Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August's top 10 public speaking tips and topics

Just like footprints in the sand, these 10 posts left an impression with readers this month. Here are the most popular reads on the blog for August:
  1. The all-in-one on tears while speaking struck a nerve with readers.  It compiles new and old posts to give you a set of resources and inspiration in one location.
  2. When do women speakers need a tough skin? looked at the flip side of that coin, in another well-read post.
  3. TEDWomen's coming in December. This post urged you to bring it to your community via a coordinated live-streaming event you can organize. (One reader, a librarian, is going to aim for a live-streamed event in her library. Get creative and let us know where your events will be.)
  4. Introvert alert: I renovated my checklist to prepare the whole speaker, this time to share with introverted speakers what they need to do in addition to the usual prep.
  5. Who needs live speakers? One medical conference replaced live speakers at poster sessions, and found a dud on its hands.
  6. Who speaks faster?  A reader thought there might be gender differences, but in this post from our "speaking science" series, we looked at the research and found that not gender, but other factors, do affect your speaking speed.  Pace yourself with this post.
  7. Want to sound at ease and extemporaneous?  The paradox is you'll have to practice to do so.  This post also includes other paradoxes of public speaking listed by a popular productivity blog.
  8. Two women psychology experts looked at fear and public speaking--their own.  Their insights may help you if nerves are an issue when you speak.
  9. Check (out) your audience at the door advocates an up-front-and-personal way to greet--and research--your audience as it enters the room.
  10. On my way to the BlogHer conference, I mused about whether it's easier to write or blog than to speak in public, and how that may be holding some women back.
Want more? Sign up for the free monthly newsletter, Step Up Your Speaking, which focuses on one speaking skill or isse each month; the next issue comes out next week, so it's an ideal time to sign up. Then join The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, a vibrant community that gets to discuss these topics before they appear on the blog; or contact me about your public speaking training and coaching needs. Most of the popular articles listed here started as threads on the Facebook page. Thanks for reading and participating!

Monday, August 30, 2010

3 ways your language shapes your speaking

Recently, languages--whether your mother tongue or someone else's language--have been highlighted for how they can shape the way you think, describe something colorfully or even affect your credibility with listeners. Check out these three insights into the language you speak:

Can your language shape your thinking?

It's an important issue for speakers and for speechwriters, and a subtlety you may not have considered before:  Does the language you speak shape the way you think?  That was the topic of a long New York Times article this weekend, full of insights speakers should consider before putting their language to use--or listening to someone speak in another language.

What your language requires you to consider is one aspect the article examines, and gender's among the examples:
Consider this example. Suppose I say to you in English that “I spent yesterday evening with a neighbor.” You may well wonder whether my companion was male or female, but I have the right to tell you politely that it’s none of your business. But if we were speaking French or German, I wouldn’t have the privilege to equivocate in this way, because I would be obliged by the grammar of language to choose between voisin or voisine; Nachbar or Nachbarin. These languages compel me to inform you about the sex of my companion whether or not I feel it is remotely your concern. This does not mean, of course, that English speakers are unable to understand the differences between evenings spent with male or female neighbors, but it does mean that they do not have to consider the sexes of neighbors, friends, teachers and a host of other persons each time they come up in a conversation, whereas speakers of some languages are obliged to do so.
How we give directions, talk about the space around us, and even how we perceive color also get different lenses through lanugage, says author and linguist Guy Deutscher, from whose book Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languagesthe article was excerpted.

Can it add color to your speech--across languages?

Lanugage can be colorful, indeed, but idioms vary widely from language to language. Speechwriters for jet-setting speakers and any writer who wants to use an idiom should dip into Jag Bhalla's book, I'm Not Hanging Noodles on Your Ears and Other Intriguing Idioms From Around the World. (The title idiom hails from Moscow, and is the rough equivalent of "I'm not pulling your leg.")  Interviewed on The Splendid Table radio program about food-realted idioms, the author is another rich source of background and explanations for idioms from many cultures.

You'll want this special reference for at least two reasons: To keep yourself from making international faux pas with inadvertent or inaccurate idiomatic phrases, or to target a specific audience with its own idioms.  Since idioms, by definition, can't be understood directly from the words they contain unless you are a fluent speaker of a language, this book also will be handy for those working, speaking and writing in a second (or beyond) language.  You can listen to the audio interview with the author here.

Can speaking in a second language, with an accent, hurt your credibility?

The answer is yes, and researchers think it goes beyond xenophobia.  A recent study--by two researchers who speak English with accents--found that the result is distrust, according to coverage of the research:
Apparently, when we don’t understand what someone’s saying, we lose confidence in the speaker altogether.  According to recent research, words and pictures that we can process easily — ones that we don’t have to work to decipher — tend to be perceived as not only more pleasant, clearer and less risky, but also more truthful.
Not comforting, but if you are one who's presenting in a second language, check out these tips based on a related query from a reader. Share your experiences with speaking and language in the comments.

Join the conversation on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and sign up for my free email newsletter, "Step Up Your Speaking," which covers a different topic in-depth each month--along with news of workshops and resources.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A checklist to prepare the whole speaker, annotated for introverts

My checklist to prepare the whole speaker is one of this blog's most popular posts of all time.  But many readers have asked me whether they need to do anything differently because they're introverted speakers.  I think they do, so I've remodeled the checklist just for them. Some questions are the same, and some have added considerations for introverts; I've also created a special section on audience interactions, because those often don't allow the planning that makes introverts more comfortable. The principle behind it remains the same: To succeed as a speaker, you need to prepare the whole speaker for your presentation, not just one or two parts of yourself. 

