Monday, November 28, 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, November 25, 2016

Famous Speech Friday: Helen Gahagan Douglas & the "Pink Lady" speech

Some speakers do what we speaker coaches refer to as "throat-clearing," taking the long way to their topic with lots of preamble, greetings, and other filler. But in 1946, Helen Gahagan Douglas, a Democratic member of Congress from California, cut right to the chase in a floor speech. "Mr. Speaker, I think we all know that communism is no real threat to the democratic institutions of our country," she said. And in 1946, those were fighting words.

That's true even though she quickly followed with, "But the irresponsible way the term 'communism' is used to falsely label the thing that majority of us believe in can be very dangerous." These were the days when alleged communists were brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee for investigation. Her speech preceded, by four years, Sen. Joe McCarthy's famous 1950 speech alleging that communists had infiltrated the State Department, and Sen. Margaret Chase Smith's Declaration of Conscience speech, also delivered in 1950 and a part of The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women.

Gahagan Douglas, in this speech, sought a middle ground. She posited that conditions under communism were not all bad, and that conditions under democracy were not all good. But the speech, titled "My Democratic Credo," put her squarely on the side of democracy:
I do not think we value democracy highly enough. The great mass of the American people will never exchange democracy for communism as long as democracy fulfills its promise. The best way to keep communism out of our country is to keep democracy in it-to keep constantly before our eyes and minds the achievements and the goals which we, a free people, have accomplished and intend to accomplish in the future under our own democratic system.
Provocative, bold, and forward-thinking for its day, the speech nonetheless produced bitter fruit for Gahagan Douglas when she later campaigned for the Senate in 1950 – the year when attacks on communism were at an all-time high. A primary opponent dubbed her "the pink lady" and said she was "pink right down to her underwear" on the strength of the speech and other remarks. She faced none other than future U.S. president Richard Nixon in the general election, and he built on the pink lady image by having flyers about her printed on pink paper, and comparing her to a pro-Soviet member of Congress. The dirty tricks worked, and Nixon won the Senate election with 59% of the vote, effectively ending Gahagan Douglas's public service career – the allegations proved too controversial for her to win future appointments. One of her supporters, Democratic National Committee vice chair India Edwards said Gahagan Douglas couldn't get appointed dogcatcher.

Gahagan Douglas, however, may have gotten the last laugh on Nixon: she coined for him the durable nickname "Tricky Dick," which outlasted them both, and later proved to be true. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Use the "Russert test" when you're stating a strong position: In Washington, media interview subjects are often advised to use the test recommended by the late Tim Russert, an NBC political presenter who advocated turning your points around as if your opponent were saying them and using them against you. That kind of test might have occurred to Gahagan Douglas, but if so, she apparently ignored it, believing in the strength of her argument. It's a good exercise, if only to anticipate how you will be challenged, sometimes using your own words.
  • The middle ground takes more explaining: One of the reasons many speakers choose to paint their issues in stark tones of black and white is that it's easier to pull off. The middle ground, the more nuanced argument, take more explaining. You'll notice that this is not exactly a short speech, nor should it have been.
  • Leaven the negative with a hopeful vision: Much of this speech focuses on the negative, criticizing the voices of opponents and describing in stark terms their negative views. Gahagan Douglas herself expresses her feelings by describing herself as "jealous" for various democratic institutions that had been dubbed communistic. (An example is "I am jealous for democracy. I do not like to see the things that democracy can accomplish credited to communism.") Gahagan Douglas attempts to balance that negativity with paragraphs like this one: "We must make democracy work. We must realize the greatness that is in America. We are proud of our past and proudest because of what we can build upon the past. We do not want to turn our eyes backward and to keep the dead hand of the past upon our growth. And above all we want to shake off the deadening hand of monopoly." But the difficulty of the speech lies in its effort to attack the attackers of communism, which requires a negative tone.
In the end, it's a brave speech and one of the early efforts to fight against the Communist witchhunts. Unfortunately, its fame results more from the way it was used against the speaker than for the speech itself.

This speech is not available in video or audio formats, but you can find the full text here.

(U.S. Congress photo)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both, and you'll get the best discount if you sign up by August 1.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The speaker coach's last-minute backstage toolkit for TED talks or your talk

I'll be backstage coaching speakers next week at TEDMED, the medical and science TED conference, for my sixth year. Some of our speakers are first timers on a big stage; others, seasoned pros. But good old fight-or-flight syndrome can affect all of them--along with many other last-minute issues.

