Monday, August 31, 2009

another online storytelling resource

Reader Mike Schultz shares another good source of online storytelling examples and resources to help you in your next speech: Washington, DC-based SpeakeasyDC, which aims to promote autobiographical storytelling with podcasts, recordings, and events that include a monthly open mic series, ensemble performances, story socials, and classes and coaching--and they broadcast on Local TV, available on the site. Here's a recent example from a woman speaker talking about her fears. Check out this new addition to our list of sources for your storytelling practice: listen to or watch the stories, look for techniques you can borrow and adapt for including your own personal stories in your speeches, and seek out some inspiration or new ideas.

Related posts: Learn storytelling online, 3 ways

Tell a story on yourself

A speechwriter shares secrets on how to tell a story

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor tells a story with impact

Sunday, August 30, 2009

5 ways to renew your speaking skills

Need to get "back in the saddle" after a hiatus from public speaking? It's easy to feel uneasy if you are out of practice. Here are five steps you can take to make re-entry into speaking a smooth ride:
  1. Take small steps back to speaking: I recommend four stepping-stone speaker experiences to newbies, and they're a great way for the experienced, but out-of-practice, speaker to get her toe back in the water. Ask a question at a talk, chair a session, moderate a panel or be a panelist--these steps all stop short of shouldering all the responsibility for a full-length speech, but give you easy and visible ways to practice (and to show your willingness to speak.)
  2. Take the time to consider what you want to change: You may hesitate if you lack certain skills or feel you want to step up your game. Think about and write down what you want to change in your approach to speaking, then seek out group training or individual coaching focused on just those aspects of your talks.
  3. Watch or listen to some expert speakers online to get new ideas: Why not try something new? I recommend three websites where you can watch or listen to some of the world's best and most creative speakers and storytellers for inspiration and ideas.
  4. Be brief. Leave the audience wanting more and choose to re-start your speaking with a briefer-than-usual talk. Then take the time to analyze how you did and where expansion of your points makes sense.
  5. Get prepared. Work with a coach or speechwriter to develop a short, three-point message or a formal, prepared speech. Working from a text may help you feel more confident when you re-enter the speaking sphere.

Related posts: 4 stepping stones to get speaking practice

Learn storytelling online, 3 ways

Good speeches: Messages in threes

Saturday, August 29, 2009

August's top 10 tips

August was a big month for The Eloquent Woman: We reviewed all the contest entries and picked a winner, but also featured guest posters and new tips and advice to help beginning and experienced speakers advance their skills. Before we get started with our winner's online coaching--coming up in September--check out the most-read posts from the dog days of August:
  1. My checklist for the whole speaker--not just what you want to say, but considering your audience, wardrobe, technology, presence and more--topped our list of popular posts this month. It's the list I use to make sure I'm prepared, no matter what. One reader said: "I'm printing it and hanging it in my office!"
  2. Beginning speakers flocked to our contest posts, and stayed to read this April post on the four stepping stones I suggest to get you started in public speaking.
  3. Eye contact was cited as an issue by several of our contest entrants, and many of you went back to this post with five tips to improve your eye contact with the audience.
  4. "It's not just a contest to me" said Stephanie Benoit of Florida, winner of our 15 Weeks to Step Up Your Speaking contest in this post announcing her win. Readers from all over the world have been checking on our winner and are ready to follow her progress--coaching online for her starts in just a few days.
  5. Handling an introduction is a one of my stepping stones to get speaking--but intros often lack, well, fiber and strength. This older post on ways to beef up your introductions was a winner yet again in August.
  6. All the contest entrants appeared in this video gallery, and readers checked them out a lot while our judges were deliberating. Check out their videos here.
  7. Speakers need to learn storytelling. But how? I have three great online resources that will help you watch master storytellers and learn their techniques, another popular post.
  8. Creating a tweetable presentation was a guest post that got lots of attention in August. It helps you with concrete ideas for helping your audience use Twitter to spread your message.
  9. Our contest winner sent you a message to test our her prize Flip camcorder. She wants your constructive comments and support as she begins her 15 weeks of coaching.
  10. Quick: catch your breath, then read these tips for doing just that when you run out of it in a speaking gig. Good breathing can calm the anxious speaker, and it's an essential skill.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A message from our winner

Here's Stephanie Benoit, winner of our contest, with a message to thank you for your support--and ask for your constructive comments as she goes through her 15 weeks of coaching. This was taken with the Flip MinoHD Camcorder that she won along with the 15 weeks of online coaching. Week 1 starts next week, and Stephanie will be talking about her three priorities for training--and I'll share more details with her on what we can accomplish over that time period. Take a moment and send Stephanie some encouragement!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Not speaking inspired women to get vote

It's Equality Day, the 89th anniversary of U.S. women gaining the right to vote, and worth recalling that the campaign for women's voting rights in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was spurred on by an incident in which two women were kept off the program. From my earlier post:
The 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London "refused to let the women delegates speak," inspiring delegates Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to start a movement for women's rights...
The incident is recalled in journalist Gail Collins' wonderful social history,America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines. Getting the vote allows for a different form of speaking up; unfortunately, women in many professions still have trouble getting speaking opportunities at professional conferences.

