Friday, April 28, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Judge Phyllis Randolph Frye's "My Son"

Before Phyllis Frye became known as the grandmother of the transgender movement, she was a parent--to a son who she chose not see for 16 years. They reunited in 1991, and Frye shared the story at the 1992 International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy.

Frye is the first openly transgender judge in Texas and one of the first openly transgender judges in the United States. Along with her private legal practice, she serves as an associate municipal judge in Houston, presiding over the same courtroom she had dreaded entering decades before, fearful that she would be swept up by the city's anti-cross-dressing laws.

Before that, she had spent the late 1970s and 1980s enduring neighborhood threats to her and her partner, and job discrimination that made it impossible for her to continue her work as an engineer. She was disowned by her family after she told them she was Phyllis, and no longer the Phillip Frye who had been an Eagle Scout and an Army lieutenant.

She went to law school in part to maintain her GI Bill stipend, but she quickly realized that a law degree would give her "the tools to defend myself against all the crap that was dished my way," she later told The New York Times. In the earliest years of her new career, Frye said she struggled with self-doubt about her abilities as a lawyer and advocate. But she was persistent in her efforts to build an active transgender community, and in arguing for her right to live with the same privileges she enjoyed when she was called Phillip.

Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said that she and Phyllis had benefited from being white, middle class and male before their transitions, when "suddenly I found myself marginalized. But I had always had the privilege to speak up. A lot of civil rights movements start from voiceless people. Our movement had a lot of voice-y people."

Frye rarely lost her voice. She charmed her fellow law students and lawyers with her big hats and unfailing courtesy, and she became an indefatigable organizer that convened some of the earliest nationwide conferences on transgender law, employment and health care. But during those years she was also speaking out in a more private way to her son, in an attempt to slowly rebuild that relationship. It is through the lens of this speech, preserved at the Digital Transgender Archive, that we learn what it cost her and other transgender individuals to "merely be true as to who we are."

What can you learn from this deeply personal speech?
  • Choose a strong, simple start. "My son is named Randy, and I love him very much." It's hard to get more direct than Frye is at the beginning of this speech, and the words couldn't be more powerful. Most of the talk proceeds like this, using plain language and a straightforward retelling of events. But in the spare few sentences with which she begins, she manages to show that a simple thing like sharing her son's birthday is not something that she and those in her audience can take for granted.
  • Remember that personal examples have their limitations. One of the interesting themes that Frye comes back to several times in the speech is that her decisions regarding her son are hers alone, and not meant to serve as the "correct" example for anyone in the audience. Her speech at the 1992 conference was part of a larger discussion about transgender parent rights, and she is quick to note that times have changed since she made the choice in 1976 to leave her son behind with his mother. By adding these caveats, Frye takes a respectful approach, acknowledging that even if she is a movement icon, many in her audience face significantly different challenges than she did.
  • Don't forget to look for ways to use the invisible visual. There are so many great examples in this speech of the invisible visual that creates a strong, memorable and persuasive image in a listener's mind. Many of the details of Frye's physical transition work as these visuals, but the image that sticks with me the most is her description of the missing "Y" in her PH_L signatures in the letters to her son, holding it back until he was willing to fill in the blank himself.
(Photo courtesy of Frye, Oaks, Benavidez and O'Neil)

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

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, April 27, 2017

39 lies, myths, and mistaken notions speakers tell themselves

As a professional speaker coach, I hear a lot of lies, myths, and mistaken notions from speakers--mostly things they tell themselves about their speaking and presenting. Really, the 39 items on this list are assumptions, but often, they're not backed up by data or evidence.

Yes, they may be your experience, or what you think is your experience. Or they may be, as the meditation masters like to say, thoughts that are "real, but not true." In many cases, the things you tell yourself about your speaking are the biggest barrier between you and successful speaking.

Take a look at the list of the myths I hear speakers repeat most often, and see if you recognize any that you're telling yourself:
  1. If I use slides, no one will look at me.
  2. If I use slides with pictures, no one will know I'm using them as cue cards.
  3. It's important to read my slides to be sure all the information is conveyed.
  4. Everyone always uses slides.
  5. I'm telling that joke at the beginning for the benefit of my audience. It doesn't have to connect with my topic.
  6. More jokes are better.
  7. It would be impolite if I don't spend time right at the beginning thanking everyone.
  8. I need to use slides to have a record of the presentation, for investors or absent interested people.
  9. My slides make a good takeaway or handout.
  10. I need to summarize my presentation right at the start to "tell 'em what I'm going to tell 'em." Otherwise, no one will pay attention.
  11. I also need to "tell 'em what I told 'em" at the end, so the audience can remember what I just said.
  12. Everyone can tell that I'm nervous.
  13. Everyone can tell that I didn't prepare.
  14. If I prepare, I will seem too forced and unnatural.
  15. Everyone here knows more than I do about my topic.
  16. I will get questions.
  17. I won't get questions.
  18. If I prepare a lot, my presentation will go better.
  19. If I don't prepare, no one will notice.
  20. I don't need to prepare.
  21. If I memorize my talk, I will sound like a robot, or an 8-year-old child who's memorized a poem.
  22. I need a lectern.
  23. I use my hands too much.
  24. My voice sounds awful.
  25. I have to have my notes in my hand on stage, and I won't look at them.
  26. I look better in black.
  27. I look like Steve Jobs in black.
  28. No one will hear my dangling jewelry, even if it's near the mic.
  29. I look fat on stage.
  30. I can't look at the audience or I'll faint.
  31. I have to look at the audience or I'll faint.
  32. I need to change things right up to the last minute.
  33. They're really listening to me.
  34. They're really not listening to me.
  35. I need to speed up so I don't bore anyone. Keep it moving.
  36. I can't slow down. I'm from New York (or wherever you are from).
  37. I can't speak with a script.
  38. I can't speak without a script.
  39. I know everything I need to know about public speaking and presenting.
If you do recognize these as your own thoughts, it might be time to investigate why you keep telling yourself these things, and whether there's data or evidence to the contrary. And if the lack of data is because you didn't practice and try something new, try that approach first. Your coach recommends it.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by scaty1)

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, April 24, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Savvy speakers keep up with my wide-ranging reading list on women and public speaking by following The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where these links and articles appear first. I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. It's a great way to expand your public speaking knowledge:
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.