They all go on to rock the TEDMED stage, and you can rock yours, whether you're doing last-minute prep for a TED talk or just your next talk...if you remember these bits of wisdom that backstage coaches keep in their toolkits for those final moments before the speakers take the stage:
  1. Your body has a mind of its own: Sadly, it won't be your higher-order prefrontal brain controlling things. That's the part of your brain you need to put words together and emit them from your mouth. Instead, your caveman or limbic brain will be kicking in just about now, and with it, loads of awful physical symptoms, from dry mouth to shaking hands and tight breathing. If you think "Hey, that's my caveman brain kicking in and I really need my public-speaking brain right now," your brain will come back to its senses--really, it's that simple. So don't give in to the caveman brain's signals.
  2. Don't spend those last moments practicing: Ideally, you've already practiced enough. Take a short walk, get some alone moments if you are introverted and need to build energy, or shut your eyes and meditate, even for a few minutes of in-breaths and out-breaths. Last-minute practice doesn't necessarily aid the end result, and may make you more nervous.
  3. Smiling is the best fix-it tool: A smile is the speaker's Swiss Army knife, loaded with aid for any occasion. Smiling before and during your talk will tell your brain to start pumping nerve-calming chemicals and feel-good chemicals, no other action needed. Smiling looks good to an audience, and it counteracts the tendency of most mouths to look flatlined or downturned (aka, sad-looking). You and we will feel better. 
  4. Get out there, find your mark, and wait: We ask our speakers to find the place they wish to stand, face the audience, smile...and wait. Wait for the audience to stop applauding. Wait three more beats, just to be sure. Then start. That lets you gather your courage, get used to the stage, and--critically for talks that are being recorded on video--gives us a prayer of capturing your carefully crafted opening lines without applause cutting them off and making them unintelligible. Your nerves may be telling you to get going and get it over with, but you will just ruin the start if you listen to them.
  5. Remember: What will you look like when you're done? I love to ask this question of our TEDMED speakers, and it never fails to produce glorious, sparkling, I-just-won-the-lottery smiles. That's when I say, "Now *that's* the smile I want to see on your face onstage. Don't save it for the end." Go and do likewise. A simple reminder to yourself before you go onstage will do the trick.
(TEDMED photo)

Monday, November 21, 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, November 18, 2016

Famous Speech Friday: Australian MP Linda Burney's maiden speech

Linda Burney is the first indigenous woman to be elected to Australia's House of Representatives, and, as in many parliamentary governments, gave her first or "maiden" speech before the house.

But there were other firsts to this speech, including the new member of Parliament speaking in Wiradjuri, the language of her aboriginal tribe; being sung to in her language as part of the speech; and carrying a traditional cloak into the chamber with symbols from her tradition. To introduce the cloak and the song, Burney first spoke about how they connected with the concept of a first speech:
Nor is the significance of a first speech lost on me. It is defining; it sets out what has made you, what you believe in and what you stand for. It talks about the seat and the people whose hopes, hurts, aspirations and loves you carry into this place. It talks of the deep affection you have for those people. Because of the significance, I carry into this chamber this cloak. This cloak was made by my Wiradjuri sister, Lynette Riley, who will sing us into this place now.
 After the song, she went on to connect her story to the significance of the day:
This cloak tells my story. It charts my life. On it is my clan totem, the goanna, and my personal totem, the white cockatoo—a messenger bird and very noisy.
Let me share with you a little of what has made me. In 2010 I returned to the little town I grew up in. It is called Whitton—I am a freshwater kid from the Riverina. I learnt to swim in irrigation channels, and we shared that water with yabbies, freshwater mussels, leeches, red bellied blacks and I suspect considerable amounts of chemicals, which explains the constant boils and hives I had as a child. 
It was the 150th anniversary of the Whitton public school; I was a cabinet minister at the time and I thought I looked pretty flash. A man a little older than me—I guess he would have been one of the big kids when I was at school—said to me, ‘You know, Linda, the day you were born was one of the darkest days this town has ever seen.’ I was so shocked I could not respond. You see, Mr Speaker, despite being more than 50 years on, I was born at a time when a white woman having an Aboriginal baby was shocking—and doubly so if that woman was not married. I was born at a time when the Australian government knew how many sheep there were but not how many Aboriginal people. I was 10 years old before the ’67 referendum fixed that. 
The first decade of my life was spent as a noncitizen....The power of racism and exclusion were not things you could see, but you certainly felt them....I would ask all of those listening this afternoon to imagine what it was like for a 13-year-old Aboriginal girl in a school classroom, being taught that her ancestors were the closest thing to stone age man on earth and struggling with your identity. 
Being in this chamber today feels a long way from that time. And from the man in the schoolyard at the anniversary—well, here’s to you mate.
What can you learn from this famous speech?