This type of preparation is great for all speakers, but utterly essential for introverts to feel more comfortable when speaking, be it in a meeting or a major speech. Introverts, 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.

Do I know what the audience wants from me?

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?

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

Do I intend to engage the audience? Do I just want them to listen? Do I intend to get them to act on something?

Can I "fake it until I make it" when it comes to projecting confidence?


What do I need to include or exclude to meet my intentions and those of the audience?

Have I allowed extra time in advance to plan my content and practice it so I'm more comfortable?

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

What emotion or personal experience can I add to the mix? Am I comfortable sharing this publicly? 

Is there content the audience can contribute? Am I comfortable with them sharing their insights?  Should I welcome others talking so I don't always have to?


Am I focused and ready? Do I feel prepared?  If I'm telling myself I won't succeed, can I silence that voice?

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

What are 3 successful things I've done before that I can use again this time?  Have I considered the advantages that introverts have because of the way they "think first, talk later?"

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

How and where will I fit those into my presentation?

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

What will help me relax and focus?

Audience Interactions

Can I be comfortable handling Q&A without feeling challenged whenever a question is asked? Have I reviewed the 17 reasons to welcome audience questions?

Can I find out what I need to learn from the audience in a way that makes me comfortable? Does that mean getting questions submitted online, or standing at the door so I can greet people one-on-one first, rather than "meeting" them all at once?

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?

Am I setting myself up for more probing questions or challenges from the audience that will make me feel uncomfortable or under attack?

Am I ready to roll with whatever situation arrives, with calm and good humor? Or am I going to give up, get scared or withdraw?

Will I feel more comfortable during Q&A if I can walk up to the questioner, so it feels like I'm speaking one-on-one? Will that be possible, given the room setup? Can I make that happen?

Do I know how to use time-buying phrases and an active listening stance during Q&A so I have a little time to think about my answer?

Should I plan to spend more time talking to audience members one-on-one after my talk, rather than take most questions from the stage, if that would feel more comfortable?

Have I planned some down time after the presentation, so that I can regroup and recover without others around?


Have I taken care of the basics? Am I rested, fed, hydrated, stretched out, relaxed? 

I need to spend 10 minutes before the speech attending to breathing and stretching. Can I find a convenient stairwell, hallway or restroom where I can do that in private?

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

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

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?

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

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


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

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?

Am I using color to my advantage? Will it help me stand out in the setting?  Can I get over the fact that I'll be standing out and noticeable?

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

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

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

Do I know how my own technology works?

If I'm soft-spoken, do I have an adequate microphone and sound system to help me?

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

Can I give my presentation even if all the technology fails? Can I speak without my slides?  Since extemporaneous speaking may not be my strong suit, what's my backup plan--written notes? more practice?

Do I have plans B, C and D ready?

Have I seen the room and the available technology ahead of time, or do I need to show up early to do that?  Am I prepared for how it feels to be on that stage, with that large or small an audience?

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

Join the conversation on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and sign up for my free email newsletter, "Step Up Your Speaking," which covers a different topic in-depth each month--along with news of workshops and resources.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bring the TEDWomen conference to your community

How are women and girls reshaping the future? That's the question TEDWomen will take two days to explore, and now TED's inviting you to participate, no matter where you are located.  While the conference will take place in Washington, DC, this December, TED will be live-streaming it for free around the world--and is encouraging you to host or create partner events to go along with or around the conference. This page on TED.com details the ways you can get involved in TEDWomen, including:
  • Signing up to host a TEDxLive event around TED Women
  • Hosting a TEDxLive viewing party of the session
  • Contributing local ideas for the program
  • Suggesting a speaker
For example, you might be in a different time zone, and able to program a local set of panels before or after some of the TEDWomen sessions, or know of an unusual speaker, male or female, who should be featured. (I'm hoping a speaker will talk about women and men and public speaking, myself...) Remember, if you want an official event, you'll need to follow TED's rules for branding, seeking sponsors and more. Go here to find out how the program's shaping up, and more details on this two-day conference.

Check out the community on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, and sign up for Step Up Your Speaking, my free monthly newsletter, here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The all-in-one on tears while speaking

Showing emotion when you talk--especially when it involves tears or tearing up--has long been a double-edged sword for women speakers. Speaking with emotion is usually a woman's strong suit, an advantage. Yet women (and sometimes men) who cry during public speaking appearances are ridiculed as weak and unable to control their emotions, particularly when they're running for election.  So are tears while speaking a bad thing?