Friday, April 21, 2017

For #marchforscience, 13 famous speeches by women scientists and engineers

Scientists will be speaking up tomorrow in Washington, DC, and in cities around the world for the March for Science, so it's a great time to inspire with this baker's dozen of speeches by women scientists and engineers. They not only cover issues related to being a woman in a technical field, but also innovate, in many cases, modes of public speaking. Each of these speeches is part of The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women, and at the links, you will find--where available--audio, video, text, and ways you can incorporate their lessons into your own public speaking. Keep speaking up, women scientists and engineers! We need to hear you:
  1. Amelia Earhart's "A Woman's Place in Science" was an important address that took advantage of radio's broadcast powers to reach women with the idea that they could work, consume, and enjoy the benefits of science.
  2. Danielle George's Royal Institution lectures, a Christmas tradition in England, were only the sixth since 1825 given by a woman, the first by a woman engineer, and the first by one who was eight months pregnant. 
  3. Diane Kelly on what we don't know about penis anatomy is a TEDMED talk that details what this woman scientist discovered after she was told not to bother pursuing a line of research that interested her.
  4. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty's Northwestern University commencement speech handled a slip of the tongue with ease and humor, and focused on just what graduates want to hear about: the future.
  5. Tech pioneer Grace Hopper explained nanoseconds so that anyone might understand them, using lengths of wire. It's a great demonstration, and evidence of her ample skills as a science communicator.
  6. Jane Goodall's "What separates us from the apes" takes a look at the lecture of a frequent speaker who believes strongly in getting in front of live audiences to explain her research.
  7. Jill Bolte Taylor's "stroke of insight" TED talk required her first to relearn how to speak after a major stroke. She wins, hands down, the race for most unusual prop, a real human brain.
  8. Katharine Hayhoe's climate change elevator speech takes a big, complex topic and boils it down briefly--and clearly. It's a great model for scientists seeking to discuss hot topics with clarity.
  9. Rachel Carson's "A new chapter to Silent Spring" was a big keynote for this nervous public speaker. Even so, she chose a key consumer audience for it, and used novel undersea audio recordings as part of this speech.
  10. Astronaut Sally Ride's "Shoot for the Stars" speech draws on this physicist's experience as the first American woman in space. Watch how she deftly uses Q&A to share more data.
  11. Sheena Iyengar's TED talk on the art of choosing shares this psycho-economist's research on how we make decisions. Iyengar, who is blind, also describes a fun story about her choosing nail polish colors.
  12. Sheila Widnall on women in engineering minced no words in talking about the discrimination women in the field face. But this speech includes both barriers to women's progress, and enablers that help them move ahead.
  13. Dame Stephanie Shirley on women in tech at TED details how this pioneer built a highly successful all-woman, at-home programming business at a time when most women didn't work outside the home. It's a great example.
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, April 20, 2017

How trauma kills our storytelling abilities

I've told you why it's important not to make all your personal stories 'happily ever after' stories, and to keep in the messy parts. And I've shared here a real-life story about a cancer patient who was dying, and asked to speak about her treatment, clearly a difficult task.

But it's also true that some stories are just too traumatic to tell. I've seen many speakers overcome by the experience of trying to speak in front of an audience about a deep personal trauma. In effect, speaking about it is the equivalent of reliving the traumatic experience, or can be. But storytelling--whether you do it in public or in private--can be a path toward coming to grips with your trauma.

