Monday, February 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, February 24, 2017

Famous Speech Friday redux: Betty Friedan calls for a women's strike

(Editor's note: Organizers of the 2017 Women's March on Washington have been signalling their intent to organize a women's strike on March 8. But it's not the first time this has happened. Here's our Famous Speech Friday post on the first women's strike in the U.S., called for in a speech by feminist author and organizer Betty Friedan in 1970. Get inspired!)

It was an ending speech, her March 20, 1970 farewell speech at the conclusion of her term as the first president of the National Organization for Women (NOW). She was nearly 50. But Betty Friedan used what might have been a pro forma speech not to thank everyone and reflect backwards, but to make a call for action that astonished its hearers: She called for women to go on strike.

Friedan, the author of the 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, had already broken ground by saying "We can no longer ignore that voice within women that says: "I want something more than my husband and my children and my home." But with this speech, she astonished the early leaders of the women's movement of her era. Sadly, I haven't been able to find a full text of the speech. But here's a compelling excerpt that described her vision of what would happen on the strike day
The women who are doing menial chores in the offices as secretaries put the covers on their typewriters and close their notebooks and the telephone operators unplug their switchboards, the waitresses stop waiting, cleaning women stop cleaning and everyone who is doing a job for which a man would be paid more stop…And when it begins to get dark, instead of cooking dinner or making love, we will assemble and we will carry candles alight in every city to converge the visible power of women at city hall…Women will occupy for the night the political decision-making arena and sacrifice a night of love to make the political meaning clear.
Friedan wrote at length about the origins of the Women's Strike in her book It Changed My Life: Writings on the Women's Movement, in which she shared how this speech affected her, and shared the last line. She wrote:
I was told later I that talked for nearly two hours--"like Castro or some Communist commissar," Kay Clarenbach teased me. But the women of NOW listened. It was late in the afternoon, and intense. I was so tired when I finished that I held on to the lectern. I ended, knowing it was so--"I have led you into history. I leave you now--to make new history."  They gave me a standing ovation, the members of NOW, and I was moved.
In the speech, she called on women to muster on the 50th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, August 26, 1970, at the end of a workday  -- an effort to make sure more of them would participate -- and envisioned this as a march and strike that would throw into high relief women's contributions to society. The strike had concrete goals for equality, from equal pay for equal work to abundant and accessible child care.

Ms. magazine recalled: "That was a tall order for a three-and-a-half-year-old organization like the National Organization for Women, with 3,033 members, 35 chapters and an annual budget of $38,000, to carry out." That's just one reason why no one thought it would work: Not her sisters in the women's movement, not the media (who made relentless fun of the march), not even her children. In this remembrance, her son recalls being cajoled by friends to go to the march, even though he, too, thought it would be a failure:
He agreed out of pity. “I’d seen the Charlie Chaplin movie where he marches down the street waving a flag with no one marching after him. I thought at least there’d be four of us,” he says. But once Jonathan got to Fifth Avenue, he couldn’t get anywhere near his mother. The street was teeming with people. When the march ended at Bryant Park, Jonathan climbed up on a wall so he could glimpse Friedan standing on a podium. She spoke to an audience in the tens of thousands. “This was the moment I realized who she was,” he says.
In the end, the speech she gave as a farewell to NOW wound up bringing some 50,000 women into the streets of New York City alone, with marches, rallies and other events in 90 cities and 42 states. It was the first major event to bring the late 20th century women's movement onto the front pages (the New York Times, covering her initial speech on the strike, called her a "militant leader"), and succeeded beyond anyone's expectations. In the end, her 2006 obituary in the Times said she "permanently transformed the social fabric of the United States and countries around the world."

So what can we learn from the speech that ignited this charge?
  • Active verbs make a call to action: Read the verbs in the excerpt above: Put, close, unplug, stop, assemble, carry, converge, occupy, sacrifice, make.  There is no waffling, no hesitation in an active verb. That means the audience was clear on what was wanted of it. Is your audience as clear on what you want them to do when they leave the hall? Passive verbs do not a call to action make.
  • She used her (seemingly) last leadership platform to create something new:  This could have been a true farewell speech. Instead, Friedan used it to push the group beyond what seemed possible and to propose a preposterous idea--but one she thought could happen. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, might be the lesson here. Why pull your punches? Why dial in a perfunctory farewell speech, when you can do this? Instead, she said, "I have led you into history. Now I leave you to make new history."
  • She flew in the face of conventional wisdom. I have to believe Friedan knew that her listeners, committed as they were to the cause, would doubt that this could happen. And that thought was borne out by everyone from the news media to her family. The police reserved only one traffic lane on Fifth Avenue for the march, a sure sign their estimates said there'd be low turnout. But Friedan reinforced her message in many subsequent speeches and interviews. A persistent message and strong vision paid off, as did her instincts and research about the women she hoped would march.
  • She drew a picture of what the strike would look like in terms of the lives of those whom she hoped would march.  Instead of lecturing or cajoling, she envisioned in words the picture of what would happen on the day of the strike. Evoking secretaries covering their typewriters and waitresses and cleaning women stopping their tasks put the march in terms to which women could relate and respond. No platitudes, just a platform. By the time of the march, that simple language was translated into signs like "Don't iron while the strike is hot," a play on the old phrase, "Strike while the iron is hot."
After this march, Friedan went on to nearly another 40 years leading women--and she was almost 50 when she gave this sparking speech. What do you think of it?