Related posts: History of keeping women off the program

All our tips on getting women on the program as speakers

survival tips for watching yourself on video

Olivia Mitchell of the very good Speaking About Presenting blog offers these tips for surviving watching yourself on video--because it's one of the best ways to learn about yourself as a speaker or presenter. You don't want to aim for the polished performance of the news anchor pictured here! No matter how cringe-worthy you think your results will be, Mitchell offers help with distancing yourself and -- most important -- taking a benevolent view of your efforts. (Our contest winner Stephanie Benoit will find these tips of use shortly, as she begins posting video here for her 15 weeks of coaching.)
My tip: If you're nervous before an audience, this is the perfect way to test yourself without them, although many people find the red "recording" light just as intimidating. And the more you practice this, the more you'll relax and see the value in the results. Experienced broadcasters focus on that red light as if it were their best friend, instead of running from it. Why not you? Try making a short video and see how you do!

who said to picture your audience naked?

Bloggers who write about public speaking have been casting around to answer this question, posed by Scott Berkun of the Speaker Confessions blog for a book he's writing. And here, from blog Joyful Public Speaking, comes the answer:
In Dorothy Sarnoff’s book, Speech can change your life, on page 199 it says that: “Winston Churchill overcame his early fear of audiences by imagining that each of them was sitting there naked"....A similar quote (with two additional celebrities) also appears in Dorothy Leeds' book PowerSpeak, on page 33: “Winston Churchill liked to imagine that each member of the audience was naked. Franklin Roosevelt pretended that the members all had holes in their socks. Carol Burnett thinks of them sitting on the commode.”
The real question on my mind: Should you try this storied tactic today? I'm thinking not. It suggests--even creates--a real divide between you and the audience and runs the risk of distraction for you, always fatal for a speaker. But it's great to have the story attributed.

Related posts: Noted speaker coach Dorothy Sarnoff dies at 94

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

15 weeks of coaching starts next week

She's got her prize, customized Flip MinoHD Camcorder, and Stephanie Benoit's almost ready to start the 15 weeks of speaker coaching she won in our recent contest. Are you ready to follow along? Over the course of the 15 weeks, we'll work on Stephanie's top 3 priorities for stepping up her public speaking, and cover a variety of topics any speaker--beginner, refresher or experienced--needs to understand, from appearance and movement to message development and securing speaking opportunities.

I'm looking forward to working with Stephanie and sharing our progress with you all. Please feel free to share your encouragement as she moves through the process, and add your questions, tips and advice based on your experiences as a speaker. We can all learn together over the next 15 weeks. We'll launch the first series of coaching videos and posts next week and our 15 weeks will take us into December. Stand by for more!

a checklist to prepare the whole speaker

Too many of my trainees focus on preparing the speech and not the speaker...and those who do focus on preparing themselves often zero in one just one aspect of what they need to do to really be ready to speak in public, whether it's a small meeting or a large assembly. But to succeed as a speaker, you need to prepare the whole speaker for your presentation, not just one or two parts of yourself.

Here's a checklist I like to use to make sure my own preparations are complete before I speak. How many of these preparations are on your checklist? Do you have any to add that you find helpful? Leave a note in the comments section.


  1. Do I know what the audience wants from me?

  2. Is that what I'm going to give them? Do my goals match theirs? If not, why am I speaking to them? How will I reach them?

  3. What do I want to get out of this speaking experience?

  4. What do I need to learn from the audience? How will I find out?

  5. Do I intend to engage the audience? Do I just want them to listen? Do I intend to get them to act on something?
  1. What do I need to include or exclude to meet my intentions and those of the audience?

  2. How can I put my facts across persuasively? What are my data, ideas, proofs?

  3. What emotion or personal experience can I add to the mix?

  4. Is there content the audience can contribute? Am I comfortable with them sharing their insights?


  1. Am I focused and ready? Do I feel prepared?

  2. If not, what am I anxious about? What's the worst thing that could happen? How will I deal with it?

  3. What are 3 successful things I've done before that I can use again this time?

  4. What are 3 things I'd like to improve this time, based on previous speaking experiences?

  5. How and where will I fit those into my presentation?

  6. Am I prepared with breathing exercises or other ways to stay calm?

  7. What will help me relax and focus?
  8. Have I thought through events that may challenge all my assumptions about this speech? Do I know what I'll say and do if no one agrees with me, or if someone gets angry?

  9. Am I ready to roll with whatever situation arrives, with calm and good humor? Or am I going to get impatient and angry?
  1. Have I taken care of the basics? Am I rested, fed, hydrated, stretched out, relaxed?

  2. Do I need to spend 10 minutes before the speech attending to breathing and stretching?

  3. Am I wearing clothes and shoes that are comfortable enough to help me stand and move as needed?

  4. If I don't feel well, what do I need to change to get through my speech successfully?

  5. Have I thought about how I will gesture, move, sit or stand during the course of the presentation? Are those movements planned or random? Do they help underscore my points?

  6. Is my posture straight but relaxed? Are my shoulders hunched? Am I centered at my core?

  7. Am I inadvertently clenching anything--teeth, hands, shoulders, neck? Why?


  1. Are my clothes clean, pressed and mended? Do they fit me?

  2. Will my wardrobe allow me (if needed) to do things like crawl under a table to plug in a cord or reach high to point at a chart? Have I rehearsed my movements while wearing my intended outfit?

