers are over-stressed and over-preparing is the result, I like to prompt them to put down the presentation and go out for a walk or run or yoga class or nap--anything to burn off some stress and get some perspective. I often ask over-preparers to try giving the presentation without so much preparation, and see whether anyone notices. Then we work some easy, evidence-based ways to calm your public-speaking nerves into practice sessions to keep stress at bay.

And now is the time to grasp the difference between preparation and practice. Tell your brain to shut up and let you practice, wherein lies the real key to gaining confidence. If you've practiced--rather than revised--again and again before your talk, by the time you give it, you'll know how it will go. And what better confidence can you ask for?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by the TED Conference)

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

If you want to keep up with my wide-ranging reading list about women and speaking in real time, follow The Eloquent Woman on Facebook where these links are posted all week long--or just head here on Mondays, where I summarize them all for you. Either way, you'll be expanding your understanding of women and speaking:

Friday, January 1, 2016

Tip bonanza: Top 10 posts & guest posts on The Eloquent Woman 2015

In addition to publishing famous speeches by women and articles to read on women and public speaking, the core of this blog lies in the posts that share public speaking advice and insight. In addition to the posts I write, the blog also features wonderful insights from real-life speakers' guest posts. Here are two top-10 lists for the year 2015, collecting your most-read posts and guest posts from the blog, a fantastic collection of public speaking advice to round out the year:

Our top 10 posts:
  1. Speechwriters, don't write differently for women. Write differently for men answers a question I get often from male speechwriters.
  2. 3 easy, evidence-based ways to calm your public-speaking nerves offers deceptively simple ways to beat speaking stress, all based on solid research. Just do them.
  3. From the vault: 16 public speaking tips for eloquent scientists collects posts on a wide range of speaking issues faced by technical speakers.
  4. On women and speaking up in meetings: Lessons after JLaw's essay looked at reactions to actor Jennifer Lawrence's take on how women are viewed in meetings, and busted some myths and expectations.
  5. Did I just get public speaking advice? Shade? Or a virtual shut-up? considers the type of advice you get that may just be designed to keep you from speaking in public.
  6. Coaching a cadre of speakers to give TED-quality talks shares a case study for my work coaching groups of executives to give short talks in the style of TED, and transform their presentation style at the same time.
  7. 4 risks when you assume your audience knows what you know cautions about this common assumption and how it can change what you present.
  8. What if the audience already knows everything I have to say? tackles the fear of many junior speakers.
  9. The commute communicator: Practicing speeches in your car divulges a practice regimen that many of my clients use when trying to memorize a talk.
  10. Make your talk better with practice and memorization looks at how you can better memorize a talk, a great skill to possess as a speaker.
And our top 10 guest posts:
  1. Feel the fear and film your talk, anyway shares speaker coach Caroline Goyder's experience with her TEDxBrixton talk, along with the advantages of getting video of yourself speaking.
  2. Talk About the Talk: Dr. Lucy Rogers on space debris at InspireFest shares prep and delivery experience for a talk that was complimented as suitable for TED.
  3. The Woman Speaker Slot shares engineer Cate Huston's view of being asked to be the token woman speaker, and how she handles such requests.
  4. Public speaking pet peeves from frequent speakers and speechwriters compiles sound advice on everything from slides and stories to audience participation no-nos.
  5. Talk About the Talk: Margot Bolon's maid of honor speech recounts a big talk with a big technology fail...and how it turned out to be an aid to the humorous approach of this speaker.
  6. Talk About the Talk: Resa Lewiss, MD, at TEDMED describes prep and delivery for a high-stakes talk. I'm pleased that TEDMED shared this post with 2015 speakers to help them prepare for the conference this year!
  7. 5 tips from speakers on getting past practice to great delivery describes tips and advice on one of the biggest stumbling blocks our guest posters experience in preparing for high-stakes talks.
  8. 5 speakers share what using a script did for their talks notes that many speakers don't think of using a script, and what they find out when they try it. Based on our guest posters' experiences!
  9. Storytelling tips from frequent speakers and speechwriters asks master storytellers how you can master a story, whether you leave it out entirely or want it to shine.
  10. Talk About the Talk: Lisa Lamkins at the Align health quality summit advocates prep and practice as the antidote to freezing on stage...with real-life experience!