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.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Silencers: In appearance v. content for women speakers, guess which wins?

There are all sorts of things that can silence a woman speaker, from audience or online trolls and hecklers to the conference organizers who keep her off the program. But for truly deafening silence around a woman's speech, there's nothing like her outfit or her hairstyle to do the trick.

That's what it felt like as recently as last week, when I posted this mini-rant on The Eloquent Woman page on Facebook, one that thousands saw and interacted with:


Clinton spoke at the Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards on International Women's Day, wearing red as did many women in support of A Day Without a Woman, on the same day. But you could read more about her wispy bangs than about the content of her speech in much of the coverage.

And attorney Amal Clooney, speaking at the United Nations on the very next day, on the serious topic of launching a formal investigation of human rights crimes committed by ISIS, was primarily covered not for her topic of substance, but for wearing yellow and for showing her "baby bump." Clooney, who is pregnant, was thus reduced to being the baby-carrying wife of actor George Clooney, despite her strong speech.

Then we learned that actor Angelina Jolie "looked chic" as she spoke at the London School of Economics Centre for Women, Peace and Security, on her work at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
I've noted before how Dee Dee Myers, former press secretary to President Bill Clinton, has said that a bad hair day can be a "virtual mute button" for a woman speaker. But it appears, really, that all it takes to silence the woman speaker is to focus on her hair. Or her outfit.

This is another persistent and durable silencer that women have been facing for centuries. Consider this take from an exhibit on in Paris just now, about fashion for women during World War I, nearly a century ago: "if the war accelerated modernization already underway, fashion also reflected profound anxiety about women’s liberation." We're seeing that anxiety about three powerful women today, and it gets in the way of a further power they are wielding, public speaking.

In coming weeks, we'll have a substantive speech of Clooney's featured in our Famous Speech Friday series, and of course, Clinton and Jolie are already have speeches featured here. I wish more media outlets would focus on their content instead of their appearance, but we'll continue to make content the focus for women speakers featured here on The Eloquent Woman.

(UN Photo of Clooney by Rick Bajornas)

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 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, March 10, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: California State Senator Janet Nguyen's silencing

Maybe we should change this to Famous Silencing Friday? Yet another woman legislator--this time, a Republican state senator in California--was silenced mid-speech on the floor of her legislature in late February.

Senator Janet Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant to the U.S. who fled her country as a child, rose days after a tribute by the California senate to Tom Hayden, a Vietnam war activist who also served in the state legislature; Hayden died last year. But Nguyen rose to protest the tribute, first in her native language, then in English. Not until she spoke in English did her intent become clear to her colleagues. Here's how she began:
I and the children of the former South Vietnam soldiers will never forget the support of former Senator Tom Hayden for the Communist government of Vietnam and the oppression by the Communist Government of Vietnam for the people of Vietnam. 
After 40 years, the efforts by people like him have hurt the people of Vietnam and have worked to stop the Vietnamese refugees from coming to the United States, a free country. We will always continue to fight for freedom and human rights for the people of Vietnam.
Nguyen tried to continue speaking, but a male senator rose to object on a point of order procedural complaint, which was taken up by the presiding officer, who repeatedly called her out of order, drowning out her remarks. Finally, he had her removed by security officers, effectively ending her speech.

Because all that was caught on video (below), it quickly went viral. The #shepersisted hashtag that emerged after U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced in the Senate was revived, and at the state's Republican convention the following weekend, "I stand with Janet" stickers were distributed.

There's a theme here, for the dudes in power: Silencing women speakers, even when you fall back on procedure, is just going to backfire, and spread their words further. And while the state senate's president pro tempore said he took responsibility for making sure this didn't happen again, Nguyen reminded everyone that it wasn't just she but her constituents who were silenced. From the New York Times article: "My constituents are extremely upset,” said Ms. Nguyen, who represents a part of Orange County with a large Vietnamese population. “They’re upset that their voices were shut down.”

You can read the full text of her speech here; thanks to the controversy, it received far more circulation than it might have done, or did in the senate. Below is the video of Sen. Nguyen's start of her speech and her removal.


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 9, 2017

Be the only presenter who stands out with a truly TED-quality talk

In the past few years, I've coached scores of speakers who want to make a big change in their public speaking and presenting style by giving talks in the style of TED. As they march out with their new skills, many of these executives--from Fortune 100 companies, private philanthropies, major nonprofits, health systems, and more--are finding out firsthand that there are lots of misunderstandings and misinterpretations of this popular public-speaking style.