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, February 23, 2017

What made this one of TED's most popular talks in 2016?

I was pleased, but not at all surprised, to see Judson Brewer's TEDMED talk from 2015 about "an easy way to break a bad habit" on TED's list of the 10 most popular TED talks in 2016, with more than 6 million views and counting. Brewer was among the TEDMED speakers I coached in 2015, and I think there's much to learn from this talk, for researchers contemplating TED-style talks, and anyone else who wants to understand the form. You can find out more about the substance of this talk in his soon-to-be-published book, The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love – Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits, available now for pre-order.

Here are 6 things I think make this talk work well. Congratulations, Judson!
  1. Time management: Clocking in at 9 minutes, 16 seconds, Brewer's talk is complex and compact. Mind you, he's talking about multiple studies and their results, not just one. But with careful editing, we learn just what we need to understand his topic. That work comes in during the scripting process, with edits made as practice and coaching require.
  2. The premise comes in early: Good TED talks focus on just one big idea and get it on the table early. Often, as here, that's expressed as a "what if" question. Just after the three-minute mark, Brewer states the core premise of the research, and the talk: "What if, instead of fighting our brains or trying to force ourselves to pay attention, we instead tapped into this natural, reward-based learning process...but added a twist? What if instead we just got really curious about what was happening in our momentary experience?" You'll notice he echoes it again at the end, couching it then in terms of how it translates into your everyday life. In other words, the talk uses one-third of its time at the start for the setup, then shares the premise, then spends the rest of the talk giving examples and further shaping the premise.
  3. Judicious use of slides in a research talk: If you look closely, you'll notice that when Brewer finishes talking about a slide up on the screen, he moves to a "blank" patterned slide that matches the set. At TEDMED, we try to make sure you get off the slide once you're done talking about its content, and the blank slide is the best way to do that. It gives the audience the chance to focus just on the speaker, rather than divide its attention, and gives the presentation a cleaner look.
  4. Clear language throughout: You can show this talk to your grandma or to a kid, and still expect them to understand virtually all of it. That's good communication. Many researchers scoff about using simple language, saying they don't want to "dumb it down"--a remark that's insulting to the audience's intelligence. Clarity should be the goal for research talks.
  5. Just enough personal touches: If you wince at the thought of adding a personal story to your TED-style talk, Brewer gives an early example of how to do it briefly. He talks about how difficult he found it to meditate when he first began to practice, adding just enough of a personal touch. Newsflash: Your personal touches don't have to be long, hand-wringing, divulging stories...unless that's what the talk needs. Just like slides and props, stories and personal details have to earn their keep.
  6. Good stance on stage and natural gesturing: Brewer doesn't move around much, and most speakers don't need to move. He shifts stance and looks at different segments of the audience, and his gesturing is random and natural--just as it should be. It has a calming effect that, again, lets the audience focus on the talk.
You can learn how to create your own talk of TED quality in my London workshop on April 3. Find out more and register here, and watch the video below for Judson's talk!



(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, February 20, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

To All The Little Girls
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:
  • I can't hear me: Why do our recorded voices sound so weird to us? captures the (mostly physiological) reasons most speakers don't listen to their recorded speeches.
  • All-male panel as discrimination: "...he added that there were other team members who were interested in delivering presentations but who had decided to 'simply yield politely,' implying that I was neither yielding nor being polite." She presented data one year about gender disparity in the city's annual business forecast, then was turned down for an all-male panel the following year. This opinion article makes that discrimination public.
  • Did you miss? This week, the blog looked at Why do I blush at the start of a speech?, with answers from scientists, and Famous Speech Friday shared 46 famous speeches by black women for #BlackHistoryMonth. Every year, this is our most popular post, and the list gets longer each time.
  • Join me in London April 3 for my one-day workshop, Creating a TED-Quality Talk. We'll be a small group, with plenty of time for your questions. Seats are filling, so sign up today!
  • About the video: How often are your speeches turned into songs? A music teacher in Santa Monica, California, gave Hillary Clinton's concession speech to her all-girl music theory class and asked them to come up with a song. Here's more about it and Clinton's reaction.
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, February 17, 2017