  • If your language isn't our language, share and translate: One of the most effective things you can do in a multilingual world is to share how you'd say something in your language and then translate for us. That way, you can be true to yourself, express yourself as eloquently as your own language lets you be, and still teach the audience something.
  • Use powerful images and metaphors: From the symbol of the "noisy messenger bird"--perhaps a signal of what the other members of Parliament can expect from her?--to the image of the man in the schoolyard, Burney's speech is peppered with indelible images and metaphors. The cloak adds visual focus to her words, underscoring the message and its ancient meaning.
  • When your story is powerful, it doesn't need much embellishment: Most of this speech is a straightforward telling of Burney's own story. The facts of her life do the telling without the need for over-emphasis. Whenever your story is this powerful, keep it simple and let the power of the facts do the work.

You can read the full transcript and watch the video here, and below:


Thursday, November 17, 2016

My FLOTUS #publicspeaking wish list for Melania Trump (or any new leader)

Many in America and around the world have expressed their dismay about the recent results of the U.S. presidential election by sharing memes like the one at left, making fun of our next First Lady, Melania Trump. I admit, I've laughed at my share.

Nearly all of these memes and messages reference her disastrous debut as a public speaker at the Republican National Convention. You remember: Her speech included passages lifted from an earlier convention speech by current First Lady Michelle Obama.

When I covered it for our Famous Speech Friday, I wrote:
No matter how you vote, I think it's a shame that this happened to a woman speaker on only her second speech of the campaign. The Republican National Convention had just 34% female speakers on the stage, with this speech the most prominent by a woman. I'm ending the week feeling as if Melania Trump was not, at a minimum, well supported for this now-famous speech, in both the speech preparation and the spokesmanship about the controversy. In the end, this major stumble at what might have been the start of a high-profile speaking career is going to dog her steps going forward. Should she become First Lady, she might well want to avoid speaking publicly, which would be a big step backward for that role. This will frame her media coverage and her credibility. Her unfavorable rating was high going into the convention, and it will only increase now. And it should. In the end, the responsibility for a speech begins and ends with the speaker, no matter how many speechwriters you throw under the bus.
Following the election, I had lunch with an old friend who served along with me in Bill Clinton's administration, and she suggested that all the memes and jokes were off-point. "We should be hoping she succeeds--especially as a speaker," she said, pointing out that it wouldn't help women, or women speakers, if she fell on her face in public appearances. I came home from that lunch to see You can be anti-Trump without slut-shaming Melania, an article addressing the many memes and media articles sharing nude pictures from early in Mrs. Trump's modeling career.

My friend and the article had a great point. By mocking the next First Lady before she begins her work, we are silencing her, or convincing her to silence herself. Even if we don't agree with what she might say, we shouldn't be about silencing her. So I, for one, am going to resist the urge to do that, and figure out how we can support her as a public speaker. I still plan to hold her to account for her words or her delivery, if those become a problem at a policy level or provide a poor example. But I do want to be consistent with the goals and principles of this blog, which seeks to advance, not hold back, women speakers at all levels.

