Monday, December 29, 2008

exhibit: Americans who tell the truth

When you're defining what it means to be eloquent, those who use their platforms to speak truth to power often come to mind--few speaking tools are as powerful as the bravery of a speaker who says the unpopular, but true, point. If you're in or near Geneva, Illinois, this month and next, you'll have a chance to see an art exhibits and events based on portraits from the book Americans Who Tell the Truth, a personal collection of favorites by Maine artist Robert Shetterly. Among the 50 men and women featured are Eleanor Roosevelt, Sojourner Truth, Emma Goldman and Molly Ivins. The Geneva History Center's hours are here, and a special series of performances--films, lectures and even a tea with impersonators of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton--can be found here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dorothy Sarnoff dies at 94

Dorothy Sarnoff, a longtime speaker coach in New York City, has died at age 94. She began her coaching career after asking a women's fashion magazine editor why no advice was provided to women on vocal quality. Her first efforts at coaching went where women were--in Alexander's department store in New York City. Here's the lede of her obituary in today's New York Times, which captures her talents:
Sweaty palms, nervous laughter, a Brooklyn accent, panic-induced silences. These were just a few of the image blemishes addressed by Dorothy Sarnoff, an opera singer and Broadway star who had a much bigger second career as one of the first, and most influential, image consultants, coaxing stageworthy performances from business executives preparing a big speech, ambassadors on their way to foreign assignments and writers heading out on book tours
Sarnoff took an optimist's approach to training, focusing on bringing out the best in would-be speakers. Her three books on speaking are no longer in print: Speech Can Change Your Life, Never Be Nervous Again and Make the Most of Your Best: A Complete Program for Presenting Yourself and Your Ideas With Confidence and Authority , but you can find used copies of these classics.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rosa Parks: Speak for yourself

In the celebration of Kwanzaa, today's focus is Kujichagulia, or self-determination, "to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves." It underscores why speaking in public can be such a powerful tool for the speaker. It reminds me of Rosa Parks, a woman whose actions spoke loudly to millions--but who, ironically, often was passed over as a speaker during the American civil rights movement. Famous for refusing to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, for a white rider, Parks often had her story interpreted for her, as Gail Collins notes in America's Women:
The legend that built up around the incident...was that Parks, a simple woman exhausted from a hard day at work, took her stand because she was tired. In truth, she had been moving toward that moment of defiance all her life. "The only tired I was, was tired of giving in," she explained later.
Parks later was present for two key civil rights moments in which she was denied the opportunity to speak: The rally just before her own trial for the bus incident, and later, at the rally following the 1963 march on Washington, the site of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Collins notes, of the mass meeting held just before her trial, where the yearlong bus boycott in Montgomery was started:
Rosa Parks was given a standing ovation, but she was not given a chance to speak on a night in which virtually every black man in Montgomery wanted a moment in the spotlight. "You've said enough," one of the leaders assured her....[at the march] instead of marching with the male leaders, up front where the TV cameras and newspaper reporters were recording every minute of the event, [the women] were directed to walk with those men's wives. There was not a single woman scheduled to speak at the march, and when the lone woman on the 19-member planning committee protested, the organizers threw together a last-minute "Tribute to Women" in which A. Philip Randolph introduced Parks and other dignitaries...while they sat there silently..."Nowadays, women wouldn't stand for being kept so much in the background, but back then women's rights hadn't become a popular cause yet," said Parks later.
Parks did go on to tell her own side of her story in Rosa Parks: My Story, and historian Douglas Brinkley tackles it in Rosa Parks: A Life. We're coming up on an important confluence of anniversaries that will resonate with her life, in the Lincoln bicentennial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and the inauguration of Barack Obama as president. Will black women have a voice in the speeches that honor those occasions?
Getting on the program has long been an issue for women, and one moment in Parks's story underscores once more the importance of having women involved in the programming decisions when speakers are being scheduled. Celebrate Kwanzaa--and Parks--by deciding to speak for yourself this year, whenever your story needs to be heard.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

what to do when you're losing the audience

I just trained a group of nearly 100 scientists in speaker skills and message development for public audiences, at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. The daylong training allows for plenty of questions, and I'm always eager to hear what speakers and would-be speakers have on their minds. We spent a lot of time talking about the need to start with your audience's needs, and the limited attention spans of modern audiences. So it was not a surprise when one participant asked, "What do you do if you're losing your audience's attention?" Here are some of my suggestions:
  • Get out into the audience: Walking into the audience accomplishes all sorts of things that can help speakers before they lose the audience. It puts you on their level, makes you more accessible and humanizes you. Better yet, it almost instantly forces people to follow you--especially if you walk around. Audiences tune out when they think they know what to expect; if you move out from behind the lectern and come down the aisle, there's no telling what will happen.

  • Gesture: Judiciously used, a gesture that underscores a point can have the same effect in a smaller way. Look for the points of emphasis in your speech and determine whether a well-timed gesture can bring the audience back.

  • Get the audience involved: Instead of lecturing at them, take an instant poll--don't tell them your point, ask them what they think and take the measure of the room. Audiences, more and more, want participation, not passive listening. Engage them by asking questions and commenting on the results, or ask them what their experience has been. You'll learn something about them and you'll get their attention.

Those all are better than overemphasizing your point, increasing your volume or showing your panic--unfortunate reactions I've seen from speakers who fear their audience is slipping away. The best technique? Plan a speech designed to do all these things from the start, and avoid the problem entirely.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Presentations: How-to planning guide

Olivia Mitchell, speaker trainer and author of the Speaking About Presenting blog, has a great offer for readers of The Eloquent Woman: A how-to guide on planning your presentations, free if you sign up for her newsletter. I always recommend that speakers start by thinking about their audiences, and this guide walks you through the process of thinking about what your audience will want to know and how to answer those questions--a process that results in a well-planned presentation. Mitchell's newsletter offers regular tips that will help you make the most of the guide.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

is your audience mumbling? or is it you?