For #BlackHistoryMonth, 46 famous speeches by black women

Black women speakers from all over the world are often featured in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women. Whether African, American or from elsewhere in the world, they make up close to 20 percent of the speeches we've collected and featured so far. And every year, this expanding collection of speeches by black women is the most-read post on the blog! Check out the 46 famous speeches from the Index given by black women speakers, arranged in chronological order from 1851 to the present. At the links, you will find (where available) video, photos, transcripts or texts, along with what you can learn from these speeches to improve your own public speaking:
  1. Sojourner Truth's 1851 speech "Ain't I a Woman?" is oft-quoted, but has a disputed source, illustrating why it's often tough to find famous women's speeches. In this case, that happened because Truth could neither read nor write. That doesn't detract at all from her message about equality for all women of all races. Read Soujourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman" Speech: A Primary Source Investigation for more about the many versions of this speech, only one of which contains the most-quoted phrase.
  2. Mary Ann Shadd Cary's 1858 "Break Every Yoke" defied the norms against women--and black women especially--speaking in public. This sermon demonstrates why she was such a popular antislavery speaker in the years leading up to the American Civil War.
  3. Harriet Tubman's 1859 fable about colonizing slaves tackled one of the proposals to end slavery--by sending American slaves to Africa--with a simple story anyone could remember and repeat. It brought the house down at an antislavery rally.
  4. Ida B. Wells's 1909 "This Awful Slaughter" busted the myth that women's safety was the reason lynchings were carried out, and used a mix of data and defiance to fight against the practice of mob killings of black men. Read the book To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells to learn more about her campaign.
  5. Josephine Baker at the March on Washington shares the brief remarks of the lone woman to share the program with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and scores of other male speakers. Those who thought of her as a notorious showgirl learned more about her self-enforced exile to France as a way of seeking racial equality.
  6. Fannie Lou Hamer's 1964 convention committee testimony failed to gain her a seat at that convention, but succeeded in raising the visibility of violence against blacks attempting to register to vote. Four years later, she became an historic convention delegate. You can read more about her public speaking in The Speeches of Fannie Lou Hamer: To Tell It Like It Is.
  7. Coretta Scott King's 1968 "10 Commandments on Vietnam" -- a speech she gave in her husband's place, just weeks after his assassination -- took scribbled notes found in his pockets and made them into a powerful call to action. Desert Rose: The Life and Legacy of Coretta Scott King is a recent biography. This post was our very first Famous Speech Friday entry!
  8. Shirley Chisholm introducing the Equal Rights Amendment in 1969 wasn't a first. This member of Congress was re-introducing the legislation, 40 years after it was first proposed--and did so in her usual fiery and forthright style.
  9. Shirley Chisholm's contested debate time during the 1972 presidential election campaign came after she was shut out of network television debates, and sued--creating a precedent that helps women candidates even today.
  10. Barbara Jordan's 1976 Democratic convention keynote broke barriers for women and for blacks in one speech, suggesting that "the American Dream need not be deferred." It's loaded with elegant rhetoric and is a wonderful listen, thanks to Jordan's vocalizing skills. A Private Woman in Public Spaces: Barbara Jordan's Speeches on Ethics, Public Religion, and Law takes a focused look at the speeches of one of America's most eloquent women.
  11. Anita Hill's 1981 Senate testimony about Clarence Thomas disrupted the Senate confirmation hearings of the then-nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, leveling sexual harrassment allegations against him that ultimately did not prevent his appointment to the court. "It would have been more comfortable to remain silent," she said in this televised testimony that stunned viewers and brought harrassment into the open as an issue. In Speaking Truth to Power, she tells her story.
  12. Maya Angelou's 1995 poem, "Phenomenal Woman," often delivered by her and others as a speech, summed up for me and many others what made this frequent speaker so special. Listen closely to her charming delivery.
  13. Angelou's 2006 eulogy for Coretta Scott King might be any eulogy from one close friend for another, as Angelou tells stories about the civil rights icon that only a girlfriend would know. This is a lovely, simple and moving tribute.
  14. Edwidge Danticat's 2007 testimony on death in detention gave the novelist a gripping real-life story to tell, about her uncle's treatment at the hands of U.S. immigration and customs officials when he was held in detention. It's moving, direct and powerful, just like her fictional writings. You can read more about this dramatic story in her book Brother, I'm Dying.
  15. Rep. Gwen Moore's 2011 floor speech on abortion rights and family planning came during a debate about federal funding for family planning. She chose to use her status as a member of Congress to share a personal perspective as a former teenage mother.
  16. Michelle Obama's 2011 speech to young African women leaders took place in a powerful setting, and used that visual reminder to call these young women to action. Michelle Obama: Speeches on Life, Love, and American Values collects speeches of our current First Lady, preserving the legacy of a frequent speaker.
  17. Viola Davis's 2011 awards acceptance speech, "What keeps me in the business is hope," went far beyond the usual platitudes and confronted what it's like to be a black actress in the movie industry. An eloquent extemporaneous speech.
  18. Chimamanda Adichie's "we should all be feminists," a 2012 TEDxEuston talk, has inspired pop icons and women and men around the world with its frank, funny, and fierce viewpoint.