  3. Am I using color to my advantage? Will it help me stand out in the setting?

  4. Is there anything about my outfit that will distract me? Distract my audience?

  5. If I plan to gesture, have I removed rings and bracelets?

  6. If I'm standing behind a lectern, have I focused attention near my face? What from my outfit will be seen in that setting?
Technology and the unexpected
  1. Do I know how my own technology works?

  2. Do I have any adapters, cords or batteries I may need? Am I making the mistake of assuming there will be technical help?

  3. Can I give my presentation even if all the technology fails? Can I speak without my slides?

  4. Do I have plans B, C and D ready?

  5. Have I seen the room and the available technology ahead of time, or do I need to show up early to do that?

  6. Is the room too hot, cold or noisy? Have I asked the facility staff for help fixing that before my talk?

Related posts: All our tips for the healthy speaker

When the speaker needs to catch her breath

4 things to remove before speaking

Wardrobe tips from an audio guy

Wear blue for your audience

Do you overprepare for speeches?

UPDATE: I'm happy to say that Andrew Dlugan included this post in his weekly review of the best public speaking articles in the blogosphere. His weekly roundups are a wonderful way to stay up-to-date on tips for your speaking progress.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Will a bigger Kindle help speakers?

Over on the don't get caught blog, I've posted a rundown of features of the new Amazon Kindle DX, a larger version of the popular electronic book reader. The size alone may make a significant difference if you're using it instead of paper text for your next speech. Check out the links above and below to get a full picture of what it can do for you as a speaker!

Buy the Kindle DX

Related posts: Testing the Kindle on the lectern

New Kindle offers more features for speakers

what's your speaker presence?

Lots of speakers can tell you right away what they want to say, or what their audience wants to hear. But before you plunge into preparing your points or how you'll handle the Q&A, take some time to consider your presence and impact. How you want to be seen, or the impact you want to have on the audience, should be the starting point--not an accident or afterthought--for your speaker preparations. Here are ways to consider your presence as a speaker before you start speaking:
  1. What's appropriate to the occasion? Considering the place, time of day, what's in the news, the reason for the gathering and other contextual information helps you avoid the inappropriate. For example, I've had to train groups of inner-city teens and parents in presentation skills--and while I dressed professionally, I didn't wear a suit, aiming for a more casual outfit that wouldn't intimidate or distance me from the audience.
  2. How will the audience see me, going into this? What will their assumptions be about me, based on the little bit of information they'll get before I speak? Will anything about me play into those assumptions--or refute them? Does that make a difference in what I'm going to say? Should it? Will it anyway?
  3. How do I want the audience to see me--when I begin and when I end? This gets to your goal for connecting with the audience. If you want to persuade them, surprise them, get them to hire you or make them laugh, you may need to consider factors ranging from your appearance and how you dress to how you move and gesture, in addition to your words.
  4. How do I want to be seen if I'm challenged? Even though there's nearly always an audience member who likes to question the speaker's premise or facts, many speakers avoid considering this. Yet the way you respond to a challenge will tell your audience a lot about you--and sometimes it's not what you want to put across. Do you want to come across as calm and in control? Ready to mix it up? Failing to prepare for this eventuality may mean your presence seems defensive and dismissive.
  5. How do I want to be seen if I'm complimented? Praise can undermine you just as easily as poison. If your first impulse is to dismiss a compliment, consider how that will make you look as the speaker. If you agree too much, you'll have a different image. Answering this question can help you plan a response that fits your goals.

learn storytelling online: 3 ways

Can you tell a great personal story? It's one of the most effective ways to get--and hold--your audience's attention. Even more important, the organizers of many speaking opportunities and conferences are looking for great storytellers when they book speakers. The good news: Some of the best venues for public speaking are not only creating opportunities to speak, but sharing the results so you can learn and practice online. Here are three of my favorites you can add to your practice arsenal:

  1., the website of the famous TED conference (TED stands for technology, entertainment, design), which started 25 years ago with a focus on "ideas worth spreading." Speakers are asked to give the talk of their lives, in 18 minutes. (Last year, Bill Gates talked about malaria with a big jar of mosquitoes in his lap...and opened it, releasing them in the room.) The conference is tough to get into, whether as a speaker or an audience member (2010's session is already sold out), but TED is intent on the "spreading" part of its mission, offering all the speeches in free, online videos that come with interactive transcripts of the talks as well as translations into many languages. You also can participate in many spinoff conferences, called TEDx, that take place all over, organized by people in your region or community. TED talks are designed to inspire, poke, ask big questions--and they offer loads of role models for your storytelling practice.Numbered List
  2. The Moth, a live storytelling event, started out in New York City and now has touring events, a live StorySLAM in Los Angeles and New York, and MothUp, a program that lets you host a Moth session in your own living room and upload the video online. Moth has a "radio hour" and a downloadable podcast to let you listen to performed stories, and even lets you send them an audio pitch for why you should get to tell your story.
  3. Ignite takes yet another tack: "Five minutes. 20 slides. What would you say?" says its Baltimore site, and in Seattle, where Ignite began, the motto is "Enlighten us, but make it quick." (Other participating cities include Portland, Paris and Washington, DC.) These self-assembling speaker conferences usually feature a few more than a dozen speakers with pre-set limits (talks usually must be submitted for consideration). You can find video of past performances on each Ignite website, and I'd recommend this as a real practice tool: Setting limits (like 5 minutes and 20 slides) forces you to focus your talk. Can you do it? Watch some of the online videos and give it a try!