In the "Well" blog today at the New York Times, instructor Grace Lim talks about how she assumed everyone around her--from her spouse to her lecture classes--was mumbling. Here's just one example she relates:
In the large auditorium where I teach one of my classes, I constantly stop my students midsentence so I can run up and down the aisles to get within hearing distance.
Turns out, of course, that she needed hearing aids. The column takes a humorous and heartfelt look at what it feels like to go from not hearing much of anything to hearing even the smallest sounds, such a revelation that Lim began announcing her new aids to all and sundry. And apparently, she's not the only speaker in her department who needs them:
At my department’s holiday party, I sat between two longtime professors.
“Look, I have hearing aids!” I greeted them. Then I told them how tough it had been to hear my students.
One of them nodded. “I can’t hear my students,” she said. “They all mumble.”
Read this one if you--or a fellow speaker--complains about your audiences, and take Lim's advice: Be a healthy speaker and get your hearing checked!

getting started as a speaker

For many speakers, gettting started is the hardest part--and I don't mean the first few paragraphs of your talk, but simply making the commitment to accept an invitation or look for one. Social media guru and blogger Chris Brogan this week offered ways to get started as a speaker that include solid tips on making connections, asking for speaker fees and even demonstrating your skills without having to give a speech. (My favorite: recording yourself on video, easy to do with your laptop and/or a Flip Video MinoHD Camcorder, for which you can handily buy a small desktop flexible tripod.) Check out Brogan's tips to see whether they can help you get started!

Friday, December 5, 2008

makeup tips from Twitter

Makeup's another double-edged sword for women speakers--men don't need to worry about it, in general. Yet there are myriad ways makeup can help make your face more visible whether you're on stage or on television, and ways it can trip you up as well. If you're unsure of what to do, seeking out a professional makeup artist for a consultation is the best way to address the issue. A private session will let you discuss the various venues in which you speak (be sure to note whether you expect to be recorded on video or appear on television) and let you get specific advice on products and techniques. And now, you can get a makeup tip a day by following New York City makeup artist Dara Klein on Twitter -- a free resource that will get you started. Check your local listings for a makeup artist near you. It's a worthwhile investment that will build your confidence and add a professional touch.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

the opposite of cool: speaker anxiety

I wrote recently about regulating your emotions so you can appear to stay cool during stressful events like public speaking, but that's only one half of the equation for women who are anxious or fearful about speaking. The Harvard Women's Health Watch newsletter's December issue includes a lead article on social anxiety disorder (a $3.95 download) -- one form of which involves specific anxiety around limited situations like public speaking, which may need more attention.

According to the article, specific social anxiety is less prevalent than the more generalized social anxiety, and primarily an issue if your work requires you to perform in public, and the symptoms may include:

...a racing heart, dry mouth, shaky voice, blushing, trembling, sweating, and nausea. In specific social anxiety, fear that people will notice these symptoms may impair performance, leading to a downward spiral in which worsening performance reinforces worsening anticipatory anxiety.
The article notes that about 12 percent of U.S. adults will go through a social phobia at some time during their lifetimes (near 28 million people currently) -- but 2/3 of them, or nearly 20 million, will be women. It's also "the third most prevalent psychiatric disorder, behind substance abuse and depression, and the most common anxiety disorder." So if you've been wondering whether women fear situations like public speaking more, here's your evidence.

The article goes on to recommend cognitive behavioral therapy -- to learn your fears and habitual thoughts, to help you face your fears, and to learn coping skills -- and/or anxiety medications. A speaker trainer can help you practice, but a therapist may be more helpful at getting to the root issues with this anxiety. You can find qualified therapists at the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, and information on support groups and other resources at the Social Anxiety Association. Chalk it up to protecting the health of the speaker!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

what about toastmasters?

Olivia Mitchell at the well-done Speaking about Presenting blog tackles the question of whether you should consider Toastmasters to learn speaking and presenting skills--and how to get the most out of it if you do.

Mitchell--who says she became a confident speaker through Toastmasters--recommends the program, as I do, especially for people who want to build confidence, practice skills, and do so in a genial feedback setting at low cost. Mitchell makes the distinction, however, that Toastmasters doesn't go far enough for business presentation skills and message development (the latter is a core skill if you want to make your presentations memorable, and want to speak extemporaneously). And because she feels Toastmasters doesn't offer experienced speakers enough to further hone their skills, she offers tips for longstanding members who want to keep learning more.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

where to catch me next

While the details for registration aren't yet available online, I'll be speaking to the Tech Council of Maryland on January 15 about how to use social media for professional networking -- something every would-be speaker should consider -- and to the Capital Communicators Group in Washington, DC, also early in 2009, on social media as a communications tool. Stay tuned for details!

speaker/audience senior moments?

When I train speakers -- especially when they're learning extemporaneous speaking -- I emphasize that the core message of any speech or presentation needs to be memorable for both the speaker and the audience. The goal: you shouldn't lose your train of thought and the audience should be able to recall what you said. In today's Wall Street Journal, Robert Lee Hotz reports on research that shows why that may be more difficult as we age. He notes:
At the slightest interruption -- an irritating ring tone, an insistent email alert or the hushed conversation in the adjacent office cubicle -- our thoughts can plunge into the mental underbrush like hounds snuffling after the wrong scent...our inability to ignore irrelevant intrusions as we grow older may arise from a basic breakdown of internal brain communications involving memory, attention span and mental focus starting in middle age, researchers have discovered.
The article notes that, while men's brains shrink faster than do women's, which affects your ability to learn and remember, it doesn't take a sustained amount of interruption for anyone's aging train of thought to get off track:
In experiments testing how well people of different ages could recall faces and landscapes, [researchers] found that among older people, the brain was slightly slower -- 200 milliseconds or so -- to ignore irrelevant test information.... During that momentary lapse, we can forget a new name, misplace our keys or lose our train of thought.
What to do? Researchers in the article offer hope for retraining your brain as you age through "proper diet, cardiovascular exercise and formal education," and a sidebar points you to this brain-exercise from NPR on "Remembering Faces," which tests your distractability. It also recommends two books by Harvard neuroscientist Daniel Schacter: The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers and Searching For Memory: The Brain, The Mind, And The Past. Working on composing a memorable message helps, too -- if you're an older speaker, taking more time to practice and prepare makes sense. For the audience, while you can't control their rates of aging or mental distractability, you may need to focus on eliminating as many distractions as possible, asking them to turn off cell phones, closing doors to keep hallway noise from entering, and more.

Buy The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers

Buy Searching For Memory: The Brain, The Mind, And The Past

Monday, December 1, 2008

can famous speeches boost eloquence?