  19. Michelle Obama's 2012 Democratic National Convention speech follows a formula for memorable speeches recommended by President John F. Kennedy's speechwriter, Ted Sorensen. And it worked with today's audiences, garnering more than 28,000 tweets per second from those who watched it.
  20. Viola Davis's 2012 commencement speech is titled "Go out and live!" It's a stunning example of what you can do with a tired speaking format, and is like no college commencement speech you've ever endured. Perhaps my favorite line: "The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you discover why you were born."
  21. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's 2013 Harvard commencement speech shared the dreams and roadblocks in the Liberian president's stellar career. She says, "If your dreams do not scare you, they're not big enough."
  22. Essie Washington-Williams's 2013 "I feel completely free" told the world a secret she'd kept most of her life: She was the daughter of a black woman and Senator Strom Thurmond, a white segregationist who campaigned against civil rights.
  23. Joyce Banda's tribute to Nelson Mandela at his memorial service in 2013 wasn't a remarkable text--until the Malawi president went off-script and put in the color and creativity she got in part from her mentor.
  24. Myrlie Evers-Williams's invocation at President Obama's second inaugural in 2013 marked the first time the invocation at the ceremony was given by a woman, and by someone other than a member of the clergy. The widow of assassinated civil rights activist Medgar Evers summoned the spirits of the leaders of that movement to witness the day's proceedings. Read more about her story in her memoir Watch Me Fly: What I Learned on Becoming the Woman I Was Meant to Be.
  25. Leymah Gbowee's 2013 Barnard commencement speech had the Liberian Nobel laureate urging women to "step out of the shadows" and get more credit for their work.
  26. Gabourey Sidibe's speech at the 2014 Gloria Awards used an iconic photo of her aunt and Gloria Steinem to honor Steinem, and to talk about being confident despite how she's taunted because of her weight.
  27. Michelle Obama's eulogy for Maya Angelou in 2014 echoed words from "Phenomenal Woman" and told how the poet inspired her as a child.
  28. Kerry Washington spoke in 2014 on the risks of public speaking for women and women of color, admitting she'd turned down the chance to give a TED talk in an award acceptance speech.
  29. Rashema Melson's 2014 high school valedictory speech made headlines because the speaker overcame homelessness to graduate at the top of her class and get into Georgetown. A short, fierce, fantastic speech.
  30. Laverne Cox gave a 2014 keynote on transgender activism for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force meeting, offering inspiration and encouragement to local activists.
  31. Lupita Nyong'o used a 2014 acceptance speech at a Hollywood luncheon to talk about the conflicting views we have about black women and beauty in a revealing, resonant talk.
  32. Viola Davis's 2014 acceptance speech focused on hungertaking a Hollywood audience to the dumpsters where she dived for food as a child, and speaking abou the importance of public speaking to shed light on so-called "unspeakable" issues. A riveting short speech.
  33. Shonda Rhimes's "You are not alone" speech at the Human Rights Campaign Fund awards in 2015 expanded on one of her favorite themes: It's not "diversity," it's reflecting what is normal that makes her work inclusive.
  34. Keila Banks's "Undefinable Me" was the 13-year-old's keynote at a major tech conference, where she put the lie to common perceptions of who is and is not technically adept.
  35. Viola Davis brought the house down at the 2015 Emmy Awards, where she captured the first best actress in a drama award for a black woman, with an acceptance speech that left no doubt about the importance and weight of that moment.
  36. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche calls likability a barrier to authentic storytelling, a message she gave to young girls in 2015 that should resonate with every eloquent woman.
  37. Linda Cliatt-Wayman closed the 2015 TEDWomen conference with this powerful message about education in troubled schools, prompted by a moment when she was interrupted mid-speech by a student.
  38. Rep. Terri Sewell's remarks at the 2015 anniversary of the civil rights march on Selma, Alabama, in 1965, shared her perspective as a living marker of progress--she grew up there, and now represents the city in the U.S. Congress. And she made President Obama laugh during her remarks, always a plus.
  39. Lupita Nyong'o keynoted a 2015 women's conference and talked about following her fears--including a fear of giving that very keynote. The speech demonstrates just what you can accomplish when you follow her lead.
  40. Viola Davis's "Everything should be spoken," another 2015 awards acceptance speech, advocated that we should be speaking about "the unspeakable" and normalizing it.
  41. Queen Latifah used her 2016 Screen Actors Guild award acceptance to encourage others who don't fit society's lens to define themselves and "keep fighting for it" in a short, strong speech which also saw her use her award statuette as a barbell, briefly.
  42. Nancy Hanks on the student she expelled was a tale told to a convention of educators, a tale of unconscious bias and second chances.
  43. Michelle Obama's 2016 Democratic convention speech, in which she referred to the White House as "a house built by slaves," contained many lines quoted again and again, including, "When they go low, we go high."
  44. Beyoncé's speech on racism and fashion schooled the fashion designers awarding her "icon" status with the story of why her family made her performance outfits: Because every design house had turned down the opportunity.
  45. Michelle Obama's "enough is enough" speech on misogyny was among the most electric speeches given in the 2016 presidential campaign. She said out loud things that women experience every day.
  46. Viola Davis's introduction of Meryl Streep at the 2017 Golden Globe Awards ceremony was like a five-minute TED talk: Direct, funny, thoughtful, and not your usual introduction fare. Well worth a study.
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, February 16, 2017