Not necessarily.  This post rounds up several different perspectives on tears while speaking from discussions on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook as well as the blog's vault of previous posts, to give you a well-rounded perspective on the topic:
  • Understand how crying evolved:  This NPR piece looks at the purposes crying serves, physically and emotionally--and how we've evolved  to perceive it in others. The concluding line: "Tears help reveal the truth. And that's because along with the tears, we've evolved a very sophisticated ability to interpret them."
  • Get the science behind why we cry:  Psychology, culture and biochemical reactions play a role in why we cry, and why women cry more easily and more often than men do, according to researchers.
  • You can expect tears in some speaking situations:  Delivering your mother's eulogy is one of them, and in this post, a reader on Facebook asked for help in figuring out how to do that. Read the advice we gave her, and her report back on how it went and what she learned that might be useful for others.
  • Think through how to approach a tough topic in advance:  I have five ways to approach a tough topic, and crying might be part of that approach for you. No matter which tactic you adopt, taking the time to plan ahead will help you get through it.
  • Understand one reason women get criticized for crying in high-profile speeches:  This post during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign cites a journalist who wanted female candidates like Sarah Palin to strive for a professional look--perhaps because women get so few high-profile opportunities.
  • Can women cry in public? It depends, said former U.S. Representative Patricia Schroeder during the 2008 campaign, citing evidence that male candidates shed tears without negative reaction more than did female candidates.  She noted that Hillary Clinton, then a candidate for U.S. president could not afford to cry during her campaign; this post looks at the aftermath when she did, eventually, tear up on the trail.
On The Eloquent Woman on Facebook recently, I asked readers whether they have cried during public speaking. Here's what some of them said:
  • Christine Heidenreich Kless simply shared, "I have." 
  • Wendy Collins said, "Yes, and it's really hard to keep going when the emotions take over! I've had times when I had to pause and bite the inside of my cheek to get a grip so I could go on. The pain seems to help. Emotions are very honest and good. They often convey more than words can, but I try to practice things enough so that I can at least keep myself under control while I speak about something that I know will cause me to cry."
  •  Maria Elena Poulos said she cried "During a 9/11 speech."
Do you have experiences, tips or advice to share on shedding tears while speaking? Leave them in the comments.

This post made it into Andrew Dlugan's roundup of the best public speaking blog posts for the week ending September 11, 2010 on the Six Minutes blog. Thanks, Andrew!

Related posts:  The all-in-one on using emotions (all kinds) when you speak

Check out the community on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, and sign up for Step Up Your Speaking, my free monthly newsletter, here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Who needs live speakers? A poster session finds out the hard way

If you're an organizer who gets annoyed with speaker, or a speaker made to feel superfluous, look away.  This medical blogger describes what happened at a professional dermatology conference at which the traditional "poster sessions" -- free-for-alls in extemporaneous speaking, where hundreds of scientists stand next to a poster describing their research, and answering questions from passers-by -- are replaced by a digital poster session, speakers not required. Some background for those in non-technical fields: A poster session's not quite a regular panel presentation or keynote, and so it's a good experience-and-confidence-builder for researchers to share what they know, with a limited, fixed visual and an audience on its feet, ready to move along.  Poster sessions often are jovial, crowded networking scenes, but they serve a real purpose, helping researchers to get the benefit of colleagues' opinions and questions, which may help shape the research in progress. The blogger, a medical journalist, notes how it felt when she visited the "digital poster session," a roomful of computer terminals:
Once there was one doctor, who told me this was the second “session” he’d attended – neither of which was graced by the author of the scheduled poster. “I asked about it at the registration desk,” he said. “I was told it’s not mandatory for the presenter to attend. People can come in here any time and view all of the posters on screen.” The proctor in charge of the room told me only one presenter had shown up all day – and no one was there to hear her speak. I checked it out. The program is easy to navigate. It brings up the poster in a series of PDF images. There’s even a link to email the presenter – although after you input all the data you get a message saying “Thank you. Your email will be delivered after the meeting concludes.”
Even in an age where social media rules and we're eliminating paper, meeting attendees flock to conferences for the chance to see and meet speakers, face-to-face. Have you seen this at other conferences? Share your perspective in the comments.  (Photo by Colin Purrington, from Flickr, and a hat tip to Ivan Oransky for sharing this post.)

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Psychology experts analyze their public speaking fears, lessons

As a speaker and presenter, and as a public-speaking coach, I find psychology among the most useful tools for understanding audiences, how groups work, and how I interact with them.  Now two women, a psychologist and a psychoanalyst, have shared their own public speaking fears--and the lessons they've gleaned from them.

Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., author of The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You're Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate,writes in Psychology today about seven life lessons from my public speaking career that you can apply to personal, one-on-one communication, from resisting the urge to get people to agree with you to treating your listeners with respect.  She sums up her learning this way:

Public speaking sure did teach me a thing or two. I learned that I'm never going to transcend fear, but I needn't let it stop me. I learned that survival is a perfectly reasonable goal to set for myself the first dozen or so times I face a dreaded situation. I learned to observe my worst mistakes in a curious, self-loving way. I learned to hang on to the life raft that is my sense of humor. I learned that I must show up. Good lessons for all of life.
Helen Davey, a psychoanalyst and marriage and family therapist in private practice in West Los Angeles, writes Confessions of a Psychoanalyst: Performance Anxiety and the Dread of Shame on The Huffington Post.  And for readers of this blog, it couldn't have a more appealing beginning:
This blog started out as a speech. To improve my skills as a public speaker, I joined Toastmasters International, an organization where members cultivate public speaking skills by studying manuals, practicing and helping one another. Soon after joining I was called upon to give my first speech. As I expected, all my old fears and insecurities emerged. Since that experience, I've given a number of speeches at Toastmasters, and yet continue to struggle with those same issues of performance anxiety. Realizing that I'm not alone with these feelings, I wanted to share my experiences with you.
She starts by remembering her childhood and its impact on her fear of public speaking:
Rules for girls were different than for my brother. Girls were to be ladies at all times, no matter what. To call attention to oneself or to express opinions that differ from others was not okay. It was important to always let other people think they're smarter, and a girl was always, always supposed to be modest in every way. Bragging was completely unacceptable, as was any display of negative emotions.
She notes that her speaking challenges go beyond fear, calling it "a deeper underlying issue for me than anxiety and that is dread of shame over exposing my anxiety."  (That's despite the fact that most audiences can't tell you're anxious, which is why I advise you to fake it until you make it, confidence-wise.)