When you can't access training, afford a speechwriter, or come up with a great idea, using existing famous speeches as a jumping-off point is one of my favorite practice methods. You can read a speech for rhetorical flourishes, analyze what made it powerful, and even read it aloud to practice your delivery skills.

I'm a big fan of the American Rhetoric website, where you can search text, audio and video of famous speakers and find a host of other resources (like figures of speech and examples of how to use them). Now, Michael Eidenmuller, Ph.D., founder of the site and an associate professor of speech communication at the University of Texas at Tyler, shares secrets you can learn from great speeches in Great Speeches For Better Speaking. Two women are featured among the six major speeches analyzed in the book, which says you can:
  • Use Mary Fisher's special rhetorical tactics to sway even the toughest audience
The book includes an audio CD so you can learn by listening to the speeches for their full effect. The site is frequently updated, and includes General Ann Dunwoody's speech at the ceremony promoting her to four-star general November 14.

Buy Great Speeches For Better Speaking

Sunday, November 30, 2008

keeping your cool

Today's New York Times looks into the psychology behind seemingly cool customers--those who stay calm under tense circumstances like, oh, public speaking, for example. Turns out it's not just a genetic tendency, but one that can be learned by regulating your emotions. Stanford University psychologist James J. Gross offers five methods of doing so, and I've added options for keeping speakers calm for each:
    • avoiding the situation, which many could-be speakers do;
    • modifying the situation, perhaps speaking to a smaller group if you're more comfortable that way
    • deploying your attention elsewhere, with a photo on the lectern or by playing music before you speak
    • cognitive change, to reframe what you're thinking about the situation, making it a positive rather than a negative, or
    • repression, which the article notes could be as simple as focusing on keeping your facial muscles from moving
The article goes on to note:
“Even if you’re someone who is initially anxious, you can develop tricks and strategies, so someone on the outside would say: ‘Her, anxious? She’s awesome at cocktail parties, she’s great at public speaking,’ ” Professor Gross said. “They wouldn’t understand that if you didn’t have those strategies, you wouldn’t be able to do those things.”
Have you tried regulating your emotions about speaking? Share your tricks and strategies with the rest of us!

Monday, November 24, 2008

what does it take to get on the program?

What does it take for a conference to feature more women speakers on the program? Women have been blogging, writing and researching the question "Where are all the women speakers?" in a variety of professions for some time now--and sometimes getting pushback from male organizers of conferences who dismiss or defend speaker rosters with low percentages of women. While the complaint often comes from professions in which women are in the minority--like the high-tech world--just as many can be found in professions where women are abundant, like library science, public relations and the medical professions. Here's a sampling of what women are noticing:
  • In the journal Academic Psychiatry, this letter calls attention to and documents the lack of women speakers at psychiatry grand rounds.
  • Nina Simosko asked "Women speakers where are you?" when looking at the Web 2.0 conference agenda earlier this year. Only 20 of the 200 scheduled speakers were women; among keynote speakers, just two of the 20 were women. In addition to the dearth of female speakers on the program, she noted that many women speakers had not yet filled out their profiles on the meeting web site, but all of the male speakers had done so.
  •, a blog on women and technology, noted that a public relations blogging conference had the same problem, generating lots of comments.
  • Free Range Librarian looks at the issue in library conferences, asking whether women are less likely to pursue speaking opportunities, or whether organizers are less likely to recognize their acoomplishments?
Elizabeth Travis, Ph.D., the associate vice president for women faculty programs at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center noted that meeting organizers--especially those who are women--need to advocate for women speakers in the EW interview with her in April. She noted:
When you’re putting symposia together, maybe you put a junior faculty member in--you don’t just pick your best friends which everyone tends to do. You have to be constantly challenging yourself....I organized an international meeting a year ago as a program chair and I said to my committee “Do not bring me a symposium without at least one woman speaker.” There was the usual rolling of the eyes and comments like “Don’t we want the best?” That’s used frequently to challenge women. I said “You have just insulted every woman in this organization.”
So what can women speakers (and their audiences) do to get more women speakers on the program? Many of the online writers have started speakers' bureaus, listings and other resources to demonstrate the availability of women speakers, and others are speaking out on blogs or complaining directly to meeting organizers. As a speaker, you should consider these steps to get yourself on the program for your professional or community meetings:
  • Get to know the program organizers: Every group has a committee or person tasked with assembling and vetting speakers. Make direct contact with the program organizers and ask what they're looking for. Be prepared to tell them how your participation as a speaker will add to the program.
  • Make sure your availability is known: Many program chairs tell me that they spend lots of time looking for willing and available speakers. To make sure they know you're available and willing, promote that on your website, in your bio, and certainly whenever you're networking, both online and in person.
  • Suggest topics on which you're willing to speak: Make sure your promotions and conversations include a few suggested topics on which you're willing and able to speak, so program organizers know what you can offer. Be as specific as possible--rather than "communications," suggest more focused topics like "media relations with bloggers" or "communications as a networking skill."
  • Promote your existing speaking engagements: Share details on your forthcoming or just-past speaking engagements with friends, colleagues and networking contacts. When people can see that you're already a speaker, they get affirmation that you'll work out for their audience.
  • Offer to help organize a panel: If you have a topic on which you'd like to speak, offer to pull together related speakers who can fill out a panel. Or, offer to moderate--a great speaking gig that ties together all the other speakers' points.
And remember, when you're in a position to suggest a speaker, have some women's names on hand. Helping others to get a speaking engagement is a favor many will be happy to return.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Inspiration from Maya Angelou

I'm listening to a rebroadcast of Diane Rehm's interview with Maya Angelou, about her new book, Letter to My Daughter. Angelou--whose only child is a son--wrote the book to share lessons with women she calls her daughters all over the world. Callers to this show are demonstrating how much she has moved and connected with them, and this book begins with just such a passage:
I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think that what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias.
Angelou's writing and speaking style emphasize qualities that any speaker would do well to learn. She's genuine and direct, but not unkind in being so. She uses plain, accessible language, and uses poetic rhythms, modulated tones and vocal emphasis to enhance the simple words. And she enjoys herself and appreciates her audience, always a key to connecting. Enjoy the interview and the book as inspiration from a great woman speaker.