So here is my wish list for Melania Trump and her public speaking as First Lady:
  1. Get coaching: I don't put this wish first because I am a coach, but because I understand the value of coaching for beginning speakers and speakers pushed into high-profile roles. Many, many presidents and first ladies sought out coaching to speed their development as speakers and to develop a personal, particular style that worked for them. Having a coach who will be in your corner and who will challenge you can make all the difference--especially in a job that is 90 percent public appearance and public speaking. Don't try just one session. Get some coaching over time, so you understand how you are progressing and why it's working or not.
  2. Get a scheduler involved in your speech planning: Her husband famously surprised Melania Trump in a live television interview, saying she'd be giving more speeches in the campaign. As First Lady of the United States, your speeches shouldn't generally be surprises, and your scheduler should be involved. That means including time in your schedule for things like meeting with your speechwriters and your coach; reviewing speech drafts; practice sessions; and how you will spend your time before and after the speech, including alone time if you're an introvert
  3. Invest in good speechwriting help: If you are going to be any form of public official, getting good speechwriting help is a must, in part due to the sheer number of speeches or remarks you'll be asked to give, and in part due to the variety of speaking situations. Hiring professional speechwriters means you'll have the right level of support for all occasions. As with the coach, it's worth taking the time to build a relationship, and that means giving speechwriters ample time on your schedule, so they can get to know you and your preferences. Please don't fail to do this.
  4. Learn how to work with and take advice from your coach and speechwriters: One of the stumbling points in advance of Mrs. Trump's convention speech was the moment when she decided she didn't like the draft written by the professional speechwriters hired by the campaign. Instead of calling them (on her own or via campaign staff) to share her thoughts and ask for changes, she began rewriting herself. Then she turned to a trusted writer who is not a speechwriter to finish the job. That's where the plagiarism crept in. You don't have to like all of the advice you get from your coach or your speechwriters, but they still might be right about what's best for you or for this speech, and you should discuss it with them. Mrs. Trump has already seen what happens when she chooses a less-qualified but comfortable-to-her writer. Now it's time to bring in the pros, and learn what they can teach her.
  5. Don't be silent: I've already seen articles saying Melania Trump will be a "classic First Lady"--you know, the kind who dresses well, shakes hands, smiles while standing next to her husband, waves to the crowds, and says almost nothing in public. And the New York Times, writing about the meeting pictured above, noted "a wardrobe can be a powerful platform for a first lady, making points without her having to say a word." Why are we already encouraging Mrs. Trump to be silent? That's not classic, truly.  After all, consider Eleanor Roosevelt, who may have given many more speeches than her president husband, since she was more mobiles. Or Jackie Kennedy, who gave an unscripted White House tour on national television that beat her husband's television ratings on the same day, and who gave speeches in English, French, and Spanish during his campaign and his administration. So let's not box Mrs. Trump into a silent helpmeet kind of role as First Lady. Let's support her speaking.
  6. Have public opinions: One of the ways first ladies have been marginalized is in guidance that suggests they must only support the views of their husbands, the presidents. But demonstrating that you have your own issues and views and opinions makes you a real person to the public. You might look to Betty Ford as a model, as well as Eleanor Roosevelt, and Lady Bird Johnson. And once you express your views publicly, be ready to defend them. It goes with the job.
  7. Keep trying: No, it's not great to start your speaking career with a speech that dominated media coverage for the wrong reasons. The only antidote is to keep trying. Speaking can't be learned without practice in private and practice in public. Nor can it be learned without mistakes. The best way to proceed is incrementally. After each speech, identify what worked and what didn't; add the latter to your to-do list going forward. Over time, you can earn the respect of the media and the public, both for continuing to try and for improving. Read Even famous speakers are made, not born: 4 examples for your role models, which include a president, a prime minister, a first lady, and a TED speaker.
This wish list would be standard operating procedure for many U.S. first ladies, but Melania Trump comes to the role with perhaps less speaking experience than most, and a big speaking stumble to overcome. But here's a hint: The list also works for anyone. If you're a senior manager or CEO, leading a board of directors, running a nonprofit, or starting some other official role, you need the same level of prep, anticipation, and help for your speaking. Here's wishing the next First Lady of the United States the chance to grow and improve as a speaker over the next four years.

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, November 14, 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, November 11, 2016

Famous Speech Friday: Hillary Clinton's 2016 concession speech

You don't have to like the topic of a speech to give it well. In fact, delivering news that neither the speaker nor the audience wants to hear might be considered one of the ultimate speaking challenges, obliterating as it does any of the energy that can flow when both speaker and audience are having a great time and enjoying what's being said.

Concession speeches fall right into that category, every time--and there are thousands of them given all over in U.S. election cycles. But rarely are they at once momentous and well-done, as this one was. It also happens that you need not like the topic of a speech to consider it outstanding. After all, in this space, we only require that the speech be famous and by a woman. But this was one outstanding speech, in every respect.

This wasn't Hillary Clinton's first concession speech, but it was the first given by a woman as a major-party candidate for President in the United States, making history for her as well as for the nation.

The widespread media coverage was what we might expect for a woman candidate: Some news media insisted on describing it and her as emotional, something rarely said about male speakers even when they are emotional. Some said she was choking back tears (see if you can find said choking back--I couldn't). As The Atlantic noted in writing about the press and pundits, "They wanted to see tears. She didn’t provide them, but that didn’t make much difference." Some said she apologized, when her "I'm sorry we did not win this election" was a simple expression of personal regret, not directed at anyone as an apology. It was said to be her last as a politician, something she did not address at all. Repeating her opponent's talking points about her, some described the speech as her "most genuine," implying she hadn't been so during the campaign. Really, anything to take the power out of this speech was said about it. As Mary Beard has said, "It is still the case that when listeners hear a female voice, they don’t hear a voice that connotes authority; or rather they have not learned how to hear authority in it..."

But others described the speech as I would: Powerful. Gracious. Calm. Pulled together. On point.