Here's a good example in a Chronicle of Higher Education article about a woman who survived the shootings at Virginia Tech a decade ago. Today, Kristina Anderson speaks to groups about her experiences. Here's what happened at one of them:
Ms. Anderson, a sincere 29-year-old with crystal-blue eyes, takes the hallway to the resort’s convention center. Two hundred law-enforcement officials, mental-health experts, and campus-safety officers have come for the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals’ spring conference. She takes a seat toward the back of a room and listens as the keynote speaker, Sheriff Jerry L. Demings of Orange County, describes the police response to the fatal shooting of 49 people at an Orlando nightclub last year. 
Soon, Ms. Anderson notices her heart pounding. She puts two fingers to her neck and checks her pulse. Fast. She breathes deeply, trying to slow the sudden creep of anxiety. She’s nervous about tomorrow’s presentation, but she feels something else, too. It’s the weight of an approaching anniversary. 
On April 16, 2007, a troubled student armed with semi-automatic pistols killed 32 people and wounded 17 others at Virginia Tech. Ms. Anderson was one of them. 
These days she describes her experience, in city after city, giving presentations about school and workplace safety. She did 86 last year. It’s a job, a way of reshaping the meaning of that terrible day again and again. Survival, she’s still learning, isn’t a one-time thing, a seam stitched and then forgotten.
That reshaping of her story is a key part of recovering from trauma. But first, the trauma kills off our ability to tell stories, as you'll learn in this interview by Krista Tippett with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, an expert in how the body processes memory and trauma. From the interview:
MS. TIPPETT: Something that’s very interesting to me in how you talk about trauma, the experience of trauma, what it is, is how the nature of memory is distorted, that memories are never precise recollections, but that in general, as we move through the world, memories become integrated and transformed into stories that help us make sense. But in the case of traumatic memories, they’re not integrated, and they’re not even really remembered as much as they’re relived. 
DR. VAN DER KOLK: That’s correct. There’s actually a very old observation, and it was made extensively in the 1890s already by various people, including Freud. That’s really what you see when you see traumatized people. Now, these days, the trauma is a popular subject. People say, “Tell me about your trauma.” But the nature of our trauma is that you actually have no recollection for it as a story in a way. 
Many victims, over time, get to tell a story to explain why they are so messed up. But the nature of a traumatic experience is that the brain doesn’t allow a story to be created. And here, you have an interesting paradox that it’s normal to distort your memories. Like, I’m one out of five kids. When we have a family reunion, we all tell stories about our own childhood, and everybody always listens to everybody else’s stories — says, “Did you grow up in the same family as I did?” 
MS. TIPPETT: Right. There are five versions of every story. 
DR. VAN DER KOLK: Yeah. There’s all these very, very different versions, and they barely ever overlap. So, people create their own realities in a way. What is so extraordinary about trauma, is that these images or sounds or physical sensations don’t change over time. So people who have been molested as kids continue to see the wallpaper of the room in which they were molested. Or when they examine all these priest-abuse victims, they keep seeing the silhouette of the priest standing in the door of the bathroom and stuff like that. So it’s these images, these sounds that don’t get changed. So it’s normal to change. 
My old teacher, George Vaillant, did a study that you may have heard about. It’s called the Grant Study. And from 1939 to 1942, they followed the classes at Harvard every five years, and it’s going on to this day. Most of them went off to war in 1942, and almost all of them came back in 1945, and they were interviewed. And then they have interviews in 1989, 1990, 1991. It turns out that the people who did not develop PTSD, which was the vast majority, tell very different stories, let’s say, in 1990 than back in 1945. So now it was a glorious experience, it was a growth experience, and how good it was, how close they were to people, and how patriotic they felt. And it’s all sort of cleaned up. 
MS. TIPPETT: Right. But it’s become a coherent narrative. 
DR. VAN DER KOLK: But it’s very coherent, and it’s a nice story, and it’s good to listen to it, and relatives have all heard it a million times, but — because we make happy stories in our mind. People who got traumatized continue to have the same story in 1990 as they told back in 1945, so they cannot transform it. When we treat people, you see the narrative change, and people start introducing new elements.
Later in the interview, Tippett asks about Broca's area, a part of the brain responsible for processing language, and we learn a bit about what's going on in your brain when trauma interferes with your storytelling skills:
DR. VAN DER KOLK: Well, in our study and some others, I mean, for me that was really the great finding early on, is that when people are into their trauma, Broca’s area shuts down. That is something that almost everybody has experienced. You get really upset with your partner or your kid, suddenly you take leave of your senses and you say horrible things to that person. And afterwards, you say, “Oh, I didn’t mean to say that.” 
The reason why you said it is because Broca’s area, which is sort of the part of your brain that helps you to say reasonable things and to understand things and articulate them, shuts down. So when people really become very upset, that whole capacity to put things into words in an articulate way disappears. And for me, that is a very important finding because it helped me to realize that, if people need to overcome the trauma, we need to also find methods to bypass what they call the tyranny of language.
That says a lot about the power of speaking something out loud, doesn't it? It's useful information to keep in mind when you are evaluating whether to speak on a topic that causes or caused you great distress.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Zervas)
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, April 17, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Savvy speakers keep up with my wide-ranging reading list on women and public speaking by following The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where these links and articles appear first. I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. It's a great way to expand your public speaking knowledge:
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.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Amal Clooney at the UN on Nadia Murad

(Editor's note: Leonoor Russell, speechwriter in the Senate of the Dutch Parliament, recommended this Amal Clooney speech, saying, "this speech might be a good addition to The Eloquent Woman. Not only because of the language (ISIS is described as "a bureaucracy of evil on an industrial scale") but also because it is a great example of using emotion in a speech. I remember you talking about that once: "Write from the head, speak from the heart." My favorite quote from the speech is this: "She has defied all the labels life has given her." Let's take a look at this stirring speech. Thanks, Leonoor! And a personal point of pride: This is the 250th speech in The Eloquent Woman's Index of Famous Speeches by Women.)

Human rights attorney Amal Clooney may be more famous in some circles due to her actor husband George Clooney, but she has long held her own as a public speaker--in court, and in world forums about human rights. In September 2016, the United Nations was appointing one of her clients, Nadia Murad, as its first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. Murad, a Yazidi human rights activist from Iraq, was kidnapped when she was 19 by the so-called Islamic State, beaten, tortured, and raped. After her escape, Clooney decided to represent her in legal action against the Islamic State.