Buy Letter to My Daughter

Monday, November 10, 2008

the speaker's wish list: practice tools

Calling someone a "practiced speaker" is a compliment that recognizes the work involved in becoming a smooth, eloquent presenter, interviewee or speaker. But even speakers who invest in training need to spend time practicing on their own. Among the skills or issues it's most useful to practice in advance are your timing or time limitations; your appearance, from wardrobe to facial expressions; how you handle written texts on the lectern, if you work from a prepared speech or notes; and whether you're visible and showing yourself to best advantage. With holidays approaching, here's a wish list for some tools and gadgets that can help you practice on your own to reach specific speaking goals:

  • I need to keep my remarks brief or fit them into a specific amount of time. Brevity's tough to pull off unless you practice, and for that, you need a timer to keep you honest--and sometimes, to remind you just how much you can fit into three minutes. (While lots of viewers of the recent electoral debates expressed surprise at the debate timing rules, there's plenty you can say in athree minutes if you plan it and practice it.) Consider a timer like the Chaney Acurite 00654 Count Down / Up Timer, which that counts in both directions. You may find that seeing the time remaining is more of a guide while you're speaking.
  • I'm concerned about my appearance when I speak. Your concerns here are well-placed, as audiences pay most attention to what they see--and issues with your appearance can detract from even the best-prepared content. Plan to record as much practice video as you can, or recruit colleagues or friends to do it for you from the audience. An unobtrusive and eminently portable camera like the Flip Video Mino Series Camcorder gives you lots of options. Flip cameras are lightweight, self-charging, and simple to use--all the software you need to edit, email or post to the web is contained in the camera, and playback on your laptop is made simple by the built-in USB connection. You can also get a small tripod if you want to set up the camera to record you without a helper; Amazon is offering two free accessories when you buy a Flip camera by December 31, 2008.Why record yourself? It's the easiest way to look for wardrobe issues, inadvertent facial expressions or "visual ums," whether you're making eye contact, and how you use (or don't use) gestures.
  • I'm juggling too much paper because I give a lot of speeches. Whether you're tired of shuffling papers at the lectern or weary from toting paper texts cross-country for a series of speaking engagements, the Kindle: Amazon's Wireless Reading Device can help. It's lightweight, can hold the equivalent of 200 books, and you can email your texts to your special Kindle email--plus annotate texts and bump up the type size for easier reading. Using the Kindle for speaking engagements takes practice, but if you're burdened by your scripts, it's a great alternative.
  • I want to make sure I look my best or be more visible when I speak. The color most flattering to all skin colors and tones can be found in this "French blue" dress shirt (for men, with the ladies' version here) -- so if someone always buys you a shirt as a holiday gift, this is the one to request. It's effective on television as well as in person. And remember to "practice" with your speaker's wardrobe once in a while (a great use for that camcorder), remembering that people with light-, white-, or no hair will need a dark suit jacket to keep them from fading from view.

Remember, gadgets or no gadgets, there's no substitute for practice.

Monday, November 3, 2008

presentation fashion: the audio guy's tips

Life in the Corporate Theater blog has a useful set of tips for what not to wear when you're using a lavalier microphone--a list that includes large necklces and blouses with ruffles or low necklines, which, respectively, create more noise or keep the mic too far from your mouth. I'd add another: Women with long hair should keep it pulled back or behind their shoulders when wearing a lavalier mic, because it also can create noise problems. I'm working on some video demos to show you these and other "appearance issues" for your next speech--stay tuned! A hat tip to Breaking Murphy's Law blog for pointing us to this post.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

hat tip: New Zealand gets our intro tips

A hat tip to Olivia Mitchell at the Speaking About Presenting blog from New Zealand: She included my post on taking charge of your introduction in her riff on how to establish your credibility without bragging--a related issue, and one women often tell me poses issues for them when they present in public. Olivia offers good guidance about paying attention to your "braggart alarm bell" and what you, your introducer and your audience need to make the introduction effective for you. Thanks, Olivia!

vitamin C for anxious speakers?

A hat tip and a vitamin C supplement to reader Mary Fletcher Jones, who sent us this interesting item about foods that curb anxiety, which included this advice for speakers:
People who take a 1,000 mg of C before giving a speech have lower levels of cortisol and lower blood pressure than those who don't.
I'm still hunting down the actual research to bring you, but thought readers can tell me: Have you tried this? On the strength of this, I'm starting a new thread on "the healthy speaker," with tips for how you can relieve stress and improve the physical aspects of speaking. Stay tuned for more.

signaling "let's get down to business"

Our contest to win a free set of the new Eloquent Woman magnetic poetry asks you to leave a question about women and public speaking after this post -- I'll answer the questions, and send the best questioner a free set of the poetry. Alice in Infoland asked: Male speakers often signal "let's get down to business" by taking off their jackets and/or rolling up their shirtsleeves. What can women presenters use as that same kind of signal to their audiences?

Great question, Alice--it underscores the subtle signals, many silent, that speakers can send to their audiences, whether it's colleagues around a table or listeners in a lecture hall. And in truth, there's nothing to stop a woman from rolling up her sleeves or taking off her jacket, right? But if you're uncomfortable doing either, try these options:
  • Take command of the space: If everyone's seated, stand. If you're behind a lectern, walk out to the front of the audience. If there's a U-shaped table format, walk into the space inside the "U." Move in a relaxed way; a good look if you're standing is to hold your arms with elbows bent, hands lightly clasped, as here. If you're seated at a table, put both arms stretched out in front of you and lean forward.
  • Take charge with your words: "Let's get started," or "let's get to work" couldn't be clearer. But make it an invitation to join you--"I know everyone here has good ideas, so let's get started," or "I'm excited to be with you at such a critical time. Let's not waste a moment getting started."
  • Do either before you sit down. If it's your meeting--or you want it to be--try either of the above strategies as you enter the room or shortly after, but before you're seated.
What are your questions about women and public speaking? Put them in the comments (and be sure to give us a way to reach you if you want that magnetic poetry)!

why women are good speakers: Montagu

Writing in the Jerusalem Post last week, columnist Judy Montagu offered these musings about public speaking. The column's chock-full of good advice and trivia--I didn't know that the longest speech ever recorded, according to the Guiness Book of World Records, clocked in at 102 hours. Montagu offers these thoughts on eloquent women:
SOME OF the best talks I've heard have been by women. I think, firstly, that's because despite huge strides in equality, women still need to prove they are as good as, or better than men in "traditional" roles - which means they put in the necessary preparation.