While both women make clear the barriers they see, they also express a lot of resilience in tackling them. What are your takeaways from their lessons? Do you see something similar in your own speaking? Share your own lessons in the comments.

Join the conversation on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and sign up for my free email newsletter, "Step Up Your Speaking," which covers a different topic in-depth each month--along with news of workshops and resources.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Check (out) your audience at the door: 8 reasons speakers should

When you're giving a speech or presentation, do you stay away from the audience before you start? It's easy enough to do: There's almost always a speaker table, the organizer to talk to, a green room or the audio-visual with which to occupy yourself.  You're about to impart your wisdom, you need some quiet time, you want to focus your thoughts one last time.

Despite all that, there are plenty of top speakers who do exactly the opposite. You'll find them greeting participants as they enter the room, or milling about, shaking hands and starting short conversations as the crowd comes in.  At a presentation, they're talking to the early arrivals and introducing themselves with a handshake and a smile as others join the group. 

Do they know something you don't?  Maybe so. While there are some situations where you must stay apart from the audience, I recommend that you consider connecting before you start to speak formally.  Here are my reasons:
  1. It's a great grace note that will make you memorable:  Talking to audience members in advance, or at the door, is unusual enough that you'll automatically stand out as a speaker.
  2. You're adding value to their experience:  After all, the audience came to see you.  Let them do that up close, as well as from their seats. It's an easy way to take their experience of your talk from fine to fantastic.
  3. You'll hear more from the introverts:  Plenty of audience members will never, ever get up and ask a question in front of others, but they might well share an important question or insight with you one-on-one. Letting them do that in advance clues you in to audience feedback you might never otherwise hear.
  4. It works for introvert and extrovert speakers:  If you're an introvert, you're simply meeting each person one at a time, a more manageable prospect than facing a big group you haven't met yet.  If you're an extrovert, you'll gain energy from meeting a lot of people.
  5. You're warming them up better than any bad joke can:  Greet your audience, one by one, even briefly, and they'll feel as if they know you a bit more when you do start speaking.
  6. You have a better chance of sharing your business cards:  If you're there to network, you'll never catch up with every audience member after the presentation--but greeting every participant lets you share your card, a handout or some other takeaway.
  7. You can assess the mood of the room:  Asking "What are you hoping to learn today?" and observing not just the answers but the mood of your participants, in advance, will de-mystify the audience and give you the data you need to make any adjustments in your talk.
  8. It's the best introduction you can get:  The middle-man introduction will still happen, but this way, you meet the audience directly, no go-betweens. They can see for themselves who you are, up close.
This post was among those included in the latest round of  Andrew Dlugan's Six Minutes blog roundup of the best public speaking articles in the blogosphere. (It's a great way to scan the top work in public speaking.) Thanks, Andrew!

Related posts: The networked speaker: 10 ways to make the most of your next gig

Join the conversation on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and sign up for my free email newsletter, "Step Up Your Speaking," which covers a different topic in-depth each month--along with news of workshops and resources.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The practice paradox in public speaking

On the Stepcase Lifehack blog, these 11 paradoxes of being a better public speaker offer a near-dozen examples of ways you can turn around public-speaking dificulties in ways that aren't obvious.  But the author missed my all-time-favorite paradox of public speaking:  It's the speakers who have practiced the most who look the most unrehearsed.  They're also the speakers who are the most focused on their audiences and not on themselves; the least nervous; and the most successful, in my experience. Knowing their framework, approach and anticipated things-that-can-go-wrong, they're free to go off the plan or to focus on grace notes to put their points across.  The practiced speaker has a secure base, and a sense of where she is and where she's going by the end of the presentation.

Practice always seems like an extra, or something you can't fit into your schedule, or a way to get embarrassed in front of an even smaller audience.  But without it, you won't be able to take that speech or presentation from mediocre to magic or good to great.  Try my 5 stealth ways to find time to practice as a starting point.

Join the conversation on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and sign up for my free email newsletter, "Step Up Your Speaking," which covers a different topic in-depth each month--along with news of workshops and resources.

Monday, August 16, 2010

When do women speakers need a tough skin?

When women experience difficulty speaking, or just speaking up, in the workplace, what can they do? A few recent articles suggest they toughen up--but at least one suggests that tactic may not work to their advantage when negotiating.

In this Washington Post commentary, Sharon Meers says women need "Thick Skin, and More of It."  Meers is the co-author of Getting to 50/50: How Working Couples Can Have It All by Sharing It All.She also is a former managing director at Goldman Sachs who now works in Silicon Valley.

She says, of the way we raise girls:
Girls also need a layer that boys don't - added protection to be successful outsiders, until we finally get comfortable with females wielding power as overtly as men do. Not long after I snapped at Derek's boss, I was assigned a mentor. This woman was the rarest of breeds, a female proprietary trader, Wall Street 1988. She took me to drinks and said, "You're going to be lonely. But you'll succeed if you want to."
Note that she's not suggesting you'll become a real insider...just a successful outsider.  She shares this study that quantifies that feeling:
Columbia professor Claude Steele recently conducted a study showing that even female engineers (no strangers to being outnumbered by men), have higher heart rates, temperature and distraction when they are less than 25% of the room. Make the room gender-neutral and group results improve - women perform well and men perform no worse.
Meers cites this Harvard Business Review article by Jeffrey Pfeffer on "Women and the Uneasy Embrace of Power" to make her case. Pfeffer says, "It's true that women tend to be perceived more negatively and be less liked when they use the same power strategies as men. (This is an unfair reality that Alice Eagly has referred to as 'the double bind.') But there is little evidence to suggest that those strategies aren't just as effective for women."