Speaking Science: Why do I blush at the start of a speech?

Several readers of the blog have been asking about blushing at the start of their talks, with comments along these lines:

"What can I do about suddenly turning red right before I start to speak? It makes me feel terrible and unprofessional, and I don't understand why it happens when I don't feel nervous otherwise! Most importantly, how can I stop blushing like this?"

Blushing is one of the most mysterious things that people do, and unfortunately it is mostly out of our conscious control. Blushing is fueled by the body's autonomic or unconscious nervous system--the same one that tells your heart to pump and your stomach to digest.

The mechanics of how a blush happens are straightforward. Underneath the skin of your face and neck is a lacework of tiny blood vessels called capillaries, which dilate under the influence of adrenaline to allow more blood and oxygen to flow. And a blush isn't something you can fake. Unlike most human expressions, you can't force a blush to appear on your face. (Or, sadly, demand that your capillaries shrink back to size.)

But you're in good company if you don't understand why you blush, because scientists from Charles Darwin onward have been perplexed by what Darwin called "the most peculiar and most human of all expression." The research on blushing covers a wide ground, and its findings match most of what we already know from novelists. Blushing can signal embarrassment, shame, self-consciousness, pride or guilt.

The good news, however, is that more recent studies about chronic blushing and blushing and social anxiety have offered some insights that may lead to less blushing, and less worry about your red face.

What does a blush mean?


Duke University social psychologist Mark Leary suggested in a 1992 study that there are four main types of attention that can cause blushing:
  1. some sort of "threat to public identity," which could be anything from tripping on a street curb to clapping at a performance when the rest of the theater is silent; 
  2. an openness to scrutiny, or a situation that makes you the center of attention; 
  3. praise or positive attention; and
  4. accusations of blushing. 
All of these situations seem to trigger the body's "fight or flight" response that unleashes face-flushing adrenaline.

Public speaking can involve all four of these, of course. You may think of speaking as a threat to your public identity because you are fearful that your words may displease your audience. For women especially, historically taught to be silent, the very act of public speaking may make you feel as if you are violating normal behavior. Speaking does put you at the center of attention. And if you've ever had anyone comment on your blush, you may have felt yourself feeling hotter and redder by the second.

But blushing isn't all about you, and your feelings. Some evolutionary biologists think that blushing has evolved like other emotions in that it serves as an important signal. For instance, a 2009 study led by University of Amsterdam clinical psychologist Corine Dijk suggests that a person who blushes after committing some sort of social blunder--knocking over a grocery display, for instance--is more likely to be forgiven for the act by observers if she blushes. Dijk says that in this case the blush makes the person appear more sympathetic, and is taken as a signal that she is genuinely sorry about the social "mistake."

Other researchers have found that blushers tend to think their red faces are more noticeable than their observers do, and frequently overestimate the social consequences of blushing. Some scientists have noted an unfortunate side effect of these misperceptions: worrying about whether you blush and how obvious your blush can actually lead to further blushing that is measurably more intense.

Handling the heat


Given all this, is there any way for a speaker to minimize blushing?

"Since the blush is an automatic response, one can only get rid of the blush altogether by modifying one's concerns about one's public self-image, or become less concerned with the impression one makes on others," says Peter J. de Jong, a clinical psychologist at Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.

De Jong and his colleagues have conducted several studies of blushing, often in the context of treating it as a symptom of social anxiety disorder. The steps that one can take to reduce the fear of blushing "typically also result in less frequent blushing," says de Jong, who is also the co-editor of The Psychological Significance of the Blush.

In a 2011 study by de Jong and others, for instance, the researchers asked participants to practice cognitive behavioral therapy techniques over seven sessions as a potential way to reduce their fear of blushing. The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy, sometimes called CBT, is to change patterns of inaccurate or negative thinking so that a person can respond more effectively to challenges. The study used therapies such as concentration games and relaxation techniques, which reduced the fear of blushing among the participants up to a year later.

If blushing before a speech is bothering you, a CBT technique such as mindful breathing might be a good place to start--even better if you make these kinds of relaxation practices part of your regular routine. If you are a speaker with a diagnosed social anxiety disorder, your health care team might be able to recommend other more intensive types of CBT as well.

