Tuesday, May 27, 2008

opinionated women wanted

Part of being an eloquent woman lies in your ability to persuade an audience to see something your way. Op-ed pages--so called because they lie opposite newspapers' editorial pages, which carry the editors' opinions--offer one opportunity for women to express their views. But according to Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell, women aren't well-represented in that paper's op-ed forum. She notes that of 654 op-ed pieces published thus far this year in her paper, some 575 were penned by men, but only 79 by women and about 80 by minorities. She notes:

...women and people of color don't submit nearly as many op-eds as white men do. Autumn Brewington, op-ed editor since January 2007, said she is eager to get more women, minorities and younger people to submit op-ed pieces. Brewington said that men submit op-eds "much, much more than women do" -- by as much as 9 to 1. She solicits pieces based on the news. "I'm eager to read op-eds by women, and I work to get women on the page, but I won't accept a piece just because it was written by a woman. Often we are looking for a specific person in the news or someone well positioned to write on a topic. My goal is to have a thoughtful,
provocative page each day with something for everyone," she said.

Howell also notes the issue involves real estate, with a thoughtful analysis of the regular columnists and how the space devoted to them limits op-ed opportunities. And this New York Times article looks at workshops designed specifically to help women find their voices in opinion articles. Our sister blog, don't get caught news & info, offers these tips on writing op-eds and on trying your hand at the short-form letter to the editor. If you haven't submitted an op-ed, check out your newspaper's web page for guidelines, then give it a try--or try your hand at an essay for NPR's "This I Believe" series (check out this one we covered earlier).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Take charge of your introduction

Lots of my trainees say that "getting started" is the toughest part of any speech or presentation, and I agree: It's a time when audience attention is highest, and therefore a time when mistakes are magnified. If you're anxious about the session to boot, you'll feel even more under the microscope. And in my focus groups on women and public speaking, I've heard many women say they hear other women speakers start out by apologizing for some early issue or problem, from the room temperature to the sound system--not the image you want the audience to take away.

One great way to take charge at the start of your speech is to take charge of your introduction. Typically, someone--the organizer, a colleague, the host, a moderator--has the task of introducing you, and in my experience, few introducers take the time to make their words memorable. But rather than count on your introducer to do the research, the smart speaker prepares a suitable intro for herself. Here are a few ways to do that effectively:
  • Focus not on your resume, but on why you're here today: If you have specific credentials or interests that make this speech or this audience especially important or motivating to you, focus on them. "Janet's worked in many fields, but one reason she's here to speak to us today is to share her long-standing interest in microfinance for women's economic advancement. She spends her vacations volunteering for a major project in microfinance, and she'll be telling us about that experience today" tells your audience more than they'll find on your resume. You'll pique interest even further with that lead-in.
  • Add some humor to a long list of achievements: "Marie's received many awards, but none so important to her as the opportunity to step away from her desk to speak to us. She begs you not to call her office and report her missing." Again, an attention-getter and one that will give you a smiling audience to face. I once faced an audience that knew I'd arrived at the conference with an illness, and I spent a lot of time recuperating before my talk. My start? "I normally bring a lot of infectious enthusiasm to this topic, but if you don't mind, today I'll skip the infectious part...."
  • Take over your own intro: Tell the moderator to give you the briefest of introductions, then work your own introduction into the start of your speech. Talking about yourself helps you build a relationship directly with your audience--and ensures the items you want to emphasize aren't lost or dropped.
On our sister blog at don't get caught, I've offered writers tips for a suite of introductions of various lengths. Take the time to prepare this collection of intros for yourself (or if you have a writer to help, share it with her) to be sure that your introducers don't get caught unprepared to give you a great entrance.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

welcome, Six Minutes readers...

...and a hat tip to that blog's author, Andrew Dlugan, for including The Eloquent Woman in his list of public speaking blogs, a handy resource for those seeking to learn a variety of public speaking tips.

re-kindle: a new device for speeches?

We blogged early on to suggest that the new Amazon Kindle e-book reader might work as an electronic speech text, for two reasons: It comes equipped with free wi-fi connections and you can receive documents sent to a special email address, and it eliminates the need to shuffle pages. But even before this blog caught on, the Kindle was sold out. The good news: The Amazon Kindle is back in stock and you can order one by clicking on the ad in the column at right or the links in this post. We'll be ordering one and testing it, with a review to follow.

Friday, May 9, 2008

factor in your speaking personality type

Because I've taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment of my personality preferences, I know I'm an ENTJ--an extroverted, intuitive, thinking, judger. That tells me a lot about who I am as a public speaker. As someone who tilts strongly into the extrovert camp, I get energized by audiences. As a "thinker," I'm more analytical and less emotional. As an intuitive, I'm good at sensing an audience's mood and switching gears to meet it, and I look for possibilities in new situations.

I was reminded about why this is important to women and public speaking this morning, thanks to Marci Alboher's excellent Shifting Careers blog at the New York Times, which today points out blogger Michael Melcher's attempt to analyze the Myers-Briggs personality types of the presidential candidates. Here's a bit about how he devines Hillary Clinton's personality type (emphasis added):
Introversion/extraversion refer to where people get their energy. Extraverts get their energy from other people, the external world, and experiences. Introverts get their energy from themselves or their own space. Extraverts are often chatty, social and open; introverts are often quiet, reflective and contained. Introverts open up to their close friends; extraverts open up to everyone. Bill Clinton is clearly an extravert; I think Hillary is an introvert...Since 75% of the population is extraverted, extraverts are considered normal...Introverts often have to feign extraversion to succeed in the professional world; their natural style is often not valued. Much of the criticism of Hillary Clinton's authenticity is criticism of her introversion.
As one who had my personality type professionally assessed, I also learned that, on the thinking/feeling scale, the majority of men fall into the "T" camp and the majority of women in the "F" camp. As a result, men whose personality types have a stronger "feeling" preference and women with a stronger "thinking" preference are bound to be misunderstood by others--they're literally not acting to (the more common) type.

It's important for women to factor in their personality type as well as their gender when considering what works for them as speakers. Introverts may need to schedule some down time before and after a speech or presentation, as the experience might use up much more energy than it would for an extrovert. (It's exhausting, colleagues have told me, to stretch themselves in this way.) Women who score higher as analytical "thinkers" should understand that they'll be misunderstood by both men and women in the audience. (Being a strong "thinker," by the way, doesn't mean you don't get emotional--everyone has some of each pair of traits, with a preference for one more than the other.) I've observed in many discussions with women about public speaking that some assume their difficulties are based on gender bias, when they may simply reflect a personality preference on their part and the part of the audience members.

For an easy read on figuring out your own (and others') Myers-Briggs types, check out Type Talk and Type Talk at Work, or check with your human resources office about taking the personality type assessment. It's often a relief to find out how your type reacts in a variety of settings--public speaking included--and to use that knowledge to make your path easier.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

listen up: a young mentor gets poetic

We rarely recommend memorization of a fixed text for speakers, but almost every speaker will, at some point, need to quote another writer, pundit or historic figure. And when you do, changing your tone and varying your vocal qualities to fit that special text will help you lure in your listeners and emphasize your points.

Need a mentor? Listen to this recording of high school student Shawntay Henry reciting from memory the poem "Frederick Douglass, by Robert E. Hayden. Henry just won the 2008 Poetry Out Loud competition and a $20,000 scholarship for this rendition, which takes a hushed and reverent tone and uses excellent vocal variety to hold your attention. Check the POL website later to see Henry in action--those videos and photos aren't yet posted. It's also a good source for poets whom you may wish to quote in your next speech.