On The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, readers reacted this way, and shared some tips and resources:

  • Shelley Hanes said: "I just spoke with one of my supervisors yesterday about my need to get thicker skin. I also have had people who know me well say the same... I am working on it. I agree building extra skin takes time, life experience and putting into practice new ideals. Thank you I needed to read this post at this point in my life."
  • Coffee DaRealist Beanz shared, "I also absolutely love the book entitled A Woman in Your Own Right: Assertiveness and You. It teaches women about being assertive without being aggressive. Must Read!!!"
When should you reconsider a tough demeanor?

Harvard's Program on Negotiation asks "when does personality matter?" when it comes to negotiation, and cites research showing it may not matter as much as we think it does:
Why do we hold on to the notion that toughness matters so much in negotiation? In part because of the predictable and repeated errors we make when sizing up situations and processing information. Prior to negotiation, a fixed-pie bias leads us to falsely assume that our interests are incompatible with those of our counterpart. Once at the table, we’re vulnerable to the negativity bias, which causes us to react more strongly to negative information, such as threats, than to positive information, such as revelations about possible tradeoffs.
What to do instead? Stay curious about the person with whom you're negotiating and the issue, asking questions to elicit information and to look for different preferences you can exploit to create a shared "win."

What do you think? What are your experiences? Share them in the comments.

Join the conversation on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and sign up for my free email newsletter, "Step Up Your Speaking," which covers a different topic in-depth each month--along with news of workshops and resources.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

New way to weigh in on Eloquent Woman blog posts

Look at the bottom of any blog post on The Eloquent Woman and you'll now see a new way to weigh in: Checkboxes that let you say "will try this," "afraid to try this," or "inspiring!"  Try out the new buttons on these posts that are among the most popular with readers:

  1. The Step Up Your Speaking contest helped winner Stephanie Benoit's progress, but is a coaching program where all our readers can benefit.
  2. This blog's all about the preparation, and the Checklist for the Whole Speaker post -- a list that considers your intent, content, mind, body, wardrobe and technology before you set out to speak -- is a perennial favorite.
  3. You'll speak better if you gesture, and this post on the science behind effective gestures has become a regular reference for our readers.
  4. Conveying power is a key component of eloquence. No wonder these 6 strongest speaker statements are so well-read. Among them: "I don't know," one of the most powerful for any speaker.
  5. Questions can sometimes get your presentation off-track. Can you welcome questioners and manage Q&A at the same time? Our graceful ways with Q&A can help.
  6. Readers have a host of questions about the most important part of body language: eye contact. So we offered 5 eye contact tips for speakers, a perennially popular post.
  7. Storytelling's another critical skill for the eloquent speaker. In this post, you can see a top scientist demonstrate how to tell a story on yourself -- the most powerful stories are the most personal ones, I find.
  8. Can a tour guide be eloquent? I think so, and guiding tours is just one of many everyday situations where women have speaking opportunities. This post about my tour guide at the Martin Guitar Factory shares what you can learn from her.
  9. Readers and their questions inspire my best posts, and here, 7 readers offer you the best speaking advice that they've ever received--and put to actual use. Their tips cover Q&A, intros, practice, breathing, audience engagement, pacing and more.
  10. When the speaker needs to catch her breath, another reader-prompted post, looks at what's really happening when you go breathless while speaking--and what to do about it.
Join the conversation on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and sign up for my free email newsletter, "Step Up Your Speaking," which covers a different topic in-depth each month--along with news of workshops and resources.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tricks, tips and thinking about slides: Four ways

Slides are always an option, whether you use or forego them.  If you haven't revved up or rethought your slide tactics, take a moment to consider these four options before you plan your next presentation:
  • Can you use your slides to drive tweets from the audience?  Dan Zarella thinks so, and shows you how to structure slides that will encourage and perhaps shape the takeaways that translate into good Twitter coverage.
  • Animate text and objects in PowerPoint 2010, using this step-by-step tutorial from the How-To Geek.  Just promise me you won't overuse this tool and make your audience dizzy or disgusted.
  • Make up with PowerPoint, says Kevin Dugan, whose Strategic Public Relations blog suggests you try new tactics ranging from improv with slides to a musical soundtrack to fall in love again.  (There's an embedded video to share one of the tactics.)
  • The era of the slide presentation is one we're still in, although Olivia Mitchell says it's time to get ready for the third era of presenting--the era of the audience. Step away from your slides and enjoy this thoughtful piece that puts them in perspective.
Join the conversation on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and sign up for my free email newsletter, "Step Up Your Speaking," which covers a different topic in-depth each month--along with news of workshops and resources.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fast Company's "7 easy steps" to giving a TED Talk...and the TED Commandments

Fast Company magazine offers this video with insights on why most TED Talks are 18 minutes and how to get yours to conform or just qualify for consideration, with some data on the most popular talks--the most-viewed talk, with 6 million views, was by neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor, who talked about her experiences after having a stroke (and she used a real human brain, spinal cord attached, as a prop).

Perhaps more useful to you: The TED Commandments, which are given to every TED speaker to guide their presentations. Here they are, for you to use in your next speech:

1. Dream big. Strive to create the best talk you have ever given. Reveal something never seen before. Do something the audience will remember forever. Share an idea that could change the world.

2. Show us the real you. Share your passions, your dreams ... and also your fears. Be vulnerable. Speak of failure as well as success.