For public speakers prone to blushing, de Jong suggests, it is also useful to "learn how to focus more of their own attention on their task at hand" instead of worrying about what their audience sees.

"The ultimate aim would be to become a bit more indifferent--and probably also more realistic--about the social implications of your speech or performance, and also about the social impact of displaying a blush," he notes. "During the Dutch training we use the flash card Negeer en concentreer, which roughly means 'ignore'--the blush or your ideas about a negative evaluation--and 'concentrate'--on the task at hand, which implies an outward instead of inward focus."

(Freelance science writer Becky Ham contributed this post. Creative Commons licensed photo by Ryan Somma)

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, February 13, 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, February 10, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Elizabeth Warren's silencing in the U.S. Senate

Reading a letter from someone else is a common tactic in public speaking. Often, it's a powerful tool for the public speaker, offering a compact endorsement of the points you wish to make. And that was, no doubt, among the motivations for Senator Elizabeth Warren, who sought to read a now-famous letter from Coretta Scott King during the Senate debate about the nominee for Attorney General of the United States, Warren's fellow Senator Jeff Sessions.

King, the widow of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., was a powerful witness to injustice; you can find her speech on the 10 Commandments of Vietnam in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women, as just one example. The letter in question this week was sent in 1986 to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which was then considering whether to appoint Sessions to a federal judgeship. King, who could not appear live to testify, asked that her letter be entered into the Congressional Record, the official archive of what is discussed in Congress, and that was done.

So Warren this week was choosing to read a well-known letter about the nominee that was already an official document of the Congress to her colleagues in the Senate, during a debate on Sessions's pending appointment. Sounds appropriate on all counts, and perhaps even slightly less risky to use the words of a famous civil rights leader as the bulk of your remarks, right?

Not even. Here's how the New York Times described the scene after Warren began reading the letter in the Senate chamber:
Sensing a stirring beside her a short while later, Ms. Warren stopped herself and scanned the chamber. 
Across the room, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, had stepped forward with an objection, setting off an extraordinary confrontation in the Capitol and silencing a colleague, procedurally, in the throes of a contentious debate over President Trump’s cabinet nominee. 
“The senator has impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama, as warned by the chair,” Mr. McConnell began, alluding to Mrs. King’s letter, which accused Mr. Sessions of using “the awesome power of his office to chill the pre-exercise of the vote by black citizens."
You can see video of the interruption here.

Sen. McConnell used Rule XIX of the Senate to make the procedural move. When Warren asked to continue her remarks, McConnell objected again and the senator chairing the session ordered her to take her seat. Following a debate on the silencing, Warren was formally silenced until the debate on the nominee ended mid-week.

“Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech,” McConnell explained. “She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards later called that statement, "The history of progress for women, summed up in 11 words."

This did not, however, end the letter-reading by Warren. Democrats in the Senate began posting on Twitter with the #LetLizSpeak hashtag, sharing the letter and indicating support. News media covered the silencing and shared the letter. And Warren, not to be undone, stood outside the Senate chamber hours later and delivered remarks and the letter on Facebook Live. McConnell's three words--"Nevertheless, she persisted"--quickly became a feminist rallying cry, and #ShePersisted a new hashtag.

As Tuesday turned into Wednesday and the furor over her silencing became clear, some male Democratic senators rose to read the very same letter, in whole or in part--and were not interrupted or chastised for doing so. As the male Democratic senators and Warren are in the same party, the exception can't have been purely political. So why was the woman silenced, and not the men? Same content, different gender, different standard?
You can see that Warren scared the male Republicans in the way several of them doubled down on criticizing her, even after it was clear public opinion was with her. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, spoke at length on the Senate floor to defend the silencing (note that Fox News calls Warren "Chief Running Mouth," another attempt at silencing her). Sen. Lindsay Graham said the silencing was "long overdue," because "she is clearly running for the nomination in 2020."

The reality is that Warren commands a larger audience nationwide, compared to many senators, and is known as an effective and persistent critic who gets a lot of media attention. She might, as many other male senators have done, be contemplating a run for president. In other words, she was silenced for being effective in her work as a senator. “They were waiting to Rule 19 someone and they specifically targeted Elizabeth,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “I think because she’s effective.” So when you are silenced in your work, remember that it happens at much higher pay grades, too. If it happens to her, it can happen to you.