Here's how Clooney described Murad's experiences:
Two summers ago, her life as a 21-year-old student was shattered when ISIS took over her village. She was forced to watch her mother and brothers be marched off to their death. She saw an ISIS militant take her niece Rajan, a 16-year-old girl so slight that you could circle her waist with your hand. 
Nadia herself was traded from one ISIS fighter to another. She was forced to pray, forced to dress up and put makeup on in preparation for rape, and one night, brutally abused by a group of men two at a time, until she was unconscious. She has shown us scars from cigarette burns and beatings. And she has told us that throughout her ordeal, ISIS soldiers would call her a dirty unbeliever and brag about conquering the Yazidi women and wiping their religion from the face of the earth. 
Nadia was one of 6,700 Yazidi taken by ISIS 2 summers ago, to be sold in markets and on Facebook, sometimes for as little as 20 dollars. Nadia’s mother was one of 80 older women who were executed and buried in an unmarked grave. Her brothers, part of a group of 600 who were murdered in a single day. 
Clooney also used her remarks to call on the UN security council to set up a legal mechanism for bringing the Islamic State to justice for the genocide being committed. She framed that request in personal terms in her role as a speaker:
Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen, this is the first time I have spoken in this chamber and the first time I have had a chance to address a crowd in front of the UN secretary-general. I wish I could say I was proud to be here, but I’m not. I am ashamed, as a supporter of the UN, that states are failing to prevent or even punish genocide, because they find their own interests get in the way. I am ashamed as a lawyer that there is no justice being done and barely a complaint being made about it. I am ashamed as a woman that girls like Nadia can have their bodies sold and used as battlefields. I’m ashamed as a human being that we ignore their cries for help.
Clooney, pregnant with twins now, spoke more recently at the UN about ISIS, and most of the coverage was about her "baby bump," not her subject matter. But in both speeches, her substantive command of the issues was on display. What can you learn from this speech?
  • Put some of yourself into your recommendation for another: Clooney's role was to speak in support of her client and friend. But couching her request in terms of her own personal perspective added value to her remarks--not only because of her expertise, but her emotional perspective. She underscored it by highlighting her many perspectives--supporter of the UN, lawyer, woman.
  • Do the same for the person you're endorsing: Following Leonoor's favorite line--"She has defied all the labels life has given her"--Clooney enumerates those labels: "She has defied all the labels life has given her: rape victim, slave, refugee. She has instead created new ones: survivor, leader, women’s advocate, Nobel peace nominee, and now, as of today, UN goodwill ambassador." We often limit the ways we describe women's roles in the world. Not so this speech.
  • Even when seated for delivery, have presence: There's little room in this setting for movement to accentuate remarks. Nonetheless, it is a gripping piece of testimony. Clooney uses varied vocal tones, her gaze, and vocal emphasis to put across the urgency of her words. And this is a well-written speech, which aids in the delivery. We don't miss having her move across a stage here.
Watch the video of this speech below.


 

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, April 13, 2017

What linguists think about "um:" Guess who gets punished for using it?

The New York Times recently published So, Um, How Do You, Like, Stop Using Filler Words? It was a disappointing rehash of the tired suggestion that ums and other fillers are to be avoided at all costs. No linguists were quoted.  And this is how I reacted:
Michael Erard's book, Um. . .: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean, reshaped my perception of the dreaded filler word. Ums, he notes, are 10 percent of everyone's speech, the world around. And until we started recording sound, no one took much notice of them in literature. But after recorded sound, the reaction to ums was stark. Toastmasters, which came into being around the same time, made a point of having ums counted whenever club members speak, a shaming way to eradicate them. Transcription services agreed to omit ums from transcripts; even today, you have to pay to re-insert them. And millions of speakers labor under the misimpression that ums are evil, as a result.

So I was delighted when Michael sent along this response, including the perspective of linguists, to the Times article. Let's stop demonizing filler words made its objections to the Times article clear early:
1. It doesn’t address the many valuable functions these words play.
2. It perpetuates a sneaky type of bias against women and young people.
It's worth reading the article if only for the discussion of the many ways we use ums and filler words--"discourse markers," in the linguist's words. You'll start thinking of them as a more versatile tool, and one you may choose to use. But of course, I was drawn to the bias against women who make use of um. From the article:
The NYT article is purportedly addressed to everyone, but it’s largely women and young people who are judged negatively for talking this way. 
The article does make this point, or at least a related one. Mele writes: “Speakers who are well known in their professions but overuse verbal pauses are still perceived as credible because they have built a reputation. Audience members will chalk up those habits to just the way they talk, Ms. Marshall said. … But newcomers who use as many interjections as seasoned professionals will be seen as less credible because they do not have the years of experience.” 
Yet he stops short of the obvious conclusion: there’s nothing wrong with using these words. The only people who are critiqued for using them are already low-status, and this critique helps maintain the low status of certain people and groups.
Separately, I found Jessica Bennett's What A Speech Coach Told Me About “Speaking Like A Woman” (And Why It’s BS), a spot-on take about "filler words" from a woman speaker's point of view. She says:
When it comes to women and speech, though, there’s an important caveat—that what’s been deemed the ideal doesn’t necessarily match the way women actually, well, talk. And so we are told that we sound unconfident when we raise our pitch. That we should remove our “likes” and “justs” (and there are apps to help us do it), defry our chords, and that we should practice, and learn to find our “best speaking voices.” 
But what if we’ve already found them?
That's the viewpoint I take here on The Eloquent Woman, and in my own coaching of speakers. There's more right with you than wrong with you, most of the time, and as Mary Beard reminds us, the real problem is that we haven't learned to listen to women's voices as conveying power...so people keep trying to make women sound like men. Sigh.

Let's say it again: There's nothing wrong with using these words. Help me spread that around, willya? My special thanks to Michael Erard for pointing me to this very good article, which ends with excellent resources for those who wish to dive deeper into filler words and how they can be a versatile tool in your speaking.

(Altered Creative Commons licensed photo by Steve Rotman)

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, April 10, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Savvy speakers keep up with my wide-ranging reading list on women and public speaking by following The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where these links and articles appear first. I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. It's a great way to expand your public speaking knowledge:
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.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Gwen Ifill on politics, policy & leadership

Back when we used to watch the evening news on television--remember that?--we spoke loyally of our favorite anchors and our habit of "inviting them into our homes." Starting in 1999, my Friday night loyalties lay with Gwen Ifill on "Washington Week" (formerly "Washington Week in Review"), and it was with tremendous sadness that she left my living room in 2016.

The daughter of Caribbean immigrants, Ifill was an award-winning journalist and author who notched many "firsts" in her career. She was the first African-American woman to host a major political talk show in "Washington Week," and the first with Judy Woodruff to co-anchor an all-woman national nightly news program in PBS' "Newshour." She was also the first African-American woman to moderate a vice presidential debate, in 2004, and she and Woodruff became the first team of women to moderate a Democratic presidential debate in 2016. When Ifill died in November last year, she was a giant in the world of political analysis and reporting. She was also remembered as a warm and thoughtful speaker who especially took the time to encourage students from all backgrounds to pursue careers in journalism.

