Thursday, August 31, 2017

Why my favorite conference won't let speakers sit down

The UK Speechwriters' Guild and European Speechwriter Network conference is my favorite for many reasons, but particularly this one: They don't let the speakers sit when delivering their remarks.

Here's how organizer Brian Jenner explains the policy:
We don’t let speakers sit down. If a speaker is telling us something important, we prefer them to stand up. We don’t do sofa interviews and we don’t do panels – because you can appear on those without proper preparation.
Yes, speakers, we're on to those of you who sit on a panel scribbling notes and looking things up on your phone at the last minute, taking advantage of your seat and the table in front of you. And we already know that seated interviews are a signal that the (typically celebrity) speaker didn't want to prepare remarks. Jenner likes a well-prepared speaker, and I do, too. But there are other key reasons why you should stand when you speak:
  1. Standing improves your vocal quality:  You'll breathe, project and sound better if you're standing, in part because your diaphragm will have the space to do its job at top performance levels. But you'll also sound more energetic--try it out. This works on conference calls as well as on stage.
  2. You'll feel more energetic when you stand. Energy is vital for public speaking, which requires so much of you. If you're just sitting and listening, your body starts to relax after about 10 minutes, and you lose attention and focus the longer you are in that state. This reason alone is why I suggest other formats when invited to do a seated interview on stage.
  3. Standing gives the audience a visual focus.  In the old parlance, "you have the floor" really meant that you were out on the floor, standing as the speaker.  We're conditioned to watch the person standing when all else are seated, so take advantage of that. And standing means more of the audience can see you.
  4. Standing gives you options for movement.  It's tough to be dynamic from a chair, but when you are standing, you can move closer to or away from your slides, a questioner, or the group.  You can move to keep and hold their attention or to illustrate a point. 
  5. It establishes your authority.  Standing for your presentation in a small meeting, or standing up when your turn comes by on a panel, helps you stand out as a leader. It's a subtle way to show you're taking charge without having to say so.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Bart Heird)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

I read a lot about women and public speaking, and post my finds first on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. But I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. Here's what I've been reading lately:
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, August 25, 2017

28 famous speeches by women in the United Kingdom

One impetus for this blog has been the many lists of famous speeches which list few or no women speakers--including a top 100 list of 20th century speeches published by The Guardian. On it were just three women speakers for the entire century: suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst; writer Virginia Woolf; and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, making the most recent woman's speech on the list from the 1980s. I knew we could do better.