That's in part because Clinton has a dedicated meditation practice, one she has cultivated since being First Lady; meditation can help any speaker approach even the most difficult speech with a well of calm. But it's also because the speech and the candidate faced the primary task of conceding the election in forthright, plain language that left no doubt about her intention:
Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. 
We don't just respect that. We cherish it. It also enshrines the rule of law; the principle we are all equal in rights and dignity; freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values, too, and we must defend them.
That second paragraph was a sly note to say that the peaceful transfer of power--something her opponent threatened to disrupt if the election didn't go his way--wasn't the only constitutional right held dear by Americans. Civil rights and the rule of law also matter, she noted. This might sound innocuous to some listeners, or as drawing a line in sand to others.

In thanking her volunteers, Clinton also took a moment to acknowledge a gigantic secret Facebook group called Pantsuit Nation, noted for growing to more than 3 million followers at this writing. She did that by emphasizing that she wanted their voices at work in public:
And to the millions of volunteers, community leaders, activists and union organizers who knocked on doors, talked to their neighbors, posted on Facebook — even in secret private Facebook sites. 
I want everybody coming out from behind that and make sure your voices are heard going forward. 
And in keeping with her lifelong focus on improving the lives of girls as well as women, she added a shout-out to her youngest, non-voting followers--one for which many parents were grateful in explaining the election results that morning:
And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams. 
There's also what she left out: She didn't, pundits aside, declare this to be her last speech as a politician, and she didn't say what was then apparent, that she had won the mandate of the people in the popular vote, no small achievement. In fact, as the first time that can be said for a woman candidate, it is an achievement as important as her campaign was in the first place.

The speech's audience worldwide was enormous, both for the livestream and the videos archived online. This isn't the Clinton speech I'd hoped to add to The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women, and yet it's a worthy speech to include in that collection, already home to six of her speeches. Study it as an example of grace under pressure and in the face of great disappointment. We never like to anticipate such speeches, but they happen in both politics and everyday life more often than we like to admit. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • You can't sound perfectly pulled together in a disappointing moment without some advance prep: Coverage on election day noted that Clinton spent her time working on two speeches, and this was one of them. Speakers take note: You have almost no hope of sounding pulled together, powerful, calm, gracious, and on point if your concession speech is thrown together in the heat of the moment. And for anyone working for elected office, work in advance on a concession speech is a humbling moment, a good place to be no matter the outcome.
  • Every speech has a job to do, and the speaker's job is to be clear about it: There's nothing to be gained in a concession speech that leaves out the actual concession, or leaves it till the end, so Clinton here made clear early on that she was conceding, and underscored that by urging her listeners to accept it and move on to the work of the nation. Without that, this speech would have failed its most basic assignment. And if you think that's too obvious a point to make, there are many speeches that hem and haw before getting to this very basic point.
  • Show your followers a path forward: At the time of their greatest disappointment, supporters need their leader not just to comfort them, but to use a speech's call to action to move the group forward, or at least show it a path to follow. Toward the end of this speech, Clinton did just that: "You know, scripture tells us, let us not grow weary of doing good, for in good season we shall reap. My friends, let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do."
You can see full video of the speech below, and a transcript is here.


Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

My 5 favorite fixes for your #publicspeaking

Well-worn and tried and true, these five fixes are tactics I turn to again and again when I'm coaching speakers. No reason you can't start to put them in play, too--if only you will. While these are deceptively simple fixes, they can have a long-lasting, positive impact on your public speaking. Enjoy putting them to use!
  1. Mindfulness meditation: It takes time to develop a practice of meditation, but it's the best fix for nervousness I know, and easy to do anywhere, even right before you go on stage. If you want a calm, focused presence, and want to avoid nervous over-preparation, this is your fix.
  2. Take care of the speaker's body: Too often, speakers think of public speaking as a mind game, and neglect their bodies. Minding your physical condition will have a big impact on your next speech or presentation. If you want to feel calm, rested, and ready, this is your fix.
  3. Write and learn a script: If you've always been a fan of winging it, or speaking without too much prep, you may be missing the chance to become a really good speaker--as well as one who's on time, every time. This fix can actually help you sound natural and focused.
  4. Don't wear all black: Both men and women need this fix to stand out on stage--and on any video that might be produced of your talk. If you don't want to disappear, fix this.
  5. Hide before and after your talk: This is a secret weapon for introverts, and for stressed-out extroverts who may be reverting to their introverted side. It's a fix for your energy level, and will mean you can have the energy you need for that big speech.
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, November 7, 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, November 4, 2016

13 famous U.S. political convention speeches by women

As Americans head to the polls with the option, finally, to elect our first women president, it seemed right to focus on political speeches by women. These women speakers came to their national political conventions in the United States for many reasons: to accept their own nominations for important roles; to speak on behalf of male and now female candidates; to fight for a seat at the convention; to represent a more diverse population; and to address national policies, or the lack thereof, on issues important to them.