Ifill gave numerous public speeches, including many commencement addresses, but this 2011 speech as the Mary Louise Smith Chair at Iowa State University's Carrie Chapman Catt Center stands out as a terrific example of the kind of speaker she was. In "Politics, Policy and the Reality of Leadership" she is funny, serious, frank and inspirational. And for a quick glimpse into how Ifill saw herself, you could do worse than this description she offers in the speech:
If you judge me simply by reading my bio, you could also brand me as an activist on behalf of immigrants because my parents were born in another country, an activist on behalf of free speech because I believe in the First Amendment, women's rights because I am a woman, red lipstick because I wear red lipstick. Some of that would be true and some of it would not be. There is one description, however, that I have recently come to embrace and that is as a leader.
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Take care when making transitions. I marvel at how many different things Ifill manages to cover in this speech, and yet it all hangs together beautifully. This is due in large part to her thoughtful use of transitions. For example, she uses her own biography as a segue into speaking about leadership, which then opens into a larger discussion of women's leadership in politics. She even has a nice way of moving from the usual introduction where she has to thank her local Iowa hosts into the difficulties of escaping Washington and its nonstop political cycle. Look for these graceful transitions throughout the speech--can you steal some of her strategies here?
  • Encourage the Q&A. The format of the Smith Chair talks is to leave plenty of time for audience Q&A, so it's not exactly in Ifill's hands to include this. But it's the way she encourages questions, right up front in the speech, that's impressive. She lets the audience know that the Q&A is as important to her as it is to them--she gets to "pick their brains, learn from you and go tell the world." Framing the Q&A like this helps both speaker and audience feel more engaged and less anxious when the floor opens up at the end of a speech.
  • Tell the stories that only you can tell. There must be hundreds of speeches out there about "leadership," but how many of them can include a story about the time that the leader found a racist note on her note at her first newspaper gig--and why she still decided to take the paper's permanent job offer? Ifill was proud of bring her own voice, her own background and her own perspectives to her work, and you should strive to do the same in your speeches. If you won't tell you story--even if it's a painful one--who will?
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Michael Foley. Freelance writer Becky Ham contributed this Famous Speech Friday post)

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, April 6, 2017

The mic and the woman speaker: Practical tips

Last week, I shared an article that got a huge response from readers of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook: Titled Switching to men's clothing taught me that the world doesn't want women to get too comfortable, it hit on something that goes double if you're a woman public speaker or presenter.  And you can double that again when it comes to wardrobe choices on stage and the speaker's most important tool, the microphone.

That's because microphones, like so many other things speakers wear, often work best with men's outfit choices. A male speaker is typically wearing plenty of things on which you can hook a lavalier mic: Lapels or a tie or a jacket breast pocket for the mic that goes in front, and a belt and pant waistband on which to hook the battery pack in back, or a pocket to put it in. A jacket to cover all. Using the headset mics made popular at conferences like TED? Men aren't wearing earrings that can make noise or get in the way of the headset. And the headpiece won't do too much to their simpler hairstyles. Yes, there are conveniences to the male uniform, particularly when they're getting mic'd before they speak.

Women speakers, with more varied wardrobe options, have to think ahead and plan for microphones when they plan what they're wearing for a speech or presentation. Here are the practical considerations that will save you time and angst backstage:
  1. Know which mic you'll be using, or state a preference: This should be high on your list of logistics questions for the organizers, so you can plan accordingly. If the organizer offers options, let her know your preference and dress accordingly. If they want a consistent mic for all speakers, find out what it is and what they recommend for wardrobe to accommodate the mic. It's this step that most speakers skip, making assumptions that their preferred mic will be available. Don't be that speaker.
  2. The easiest mic for any wardrobe is the wireless handheld mic. No wires, no clips, and you can wear almost anything. Old-fashioned and effective, it makes for the easiest choices.
  3. For lavalier mics, your outfit will need something on the front to which the mic can be clipped, such as a lapel, collar, or neckline. Your outfit also needs to have a defined waistband that can hold up the battery pack/transmitter in the back. And while we've all seen plenty of battery packs hooked on the backs of people on television, you generally want something that can cover that so it's not a distraction. That means a pocket to put it in, or a jacket to cover it, with plenty of room for the wire to wind around to the front. For a defined waistband, separates are your friend: A pant- or skirt-suit with jacket will work best. If you prefer to wear a dress, it will need a solid belt--not a fabric sash--to hold the battery pack.
  4. For headset mics, it's your jewelry that can get in the way. Dangling earrings make more noise than you realize--and your test for what constitutes noise is not whether you can hear it, or whether the audience can hear it, but whether it will be picked up on the audio or video recording or feed. Your solutions are simple: Wear earrings with non-moving parts, or remove the earring closest to the mic side of the headset. No one will notice you're wearing one earring, trust me. Keep necklaces simple, and avoid bangle bracelets, which also contribute to unwanted noise. A smart strategy is to bring with you some options for earrings, and discuss them with the technician who'll get you wired backstage. Your headset mic also has a battery pack, so all the advice about waistbands above applies here, too. 
(Creative Commons licensed photo by TED Conference)

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, April 3, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Savvy speakers keep up with my wide-ranging reading list on women and public speaking by following The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where these links and articles appear first. I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. It's a great way to expand your public speaking knowledge:
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.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Virginia Woolf's 1931 "Professions for Women"

British author Virginia Woolf has always been a muse of mine. As a woman writer, her A Room of One's Own provided me with inspiration and courage, as well as a sense of the barriers women face. And, just as that book was based on speeches, its intended sequel, "Professions for Women" began as a speech to a women's group, which invited her to speak about her profession.