So I'm proud that the blog now has a collection of 28 famous women's speeches from England, ranging from 1588 to 2017, and covering the worlds of sport, art, theater, politics, feminism, literature, activism, sexism, music, film, science, television, engineering, technology, and disability. And yo, The Guardian, more than half of my list occurred in the 20th century. No paucity of women's speeches there. Each of these speeches appears in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women, and at the links below you will find--where available--text, audio or video, and tips you can glean from these famous women speakers, ignored no more:
  1. Elizabeth I's 1563 speech on her singlehood was an occasional type of speech she gave from time to time, explaining to her Parliament why she was still single and childless. For this one, you can see the script in her own handwriting.
  2. Elizabeth I's 1588 speech to the troops at Tilbury has a few different texts that survive, but it's still considered among the most stirring speeches of all time.
  3. Ellen Terry's lectures on Shakespeare's women, delivered between 1911-1921, took the famous actress on an around-the-world speaking tour that let her explore feminist themes in the Bard's work.
  4. Emmeline Pankhurst's 1913 "Freedom or Death" speech laid out the stakes for women suffragists in its title. She delivered it on a fundraising trip to the U.S., taking a break from being imprisoned over and over in England.
  5. Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" lectures in 1928 became a long-form essay that has inspired writers--particularly women writers--ever since. She also explored familiar themes to women speakers in these lectures and her description of them.
  6. Virginia Woolf's 1931 "Professions for Women" lecture, the follow-on to the 1928 lectures, talked about upending the view that women's work was solely in the home. She employs a powerful metaphor to make the case.
  7. Dorothy Sayer's 1947 speech on the lost tools of learning brought her back to the University of Oxford, where her own degree was delayed five years because of her gender. She argued the merits of a classical education for the post-World-War-II generation
  8. Julie Andrews's 1964 Golden Globes speech was brief and saucy, tweaking the nose of the studio head who didn't cast her in "My Fair Lady," allowing her to win the award for the role she got instead: "Mary Poppins."
  9. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's 1976 "Iron Lady" speech was really titled "Britain Awake," outlining tough defenses in the Cold War. But the Soviets dubbed her the "Iron Lady" after this speech, and the nickname stuck.
  10. Princess Diana's 1997 speech on banning landmines was delivered in London following a fact-finding mission to Angola. She was still speaking on this issue right up until her death later in this year.
  11. Elizabeth II's 1997 tribute to Princess Diana brought the frequent-speaking monarch a new challenge: A worldwide live audience on television, her first time doing a live-remote speech.
  12. Jane Goodall's 2002 TED talk on what separates us from the apes drew on the British scientist's Welsh storytelling ancestors, music, and even Shakespeare--all good influences for a talk that, in the end, is about communication.
  13. Elisabeth Murdoch's 2012 speech to the UK television industry took her audience to task for failing to invite a woman to deliver this prestigious lecture, then gave a personal and passionate speech about her work.
  14. Caroline Criado-Perez's 2013 speech on cyber-bullying followed her campaign to get an image of Jane Austen on the currency. It describes the violent, virulent cyber-bullying she enduring, recording it for history.
  15. Tanni Grey-Thompson's 2013 speech on disability memorialized the first disabled member of Parliament and told her audience it needed to "shout a bit louder" about the issue.
  16. Olympic cyclist Nicole Cook's 2013 retirement speech pulled no punches in describing the underfunding, sexism, and other challenges women in sport face.
  17. Sue Austin's 2013 TEDMED talk described her performance art diving in deep ocean in a wheelchair...and pointed out to the audience the mental cages that entrap them.
  18. Charlotte Church's 2013 industry lecture on sexism in the music industry started with a bang: Asking the audience to picture male musicians depicted as women artists are. 
  19. Tilda Swinton's 2013 "David Bowie Is" speech at the opening of a major exhibit about Bowie put her squarely in the role of fangirl...to good effect. It's a loving, thoughtful tribute.
  20. Theresa May's 2014 speech taking the UK Police Federation to task, delivered during her term as Home Secretary, is a fierce, effective reform speech that made immediate waves outside the hall. Inside, she got polite applause at the start, but at the end, her audience was all stony silence.
  21. Emma Watson's 2014 United Nations speech on being a feminist is notable because we've since learned she had been advised to leave the f-word--feminist--out of it entirely. I'm glad she thought better of that.
  22. Penny Mordaunt's 2014 loyal address in Parliament, the formal response to the Queen's speech opening Parliament, was just the second time a woman had ever been asked to deliver this high-profile speech. Let's just say she made the most of it.
  23. Mary Beard's 2014 lecture on the public voice of women is a tour de force from the classics scholar. I quote this speech often, which is so thoughtful on why and how we ignore eloquent women.
  24. Dame Stephanie Shirley's 2015 TED talk shared a lifetime of lessons from this tech pioneer, who figured out how to start a successful company on the kitchen tables of women programmers.
  25. Engineer Danielle George's Royal Institution Christmas lectures in 2015 would already be high-stakes, featured on television and featuring only the sixth woman to deliver these prestigious science talks. But to do it while pregnant was just one of the many surprises in these engaging talks.
  26. Mhairi Black's maiden speech in the UK Parliament set the chamber on fire, so to speak. It's a fiery first speech from the Scottish National Party MP whose election made her the youngest member elected since the 17th century.
  27. Prime Minister Theresa May's first PMQs in 2016 let us see a woman prime minister facing the toughest crucible of public speaking around: Prime Minister's question time in Parliament, a weekly feature. In this first salvo, she gave as good as she got.
  28. Mary Beard's 2017 lecture on women in power was a timely follow-on to the 2016 U.S. election and taught us that history is just repeating itself when it comes to how uncomfortable society is with powerful women. Another must-read.
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The American suffrage "Prison Special" speaking tour of 1919