Warren's silencing gave her the last laugh: At this writing, Warren's livestream statement has been seen 11 million times on Facebook, with hundreds of thousands of reactions and shares. The views have been doubling each day this week. The full 10-page letter from King runs to 10 pages, and you can read it here. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Stay calm if you are interrupted with a surprise: This is one of the toughest tasks for a speaker, but it's worth pausing, taking a breath, and remaining calm as Warren did. Wait to see what the interruption is before you respond, and work on responding, not reacting. 
  • If you are silenced, say so: “Tonight I wanted to read that letter, and Sen. Mitch McConnell and Republicans came to the floor to shut me down for reading that letter,” Warren said in her livestream. Name the people or organizations that silence you--it's the best way to take back your voice and your control.
  • Use your other microphones: As Warren demonstrates, you're not limited to the venues that ban your speaking, especially not with social media tools at your disposal. The Senate floor is a powerful venue open only to 100 people, but a senator can reach many more people on Facebook Live than she can in a televised debate. And the controversy over silencing Warren meant that her remarks received most of the debate's coverage in the media, so the strategy to silence her backfired.
  • Don't let them shame you for being "outspoken:" Warren is often described as "vocal" and "outspoken," and not in a nice way, even though most of what senators do is public speaking. These words are silencing tactics, used most often on women. In this debate, she was warned by the chair not to read this letter, but did so, anyway. Warren, whose first appearance on The Daily Show found her vomiting backstage due to nervousness, is now a practiced and fearless speaker who simply persisted. Ignoring the shamers is the best revenge for an eloquent woman. Let them say, "Nevertheless, she persisted" about you.
Speaking the next day to civil rights leaders, Warren said, "What hit me the hardest was, it is about silence. It’s about trying to shut people up. It’s about saying, ‘No, no, no, just go ahead and vote.’ This is going to be hard. We don’t have the tools. There’s going to be a lot that we will lose. But I guarantee, the one thing we will not lose, we will not lose our voices.”

Here's the video of her reading of the letter on Facebook Live:

During the debate on whether to make... - U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren | Facebook

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

King, Hamer, Ginsburg, Obama: Speech collections & a memoir

Women speakers often are left out of collections of "major speeches." But of the four recent finds I've made in speech collection and a memoir, three are by important women speakers. I'll be adding these to The Eloquent Woman Booklist, my collection of useful books about speeches and speaking as featured on this blog. Add these to your speaking shelf:
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg: My Own Words, by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, collects her speeches and writings; if you buy the audiobook, you can hear recordings of her delivery of many of the speeches. Ginsburg's humor and thoughtfulness are on display here in a way the court bench does not always permit. This is the first volume of Ginsburg's autobiography, and I'm so delighted she began by releasing her influential speeches.
  • Fannie Lou Hamer: The Speeches of Fannie Lou Hamer: To Tell It Like It Is, edited by Maegan Parker Brooks and Davis W. Houck, is the first collection of speeches by the noted civil rights activist, including transcriptions of her extemporaneous remarks. While often called illiterate as a means of dismissing her, she was, in fact, able to read and write. And she was one of the most formidable and persuasive speakers of the America civil rights movement. This collection shows why.
  • Barack Obama: We Are the Change We Seek: The Speeches of Barack Obama, by E.J. Dionne, Jr. and Joy Redi, collects key speeches of the most recent former U.S. president, with 26 major speeches. Sam Leith's review notes patterns in the written speeches, adding that Obama's delivery made them unique and persuasive. 
  • Coretta Scott King: My Life, My Love, My Legacy, just out this month, collects the memoir of King, who shared her thoughts before her death in 2006 with Dr. Barbara Reynolds. She recalls numerous important speeches, including her 10 Commandments on Vietnam, which we've covered here on the blog. In some cases, the text is shared as well as her recollections of the events of the day, although this is not a collection of speeches. Still a great read.
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, February 6, 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, February 3, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Viola Davis's Golden Globes Meryl Streep intro

Meryl Streep's acceptance speech for the Golden Globes lifetime achievement award a couple of weeks ago made a major splash (you can read its Famous Speech Friday entry here). So you can be forgiven for forgetting, for a moment, the introduction Streep received from fellow actor Viola Davis. Even though Davis went on to receive her own award and give her own speech that same evening, it was her introduction of Streep that got the most coverage and attention--so much so, it was reproduced the next day by the New York Times alongside Streep's remarks.

That's a lot of attention for an introduction, a common and commonly ignored form of public speaking. Davis, however, created an introduction that was anything but easy to ignore. And that's a daunting task in introducing Streep, who is known on the awards acceptance stage as a deft and thoughtful introducer who takes particular care with her words and delivery on someone else's behalf. You'll find a great example of this in Streep's introduction of actor Emma Thompson.