Related posts: Tell a story on yourself (featuring audio of a Moth talk by Sir Paul Nurse)

A speechwriter shares secrets on how to tell a story

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor tells a story with impact

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Our winner: 'Not just a contest to me'

I'm delighted to announce that Stephanie Benoit is the winner of The Eloquent Woman's 15 Weeks to Step Up Your Speaking contest! She works as a manager in a mental health agency in Florida, but has big dreams for her future. As she put it, "This contest is not just a contest to me. For me, it's a vehicle to get me to the next step of achieving my aspirations," which include becoming an author and launching a women's empowerment conference weekend. But, she says, "I often wonder how it is that I could really help and reach people when I'm afraid to open my mouth." Building up her confidence as a speaker and overcoming that fear is Stephanie's biggest priority. "One-on-one, I'm great at talking, but the thought of speaking to a crowd of people frightens me and I know that I will never be able to make the impact that I desire if I can't put those fears behind me and master this important skill," she says.

Given that fear, her ability to post a video online and submit the entry are impressive, indeed. Stephanie added a quotation to her entry essay that sums up where she is right now: "Until the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of change, you'll never change." We'll try to make sure this learning process isn't painful!

In addition to winning a Flip MinoHD Camcorder that will help her send videos to this blog (and practice her speaking), Stephanie will be getting 15 weeks of coaching from me, right on the blog. We'll follow the program outlined here, and I hope you'll follow along and share encouragement and tips with Stephanie as we go forward. We'll begin the coaching in September and conclude it in December.

Please leave a comment to encourage Stephanie in taking this big step! Thanks to her, to our judges, and to all our entrants!

Related: Get your own Flip MinoHD Camcorder

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

describing your career at the dinner table

For lots of professionals, the simple question "What do you do?" is a public-speaking stumper. That's especially true if you suspect your audience--even the small group around a dinner table or at a cocktail party--won't understand your work. This comes up a lot when I'm training scientists, so I was delighted to find this story by wildlife specialist Amy Alfieri on Under the Microscope, a website about women and science. Here's what she wrote, in part:
Just last night I was at a dinner party and faced with the usual question: "What do you do for work?" The first thing that came out of my mouth was a laugh, as though I was just asked the most awkward question in existence. Truthfully, there is nothing awkward in what I do as a wildlife specialist; the awkwardness comes from explaining it to others. How do you tell someone who works in advertising or human resources that I pull brainstems out of dead deer to test for Chronic Wasting Disease? ....Last night's audience got a toned down description of my various tasks, and I opted to elaborate on the less gruesome jobs that I do throughout the year. Nonetheless, I made it very clear how I feel about my job and why I think the work I do is important.
If this sounds familiar, it's worth taking the time to come up with a few short, simple explanations of your work and practice them. You'll then be able to feel more confident explaining your work, even in small settings--and that's a great stepping stone for the larger audience occasions to come.

if you had $1000 to spend on speaking...

...what would you buy? I'm not talking about training, but about equipment, books, accessories or other aids to help you practice or perform better as a speaker. I'd like you to help me crowd-source a list of products you'd buy if you had this hypothetical $1000 to spare by checking out offerings on, then post your list here in the comments. I'll get the ball rolling with my own list of favorite items that you may find useful:

  • An electronic document reader like the Kindle, Amazon's 6-inch wireless reading device, or the Kindle DX, Amazon's 9.7 device. They'd take up a lot of my hypothetical $1000 budget, but will let you make notes, import documents (like speeches and notes) and carry them all without fluttering any pages. And you can have the device read your speeches to you to hear how they sound.
  • A good timer/stopwatch combination, like the Polder 898-95 Clock, Timer and Stopwatch, so you can keep tabs on your remaining time, and test yourself on how long your presentation or talk runs when you practice.
  • Some inspiration for your speaking, such as Secrets Of Superstar Speakers: Wisdom from the Greatest Motivators of Our Time, which shares top speakers' tips and encouragement.
  • A lectern, whether it's a small desktop model or the full-length version. There are all sorts of lecterns that may be useful if you expect to present in formal speaking settings. It's well worth it to have one to practice with.
  • A video camera with which to practice or record your actual presentations, so you can see how you do. I'm a big fan of the ultralight Flip UltraHD Camcorder and in September, you also can check out the new Kodak Zi8 HD Pocket Video Camera, which includes a microphone jack for better recording options. Don't forget to add accessories like a small tripod so you can record yourself, by yourself.
  • Glib sayings from other, more famous speakers: I like Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists for this purpose, but there are plenty of books with quotations and inspiration to help you. Find some new favorites!
  • Books for speakers recommended on this blog: You can find them in the Amazon box in the right-hand column, or on this list of books we like for women speakers.

Because Amazon offers such a wide range of products, I hope you won't limit yourself in this hypothetical spree. Get creative and let me know what speakers want, need and covet! Share your lists in the comments section.