But no matter what drove them to the podium, these convention speakers, each in her own way, made a lasting impact inside the convention hall and well beyond it. Because the political conventions are wall-to-wall with speakers, they are a great learning opportunity for you as a speaker.

Each of these speeches is included in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women, and includes, where available, full text, audio, or video, as well as tips you can use in your own speechmaking and speechwriting. This list, shared in chronological order, will let you compare this year's crop of speeches to some real classics:
  1. Eleanor Roosevelt's 1940 convention-saving speech spoke in support of her husband's effort to gain an unprecedented third term as president of the United States. She won the day by describing the nation's pivotal moment as "no ordinary time." I've got a copy of her text and notes for you to look at, at the link.
  2. Fannie Lou Hamer's 1964 convention committee testimony was back-room material, rather than a keynote, because she was pushing for black representation in her state's convention delegation. She described the beatings and harassment she and others received while trying to register to vote, and television networks carried much of her testimony.
  3. Barbara Jordan's 1976 Democratic convention keynote broke two records: she was the first woman and first African-American to deliver the keynote. In the hands of this woman, considered one of the most eloquent speakers of the 20th century, this important speech was both humble and soaring. Do listen to the video to hear her strong, impactful voice, which has been described as "eloquent thunder."
  4. Jeane Kirkpatrick's "Blame America First" keynote at the 1984 Republican National Convention had more novelty going for it than its female speaker. The foreign policy speech--unusual at a convention--also was the first time in 30 years a non-Republican had been asked to speak.
  5. Geraldine Ferraro's 1984 acceptance of the Democratic nomination for vice president marked the first time a woman had been selected for that role by a major party. Critics who said she played it safe with this speech ignored the reality that, when the moment is this historic, a simple speech will do. The circumstances speak for themselves.
  6. Ann Richards's 1988 Democratic convention keynote made her only the second woman to deliver that speech at convention, which she summed up in her remarks dryly with, "Two women in 160 years is about par for the course."
  7. Mary Fisher's 1992 Republican convention speech on AIDS and HIV countered the Republican party line by pointing out that supporting family values didn't matter much if the party didn't also support the fight against the virus that destroys families. Fisher, who is HIV-positive, is still alive today at age 68.
  8. Elizabeth Glaser's 1992 Democratic convention speech on AIDS and HIV was more overtly political, focusing her speech on the failure of the Democratic leadership to address the AIDS epidemic. Glaser died of AIDS in 1994.
  9. Sarah Palin's acceptance of the 2008 vice presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention introduced the little-known Alaska governor to the convention and the nation, and cast her in the role of the happy warrior. A little personalization helped this speech go a long way.
  10. Michelle Obama's speech at 2012 Democratic convention got 28,000 tweets per minute, but followed the classic speechwriting rubric for a memorable speech from John F. Kennedy's speechwriter, Ted Sorensen: clarity, charity, brevity, and levity.
  11. Melania Trump's speech at the 2016 Republican convention was immediately famous, but not for the right reason. Parts of the speech were lifted from Michelle Obama's 2008 convention speech, causing a controversy that overshadowed much of the convention.
  12. Michelle Obama's most recent convention speech brought the house down with a full-throated endorsement of Hillary Clinton, never once mentioning her opponent by name. An inspiring, deft speech.
  13. Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination for president, and made history in the bargain. Her speech made the most of the moment, and reflected her quiet, thoughtful style.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Keeping it real with Mozilla Tech Speakers: Case study

(Editor's note: I recently had the fun assignment of going to Berlin, Germany, to coach a worldwide group of young tech experts as they gave five-minute talks on topics they might need for a future presentation. The group is Mozilla Tech Speakers, a new program that is providing support--specifically for public speaking--for these volunteer tech evangelists. I'm always looking for good ideas from my clients to share with others, so I asked Havi Hoffman of Mozilla to describe how the program came about, how it is structured, and what we did in Berlin. Her post follows with great ideas to share, whether you are a nonprofit like Mozilla or in another type of organization. Of special interest to me: The program included a call for applications for women speakers, some of whom you see in the photo above, and Hoffman explains the thinking behind that in this post. And if you read all the way through, you'll find she has generously shared links to not only the Tech Speakers resources, but several resources useful to those of you who organize volunteers, and a way to apply if you want to participate in the program. I'm delighted to feature this ambitious and energetic effort. I came away very impressed with their commitment to good public speaking and to their work.)

What prompted the creation of Mozilla Tech Speakers?

