Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Who are you? What are you looking for here?

When I started this blog, it was to fill a niche I kept stumbling over, in which women in search of good public speaking advice also could find research and information about why, sometimes, their public speaking challenges were different than those that men face.

The blog was still in the think stage when a longtime friend said to me, "I hope you make it a blog for anyone who might have to get up and talk--at a local club or committee, at a funeral or a wedding--and not just in a huge-audience formal speech, although that will be useful, too."

What's happened since is that men tell me, "That's just great advice for everyone," and "I am dealing differently with men and women and presentations at the office now that I've read about those issues on your blog." And women say, "I shared that video with my husband" or "I'm so glad I found this--I thought it was just me." People have been more forthcoming than I could hope about the speaking problems they are encountering. I knew we were all in the right place when a reader wrote in to ask how she should handle speaking at her mother's funeral--and was able to share readers' advice as well as my own.  All that is more than I expected.

Now, I want to know more about you.  I'm guessing that, too, will be more than I expected.

I'm inviting you to share in the comments your answers to two questions:  Who are you? and What are you looking for here? One of my favorite bloggers about science, Ed Yong, just revived this idea on his blog and it's turned up hundreds of interesting comments. 

I'd like to know whether you're already a frequent speaker, or haven't yet walked up to a microphone; what motivates you to learn about speaking; whether you're like a friend of mine whose public speaking mostly consists of talking into a speakerphone on hours-long conference calls on which no one can see her.  Don't forget to add what you're looking for, please. Asking what you need to know is what has kept this blog on track for a long time now. 

Knowing some of the readers, I will guess that the most valuable part of this exercise will be learning--all of us, together--what's out there in terms of people's hopes and aspirations about speaking.

Now it's your turn:  Who are you?  Share who you are and why you're here in the comments. And thanks for reading.


Anonymous said...

I'm an instruction librarian - so most of my "speaking" is teaching college students - but I do present at professional conferences on occasion, and I am also the presentation coordinator for a professional conference.

So why I'm here - to gain tips and such that will help me improve personally, as well as to spot articles I could send to presenters to encourage them in their preparation of their presentations as well.

oh and since it might be applicable to know given the topic of this blog, I am female =D

Katherine Summers said...

I'm an aspiring (female) speechwriter, so this is one of several blogs I read that discuss speechwriting, presentation, audience, etc. I'm looking for general tips--specifically regarding writing, although other aspects of public speaking are interesting and helpful, too--and a better sense of how being a female public speaker is different than being a male public speaker. I'm hoping this understanding and what lessons I can take from your blog will be useful in the future, both for writing for women and for men.

Unknown said...

I am a 30 year-old executive at a life science company. The blessings of my Asian genes is that I look about 10 years younger, but professionally it is my number one curse. I teach seminars around the globe, speak at universities and give regular presentations before the senior management of companies. Usually the audience is in shock when I begin speaking because they thought I was the intern or assistant. How do I establish credibility in as a public speaker when my looks work so dramatically against me?

Allison Wood said...

Hi Denise - I am a freelance executive speechwriter and presentation coach, with a particular focus on working with women executives. As a professional singer and actress in my "former life," I have first-hand experience with many of the presentation issues and challenges you illuminate so smartly here. I come to The Eloquent Woman to help me remember what it's like to be up there, to garner general presentation tips for my clients, and to occasionally chime in with my own observations and comments. Thanks so much for all the work you put into this blog, for our collective benefit! - Allison Wood

Dalene said...

I am an Academic Advisor for prehealth students (pre-med, dental, vet, etc.).
I speak multiple times throughout the year, mostly workshops for students (5-50 students), but also larger (100+ in the audience) special events like university Open Houses & Freshmen Orientations (students & their parents).
I've also given teachings at my church several times.
I have gotten so used to speaking in front of groups that I no longer get nervous. My problem is that I think the reverse has happened: I may be too casual about my approach. Perhaps it is because my audience is typically 17-22 year-olds, who sometimes show up in their pjs or torn-up jeans? I guess I am looking for ways in which I can be sure to stay professional - no matter my audience.
Thank you for a great blog!

Dan Harris said...

I am an international attorney and a blogger ( I speak maybe 6-8 times a year and I am a regular reader because I am always trying to hone/improve my speaking skills.

I don't care a bit that your blog is aimed at women as I don't remember a single post that I felt did not apply to me as a male.

Cate said...

I'm 25 y/o and currently an intern in the IBM Extreme Blue program, the most important part of what we do it pitch pitch pitch - we have 4 minutes to sell what we've spent the summer building.

The rest of the year I'm a graduate student. I read Presentation Zen and overhauled my speaking style, as the quality of presentations at univ. tend to be pretty poor. I'm still looking to relentlessly improve though, which is why I read blogs like this.

This year I accidentally became more of a public speaker. I TA, but additionally I've given 5 talks and a workshop. I TA and reluctantly give talks in French, which I find much harder than in English.

What I'm looking for her is essentially what you've been offering - tips and stories on giving better presentations. I guess additional issues that I'm having right now (in no particular order) are:

- Managing feedback - we get *a lot* of feedback, and as we only have 4 minutes we can't possibly integrate it all. Technical people want details that execs don't. How do we balance this?
- Giving a good demo. We're currently going top down, and explicitly addresses the questions we raise in our pitch. It's working, but what else should be be considering?
- Presenting in your second language. I hate presenting in French because I feel like I don't express myself as well as in English and I'm much less comfortable with back and forth. I'm getting pushed into it anyway, so I need to find a way of getting more comfortable in it.
- Speaking clearly with excitement. I've been told over and over that I need to speak more slowly because I have a British accent. Now, apparently I don't sound enthusiastic enough - even when I think I'm being enthusiastic my Canadian friend tells me that I am all British and dry. I have no idea how to manage this feedback, what is possible to fix, and how I would go about it (I currently live in Canada).

Olivia Mitchell said...

Hi Denise
I know that you specialize in helping scientists and medical professionals. I'd like to know what you see as the differences between scientific presentations to scientists and other "normal" presentations.

I sometimes get push-back from such cients along the lines "You just can't do that" or "that's not the way it's done".

I did a biology degree many, many years ago, but haven't been to any scientific conferences and so I would find your views really valuable.