Related posts: Testing the Kindle on the lectern
Features on the new Kindle that aid speakers
The speaker's wish list: practice tools

choosing simple words for technical talks

Author Carl Zimmer offers this index of technical terms he banned from his class in science writing--a class in which most of the participants were science majors, not writers. He created the list as a reminder of sorts to keep things simple when attempting to address a broader public audience, a reminder that works for speakers as well as writers:

Time and again, as I reviewed the assignments from the students, I came across words would fit comfortably in a textbook or a scientific paper, but, like an invasive insect, wreaked havoc when they were introduced into a piece of writing intended for the wide world....If you talk to them face-to-face, they will never say, “I utilized my spear gun.” But somehow they can’t avoid using utilize when they are writing, when use will do just fine....What’s most important about pushing people to use plain English is that they will have an easier time expressing the passion and poetry of the scientific life.

Clearing the clutter of technical terms will not only make it easier for you to express yourself, but will ease the way for your listeners, too. I think it's essential for scientific and academic speakers to use simple, clear words when reaching a wider audience. I've been fortunate to facilitate the American Association for the Advancement of Science workshops for scientists on communicating science and to coach technical speakers from all fields. To find out more, email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

Related posts: Don't trip over your charismatic megafauna

Carolyn Bertozzi, chemist and a top woman speaker

Monday, August 17, 2009

speaking up for a cause: j. novogratz

Jacqueline Novogratz founded and leads the Acumen Fund, which approaches nonprofit work--in this case, global humanitarian aid--with bottom-up, business tactics. I want you to watch this video from the TED conference paying particular attention to the story she tells at the beginning about her blue sweater. It's a compelling opening, just the kind of start you should plan for your next speech. Why?

  • She paints a visual picture of it with words. I can see that sweater without any pictures, slides or drawings.
  • She shares her feelings, moving us with quick but powerful descriptions of how she loved, then loathed the sweater as a child and a young woman. Her voice adds emotional emphasis just where she needs it, and she takes the time to talk about ceremoniously throwing it away with her mother. A touch of humor helps, too, as she looks back on her younger self.
  • She connects it with a moment of inspiration. Persuasion is the secret sauce of eloquent speakers, a factor that's included in nearly every definition of eloquence. We need to know--particularly if you represent a cause--what motivates you to work on that issue or with those people, why you do it, where you get your inspiration. The moment she found her sweater in Africa years later provides that in this speech.
  • She connects it to the present and her work. All the emotion and persuasion in this speech opener has a purpose. It's not just there to warm hearts, but to introduce the meat of this talk. Bringing the audience quickly through her story and telling us how it informs her work today brings us to the real point of her talk--something you, too, should plan into your presentations.

Planning a strong, personal opening like this one makes an enormous difference in securing your audience's attention from the start. Whether you speak on behalf of a cause or just want to share your passion about your work, this is a great video to learn from. As with all the TED conference talks, you can go to this link for the video, an interactive transcript, downloads and more.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Creating tweetable presentations

Editor's note: I'm sharing this guest post from my don't get caught news & info blog because it's timely for today's speakers, who need to be prepared when your audience wants to live-tweet -- or report on -- your presentation on Twitter. Our guest poster is Carmen R. Gonzalez, the Manager of Strategy and Communications at Healthcare Communications Group, a leading clinical trial recruitment and retention firm. Follow her on Twitter at @crgonzalez or visit her site Atomic Latina.

If you want to get more “web mileage” our of your PowerPoint presentations, you’ve got to prepare a few key elements to assist your viewership in sharing your message. There are three basic rules to turbo-charging the viral marketing potential of your speaking event:

1. Boil down your key points into 140-character size messages. By summarizing your primary headlines into tweetable chunks of text, you are hand-feeding your listeners to tweet your remarks. You can also draft quotes that illustrate your point into the 140-character format for the same purpose. The bottom line is if it’s short and sweet, it is easier to tweet!

2. Use hashtags! Most conference attendees these days have their laptops and cell phones handy, so you don’t think it rude if your listeners are doing double duty in your session. Instead, encourage them to tweet about your presentation and offer them a unique hashtag to create a buzz on Twitter. For the uninitiated, a hashtag is the number symbol used in front of an acronym, as in #tweetspeech or #smarttalk. So while you are offering gems of wisdom (in tweetable format), you are also helping your listeners to circulate those gems with an identifiable stamp.

3. Use links! Just as hashtags help tweeters to find your comments and locate fellow presentation attendees, URL links help everyone to source you, your citations, reference materials, and other people who are noteworthy to your speaking topic. While you are building your speech, think about links that make sense and help your audience get a fuller picture of what you are talking about. Use humor and photography to get your point across too. Make every effort to refine your presentation into something memorable.

For the ultimate Triple Tweet Effect, combine rules 1, 2, and 3. Example: If it’s short and sweet, it is easier to tweet. #Tweetable Make every presentation a tweetable moment.

Related posts: Better ways to Twitter your meeting

Tweeting at meetings gets controversial

Inviting live tweets at your meeting

are women worse than men at speaking?