Mozilla is a global non-profit.  We make the Firefox browser, in alignment with our mission to build and protect the Web. At Mozilla, where I work, we think a great deal about supporting and inspiring our global community of volunteers. Volunteer Mozillians contribute code, participate in testing, infrastructure support, localization, marketing, evangelism, advocacy, and more. We are all guided by Mozilla’s mission to protect the Internet as a global public resource, and promote openness, innovation, and opportunity online. Many Mozilla contributors offer tech talks, workshops, and classes at venues ranging from classrooms and cafes to co-working spaces and conference centers around the world.

Early in 2015, we designed a program to activate and inspire volunteers doing technical outreach and evangelism. We are a small Developer Relations group competing for mindshare with vastly resourced for-profit browser makers. We’d heard requests from volunteers for up-to-date presentation materials and a better understanding of Mozilla’s strategic priorities for product and platform development.

At the same time, we realized there were individuals around the world speaking about the work of Mozilla and the open web, and we had no way to support or extend the value of their activity and interests. As a globally distributed organization, with a time-zone-spanning work force, these were familiar challenges. Many communication channels, many tool cultures, and varying degrees of access to information.

As we were scoping the program, the Mozilla Foundation leadership was articulating a Participation Plan for working with our volunteer community. Mark Surman’s plan took the position that contribution must be a reciprocal relationship, a virtuous circle of give and take in which the volunteer meets needs and/or achieves goals of their own, and Mozilla inspires the contributor’s keenest abilities and highest caliber contribution. The Tech Speakers program was created in alignment with this point of view.

Why did you use a pilot project approach?
From the start we wanted to emphasize the experimental nature of what we were doing, to give ourselves upfront and explicit permission to change in real time, based on what worked and what didn’t.
We knew we wouldn’t get everything right the first time. We wanted to provide tools for more effective and better informed presentations, and give speakers better access to staff and to each other. And we wanted to learn what inspired them and their peers - all this during a dynamic time of leadership change and strategic refocusing at Mozilla.
We’ve tried to stay open to what we’ve seen and learnt from each other - staff and volunteers. And we’ve adjusted the shape and content of the program over the course of three 6-week pilot sessions, from spring 2015 through the first half of 2016.
This past summer we initiated an application process for Tech Speakers, and produced a second phase of the program, which brings speaking practice and support to qualified volunteers, and looks to build local self-sustaining, self-facilitating teams of tech speakers.
Mozilla's Havi Hoffman
The core program activity is public speaking practice with a small group of fellow contributors and designated facilitators. Preparation, presentation, and constructive feedback in a safe and friendly environment are at the heart of how we work. Mozillians old and new, at all levels of experience in public speaking and at different stages in their careers, are welcome to apply. Most participants are not native English speakers, but must be willing and able to communicate in English to participate in this program. We look forward to offering non-English versions in future.
After each pilot we’ve run a short survey that asks participants to weigh in on highlights of the program, the bits they’d change or optimize, and what they’ve found less interesting. We continue to adjust.

You had one round focused on women speakers. Why, and what did it accomplish?

In November of 2015, I went to Mozfest in London, along with quite a few Tech Speakers from a variety of countries. We’d just completed our second pilot, which followed a pattern similar to the first, with increased focus on speaking practice. We’d had one nonbinary person in our first pilot, but no women in the first two rounds.  

Tech Speakers attended Mozfest as part of a larger group of Mozilla volunteers hosted by George Roter and our Participation Leadership initiative. George led a goal-setting exercise at the close of the weekend. I pronounced that I would run an all-women’s pilot of the Tech Speakers program as a way to start to redress the gender imbalance. More than one woman expressed interest then and there. I also recruited women technologists from two Diversity & Inclusion programs that Mozilla sponsors: Outreachy and TechWomen.

I believed that having a virtual meeting space that was just for women would add a level of comfort and security for the participants. Participants came from Cameroon, Greece, India, Lebanon, Palestine, Romania and Tunisia.

How many speakers do you have and what do they do for Mozilla?

Over 60 Mozilla Tech Speakers have participated in the program to date. They come from over 20 countries, and are at all levels of experience. They have different interests and skills - from web design and development to systems programming to security to hardware hackery. What they share is an alignment around Mozilla’s mission to protect the Internet. Some are passionately Open Source, others are more entrepreneurial and opportunistic. They skew young, and single. Some of them dream of living from airport to airport, and conference to conference, while others are building skills and recognition to advance their professional lives while also serving their local communities.