To describe the struggles of her profession--that is, how difficult it is for a woman writer to express opinions in a world dominated by men--she chose a metaphoric character. Woolf describes her intent to write a book review of a male author's book, and says:
I discovered that if I were going to review books I should need to do battle with a certain phantom. And the phantom was a woman, and when I came to know her better I called her after the heroine of a famous poem, The Angel in the House. It was she who used to come between me and my paper when I was writing reviews. It was she who bothered me and wasted my time and so tormented me that at last I killed her....She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it--in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others. Above all--I need not say it---she was pure. Her purity was supposed to be her chief beauty--her blushes, her great grace. In those days--the last of Queen Victoria--every house had its Angel. And when I came to write I encountered her with the very first words. The shadow of her wings fell on my page; I heard the rustling of her skirts in the room. Directly, that is to say, I took my pen in my hand to review that novel by a famous man, she slipped behind me and whispered: "My dear, you are a young woman. You are writing about a book that has been written by a man. Be sympathetic; be tender; flatter; deceive; use all the arts and wiles of our sex. Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your own. Above all, be pure." And she made as if to guide my pen....Had I not killed her she would have killed me. She would have plucked the heart out of my writing.
Strong words, but they reflected perfectly Woolf's own experience. She was born in the Victorian era in 1882, growing up in a male-dominated household. Her first novel had been published 16 years before this speech, which followed the liberating era of the 1920s, and took place in the run-up to World War II. It was a time of change, and she gave voice to that change.

What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Have a strong point of view: Too often, speakers--and women speakers--have as their goal not to offend anyone. They purge opinion from their speeches, and the results are pale, boring groupings of platitudes. Woolf not only embraces her viewpoint, but makes it violent and memorable. To her, this was the ultimate struggle, and you can tell.
  • Get your audience to see something in their mind's eye: Part of the speech asks the audience to imagine the writer, pen in hand, and describes the scene so that her hearers can get a mental picture of what her work is like...and the conditions under which she has to battle the angel. The images you put in your audience members' minds will always be more memorable than any slide or photograph. It's a great technique to build audience engagement.
  • Use metaphor to create a character or personality: I don't see enough speakers turning the forces they are describing into metaphoric characters, real personalities the audience can picture and relate to. But it's an effective tactic here, allowing Woolf to describe the Angel of the House as a person, making it more recognizable and familiar.
You can read the text of the speech here; it is an abbreviated version of what she delivered to a chapter of the National Society for Women’s Service on January 21, 1931. And now, this powerful speech also has inspired an illustration that excerpts parts of it. Signature first published this illustration in Nathan Gelgud's It's Time to Re-read Virginia Woolf's 1931 'Professions for Women' Speech, and kindly provided permission for me to reproduce it here for you. Enjoy!



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, March 30, 2017

Trends in shorter talks, from TED talks to your next talk

Lots of people assume that all TED talks are the famous 18 minutes long, and think that's plenty short enough. But in reality, the lengths of popular talks in this style are getting shorter and shorter.

At least one TEDGlobal speaker I've worked with tells me that 14, rather than 18, minutes is the limit under discussion. But far shorter are the two-minute talks given by innovators featured in TEDMED's The Hive, bringing them to the main stage. And in my coaching outside of proper TED conferences, many clients are asking for me to work with speakers to develop five-minute TED-style talks.

Why the shorter times? I can think of a few reasons:
  1. Conference organizers can get more content included and more speakers featured--and better speaker engagement. At TEDMED, the two-minute talks served as short introductions to these entrepreneurs and innovators, who would be spending most of their conference time in The Hive, a space for meals, discussion, side events, and exhibits. And the short talks did the trick, encouraging participants to meet and mingle with these entrepreneurs. The shorter talks were early in the program, to encourage interaction over the course of the conference.
  2. Audience attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. After six years of coaching at TEDMED, I find my foot tapping impatiently 15 minutes into any talk, even a good one. TED and TEDMED helped bring our talk-attention-span to 18 minutes, but they've always included a range of talk lengths, because the variety matters to the audience. And those short talks are some of the most popular in the TED portfolio.
  3. Speakers get a high-impact opportunity that's more likely to be heard--and listened to--in a wide variety of settings. If you think of talks as your introduction to the audience, rather than a catalog of everything you know, the shorter talk makes a lot of sense. A short talk can have just enough in it to get those donors, investors, supporters, and fans seeking you out for more after the session. And if you have a well-learned five-minute talk in your back pocket, you can speak at a moment's notice, at a wide range of events. Use a two- or five-minute talk to open a Q&A session or town hall; speak at a reception; introduce a day of conference talks with a theme; and more.
Trying to fathom what's in a two- or five-minute talk? Use the speechwriting standard of 120 words per minute for a well-paced talk. That means two minutes equals 240 words, and five minutes equals 600--just a page of text, double-spaced.

The trick is to work that script until it's polished like a jewel. Then you'll see just how much you can fit in that compact space. Need some good role models for these shorter talks? Go here and click on 2016 Talks to see the full collection of TEDMED's two-minute talks from entrepreneurs in The Hive. Check out this post with links to the work of clients of mine who've asked me to coach short five-minute TED-style talks. And go to TED.com, where you can check out this collection of talks that are 6 minutes long...or less.

And if you need to coach to guide your speakers toward shorter talks in this style, email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com.


(TEDMED photo)

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, March 27, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Savvy speakers keep up with my wide-ranging reading list on women and public speaking by following The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where these links and articles appear first. I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. It's a great way to expand your public speaking knowledge:
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.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Patti Smith on the artist's journey

Whenever you answer a question in a live event, you can think of the answer as a small speech. Just such a speech came fully formed in an answer from Patti Smith, a singer, songwriter, poet and visual artist, who is sometimes called the "punk poet laureate."