Here's an inspiring post from the United Kingdom, on a site called The F Word: Contemporary UK Feminism. While it's written about women in engineering, it focuses on why women aren't prevalent in certain fields and what can be done to encourage women and girls to try. But the start focuses on misperceptions about women and their skills, including public speaking:
Women are rubbish at, engineering and technology, manual labour, electronics, computers, at being chefs (despite being expected to cook for the family), at competition, at debates (despite apparently being so argumentative), at giving speeches (despite apparently never being able to stop talking)… the list goes on (nearly) ad infinitum....How can half of the population of the world be naturally, innately worse than the other half at practically everything? The answer is: we are not! ....The truth of the matter is that for each skill or activity, some women are worse than some men, some men are worse than some women, some women are worse than some women and some men are worse than some men. It’s pretty logical, really.
Author Wisrutta Atthakor ends the piece by pointing out the accomplishments made by women in the past to fight for things like the right to speak in public, as inspiration to today's would-be engineers.

Related posts: Who talks more: Men or women?

give us your quotes

Do you have any favorite quotations about women and public speaking--by men or women? Here's one of mine:

History has many themes. One of them is that women should be quiet. (Kathleen Hall Jamieson, in Eloquence in an Electronic Age)

I'd love to compile your suggestions for a future project on the blog. Leave your suggestions in the comments and if you have a reference source, include that as well! I'm looking forward to your suggestions.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

video gallery: meet our entrants

These women took the plunge and entered our 15 Weeks to Step Up Your Speaking contest. Their essays and videos have been available on Facebook and YouTube, but here they all are for you to check out in one place:

oh, the places you'll speak!

I asked fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook about the places they find themselves speaking, and got a wide range of responses. Public speaking doesn't have to mean a speech in a big auditorium, by any means: It's an everyday matter as well as a special occasion. Here are some of the places you will find our readers speaking, as well as some tips and resources I've added, where available, for their specific speaking situations:
  • Anna Chatzimichali says she speaks in academic conferences and wondered if she was "a minority here." Not so! Lots of Eloquent Woman readers are scientists and academics. For good resources in your speaking area, check out the American Association for the Advancement of Science Communicating Science website for videos, articles and more, including signups for the workshops I lead on the topic for AAAS. Burroughs Wellcome Fund also publishes this free guide on giving talks for scientists.

  • Linda Hillman, an entrant in our contest, reports that she speaks "mostly in a church, classroom setting. I love being up in front of people with a message, information they need." If you're speaking in a church setting, you may want to check out the very short book, Words Fitly Spoken: Public Speaking for Women in Ministry.

  • Emily Culbertson sums it up for many of us: Meetings. "Most of my speaking is in work meetings and (especially) conference calls of between three to 10 people. The remainder is to groups of about 30-50," she says. A great reference book on the topic, specific for women, is Women Speaking Up: Getting and Using Turns in Workplace Meetings.

Please feel free to add more speaker settings in the comments. I'd like to keep track of the different situations women speakers face, and offer tips designed to meet those special needs.

Related posts: Speaker situations: Tour guide

Monday, August 10, 2009

What our entrants want to improve

While you're waiting to hear who wins our 15 Weeks to Step Up Your Speaking contest, I thought you might like to hear what our entrants have identified as their top priorities to improve their speaking skills. We've got a mix of experienced speakers looking to step up their game, and newer speakers aiming to step up to the plate. Here are the priorities and issues they've identified:
  • Improve pace and clarity: Entrant Robin Kendall notes: "I think a coach would help me speed up my pace so I can sound smart and sharp, but not like I am nervously chattering, or overdosed on caffeine. I don’t want to sound fake. Speaking more eloquently and at a smooth pace would keep the audience’s attention, too. Often a more aggressive speaker will interrupt me and hijack the conversation so that I don’t get to finish my point."

  • Work on how I control my voice: Emily Deck wants to work on her voice--on tone, inflection, pitch and projection--so she can "sound authoritative but not condescending." She also wants to learn how to control her voice in times of emotion. In her video, Kendall mentions vocal variety, changing her pitch and tone to sound more engaging.

  • Eyes on eye contact: Those audience members! Deck says she gets "tripped up if I look at someone too long or get nervous when they smile at me, or if I see a client or friend...I lose my train of thought and stumble." Mary Fletcher Jones notes that "eye contact makes me fluttery, especially when I make eye contact with someone in the audience and they don't smile back or worse yet they're playing with their BlackBerry." Stephanie Benoit agrees she needs to work on it, too: "I know that about myself, I just don't know what to do about it."

  • Having a focused message: "I want to get out there and just talk," says Deck. "I admire that in people." For Deck that means working without props, using movement and gestures to stay on track without slides or other aids. Jones wants to work on her over-reliance on slides: "I keep my eyes on them like they're going to walk out of the room--it's less nerve-wracking than looking at the audience." And Benoit puts it a different way, wanting to speak at a moment's notice without sounding unprepared.

  • Confidence and control: Benoit watches other, more confident speakers. "I wish I knew how to do be a speaker others want to listen to." Linda Hillman observes that "you can always tell what's going on by my face and by my body language," and wants help bringing those under control, using facial expressions and gestures, but in a focused way.

  • Stay focused and avoid tangents: Kendall wants to "keep on one point at a time...when I speak I often go off on tangents. I need to talk about one thing at a time and not jump from one topic to another, no matter how interesting I think the connection might be." Mary Jane Mahan also wants to narrow her focus when speaking.