Some speakers get out from behind the lectern, but give their regular talk, loaded with slides and no storytelling. Some think they must tell a personal story, or only a personal story. I've even heard about corporations that handed out a template for a TED-style presentation, even though actual TED talks don't follow a template. The TEDx and TEDMED speakers I coach every year can tell you: These talks aren't business-presentations-as-usual, and they take work to pull off successfully. Why mimic TED style when you can craft a compelling talk that meets TED quality?

Here's one example from a recent trainee who has given his new talk in front of audiences numbering in the hundreds:
I followed your guidance and got great feedback.  Though the session was billed as “TED talks” I was the only one who really followed the TED-talk approach and I think it made a big difference. The coaching was very helpful for that.
Another trainee in this style said:
Of the four keynote speakers, I was the only one who kept my talk under 20 minutes, and clearly the only one who understood what does and doesn't mean 'TED-style.' As a result, I had time left for questions--something none of the other keynotes had--and the audience loved it.
If you want to learn the more effective way to speak in this style, I've got a workshop coming up in London on April 3.  All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver a talk or presentation that really meets the level of TED quality. This workshop is suitable for both speechwriters and speakers, and you don't need to have a talk prepared for the workshop--instead, you'll learn what you need to do to prepare it effectively.

Instead of cheating on the parameters of TED-style talks, why not borrow the sentiment of a previous attendee, whose goal was to "Rock it TED-style when co-presenting with read-off-the-slide PowerPoint users." Now that's a public speaking goal! Join us in April in London. Seats are filling, so register soon!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Lawrence Wang)

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 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, March 3, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Viola Davis accepts an historic 2017 Oscar

It's no secret that I consider actor Viola Davis to be among the best speakers around, featured as she has been five times so far in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women. And this week's acceptance speech by Davis at the Academy Awards--for best supporting actress in a feature film--brings her entries here to six.

The speech has a level of electricity that's unusual in awards acceptance speeches. Davis enjoys speaking and storytelling, and famously does not prepare her remarks by writing them down, although she certainly thinks about what she would say. But by the time she stepped onto the stage, what emerged is as beautifully "written" as if the best speechwriters had crafted it. On top of that, Davis layered a delivery packed with obvious emotion and power, so much so that her jaded Hollywood audience was in tears by the end.

Why? The speech was historic: With this Oscar, Davis became the first black woman to win an Emmy, a Tony, and an Oscar for acting, and only the 23rd person overall to do so. It elevated the acting profession for a brief and powerful moment. And with humility and passion, it thanked her colleagues and her loved ones with specificity and memory. The speech was short, but jam-packed with content. Here's a complete transcript:
Thank you to the Academy. You know, there's one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered. One place, and that's the graveyard. People ask me all the time, what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say, exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist—and thank God I did—because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. 
So, here's to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people. And to Bron Pictures, Paramount, Macro, Todd Black, Molly Allen, Scott Rudin for being the cheerleaders for a movie that is about people. And words. And life and forgiveness and grace. And to Michael T. Williamson, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Russell Hornsby, Jovan Adepo, Saniya Sidney, for being the most wonderful artists I've ever worked with. And oh captain, my captain, Denzel Washington. Thank you for putting two entities in the driving seat: August and God. And they served you well. And to Dan and Mary Alice Davis, who were and are the center of my universe, the people who taught me good or bad, how to fail, how to love, how to hold an award, how to lose. My parents―I'm so thankful that God chose you to bring me into this world. To my sisters, my sister Dolores, we were rich white women in the tea party games. Thank you for the imagination. And to my husband and my daughter. My heart, you and Genesis. You teach me every day how to live, how to love, I'm so glad that you are the foundation of my life. Thank you to the Academy. Thank you.
After she spoke, Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel joked that she should win an Emmy for that speech, and the coverage after the show singled this speech out, again and again, as the best of the evening on an evening of many surprises. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Start strong, and with a surprise: I can't say it better than this take on the speech in The Atlantic: "Davis’s speech quickly went viral and received wide acclaim for a lot of reasons, and prime among them was simply good writing. She opened with a question and gave an answer few would have guessed. She exploited the power of surprise, a power demonstrated amply elsewhere at the Oscars." Speakers, we're tired of you telling us what you're going to tell us. Surprise us a little. When the audience doesn't know where you're going, it has to pay attention, and Davis, knowing this, had them right in the palm of her hand from the get-go.
  • Every speech has a job to do, and this one fulfilled all its jobs admirably, from thanking the Academy right at the start--lest one forget to do so--to specifically thanking, without notes, some 18 people and companies by name. This may sound or feel like a boring chore, but Davis turns it into a delight by being specific and heartfelt.
  • Tell us why we're really here: You can look at most Hollywood awards ceremonies as if they were a typical industry awards banquet, with better clothes and brighter stars involved. You could say this was just a night to dress up and pick up your award. But, as at any industry banquet, a speaker also can elevate the proceedings by reminding the audience why they are really gathered, in this case, to celebrate the storytelling film can do and the lives it can shed light upon.