At the core of this short speech, after describing what it's like to have Streep stare at you and ask you a lot of questions, Davis shares her insight about the star actor:
And as she continues to stare you realize that she sees you. And like a high-powered scanning machine she’s recording you. She is an observer and a thief. She waits to share what she has stolen on that sacred place, which is the screen. She makes the most heroic characters vulnerable, the most known familiar, the most despised relatable. Dame Streep. Her artistry reminds us of the impact of what it means to be an artist, which is to make us feel less alone. I can only imagine where you go, Meryl, when you disappear into a character. I imagine that you’re in them, patiently waiting, using yourself as a conduit, encouraging them, coaxing them to release all their mess, expose, to live. You are a muse. Your impact encouraged me to stay in the line.
Davis's conclusion hit with a similar impact. She related how her husband kept urging her to tell Streep what she meant to her, during the time they worked together on a movie. Davis held back. And then, in this speech:
I haven’t said anything. But I’m gonna say it now. You make me proud to be an artist. You make me feel that what I have in me, my body, my face, my age, is enough. You encapsulate that great Émile Zola quote that if you ask me as an artist what I came into this world to do, I, an artist, would say, I came to live out loud.
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Lavish care upon your introductions: Every introduction is a small speech, one that translates the person being introduced to the audience. A good introduction sets that relationship up with a unique perspective, insight, or little-known experience--and relates the introducee to the occasion, be it an awards ceremony or a panel discussion. 
  • Make it personal: If you are just reading a prepared bio, you're doing it wrong. You may not know the honoree or speaker well, but you can use those moments before you go on stage to figure out something that allows you to make your introduction personal. If you know well the person you're introducing, don't hesitate to put yourself and your perspective into it.
  • Treat it like a little TED talk: Davis's intro does just that, jumping right in with "She stares. That's the first thing you notice about her," instead of a lot of throat-clearing. This introduction is just under five minutes, not one minute of which is wasted, and it aims to connect the audience--full of people who think they know Streep, as well as fans watching at home--even more deeply with the actor. The delivery is as fine as you might expect from a great actor. Davis takes her time with it, so that every word is clear and can be heard and savored. Go and do likewise the next time you introduce someone.
Watch the video here or below. Watch it more than once. This speech is Davis's fifth entry in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women, making her one of our most-featured speakers. She's a great model for your speaking.
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, February 2, 2017

Please describe women's speeches as something other than 'emotional'

Maybe it's because we're coming off of a U.S. election season with a female candidate, and heading right into Hollywood awards shows, with their dozens of acceptance speeches. But I already have "emotional" fatigue--that is, I'm sick and tired of news coverage describing women's speeches as "emotional," when they are much more than that--or much less.

There are a couple of beefs wrapped up into one in that complaint. First, I object to coverage that describes women's speeches as "emotional" when they are simply not. They may be straightforward, focused, pointed speeches, but the writers can't seem to let go of the idea that the speech must be emotional if the speaker is a woman. A clear example of this was Hillary Clinton's concession speech in the 2016 presidential race. At the time, I noted:
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."
Now, both men and women may be emotional, or unemotional, or something in between, when giving speeches. But most of the time, the speaker being described as emotional will be a woman, regardless of the actual emotional content of her speech.

My second beef comes with speeches by women that do contain emotional content. In those cases, it often seems, that guarantees coverage as an emotional speech, and nothing else. Dee Dee Myers, former press secretary to President Bill Clinton, once noted that, when women appear on television, "a bad hair day is like a virtual mute button." So is visible emotion for women speakers. Coverage goes straight to the tears or the choked-up voice, and obliterates the rest of the message.

That might mean extensive coverage of just the emotional content, leading with it, or emphasizing it in headline after headline, so that, if you read only headlines, that's all you will hear about a woman's speech. A good recent example was U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama's final speech at the White House, in which headline after headline described her in tears. As I sometimes do, I took to Twitter to complain:
What would be a better headline? On Twitter, Timor El-Dardiry sent me a good example from a Netherlands paper:
What's so bad about being emotional in a speech? Not a thing. What I'm objecting to is using "emotional" as the primary descriptor when women speak.

Sometimes, it's the event or the speaker who generates emotions in her listeners, but that doesn't make her speaking emotional, necessarily. And I suspect that many times, women's speeches are dubbed "emotional" when they are expressing anger or disagreement. A while back, I shared on the blog this article on Who gets to be angry? which noted:
When women are angry, we are wanting too much or complaining or wasting time or focusing on the wrong things or we are petty or shrill or strident or unbalanced or crazy or overly emotional. Race complicates anger. Black women are often characterized as angry simply for existing, as if anger is woven into our breath and our skin.
I'll quote classics scholar Mary Beard again, from her great speech on the public voice of women:
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...
That's what I want: Descriptions of women speakers that convey their authority, as experts, as leaders, as commentators, as CEOs, as citizens.

We can get there with descriptions that cover most of the content, rather than one moment (or a non-existent moment). In Michelle Obama's case, you could describe that speech in many ways: historic, fierce, thoughtful, inspiring. It's a great exercise, when you reflexively reach for "emotional" and are describing a woman's speech, to say to yourself, "What are the other options?"

Journalists, I'm looking at you.

The best I can say about dubbing women's speeches as emotional, time after time, is that it represents lazy writing. The worst? It's a reflection of how we see women, and not men, when they speak. Trust me, women speakers can tell when their messages are obliterated by the race to call them emotional. We can all do better than that...can't we?

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.