3. Make the complex plain. Don't try to dazzle intellectually. Don't speak in abstractions. Explain! Give examples. Tell stories. Be specific.

4. Connect with people's emotions. Make us laugh! Make us cry!

5. Don't flaunt your ego. Don't boast. It's the surest way to switch everyone off.

6. No selling from the stage! Unless we have specifically asked you to, do not talk about your company or organization. And don't even think about pitching your products or services or asking for funding from stage.

7. Feel free to comment on other speakers' talks, to praise or to criticize. Controversy energizes! Enthusiastic endorsement is powerful!

8. Don't read your talk. Notes are fine. But if the choice is between reading or rambling, then read!

9. End your talk on time. Doing otherwise is to steal time from the people that follow you. We won't allow it.

10. Rehearse your talk in front of a trusted friend ... for timing, for clarity, for impact.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Get confident slowly: One speaker's insights

Get Rich Slowly has been called the "most inspiring money blog," but today, I think it's among the most inspiring public speaking blogs.  Put down what you're doing and read this: In "How to Build Confidence and Overcome Fear," blogger J.D. Roth uses his fear of public speaking to think through how to get confident...slowly.  Here's where he starts:
Last week I did something that scared the hell out of me. I stood in front of nearly 200 financial planners and I talked to them about why financial blogs are a good thing....I’ve had enough feedback to understand that I’m an effective communicator — when I use the written word. I’m less confident as a speaker. I don’t have time to pause to formulate my thoughts. I’m not able to edit. I’m afraid of being trapped in a corner without being able to talk my way out. Basically, I’m scared to speak.
For the last two years, however, he has been saying "yes" to all media interviews and speaking opportunities, precisely because they scare him. Here's why:

To say “no” is to live in fear. My goal is to continually improve myself, to become better than I am today. One way to do that is to do the things that scare me, to take them on as challenges, and to learn from them — even if I fail.
Roth urges you to try "the magic of thinking big" to do so, and this post is a long, thorough and thoughtful pep talk on just how to do so. He has 14 sound pieces of advice (I like "get off your 'but'" best) and a reading list if you want more guidance and inspiration. Would you try the approach of saying "yes," even if speaking scares you? Share your reactions in the comments, please.

Join the conversation on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and sign up for my free email newsletter, "Step Up Your Speaking," which covers a different topic in-depth each month--along with news of workshops and resources.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blog carnival: What do speechwriters want to know from speakers?

If you've never worked with a speechwriter, there are lots of advantages:  You'll get turns of phrase, concise versions of your long-windedness, and someone else to think through a coherent talk.  But before all those nice results, you need to talk to the speechwriter. Really, you do.

I only emphasize this because Speechwriters I Have Known beg primarily for one thing: "Tell your clients to give us time, early, and well before the speech."

Speechwriters have many skills: They can look up apt quotations and figure out where to work them in. They can give you a narrative, pull disparate items into a thematic whole, remind you whom to thank or give you those grace notes that will have the crowd beaming  For an important, high-pressure or data-laden talk, they can boil down your details, create the call to action and take at least one burden of speaking off your shoulders.

Fortunately, lots of speechwriters follow The Eloquent Woman. In case no one's told you about what speechwriters need from you to succeed, I'm going to ask them to contribute to a blog carnival on the topic. Here's how it works: Speechwriters, speaking coaches or speakers who have worked with speechwriters are invited to post on their own blogs about what's most helpful to share with speechwriters.  Post to your own blog by August 27 at midnight Eastern US time, and send me the link; I'll compile the advice into a post with all the crowdsourced advice.  So tell us: What do you want to know from speakers? What helps you shape your advice or the content--and why?

I'm looking forward to your contributions. Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz with any questions.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Would you rather express yourself on a blog, or give a speech?

On The Eloquent Woman on Facebook last week, I asked:
Would you rather write and publish your thoughts on a blog, or give a speech to a roomful of people?
I've been thinking about that choice recently while attending the BlogHer conference, wondering whether women find it easier to write than to speak their minds. At the conference, dozens of women bloggers told me they love expressing themselves on their blogs, but are shy about speaking. On the Facebook page, ten readers responded with both options in mind:
  • DeAnna Troupe chose "Blog. Then I won't have open mouth insert foot syndrome."
  • Katherine Nobles said, "Speech. I can always gauge the reaction of the audience then. Luckily, as a teacher, I am used to talking in front of groups! As long as I am confident in my subject material, I can make on the spot adjustments..."
  • Shauna Harrison confided, "I'm a roomful of people kind of girl."
  • Lauri Sheats Rottmayer went up the middle, saying, "I like both. :-)"
  • Carolyn Lawson Low made her choice clear: "Blog, blog, blog, blog, blog!"
  • Jill Whalen said, "Definitely both for me!"
  • Linda Mahon Howard prefers to "Definitely blog, but am somewhat comfortable with giving a speech to a roomful of people--especially when it is a topic that I am passionate about."
  • Sharon Larisey chooses to "Blog...horrific stage fright."
  • Weeze Bernier shared that "I'd choose to do a speech. It's all about the audience and "delivering" the message. I still haven't learned to trust myself with the same freedom in a blog."
  • Brenda Abney said she would "Blog. That way I don't miss or forget anything."
Which would you choose and why? Share your perspective in the comments.