Secondly, women are excellent communicators, empathetic and looking for a response. They tend to be practical and are more likely to stick to the point. So provided they can exercise discipline and have something to say, they are natural speakers.
Montagu also questions a source about why she's not heard any good women speakers in the Knesset. Check out the column for another favorite of mine, her reference to what may be the shortest speech ever, by the late Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek: "I am known for my long speeches," he once said. "Welcome!" he concluded. Do pay attention to her good advice about how you can hold an audience's attention!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Oprah follows our lead: $50 off Kindle

After trying out the Amazon Kindle not just as an e-book reader, but to serve as electronic notes for a talk--I offered readers of this blog a discount. Now Oprah's doing the same, after a show last week in which she raved about this new device as her favorite new gadget. If you order the Kindle and enter OPRAHWINFREY during checkout, you'll get $50 off the price, plus 10 percent off The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. (No promotional code needed for that.) But hurry: The offer ends November 1, 2008. [UPDATE: This offer is no longer valid.]

Since first test-driving the Kindle, I've found it especially useful for other tasks of the speaker, including:

  • Toting many speech texts with me while traveling. You just email documents to your special Kindle email address, and for pennies, they're converted to the format and sent to the device wirelessly. As the Kindle weighs just 10.3 ounces, it's a lightweight travel companion.

  • Reading and annotating texts to cite in future speeches. More than a reader, Kindle lets you clip, mark and make notes on books, blogs, newspapers and documents downloaded to the reader, making them easy to find when you're putting a speech together. There's even a dictionary built in so you can check meanings of words.

  • Reading long sections of text from an existing book or blog. If your speech requires a long quotation, download the document to the Kindle and bring it along. You can even electronically "dog-ear" the page in question.

Click on the box below and use Oprah's discount to get your own Kindle. And let me know your experiences with it as a speaker in the comments!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

eloquent email updates

Enter your email in the box at right and we'll send you a daily email with highlights from The Eloquent Woman--information, ideas and inspiration for women public speakers, right in your email box. Or click on the subscribe button to get a feed you can enter in your favorite reader. I'm delighted to offer these choices to keep you up-to-date and eloquent!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"It was me who was dinner:" simple power

Why are some speakers more eloquent and powerful than others? In some cases, it's because their voices haven't been heard before. They may have risen above shyness, social taboos, a disability--or enforced silence. Such is the case with a group of women from the Congo, speaking out for the first time about the rape culture there--called the worst sexual violence in the world by the United Nations. The victims' words are so powerful that reporter Jeffrey Gettleman begins a recent New York Times article with the start of one such speech, and its impact comes reeling off the page:
Honorata Kizende looked out at the audience and began with a simple, declarative sentence.

“There was no dinner,” she said.

“It was me who was dinner. Me, because they kicked me roughly to the ground, and they ripped off all my clothes, and between the two of them, they held my feet. One took my left foot, one took my right, and the same with my arms, and between the two of them they proceeded to rape me. Then all five of them raped me.”
Helping Congolese rape victims to speak out in front of local audiences is one facet of a larger effort to change the culture, along with increased criminal prosecutions, legal clinics and special police units. The speaking serves several purposes, raising awareness locally and internationally, as well as helping the women recover their confidence as well as their voices in a country "where women tend to be beaten down anyway," according to the article. (Embedded in the online article is a video showing one event where women were encouraged to speak, so you can watch this amazing tale unfold.)

For every person who comes to this site after searching for "how to be eloquent," these speeches are models of simplicity--and all the more powerful for the lack of flowery rhetoric which would be superfluous here. It's the cold, hard facts, dramatic enough in their own right, that cut through the culture of ignoring the problem. Concrete and sticky, these words demand that you listen: "There was no dinner. It was me who was dinner." The next time you're searching for an elaborate turn of phrase, consider "simple power," and see whether you can transform your speech into something this extraordinary.

Advice to Palin: "Lose the wink"

A hat tip to my most loyal readers, my parents, who sent a link to McClatchy Newspapers' columnist Diane Stafford piece urging Sarah Palin to "lose the wink" as a negative precedent for professional women seeking to present themselves effectively. Stafford notes:
This isn't about party politics or ideology. It's about professional presentation. Female candidates — for the corner office or political office — face a different scrutiny than men. Women have to work harder to break sexist stereotypes...Many professional women also are disappointed to hear a public figure speak in a "valley girl" delivery, the manner of speech in which the voice rises at the ends of sentences...That's not good when a woman is trying to project competence.
I've heard women on all sides of the political spectrum wonder aloud or express concerns about both of this year's prominent women candidates, Palin and Sen. Hillary Clinton -- much as I often hear women critique another woman speaker at professional conferences. In politics as in public speaking, part of the concern stems from a sense that women have historically had fewer opportunities to speak and often aren't taken seriously as speakers, adding to the pressure on women speakers to "make good" and represent the gender well. (The double-edged sword here: I've seen plenty of women decry other women speakers, in circumstances where they wish they'd had the opportunity--as if one women gaining access to an audience damages other women's chances.) In Palin's case, far from attracting women to the campaign, her efforts seem to have attracted more men and raised concerns from more women. What do you experience when you speak? (Photo of Palin from McCain-Palin campaign website.)

The Eloquent Woman gets magnetic poetry

In 2009, The Eloquent Woman blog will launch training workshops focused on public-speaking skills for women--and to promote the blog and the workshops, we now have our own custom version of magnetic poetry, shown here. The keywords focus on desirable skills and attributes of women speakers, and include a special message: I'm asking my boss for training today! We'll give away a free set of these special magnets to the person who asks the best question about women and public speaking in the comments below. Ask about skills you need, issues you face, inspiration for women speakers...we'll answer the questions and let you know the winner by November 1. For more information on our forthcoming workshops, or on training for groups and individuals, contact me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Victoria Woodhull: first for president

Did you think Hillary Clinton, Margaret Chase Smith or Shirley Chisholm were the first women to run for president? Think again. National Public Radio's today launching a series on "The Contenders" for presidential office with Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to declare a run for the presidency in 1872. She didn't appear on the ballot, and ran at a time when women were not allowed to do anything except in the company of a man--they couldn't vote, own businesses, or do much else.