We support volunteer Tech Speakers to travel and present about Firefox and Mozilla technologies and projects at community meetups, educational events and regional developer conferences. We mentor and encourage them to increase their skill as public speakers and extend their influence.  Tech Speakers are representing Mozilla and sharing their knowledge at regional tech events, and as active members of allied open source communities. They increase awareness of our mission and our technology, extending our visibility into developer communities worldwide.
How did coaching 5-minute talks fit into the mix of training?
A Tech Speaker talk in action in Berlin. I'm observing, seated at front right.
Remember, this is still a very young program.
By mid-2016, we’d created a cohort of nearly 30 Tech Speakers who'd worked together and gotten to know each other online and some in real life, over varying amounts of time. They are software engineers, web developers, students, designers, quality assurance (QA) engineers, game-makers, slackers and hackers.
This was the group we invited to Berlin for a two-day workshop in September. It was a first trip to Europe for some of the attendees, a first trip to Berlin for others, our first face-to-face meetup of Tech Speakers to work on public speaking. For many of us, this was the first time meeting each other in real life. This was true for Denise Graveline and I.
I’d contacted Denise by email 18 months earlier seeking guidance on how to structure remote speaking practice for technical presenters. I’d heard about The Eloquent Woman from Cate Huston and Chiu-Ki Chan of Technically Speaking. On our initial call, Denise was generous with her wisdom and her time. I learned more than I’d hoped for, and gained the confidence to move ahead.
I knew Denise did occasional coaching workshops in Europe, so this past summer I got back in touch, inviting her to work with our group in Berlin. Lo and behold the timing worked out, and over several calls we devised a plan for a two-day intensive speaking workshop with a group of 25.
All attendees were asked to prepare a five-minute presentation on a technology topic they were planning to speak about elsewhere. We would spend roughly 10 hours over 2 days listening to the pitches and considering the constructive feedback that was being shared and curated by our coach.
The structure was Denise’s suggestion, and I knew instantly that it would serve the needs of the group. I managed the video camera, which kept me attentive throughout. In addition to 10 minutes of individualized coaching in a group setting, each speaker received a video file of their 5 minute presentation to review and reflect on later.
The five-minute presentation format gave us a chance to learn from each other in a highly focused and compressed amount of time. As program organizers helping Tech Speakers develop goals and increase their competencies, it was invaluable to have this kind of visibility into individual presence and areas of interest.
Denise ran the room with calm and benevolent authority. And utmost professionalism. Her insights were pragmatic and actionable: Gestures, posture, breath, stance, colors, narrative and rhetorical devices, tactics for practice and recovery. She began each critique by asking each speaker for their own feedback first, and then took in feedback from the room, without ever losing focus or going off-tone. This approach amplified learning and helped us all stay open and attentive.
What have you learned by doing this program? Any advice for others?

There have been many interesting and unexpected outcomes in the 18 months or so since the Mozilla Tech Speakers program began. I’ve seen subtle things about how people from varied cultures and backgrounds make each other strong in ways I had not foreseen. I have seen ego give way to grace, and a camaraderie and generosity of spirit that gives me hope for the future. Tech Speakers embody a prankster spirit that I’m happy to sustain, a source of solutions and valuable hacks.

Tech Speakers check in with each other in telegram, a lightweight mobile chat client. People vent; share tips, triumphs and travel snafus; ask for tweets and retweets; drop stickers; answer questions; brag; and commiserate. I’ve watched people initiate activities together and give each other space to nurse a wound or blow off steam. A safety zone. People gain skill in listening and giving constructive, empathic feedback.

Let me close with a recommendation. If you work with any kind of volunteers, but especially on an open source project, take a look at  “Connected Devices Contributor Experience Research”, a report from a project led by Mozilla user experience researchers. Subtitled “What motivates contributors to give their time and skill to open source projects,” it’s an engaging, highly visual document that maps the lifecycle of a contributor and explores the attributes of experiences that resonate with volunteers and inspire them to stay on.  

This study was not in the works when we launched the Tech Speakers program in early 2015, but I find its taxonomy of contributor personae (types of people who contribute), motivational themes (why people contribute), and experiential attributes (characteristics people seek in volunteer activities), useful and persuasive. I believe that the Tech Speakers program has succeeded because it's been crafted in recognition of the same guiding principles identified by our researchers, principles that are relevant across a host of projects and disciplines, for volunteers and employees.

We will open a call for applications for the upcoming 2017 session of Mozilla Tech Speakers in November. If you are interested in learning more about this program as a speaker or coach/mentor, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

Havi Hoffman has been a writer, editor, and curator of interestingness on the Web since before there was Google. At Mozilla, Havi leads the Mozilla Tech Speakers program for volunteer technical evangelists, and manages Mozilla Hacks, a blog for web developers, designers and everyone who builds for the Web. She lives in Silicon Valley in a tiny garden of citrus trees and Japanese maples. 

(Creative Commons licensed photos by one of our Mozilla Tech Speakers, Christos Bacharakis)

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