Tuesday, October 17, 2017

10 lessons,10 years into blogging The Eloquent Woman

You weren't looking, and apparently neither was I, but Monday last week was the 10th anniversary of this blog, The Eloquent Woman. I often miss my blogs' anniversaries, but managed to catch this one before it was quite past. And it prompted me to think about some lessons I've learned blogging about women and public speaking over the last (gulp) decade:
  1. Readers start things: It was a client's experience ("your presentations aren't sexy enough") that got me curious about gender issues in public speaking--and sure enough, I found there was plenty to sustain a blog, from research to daily issues. Readers suggested our Famous Speech Friday series and scores of posts on public speaking. I'm forever grateful for these core contributions.
  2. Readers help me find things: I can't thank enough the readers worldwide who send me pointers to speeches that catch their attention; offer to translate non-English speeches; share their experiences; or send me reference materials I wouldn't otherwise find. You've expanded the range and depth of the blog in this way.
  3. Keeping one focus is key: Speeches are incendiary things, and so are speakers. But on this blog, I don't choose speakers or speeches for political or other issues, even though I'm often accused of doing so. If I get political about anything on this blog, it's about how women are silenced. 
  4. That whole 'be the change you want to see' thing works. I was having trouble finding speeches by women to use as examples with my coaching clients. That started me on a path to learn that women have, over the course of history, been more banned from speaking than encouraged to do it...and that, even today, we do a poor job of preserving their talks. Big lists of "top speeches of the century" had so few women's speeches, they were easy to miss. That's why I created the weekly Famous Speech Friday posts, which look at all sorts of speeches by women, and began to collect them in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women, now nearing 300 speeches by women past and present. 
  5. It's great to share my approach to coaching with you, which has evolved over the years. When I hear from a prospective client who's done a deep dive on the blog, I can tell. Often, when I ask, "What do you need to know about me?" they say, "I already know all I need to know," and that's great for a speaker coach to hear.
  6. We can't have enough examples of women speaking. Once I started the blog, I heard from many speechwriters and speaker coaches also looking for examples of women speakers, as one put it, "more recent than Eleanor Roosevelt." I'm so pleased that speeches from the Index have been distributed by the Girl Scouts of America, professors, teachers, coaches ,and speechwriters, with their troops, classes, and clients.
  7. Putting women speakers forward means getting pushback from time to time. I've had male speechwriters tell me "but these speeches just aren't very good" or "I don't see any really great speeches there," and I've been accused of doing all sorts of subversive things with the speeches I choose. That just tells me how uncomfortable and unused we are to hearing and featuring women's voices. The cure for all this? Persistence.
  8. The variety matters to me. From the start, I wanted to feature not just stentorian keynote speeches in the male speaking style, but all sorts of public speech by women: testimony, PowerPoint presentations, interviews, short remarks, extemporaneous wonders, and more. I wanted women featured from all periods of history possible, all over the globe, all types of professions, all ages, all races. We're not quite there yet, but making strides. That variety of voices and types of speech matters, not just to me, but to readers looking for examples.
  9. Regrets? The missing speeches. There are famous speeches by women that I know about, but can't find, because they weren't preserved, or the preserved copies just aren't accessible for legal, technological, or other reasons. And that's not just true of speeches from distant history, but from some transitional periods like the 1960s and 70s, when broadcast recordings weren't archival. Other speeches, like Rosa Parks's speeches, were tied up by legal disputes for decades (they're now in the Library of Congress). It's a sometimes inadvertent silencer of women that has me wishing I could find and share them all.
  10. No, it doesn't feel like 10 years. This blog's a big part of every day for me, but often, I feel like I'm just getting started. And I learn as much from putting this together as you may from reading it. A decade also has shaped my perspective on women and speaking into something far more complex and, I hope, sophisticated--something that can't happen, except over time.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Fortune Brainstorm Tech)

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