In Woodhull's case, her home state of New York did not extend the vote to women, so she couldn't vote for herself (and was in prison on election day, in any case). The NPR story today talks about her famed "free love speech," actually a response to a question in which she advocated free love--an issue that overshadowed and marginalized her campaign in the eyes of many, prompting the engraving below of her as Satan.

Go here to find all things Victoria Woodhull, including a useful listing of books about her, some of which include the texts of her speeches. The website's FAQ notes that reporters of the day who wanted to mock her made fun of her trilling of her R's when she spoke. (Engraving of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee receiving a deputation of female suffragists, January 11, 1871. A "lady delegate" believed to be Victoria Woodhull is reading her argument in favor of woman's voting, on the basis of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Constitutional Amendments. Published in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, v. 31, no. 801 (1871 Feb. 4), p. 349 and today found here in the Library of Congress collections. Caricature of Woodhull as Satan by Thomas Nast.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

campaign image: Palin

Another staple of the campaign trail for women: The fashion assessment. Here's Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan's take on Sarah Palin's wardrobe and appearance choices:
Her clothes don't have the aura of sophistication like that of Michelle Obama's sheaths and pearls. They do not have a patina of glamour like Cindy McCain's heiress wardrobe. And they do not announce themselves with the confidence, assertiveness and listen-to-me-ness of Sen. Hillary Clinton's bold pantsuits. Palin's clothes are common. Everyone knows someone who dresses like her, which is partly why so many folks seem to think that they know her.
Givhan notes at the end of her review that Palin's ability to answer questions is itself an unanswered question. As an unpdate on yesterday's post, a major poll taken since the debate show that voters like her--but don't think she's ready for the vice presidency.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

of winks, wonks and women speakers

Gosh darnit, aren't you glad Tina Fey doesn't look remotely like you when you give a speech? Or that you don't have bingo cards made with your image on them? Or, better yet, that you're not running for higher public office? That's what women speakers all over must be secretly thinking this week.

The attention on Sarah Palin's debate performance has been at an all-time high. Palin bingo cards have been filled out, the pundits and Tina Fey have weighed in, the polls have been taken. You can find word clouds of Palin's debate performance on, showing larger those words more frequently used (those would be McCain, also, and going). The vice-presidential debate last week was the most-watched-ever, reflecting not only the unusual drama of a woman candidate, but the roller-coaster economic week the nation's been through. That context helps account for the unusually high number of debate-watching parties, an excuse to gather with friends during a nerve-wracking week for most Americans. The Associated Press noted, of the more than 70 million viewers, "Generally, only Super Bowls bring together so many Americans to watch the same thing."

The day of the debate, I was asked a dozen times "What would you advise Sarah Palin?" by all sorts of people: doormen, cab drivers, family, friends, colleagues, avid poll-watchers and ambivalent non-voters. I said I'd give the advice I'd give any debater: Answer the question, admit what you don't know and what can't be excused, don't get angry or respond in anger, pause, slow down. My intent was to write something that distilled advice for readers of this blog from this high-profile performance, but I realized once more that there's little in a vice presidential debate that yields good examples or tips for the everyday speaker who's not running for office. Lucky for most of us, this isn't the hothouse we'll be growing in as speakers.

In fact, the setting of low expectations for Palin--a standard approach before campaign debates for all candidates, and predictable given her poor performance in one-on-one media interviews--made it impossible for her not to exceed expectations. Or, as Queen Latifah (posing as moderator Gwen Ifill) said on Saturday Night Live's sendup, "due to the historically low expectations for Governor Palin, were she to do a simply adequate job tonight--at no point cry, faint, run out of the building or vomit-- you should consider the debate a tie." (See Maureen Dowd's column today for a long list of "mush-mouthed" politicians, mostly men, in regard to Palin's stumbling.)

This morning, it struck me that Palin's candidacy cuts across party lines to demonstrate, as Clinton's did, the prevailing view that women leaders -- whether experienced or newcomers -- can be competent or likeable, but not both. You can be a substantial policy wonk like Hillary Clinton, but you'll get dubbed a "nutcracker" and "shrill" by men and women. Or you can wink your way through a debate like Sarah Palin, but your grammar will get diagrammed and your policy positions will get parodied as insubstantial. Merely seeking higher office or touting your own accomplishments can, for women in particular, bring a backlash. And many non-political women speakers tell me they get a similar feeling of disapproval from others when they step up to the mic--perhaps the same shunning, in smaller settings. Research has shown they're not paranoid, but actually sizing up their audiences, both male and female, with accuracy. At the same time, campaigns are reaching faster for the sexism argument, making a simple label out of a phenomenon that's deep and complex...and absolutely unworkable on the campaign trail, at least as it's currently paved.

That's not firm ground on which to plant yourself when speaking in public, which may explain why Clinton's campaign actually talked publicly about entering a "likeability" phase, and why Palin's been crash-coursing in foreign affairs. They've both veered between the competent and likeable poles. Women in all sorts of roles have sensed the same tension every day, wondering whether colleagues and audiences "love you because you're beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you?" as Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote in their musical Cinderella. Women aren't just passionate about women candidates because they're women--but because they see themselves in those candidates and their perceived troubles and barriers.

Motherlode blogger and New York Times contributor Lisa Belkin has an apt take on "Palin talk," from the audience's point of view, and it's one I've noted in my own circles: Women who speak about Palin (and Hillary Clinton before her) more often than not explain their take on the candidate in intensely personal ways, projecting their experience onto the candidate. Belkin particularly looks at parenting issues, and notes:

This could all be dismissed as merely politics, and it certainly started out as politics, but there was a hunger and a fury in the conversation about Palin that hints at something deeper. Because what we are looking at while dissecting the parenting cred of our politicians (O.K., O.K., of our politicians who are mommies — we pay very little attention to the parenting of men) has little to do with them, and everything to do with us.
If you've gleaned a good tip, an issue, or an opinion about women speakers after watching this historic campaign, please leave them in the comments! (Photo of winning Palin bingo card by and photo of Clinton nutcracker by dsjeffries, from

Friday, October 3, 2008

intros and credibility

Thanks to the Speaking About Presenting blog for writing about "how to establish your credibility without bragging," and including my post on taking charge of your introductions. Cheers to Olivia Mitchell and Tony Burns of Effective Speaking in New Zealand.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

wherefore art thou, women on stage?