Recently, at a live event recorded on the Here's the Thing podcast with Alec Baldwin, Smith was interviewed and then took questions. Near the end of the podcast, you can hear this questioner and the response that, to my ear, is a great small speech about the artist's journey. I've had it transcribed for you in full, question and answer:
Audience Member: Ms. Smith it’s an honor to speak with you. As an artist and art educator I’ve used Just Kids in my classroom to basically talk about an artist's journey and discovering your path. You always do advice to a young artist, what ammunition would you have to help stockpile that we can continue to encourage positivity, creativity, and individuality?  
Patti Smith: Well, you know, the advice that I have is always very simple if you want to pursue life as an artist. I could go all the way back to when we first started talking about Robert Mapplethorpe. He wanted to be an artist and he had to sacrifice a lot to make that choice. He sacrificed all his comforts, the support of his family, his scholarship--he sacrificed all of that because he knew what he wanted. He had a vision, he felt he had a calling, and when you have that and feel that, you can’t live without pursuing it. 
Then you have to do everything you can to magnify the gift that you have, and it’s going to cost you. You have to be willing to sacrifice. You have to be willing to work really hard, you have to be willing to perhaps go years, or quite a lot of time, without recognition, without acknowledgment. And you have to, in the face of all of that, maintain your vision as vision. 
Being a real artist, and maybe in some old-fashioned sense, the way I look at art, it is a sacred quest and it doesn’t have anything to do with fame and fortune. You can achieve fame and fortune in the pursuit of it because perhaps the stars are aligned, but that can’t be your prime directive. Your prime directive has to be to do something new, to give something new to the canon of art, to give something new to the people, to do something great, enduring, inspiring, something that will take people somewhere they’ve never been taken and you have to remember why you want to create. 
And so, I just say, simply, hard work and sacrifice. Happily. Because if you can’t sacrifice with joy, then it’s meaningless. And if you sacrifice and you maintain your joy and enthusiasm and curiosity and your ability to work hard, you’ll achieve something. So that’s what I’ve got.
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Be declarative: Too many speakers hedge, hem, and haw when it comes to expressing opinions, but if you have a point of view, declaring it clearly makes for a strong, vivid speech. Read Smith's answer aloud to see just how powerful a statement it is.
  • Be authentic: There's not a shred of advice in this answer that does not reflect Smith's own experience. She speaks movingly in the interview of not seeking great fortune, and instead building an independent way for herself as an artist, with a modest life and income. So this advice doesn't ring hollow at all.
  • Be thorough: It would be easy to give a pat answer here, but Smith takes the time to develop the thought. She starts with an example, using it to illustrate motivation. Then, in each successive paragraph, she builds on it with what the artist has to do, what her prime directive should be, and finally, sums it up simply.
I don't have video of the live event on which the podcast is based, but there's audio at the podcast link, above, and I can share Smith in performance at the Nobel Prize ceremony, performing Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." She talks about this performance and how Dylan impacted her work in the podcast. At the two-minute mark in the video, she falters, apologizes, and asks to start a verse again, confessing to the audience, "I'm so nervous." And the black-tie audience applauds her.


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, March 23, 2017

Why speaker coaches think you should spend more time preparing

Any speaker coach worth her salt will tell you that the one thing her speakers don't do enough of is practice. It's not at all unusual for me to suggest a two- to-three month horizon to prep for a major talk, only to have the speaker exclaim, "But I've never spent more than two days getting ready!"

If I had a nickel for every time a client said that, I could quit coaching and live quite comfortably.

But that's not enough of a reason for you, is it? You might, then, want to know some of the many reasons coaches urge practice before you dismiss it out of hand. First and foremost, practice gives you room to make mistakes and correct them, without an audience present. I like to say, "If you're going to screw up, wouldn't you rather do that privately with me than in front of the audience?"

More than that, practice lets you take something from good to great, from tentative to polished. You can find out where you stumble and stutter, and come up with workarounds. You can learn whether that move you want to make across the stage works in real life. You will find out which parts of your script or slides just don't stick in your memory bank, and adjust them. You can try out a gesture, how you will handle a prop, volume, vocalizing, and every other aspect of delivery--not just once, but several ways, so you can choose from the most successful options for you. And you'll go into the talk knowing why you chose *not* to do certain things, its own form of comfort. You'll get used to the sound of your own voice, and how it feels to give the talk out loud, as opposed to just silently narrating your slides as you review them; that kinetic memory will build as you practice, giving you that much more confidence.

Practice also affords you the time and space to learn your talk inside out, so you are less flummoxed by a last-minute or unforeseen interruption or snafu. It means that, when you panic at the sight of the lights and the crowd, what you wanted to say will come out of your mouth, anyway, and get you started. Practice gives you the chance to decide that you don't need all those slides, anyway, before the audience's eyes start to glaze over, and the chance to practice without the slides, without having to speed up. And it's great insurance against the bane of public speakers: That moment when you come off the stage and realize you forgot to include your main point.

When considering your practice time, it helps to remember the great irony of public speaking. It's the speakers who look most natural, conversational, genuine, and spontaneously smooth who have practiced the most. Everyone else just looks like they haven't practiced. Audiences appreciate the difference.