  • Q&A, baby: "I want to improve the way I interview, including telephone interviews...and to address answering questions directly and positively," says Kendall. Handling audience questions also made it to Mahan's top three priorities; in a related area, Mahan also wants to know how to read an audience, for example, to "know how to bring them back in" when she's losing them. Connecting with the audience also is among Hillman's top goals.

  • Thinking while talking: Jones notes that she says "um almost every other word when I get nervous. I'm not aware when I'm doing it."

  • Appearance and image: Like many of our entrants, Hillman sees herself as her brand, and wants to know what to do to make sure her appearance underscores the messages she wants to send as a speaker.

We've got our work cut out for us with this list of priorities! Entries are now with the judges. What are your top priorities to step up your speaking?

Related posts: What to do when you're losing the audience

7 reasons I want you to talk less

5 eye contact tips for speakers

Focused messages come in threes

Graceful ways with Q&A

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Making the audience your orchestra

I'm always urging my trainees to leave the lectern behind, use their bodies as a prop, move around to hold the audience's attention visually and most of all, to involve and engage the audience. And here are all those principles embodied in Bobby McFerrin at the World Science Festival, where he uses the pentatonic scale--and audience expectations--to make a point about how your brain is programmed. He gets the audience to become a group orchestra of sorts. How can you use this to inspire a similar engagement with your next audience?

tell your leadership story: 2 minutes

If you think of public speaking skills as leadership skills, read this inspiring post from management professor Stew Friedman, who suggests you can be a better leader by boiling your own leadership story--your vision, goals or perspective--into a short two-minute story that better fits today's fast-moving society. Given our iPod shuffle versus hear-the-full-album world, he notes:
All the more reason, then, for giving attention to how you get others to pay attention. The trick is to show movement on the issues that matter while, for each issue, helping your key stakeholders grasp the meaning of what you're aiming to achieve — why the goal matters to the team or the organization and how we're going to get from here to there.
Friedman offers six elements that make for a good, short leadership story. Can you translate yours briefly and post it in the comments?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

training to fit your career steps

If you're considering training in public speaking, you may be approaching it as an overall issue to be addressed, one that's always with you. But you may find it useful to come at it from a different direction: Seek out training at different points in your career, and ask the trainer to tailor your lessons to help you step up from one stage to the next. Consider these important career steps that some of my clients have approached with training in hand:
  • When you're starting out and want to advance faster: No need to wait until you're senior--in fact, you have fewer bad habits to unlearn early in your career. Gaining presentation and speaking skills now can rev up your promotion chances.
  • It's your first big speech: Never delivered a formal speech to a big audience? No better time, then, to seek out training and learn how to do it right from the get-go. The same is true for any especially important or high-pressure presentation.
  • After a promotion: If your new role will require you to present, chair meetings or be more externally connected, make the case for training when your promotion's negotiated, and take advantage of it right away. It signals you're serious about your new role, and you can put the learning to use to establish yourself.
  • When you become a manager: If you've made it to manager without speaker training, invest in it now. It will help not only with major presentations, but also with handling questions, responding thoughtfully and shaping the messages you want to inspire others.
  • When you take on a volunteer leadership role: Been elected president of your professional organization or in line to take over? This is a great opportunity to be visible in your broader professional community--and you'll have plenty of times when you're expected to speak extemporaneously, chair meetings or introduce others. You'll have more impact if you take the time to develop a message for your leadership year, and learn how to put it across, to make the most of your visible role.
  • When you're starting your own venture or launching a job hunt: You'll need to be able to describe your business, or your career goals, in all manner of situations, from formal to on-the-fly. Developing a message, building your speaking confidence, and extemporaneous skills are a must.

If I can help you with speaker coaching and training for the next step in your career, email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

Related posts: What to ask a trainer

Am I too old to get speaker training?

Memo to the boss: 6 reasons I need training

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

our contest judges: bring it on!

I'm so excited to have expert help from a panel of three judges who'll help decide the winner of the Eloquent Woman's 15 Weeks to Step Up Your Speaking contest. Each of them has extensive speaking experience, and works with, researches or writes about speakers--between and among them, they know what it takes to get from starting-out to experienced speaker. They'll review our entries and deliberate on who'll win the chance for 15 weeks of online coaching and a Flip Mino HD camcorder. Here's more about our panel of judges:

  • Jennifer Collins, president and owner of The Event Planning Group, a Washington, DC-based event management company that helps organizations create strategic events and meetings. The company has been named the 2009 Outstanding Women’s Business Enterprise for the DC Region by the Women President's Educational Organization and a Top 100 Minority Business Enterprise, among many other honors. Collins is a frequent speaker and mentor for communications students at her alma mater, The American University, and is active with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and Girls, Inc. of Washington, DC – an organization providing educational programs to young girls in high risk, underserved areas.

  • Dr.Carolyn Kitch, professor of journalism at Temple University's School of Communication and Theater, where she also directs the doctoral studies program in mass media and communication. She teaches, among others, courses in gender and American mass media, and focuses her research on media and memory and on journalism history, with particular attention to gender issues and to the medium of magazines. A frequent speaker, she is a former editor and writer at such magazines as Good Housekeeping, McCall's and Reader's Digest, and is the author of The Girl on the Magazine Cover: The Origins of Visual Stereotypes in American Mass Media.