I often come across women speakers of all ages who don't know that the history of women and public speaking is a short one because of the long history of forbidding women to speak in public. And last night, I got to see that history in action at a performance of Romeo and Juliet at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC--because the play was staged as it would have been in Shakespeare's day, with an all-male cast. This article on the practice explains: Shakespeare’s day, no women appeared on stage. All of his great female roles, from Juliet to Viola to Cleopatra, were originally played by young men. Female actors were denounced as “monsters,” and a visiting French company that included women was booed off the stage in 1629.
The practice didn't end until the 1660s, so that none of Shakespeare's original productions featured women--despite the fact that Juliet, as the theatre's program notes "is often cited as one of the greatest parts ever written for a woman." (Today, of course, an all-male cast raises eyebrows for different reasons and in a different context.) In fact, this production notes that Shakespeare's eloquent poetry about the love between Romeo and Juliet had to carry even more power to be convincing with the audience when two men play the roles--and contrasts with the masculine-dominated world portrayed in the play.

Why does a modern woman concerned with public speaking care? It's just another historical example of the hurdles women have faced in attempting to express themselves in public, taboos that still resonate at some level with some people. Understanding and remembering these historical situations can help you understand negative feedback you may get--and help you turn current speaking situations to your advantage. (Photo of James Davis as Juliet from the Shakespeare Theatre. Go here to read an interview with Director David Muse.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"hot" rhetoric: antimetabole

Since when are figures of speech hot? Public radio's show On The Media says the antimetabole (pronounced an-tee-meh-TAB-oh-lee) is the hottest figure of speech in this year's election campaign. Or is it just overused? You be the judge. The antimetabole's name may not be familiar to you, but the form surely is. Here are the examples OTM quotes from women speakers in the current campaign:
Sarah Palin: In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers. And then there are some, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change.

Hillary Clinton: In the end, the true test is not the speeches a president delivers. It's whether he delivers on his speeches.
The interview notes a danger for Clinton's use of the form in the above example, as she was criticizing her opponent for fine public speaking...and using an elaborate rhetorical device to do so. Similarly, the interview strikes a cautionary note about overusing antimetabole when it isn't called for. But overall, it helps candidates define what they are and what their opponents aren't, and echoes John F. Kennedy, who loved the form. American Rhetoric's "rhetorical figures in sound" section offers few examples of women using antimetabole but I know you'll be helping to make up for that soon. Go here to listen to the OTM interview; a transcript will be posted in the same place on Monday, September 22.

convention: missing words of black women

UPDATED: I'm remiss in not bringing to your attention sooner this On The Media radio program (transcript here), which asks a great question: at the historic Democratic convention that nominated a black man for president, where were the references to the noted black women who inspired prior conventions--Fannie Lou Hamer, Barbara Jordan, and Shirley Chisholm, herself a presidential candidate?

The program interviewed Melissa Harris-Lacewell, an associate professor of African-American Studies at Princeton University, who does a great job summarizing the significance of those three women and their roles at conventions past: Hamer, who spoke movingly to the credentials committee about having been beaten for just trying to register to vote; Jordan, the first black keynote speaker to address a convention in prime time; and Chisholm, whose run for president in the 1970s immediately followed the change in voting age, a hopeful signal that newly minted young voters might want a different kind of candidate.

When asked about the indirect reference to Martin Luther King in Obama's acceptance speech--he was referred to as a young preacher, but not by name--Harris-Lacewell put it in perspective:
I do think there’s a problem when you invoke Kennedy by name but not King by name and where you can talk about the historic moment that is Hillary Clinton’s campaign but you don't mention Shirley Chisholm. We've got to have a better historical memory as a country that allows all of the players to be there and all of us to have a place at the kind of table of American history.
To find out more about black women who've made significant public speeches, check out this post on a book and recording of famous black speeches and this post on Barbara Jordan's speaking skills--she routinely ranks among the top political speakers.
UPDATE: Today's New York Times op-ed page has a column by Brent Staples on language and race that's relevant here. It speaks to the historic and current risks of eloquence for black speakers:
Forms of eloquence and assertiveness that were viewed as laudable among whites were seen as positively mutinous when practiced by people of color...It's a reminder of the power of speech, and, I hope, an encouragement to keep speaking publicly for all of us.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tell Me More dishes fashion on the trail

On today's Tell Me More show on NPR, three women discuss the scrutiny of the fashions worn by the wives of the presidential candidates, Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain, and by Republic vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Both guests, former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies and Wall Street Journal fashion reporter Teri Agins agree with my view that this isn't anything new--that women always have and always will draw more attention because of their clothes. Agins noted that the political fishbowl is, in a sense, a type of red-carpet experience we're all watching with interest--and that's true for speakers, too. They also noted that, even in the corporate world, women don't need to wear masculinized clothes that mimic men's styles anymore, so there's a certain power in dressing with comfort and femininity.

Margolies also heads Women's Campaign International, which trains women to be advocates and to run for public office, which includes training them to wear appropriate clothes in appropriate settings--for example, many of the women WCI trains wear something different in their home villages than they do in the cities. Margolies stressed the importance of finding appropriate outfits, noting, "most people remember what you wear and your tone over what you say."

Host Michel Martin asked the guests for their fashion advice for women on the campaign trail. Wear color and a good neckline, and look feminine were Agins's tips. Margolies: Dress simply and appropriately, and make yourself look serious and supportive. (Photo courtesy of the Obama campaign photostream on

Friday, September 5, 2008

Noonan to speakers: Make 'em laugh

One of the most eloquent women--and writers--in our time is Peggy Noonan, now an author and columnist, but known as one of the best presidential speechwriters. In her column yesterday, opining on what John McCain should do in his acceptance speech at the convention, Noonan offered an eloquent piece of advice that women speakers can take advantage of: Make your audience laugh:
A voter laughing is half yours, and just received a line he can repeat next weekend over a beer at the barbecue or online at Starbucks. Here is a fact of American politics: If you make us laugh we spread your line for free.
I do not understand the absence of humor, that powerful weapon, that rhetorical cannon, in this year's campaign. There are a lot of things to say here but let me tell you the first I think of. America is a huge and lonely country. We are vast, stretch coast to coast, live in self-sufficient pods; modern culture tends us toward the atomic, the fractured and broken up. When two people meet, as they come to know each other as neighbors or colleagues, one of the great easers, one of the great ways of making a simple small human connection is: shared laughter. We are a political nation. We talk politics. So fill that area with humor: sly humor, teasing humor, humor that speaks a great truth or makes a sharp point.
It's advice that women speakers are well-equipped to try, as Noonan suggests the intimate connection that can be made with an audience member by making them laugh, or bringing a smile forward. It's a wonderful way to make a tense audience loosen up--think of Ronald Reagan's "there you go again" line when he was attacked in debates, which made everyone smile at its non-anxious humor. And it bespeaks confidence on the speaker's part. Try some eloquent humor in your next speech and let me know how it goes.