Related post: On the way to BlogHer, musing about women's speaking vs. writing voices

Join the conversation on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and sign up for my free email newsletter, "Step Up Your Speaking," which covers a different topic in-depth each month--along with news of workshops and resources.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

At #BlogHer, a haiku on women and public speaking

At the recent BlogHer conference, one event featured all sorts of handcrafted items--a real contrast to the online and virtual work of the women bloggers in attendance.  An artist made sketches; crafters were making hand-assembled buttons. At one station, Momku blogger Alana Reynolds, who blogs haiku about motherhood, had been given a tiny blue portable manual typewriter on which to compose haiku for the meeting's attendees.  I told her my blog was about women and public speaking, or just speaking up.  She thought about it for a few minutes, then hunt-and-pecked out this gem for me to take away:
What happens when a woman speaks her mind?
Find out. Let the words fly.
You can see a photo of the original, complete with faint type from the bad ink ribbon on the typewriter, below. It's a great souvenir from BlogHer--and I hope, some inspiration for your public speaking.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Speaking science: Speaker speed limits

Over on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, Meg Mobley is wondering: “Does anyone else notice gender differences in speaking speed?”

Does anyone else notice gender differences in speaking speed? I'm a scientist and I notice that men (older men in particular, but many younger men as well) tend to speak very slowly and deliberately, almost to the point of pausing after every thought…Meanwhile, female speakers smoke along, giving a notetaker fingercramps...I am young and female, and talk fast, partly out of nerves but partly because I have a lot to say!
It’s a great question, but unfortunately the science is a little mixed on the subject. Although some researchers have found that women and men speak at different rates, University of Pennsylvania linguist Mark Liberman notes that most studies show only a small, often statistically insignificant difference between men and women’s speaking speed. We’re talking two to three extra words per minute--which doesn’t sound like a huge gender gap. And it’s often the men who speak slightly faster.

Just like different roads call for different speed limits, different speaking situations call for different speech speeds. Friendly chatter can zip along at 300-400 words per minute. But if you’re speaking in a formal setting, the ideal rate for your audience is more like 140-160 words per minute. That’s the rate that seems to be the best for listening comprehension—it’s also the speed of most audio books.

Depending on your audience, you might even want to set your cruise control a little slower. Young children and older people understand more when speech rates slow down to about 120 words per minute.

But a speaker might have a lead foot when it comes to reading her talk, and exceed the listening speed limit. When newscasters read from their teleprompters, they sometimes reach speeds of 210 words or more per minute. It’s something to watch out for if you tend to speak from a prepared text.

If high speeds are causing your ideas to snarl up like bad traffic in your listeners’ heads, you can use a variety of “road signs” to vary your speed wisely and well. Nerves can make a speaker speed up.  But if you find yourself racing to fit in everything you have to say, it might be that you’re saying too much. Over at the Six Minutes blog, Andrew Dlugan has a video critique that gets to the heart of this problem. Be ruthless in editing your talk, Dlugan says, so that your audience can absorb your main message without succumbing to information overload.

And if you had to leave a favorite anecdote or fact by the side of the road? You can always cover more ground with a question-and-answer session. A Q-and-A is a great way to sound smart and further connect with your audience--and that’s safe at any speed.

Freelance writer Becky Ham contributed this new report in our "Speaking Science" series on the research behind your questions on public speaking.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Getting would-be candidates to speak up, at #BlogHer

At this year's BlogHer conference, I spent today at a special session jointly presented by BlogHer and The White House Project, designed to help women bloggers think about taking the next step on their issues by running for public office.

I went to this advance session because -- in my view -- public speaking's a major hurdle for any woman candidate.  It's tough to get elected without speaking up and speaking to groups.  And for women, there's the low proportion of female elected officials to contend with. One speaker today recalled watching Chris Matthews during the 2008 presidential campaign say that Hillary Clinton just didn't sound presidential, prompting her to retort to her TV, "Of course not! We haven't had a woman president yet." 

Of course, I went hoping to listen for hesitation specific to speaking.  Is fear of speaking something that keeps women from running for office who otherwise might do so?  The answer is yes and no, based on my sampling of the crowd.  At least one woman I met had made a successful run for school board--but was telling anyone who'd listen that her hesitancy to speak was holding her back.  And one of my table-mates admitted she's mulling a run for local office, but asked, "Can you help me stop shaking when I speak?"  She soldiers through presentations, but finds the physical reaction devastating.  Still other participants were working through a different sort of problem:  Making the leap from advocating for their single issue to representing the issues of constituents they might not agree with.

Today's training, while not focused on speaking, offered some good concrete tips on messaging and a few resources I'd recommend to women who want to try a more active role in civic life, including these:
  • Authenticity may be as important as confidence:  Political strategist Kathryn Poindexter, who also conducts trainings for the White House Project, shared this intriguing observation about speaking in public for candidates:  While many say they can't run because they're not confident, a more difficult problem is the candidate who tries to shape herself into something that she thinks will be electable. It's easier to be authentic than it is to be confident, she said, pinpointing the nexus between the two as being able to "sit with who you are and know that that's enough." 
  • Keep your message simple:  Poindexter also counseled political campaigners to keep their messages honest, simple and in the form of stories.  "Think children's books.  Your message should be as simple as Everybody Poops," she said, noting that voters don't want to hear your full resume, your policy-wonk perspective or everything you know about wastewater treatment. 
  • Get some resources:  The White House Project has trained some 10,000 women considering runs for public office, with a goal to do much more, so check out its workshops.  Former ambassador Linda Tarr-Whelan's book Women Lead the Way: Your Guide to Stepping Up to Leadership and Changing the World,and White House Project co-founder Marie Wilson's book Closing the Leadership Gap: Add Women, Change Everythingboth offer insights based on data and experience of women candidates in the U.S. and around the world.
Have you run for public office--or are you holding back? Share your perspective in the comments. What would motivate you to run?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Who are the top plain-speaking government officials?