  • Dr. Jeff Porro, a speechwriter for Fortune 250 CEOs, diplomats, and other government leaders, as well as executives of some of the nation’s leading trade and professional associations. He is also an award winning screenwriter and a PhD with 20 years of experience in research, public policy, and business. Jeff discovered and researched the true story of a Jim Crow–era African American college debate team and helped turn it into the 2007 feature film The Great Debaters, starring Denzel Washington. He is one of the founders of the Debate Consortium, which is reviving the tradition of debate at historically black colleges and universities.
    • convey power without the "pow!": 5 ways

      In last week's workshop, one attendee asked about how to convey power and authority without being, well, too overpowering...I'd call it power without the "pow!" So how do you pull off powerful? Here's what works for me, both as a speaker and when I'm observing speakers that I train:

      1. Show rather than say: British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, "Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't," and I agree: Anytime you have to announce what you are, the impact of your statement is lost with your audience. Don't say you're chairing, in charge or otherwise a leader--that should be obvious from your introduction, your manner and your behavior.
      2. Control your reactions: Those might be your facial expressions, a physical reaction--like swinging your head around quickly or gesturing broadly--or verbal reactions. Psychologists will tell you that the only thing you can control in an interaction with others is how you react, so do it. Practice composing your face and hands to appear calm, relaxed and friendly. Listen to questions or comments, no matter how extreme, quietly and in control. If need be, practice some time-buying phrases to help you think while you talk, rather than react off the cuff.
      3. Posture makes perfect: The confident speaker stands tall, not hunched or too relaxed. She's ready to walk into the audience (which looks very confident), take a question or lead us further into her presentation. Make sure your shoulders are rolled down and into your back, your hands are ready to gesture, and your stance is comfortable and strongly positioned.
      4. Ditch the usual props: The most confident-looking speaker can leave the lectern behind (or lean on it), stop reading from a text and just talk to her audience, and handle Q&A without note cards. Here's my training trick: Practice one of these techniques at a time and incorporate it slowly into your speaking forays, then add another and another.
      5. Modulate your voice:Louder does not equal more powerful--in fact, the opposite may be true. You'll seem more in control, and thus, more powerful, if you can be seen to restrain your reaction. And certainly, part of controlling your reactions means not trying to one-up the loud or argumentative speaker. Think of relaxed, humorous, yet appropriate reactions, along the lines of Ronald Reagan's gentle riposte, "There you go again," a subtle way to chide a questioner politely.
      Related posts: What should I do with my hands?

      Lecterns: Use 'em or lose 'em

      Monday, August 3, 2009

      more on handling difficult Q&A

      We've been talking about ways to handle audience questions when they seem to push your presentation off-base, and here's a post from Sandy Kaye's Self Leadership Coaching Blog that furthers that discussion. "Dealing with Difficult Questions" covers the "steady stream" of persistent questions, as well as those that are off-topic or confrontational. Check out these good suggestions!

      Related posts: Graceful ways with Q&A

      Sunday, August 2, 2009

      July's top 10 tips: tests & inspiration

      You shared your tips, told us your tests, took one of ours--in the form of contest entries--and looked to this blog for inspiring role models among some of today's most powerful women speakers, CEOs and public servants. Here are the July posts that captured and held your attention the most:
      1. Testing yourself as a speaker is tops: Our 15 Weeks to Step Up Your Speaking contest was this month's most popular post, far and away--July was the month to mull and prepare your entries. We've got a great group of entrants and you'll be reading more about them in August.
      2. Q&A wins the day: You may have practiced your presentation, but what about those questions from the audience? It's not just the extemporaneous speaking portion, but the chance the Qs will throw you off your topic. Two readers asked for help on this and the result is the Graceful Ways with Q&A post, our 2nd most-popular July offering.
      3. Readers rule: Seven readers shared with us their answers to this question: What's the best speaking advice you've received--and put into actual use? And you sought out their suggestions!
      4. Speaking fear inspires a CEO: We pointed you to a profile of Carol Smith, senior VP of the Elle Group, who says she's "most proud" of overcoming her fear of public speaking.
      5. Secretaries, listen up: In a month of inspiring posts, we caught this speech opener by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who talks about how she was almost steered into a clerical position, but made it to the Cabinet. It's a great opening line and a moving inspiration.
      6. Words DO matter: This funny video animaton debunks the "Mehrabian myth" that says your audience focuses most on what they see, not what you say. But it's not quite that easy--check this out!
      7. Say it out loud: To mark the 4th of July, the U.S. Independence Day, we use National Public Radio's reading of the Declaration of Independence as a vocalizing exercise--a great way to practice on a text other than your own.
      8. Ginsberg tells all: Do you get ignored in meetings or hear others claim your ideas as their own well after you brought the thought up? Know that no less a powerhouse than Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg understands what you're experiencing.
      9. More role models: We can't get enough video examples for you to watch of top women speakers online, so enjoy these new videos from Mashable's top 7 places to watch great minds in action.
      10. CEO says go on speaking: Kenneth Cole CEO Jill Granoff rounds out this month's inspiration, talking about how speaking and presenting advanced her career.