Most Americans don't know that the first people to protest in front of the White House--now a resistance tradition--were the suffragists, fighting for equality and votes for women in the early 20th century. The American suffragists were rather less violent than their British counterparts; dubbed "the Silent Sentinels," they stood in front of the White House quietly, holding gigantic banners with protest messages--often, with President Woodrow Wilson's own words on them. Some 2,000 sentinels joined this protest, which began in 1917. Starting in June of that year, the arrests began, sending the Sentinels to a prison in Occuquan, Virginia; you can see a list of the prisoners here. Often, they responded with hunger strikes, and were then force fed by their jailers; in November, the prison superintendent ordered guards to beat, choke, and attack the suffragists.

Silence may have marked the start of these public protests, but public speaking was the campaign's next tactic. The plight of the prisoners captured public and media attention, and the suffragists, who were brilliant public relations strategists of their day, understood how to take advantage of it. By March of 1918, all of the suffragist arrests and imprisonments had been declared unconstitutional by a court of appeals. But the suffragists were not done. Not quite a year later, the proposed 19th Amendment that would give U.S. women the vote was defeated in the U.S. Senate. The House had passed it, the President had signaled support, but no one was pushing the states to ratify it, a necessary and major task. To make a final push to re-rally Senate support and get states to sign on to the legislation, the suffragists planned an ambitious public speaking tour. It's an historic moment for women in public speaking.

The 'Prison Special:' One last push for women's suffrage describes the tour at its start:
They called it "Democracy Limited," but the public immediately dubbed the three-week suffrage tour of February 1919 "The Prison Special." Its purpose? Make one last push for suffrage by harnessing the power of personal narrative. Its focus? The inhumane prison sentences served by so many women who fought for the vote.

The concept was relatively simple: the tour's slogan was "From Prison to People" and the train traveled the nation, packed with 26 members of the National Women's Party. When they arrived at their destination, they would don uniforms like the ones they were forced to wear at the Occoquan Workhouse, the prison that would eventually house over 150 suffragists. Alice Paul was force-fed egg yolks and placed in solitary confinement in a psychiatric ward. There, women were beaten, dragged, kicked, and even knocked unconscious by guards unsympathetic to the crowds. Now the same women brought their tales of incarceration and unsanitary, shocking conditions to the public, concluding with passionate pleas for President Wilson to act at last.
You could consider the 'Prison Special' a precursor to the Moth or a traveling TED conference, with speaker after speaker sharing her personal story of imprisonment. And after hearing that, who could say their task--voting to give women the vote--was more difficult? They traveled the length and breadth of the continental United States, from Charleston and New Orleans to Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago, and more.

The tour was not a joyride. The women faced limits placed on them by the railroad authority; they had wanted a prison door mounted on their train car, but the authority forbade any sign that they were aboard. There were sometimes violent counter-protests along the way. But they spoke to large crowds in city after city. The 'Prison Special' tour had a spectacular end, winding up its 23-day tour in New York City with a pageant at Carnegie Hall and a crowd of 3,500 people. Best of all, it did the trick, prompting Senate approval of the legislation in mid-1919. By 1920, the 19th Amendment had been ratified by enough states to make women's votes the law of the land, nationwide.

If you're visiting Washington, DC, you can hear and see more about the Prison Special speaking tour at the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument. The house is the former home of the National Women's Party, after it left its headquarters across the street from the White House on Jackson Place. Don't miss the tour; you can see the massive fabric appliqued banners carried by the protestors in front of the White House, and many artifacts from the suffragists' work over many decades.