Speaker coach Claire Duffy asked for our help in finding videos of government officials discussing rules and laws clearly.  I'm still hopeful our readers have more ideas, but in the meantime, here are three that caught my eye and ear.  In each case, I tried to err on the side of anti-spin, instead preferring to help Claire's search for clarity and explanatory speaking:

Nigeria's former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, describes in this TED Talk how citizens and government are working together to call out and stop government corruption. She also focuses on economic reforms, and the opportunities to invest in women's businesses to support African economies.  This speaker uses concrete data and descriptions--listen to how she dryly describes how change in dealing with corruption took this country from 4,500 landline phones to 32 million GSM lines "and counting," making it the second telecommunications market after China.  Add to that a little more dry humor, and simple, straightforward language and she unties a tangled knot of issues, something any good government speaker should do:

Claire's looking for government officials who can speak directly to the citizenry, and here's a great example on video of Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm reading citizen emails about health care reform and answering them in terms of what it would mean for the state--which has among the highest rates of unemployment in the U.S. currently. Granholm's a master of the gesture, but also of plain language. Better yet, she directs these comments to "you," connecting herself to the audience. A low-jargon treat.

At my former agency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's administrator, Lisa Jackson, also keeps it simple in her terminology. I know firsthand how complex regulatory language can be; here, in an Earth Day appearance on David Letterman's show, Jackson stays out of that swamp and keeps her comments at a level anyone can comprehend, without erring in fact.

I know for certain there are more examples of government communicators making themselves clear about laws and regulations. Please, share links to your examples--preferably on video--in the comments!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On the way to BlogHer, musing about women's speaking vs. writing voices

There's something about this Verizon ad, part of its "Rule the Air" campaign, that strikes me as only a part of the story.  It's a story about young women communicating, giving voice to their thoughts and ideas without being discriminated against--the idea being that online, no one can see your race or gender or age, so your ideas can take prominence and the network gives you power.

It's a similar to the theme of "For Women, Social Media is More Than Girl Talk," a post suggesting that those who dismiss women's dominance of social networking as gossip miss the substance going on in those conversations.  The author notes women's role in helping to change language throughout history, and their influence as communicators.  She's right. The ad's right. Online networking and discussions and sharing are opening up lines of communication for women--and women are taking advantage of them.

But it's largely about the written, not the spoken, word.  As the ad suggests, equality of expression may depend, for many women, on not being seen so that they're not discriminated against for age, race or gender. Yes, in 2010, that's a major corporation's message.  In that light, women's domination of social networking might be the modern-day version of what happened in other eras when speaking in public was frowned upon or forbidden:   When not allowed to speak publicly in person, out loud, women took to writing to express themselves, often anonymously or under pseudonyms--often male names.   Even when they could publish under their names, they still may have been forbidden to speak. (If you haven't read Virginia Woolf's pithy discussion of this in A Room of One's Own,--itself based on speeches she gave, by the way--you need that perspective.) And as Librarian by Day points out, a pseudonym has its allure, making it seem possible to say anything without retribution.

Maybe that's why that ad strikes an odd note with me. Why not use it to encourage all levels of expression--not just those in which the women remain hidden behind their thoughts and a cellphone?  Power and the ability to "rule the air" shouldn't--doesn't--depend on women being invisible.

This week, I'm attending BlogHer '10, the conference for women bloggers, and I'm eager to see the energy that women create in social media, in real life.  I don't doubt for a minute the passion and energy and confidence of my sister attendees, or any woman using social networks to express herself.  But I've spent a lot of time mulling why it is that many women who write well and are clearly able to express themselves hesitate to speak in public.  Public speaking requires you to literally "put yourself out there," physically present and in view in a way that no written work (or even a video) requires.  It's a three-dimensional, in-real-time experience with variables you can't control -- like a live audience, for starters.  And I say that as one who began her career writing professionally, and who has written every day since.

That's why I'm curious about one of the preconference offerings from The White House Project.  It's a half-day workshop designed to help women interested in blogging "take their leadership one step further" and consider running for public office. I'll be watching for the role that public speaking plays in that transformation, as it's a requirement for candidates and public officials once they're in a governing role.  And I'm looking forward to talking to those interested in or curious about running, to find out what kind of barrier public speaking poses to them, if at all.

As usual, I'm also curious about what you think. Do you find writing and publishing and online networking easier than public speaking--or not?  Share your perspective in the comments.  And if you're in New York for BlogHer, let's find each other and meet. I look forward to that opportunity.

Looking for video of a good government communicator

Reader Claire Duffy, a presentation and speaking coach based in Sydney, is looking for a few good government communicators--on video. Can we help?  Here's what she posted on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook:
Help! I'm looking for a You Tube example of someone who makes regulations, rules, laws etc. sound interesting to the people who need to know about them. It's to use in a workshop for government officials (especially in human services) who want to improve their relations with their clients. So far... I have searched fruitlessly...anyone got any suggestions?
I know from my time as a senior official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that this can seem like a tall order--and yet, I have great confidence that we can help Claire.  The last time a speaker coach asked for help of this type (specifically, for outstanding women speakers of today, rather than those from history), we wound up with many examples for all to share.

Please share links below or on the Facebook page with videos you think are good examples--and tell us why. Thanks for helping Claire!