about those convention teleprompters

So many people have Googled their way to this blog to ask whether speakers used teleprompters at the two political conventions that I think it's worth a short discussion. The answer is yes: Speakers expect to use teleprompters at conventions, where the hall--and the television audience beyond it--is huge. And while most people giving a speech don't use teleprompters, there's no shame in doing so. The primary advantage? You can read your speech without looking down and away from the cameras.

Teleprompters don't relieve you of the need to practice your speech and they don't guarantee smooth delivery. Practice still makes, well, almost perfect. But teleprompters primarily help you look active and engaged with the audience, instead of your text. They don't have much to do with making the speaker more eloquent.

Here's what former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote in her Wall Street Journal column yesterday, for example, about whether John McCain should use a teleprompter:
I am told alternately that he has given up on the teleprompter and will go straight from text, and that he will use a teleprompter. I assume the latter is true. If it is it will be interesting to see if he has mastered it. That will tell us if he practiced the speech...If he's reading from text, well, it is not true that this is impossible in the media age. People didn't use teleprompters until 30 years ago. But when McCain reads straight from text we tend to see a lot of the top of his head, with the soft white hair and the pink brow glistening under the lights. Which tends to accentuate his age. So how he does the speech is of more than academic interest.
In fact, both McCain and Sarah Palin, his running mate, used both text and teleprompter, a confusing mix--I'd recommend one or the other. And in Michelle Obama's case, interviews with her after the speech revealed that her speech was not too different from her stump speech, which means she's well-practiced in its delivery and comfortable with it. Again, the teleprompter isn't the key to smooth delivery.

Readers have been asking questions like "where are the teleprompters?" and the answer usually is "out of camera range" and "near or below the camera." In this photo, a teleprompter at the 2004 Republican convention in New York is located below a bank of cameras. (Photo by vidiot from Flickr)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

practice with the candidates: video tool

If you're using the political conventions to pick up speaker tips, you can use an interactive tool on the New York Times's website to practice along with the candidates. Shown here in a screen shot, today you can watch video of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, for example, while a transcript of her actual remarks scrolls in time with the video. (And while the candidates and their surrogates are tightly scripted at the conventions, if you only read Palin's prepared remarks, you'd miss one of her best off-the-cuff lines, comparing hockey moms to pit bulls, with lipstick.) You also can click on section headers at right to advance the video and the transcript to a particular section.

This strikes me as a useful training tool: If you liked a particular look, gesture, type of emphasis, or rhetoric--or the combination of all those factors--during a speech, you can replay it and try it out for yourself, with the script running teleprompter-like in front of you. And its accessibility on the web means you can do that kind of practice at home, at the office, in a hotel room or most other locations. Look here for the Sarah Palin speech; here for Hillary Clinton's speech; and here for Michelle Obama's speech in this format. Leave a comment to let me know your thoughts on this as a practice tool!

Palin: Toned down and revved up

Earlier this year, I noted the double-edged sword of image for female political candidates, particularly in regard to their speaking style. Here again is an excerpt from Kathleen Hall Jamieson's Eloquence in an Electronic Age: The Transformation of Political Speechmaking, about:
...the double bind in which television traps a female politician. The [manly] style traditionally considered credible is no longer suitable to television. But only a person whose credibility is firm can risk adopting a style traditionally considered weak....Two ironies result: only to the extent that they employ a once spurned 'womanly' style can male politicians prosper on radio and television; meanwhile, in their surge toward political equality, women abandoned and must reclaim the 'womanly' style.
Last night's speech by Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin gives us another view of that struggle. Her rhetoric defines her as a "hockey mom" to evoke a decidedly feminine image. The campaign, apparently wanting to underscore the novelty of a female running mate, features this ridiculous photograph of Palin's high heels prominently on its website, as if perhaps footwear or a shapely calf might drive more votes. But Palin's speaking style last night was decidedly old-school, aggressive and more traditionally masculine in tone--at a time when her own credibility and suitability for the role is widely debated. The hard-driving, loud and emphatic speaking style may prove to be a risk in another way: As Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton found, the effort to appear credible and competitive in a male-dominated field may rob Palin of an advantage noted by Jamieson, the 'womanly' and personal style that helps speakers connect to audiences, particularly on television, which can mimic the one-on-one situations in which women excel at communicating.

Or at least, that may be true for television viewers, or for an audience less dominated by men--attendees at this convention are 68 percent male, an increase over the previous convention. The hall was certainly revved up, and as happened to Clinton, Palin stepped on some of her own lines, letting them get swallowed by the chanting crowd.

But observers are already saying the speech may have been the easiest task she faces. Here, the New York Times weighs in:
From here, Ms. Palin moves into a national campaign where she will have to appeal to audiences that are not necessarily primed to adore her. She will have to navigate far less controlled campaign settings that will test not only her political skills but also her knowledge of foreign and domestic policy. And she must convince the country she is prepared to be vice president at a time when the definition of that job has been elevated to the status of governing partner — something voters might have been reminded of Wednesday by images of Vice President Dick Cheney embarking on a mission to war-torn Georgia.
In an earlier speech in Ohio, Palin said:
Well, it's always, though, safer in politics to avoid risk, to just kind of go along with the status quo. But I didn't get into government to do the safe and easy things. A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not why the ship is built.
But that's just what she did with her choice of wardrobe. Surprisingly for a former broadcaster, Palin chose a neutral palette, with a gray blazer and black skirt. The RNC's choice of a black background for its speakers, with a large-screen streaming video of landscapes of the United States, didn't help. Even though all eyes were on Palin in the hall, it was Cindy McCain's vivid green dress that stood out in the television footage.

Buy Eloquence in an Electronic Age: The Transformation of Political Speechmaking