(Oscars 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.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Gabby Giffords, women speakers, & the courage to face public audiences

There are all sorts of reasons why women speakers need courage, and unlike most observers, I don't think the reason lies within them inherently. But I do know that society has been helping women internalize the idea that they shouldn't speak in public for centuries. It was first codified in the works of Cicero, who outlined what excellence looks like in public speaking, which he considered a solely male province, according to the custom of his time. Over the centuries, women have been punished for talking "too much," using public torture devices in medieval times or simply by keeping them off the conference agenda in today's world. They've been told they would not be able to bear children, be actual women, or be seen as anything other than a slut, all concepts that today are boiled down as "who does she think she is, up there?" And just last week in America, a famous football player told an elementary school classroom that girls should be "silent, polite, gentle," even as he urged the boys to speak up.

But the most extreme silencer is death, or an attempt at killing the woman speaker, something that both Malala Yousafzai and Gabrielle Giffords have endured, and survived. Both were shot in the head, and both have had varied success in their subsequent speaking. But no one can doubt the courage they have shown--not just in withstanding the attacks, but in coming back to speak again.

That's why I had to smile last week when, in the wake of members of the U.S. Congress simply running away from scheduled town-hall meetings with angry constituents, our representatives were taken to task by none other than their former colleague, Giffords. One member of Congress suggested that the crowds might become violent, as part of his reasoning to stay away, citing the Giffords shooting as an example. But she was having none of that. In a statement, Giffords told fleeing members of Congress to "have some courage." Here's the statement:
Town halls and countless constituent meetings were a hallmark of my tenure in Congress. It’s how I was able to serve the people of southern Arizona. I believed that listening to my constituents was the most basic and core tenet of the job I was hired to do. 
I was shot on a Saturday morning. By Monday morning my offices were open to the public. Ron Barber – at my side that Saturday, who was shot multiple times, then elected to Congress in my stead – held town halls. It’s what the people deserve in a representative. 
In the past year, campaigning for gun safety, I have held over 50 public events. 
Many of the members of Congress who are refusing to hold town halls and listen to their constituents concerns are the very same politicians that have opposed commonsense gun violence prevention policies and have allowed the Washington gun lobby to threaten the safety of law enforcement and everyday citizens in our schools, businesses, places of worship, airports, and movie theaters. 
To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this: Have some courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls.
This isn't just political for Giffords. Courage has been a theme of her speaking since the shooting, and you can see it in her TEDWomen talk from 2014. Most of her appearance was a seated interview with her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, and TEDWomen host Pat Mitchell. Mitchell asked what her biggest challenge has been since the shooting. Giffords and then Kelly answered:
GG: Talking. Really hard. Really. 
MK: Yeah, with aphasia, Gabby knows what she wants to say, she just can't get it out. She understands everything, but the communication is just very difficult because when you look at the picture, the part of your brain where those communication centers are are on the left side of your head, which is where the bullet passed through.
That takes courage, just to persist in speaking. At the end of the interview, Giffords gave what may be the shortest talk ever at TED, proscribed by her aphasia. Here's what she said:
Thank you. Hello, everyone. Thank you for inviting us here today. It's been a long, hard haul, but I'm getting better. I'm working hard, lots of therapy — speech therapy, physical therapy, and yoga too. But my spirit is strong as ever. I'm still fighting to make the world a better place, and you can too. Get involved with your community. Be a leader. Set an example. Be passionate. Be courageous. Be your best. Thank you very much.
They are words from which any eloquent woman--and perhaps more public officials--can take inspiration. Watch the talk here or below. And if you need tips on facing an angry crowd, from congressional town halls to your next talk, you'll find them on my other blog, don't get caught.

Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly: Be passionate. Be courageous. Be your best.

(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.