For me, the proof lies in what I hear after coaching clients, who love to call me to report, "I did all the preparation you told me to do, and it worked!" Yes, indeed. How can you reform your speaking practice?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by TEDxBrussels)

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, March 20, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Savvy speakers keep up with my wide-ranging reading list on women and public speaking by following The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where these links and articles appear first. I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. It's a great way to expand your public speaking knowledge:
  • Fluent women: When it comes to proficiency in English, women around the world speak it better than do men, across most industry sectors. Check out the places where English proficiency is high and low, and how women compare to men, in this video based on a huge survey.
  • Discomfort zone? "For example, I have a history of being uncomfortable with public speaking. In graduate school I took a public speaking class and the professor had us deliver speeches — using notes — every class. Then, after the third or fourth class, we were told to hand over our notes and to speak extemporaneously. I was terrified, as was everyone else in the course, but you know what? It actually worked. I did just fine, and so did everyone else. In fact, speaking without notes ended up being much more effective, making my speaking more natural and authentic. But without this mechanism of forcing me into action, I might never have taken the plunge." From If you're not outside your comfort zone, you won't learn anything.
  • Did you miss? This week, the blog looked at appearance v. content and which one wins the most attention for women speakers; in the wake of all the coverage, some sensible guidelines for journalists followed. Both posts were especially popular on Facebook this week. Famous Speech Friday shared classicist Mary Beard's lecture on women in power. A must-read, must-watch.
  • Join me in London April 3 for my one-day workshop, Creating a TED-Quality Talk. It works for speakers, speechwriters, and anyone who wants to elevate their presenting in this way. We have some seats left, and we're just waiting for you!
  • About the quote: A good example for eloquent women, from Madonna. Find more quotes like this one on our Pinterest board of great quotes by eloquent women.
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.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Mary Beard on "Women in Power"

If you've ever seen a production of the ancient Greek plays with strong and powerful women--Medea, Antigone, and the like--you may have thought, "Wow, how enlightened the Greeks were to feature such strong women in their plays." But it's smarter to see these as cautionary tales about women in power, says classics scholar Mary Beard. Consider them early markers that women are to be culturally excluded from power in ways that we are still fighting today.

Beard addressed women in power in a lecture of the same name two weeks ago in London, putting her knowledge of the ancient cultures and her modern-day focus on women's issues together. Beard's lecture on the public voice of women is an important entry in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women, and taken together, this pair of lectures is as good a primer as you will find--really, must-reads, both of them--on why women today struggle with finding their voices and claiming their power. The societal barriers to doing so go back centuries, and Beard's the right guide to our unfortunate history. If you think the classics are dull, she's the right guide again--so much so that she was featured in a series of interviews on these Greek heroines on BBC's Woman's Hour radio program in the week prior to the lecture, which was quickly published along with audio and video versions.

For those not sure that ancient Greek women-bashing drama has any impact on women in power today, Beard uses the image of Medusa, whose image--with snakes for her hair--was said to be able to turn people into stone. Medusa was slain by Perseus, who cut off her head and used it to turn his enemies to stone, captured in a famous portrait by Caravaggio. From Beard's lecture:
What’s extraordinary is that this beheading remains even now a cultural symbol of opposition to women’s power. Angela Merkel’s features have again and again been superimposed on Caravaggio’s image. In one of the more silly outbursts in this vein, a column in the magazine of the Police Federation called Theresa May the ‘Medusa of Maidenhead’ during her time as home secretary. ‘The Medusa comparison might be a bit strong,’ the Daily Express responded: ‘We all know that Mrs May has beautifully coiffed hair.’ But May got off lightly compared with Dilma Rousseff, who had to open a major Caravaggio show in São Paolo. The Medusa was naturally in it, and Rousseff standing in front of the very painting proved an irresistible photo opportunity.
But it’s with Hillary Clinton that we see the Medusa theme at its starkest and nastiest. Predictably Trump’s supporters produced a great number of images showing her with snaky locks. But the most horribly memorable of them adapted Cellini’s bronze, a much better fit than the Caravaggio because it wasn’t just a head: it also included the heroic male adversary and killer. All you needed to do was superimpose Trump’s face on that of Perseus, and give Clinton’s features to the severed head.... 
This scene of Perseus-Trump brandishing the dripping, oozing head of Medusa-Clinton was very much part of the everyday, domestic American decorative world: you could buy it on T-shirts and tank tops, on coffee mugs, on laptop sleeves and tote bags (sometimes with the logo TRIUMPH, sometimes TRUMP). It may take a moment or two to take in that normalisation of gendered violence, but if you were ever doubtful about the extent to which the exclusion of women from power is culturally embedded or unsure of the continued strength of classical ways of formulating and justifying it – well, I give you Trump and Clinton, Perseus and Medusa, and rest my case.
Beard also goes on to say that our ideas of power are the kinds of power that elites can claim, but that every woman--not just those trying to run for prime minister or president--needs and wants some form of power. But how should women view her insights? She says:
...the big issues I’ve been trying to confront aren’t solved by tips on how to exploit the status quo. And I don’t think patience is likely to be the answer either, though gradual change very likely will take place. In fact, given that women in this country have only had the vote for a hundred years, we shouldn’t forget to congratulate ourselves for the revolution that we have all, women and men, brought about. That said, if the deep cultural structures legitimating women’s exclusion are as I have argued, gradualism is likely to take too long for me, thank you very much. We have to be more reflective about what power is, what it is for, and how it is measured. To put it another way, if women aren’t perceived to be fully within the structures of power, isn’t it power that we need to redefine rather than women?
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • It's smart to remind us of our history: Beard's research lies completely in the past, although she certainly keeps a weather eye on trends in the present that hark back to historic days. Sometimes, your speech or presentation will benefit from a similar comparison, whether it's to remind the audience how far we've come, or, as here, how much further we have to go.
  • Tell us a story from your viewpoint: History repeats itself, but if you weren't around in the era of ancient Greece, you might not see the comparison. So Beard retells the old tales and brings them into our world with the images online and on tote bags. How can you retell a story from your viewpoint?
  • Speak plainly: Beard does not shy from her topic. The misogyny is clearly and unflinchingly described, and in doing so, she lets us see it. No sugar-coating, muffling, or euphemizing here. Instead, there's brilliant clarity, just what every audience wants.
You can watch the video here or below, and the full text of the lecture is here.

LRB · Mary Beard · Video: Women in Power

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.