(All photos from the Library of Congress collection of records from the National Women's Party. From top to bottom: Speakers on the 'Prison Special' tour, San Francisco, 1919; suffragist Lucy Branham in Occoquan prison dress, speaking at an outdoor meeting during the 'Prison Special' tour, 1919; Mary Winsor of Pennsylvania, holding the suffrage prisoners banner in 1917; baggage for the 'Prison Special,' piled up in front of NWP headquarters on Jackson Place, Washington, DC)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

I read a lot about women and public speaking, and post my finds first on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. But I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. Here's what I've been reading lately:
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Elizabeth I's 1563 speech on her singlehood

It wasn't enough that she was the queen, the ruler of the British Empire. Parliament wanted Elizabeth I to marry and produce an heir. In 1563, five years into her eventual 45-year reign, the House of Lords presented her with a petition asking her to do just that. The British Library has the manuscript of this speech, and it shared these insights:
This manuscript, in Elizabeth I’s own hand, is a draft version of a speech given to Parliament on 10 April 1563. The speech is a response to a petition from the House of Lords urging the Queen to marry and produce an heir. It is one of a number of speeches she wrote between 1559 and 1567 in response to continued pressure from Parliament to marry. Throughout these debates, Elizabeth reserved the right to choose who she would marry, and indeed whether or not she would marry at all. From the early 1580s she began to be represented as a perpetual Virgin Queen. 
The Lord Keeper Nicolas Bacon delivered the speech in Parliament on the Queen's behalf, and she was present for that delivery. In the transcript, you can see, as the British Library analysis notes, "This speech is tentative and ambiguous compared to some of her other speeches on the subject of marriage, which were often angry and insistent that subjects should not rule a monarch. In the insertion written sideways along the left of the page, Elizabeth seeks to pacify the Lords by admitting that, while celibacy is best for a private woman, ‘so do I strive with my selfe to thinke it not mete [appropriate] for a prinse’." (The "prince" in question being Elizabeth.)

What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Don't paint yourself into a corner in negotiations with your speeches: She might appease the petitioners this time and rail at them the next, but Elizabeth "reserved the right to choose who she would marry, and indeed whether or not she would marry at all." In 1583, that was astonishing, but her speeches didn't give any of her rights away.
  • Speeches come and go, but actions speak louder than words: Elizabeth, sometimes called "The Virgin Queen" (because if she wasn't going to get married, she *had* to be a virgin, right?), never did marry or give birth to an heir--despite her many speeches on the topic. At the end of the day--or the end of your life--it's your actions that will speak for you, ultimately.
  • Good cop, bad cop is an ancient strategy: While this speech tempered her arguments against marriage, her temper came through in others. Using a diplomatic touch here, an angry tone there, probably helped Elizabeth extend this conversation rather than bring it to a conclusion. It might be one of the longest games of chicken ever played between a monarch and a parliament.
I love that we can see the draft in her own handwriting, don't you? 

(Portrait of Elizabeth from Wikimedia Commons, The Sieve Portrait, 1583, about 20 years after she gave this speech. Image of the text of her speech via the British Library.)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

6 public speaking tips for your next protest rally speech

With protests rising in number worldwide, public speakers need to dust off--or just learn for the first time--the skill of addressing a public protest rally. It's a particular form of public speech, and one we are apparently rusty at doing, based on some of the recent rallies I've seen.

Protest rally speeches are loaded with declarations, with audience response, and with interruptions for said responses, applause, chants, and cheers. It takes a stable and thoughtful speaker to make the most of this opportunity in person. And because today's rallies are often recorded and put on YouTube, it's worth giving a thought to how this will look and sound online as well as in the heat of the moment. Here are six more tips for today's protest speaker:
  1. Manage your time: If we learned no other lesson from When a man hogs the mic at the Women's March, it's that protest speakers should err on the side of being briefly powerful rather than holding forth. Even 20 minutes feels like an eternity to the audience standing in front of you at a rally, and your five minutes is just a fraction in a four-hour rally. Edit with that in mind.
  2. Lean in, part one: Sound systems vary at outdoor protest rallies, from bullhorns to platforms with mics and concert-level sound systems. But when the audience is large and outdoors, nearly every sound system will fall short at some point. Do your part by leaning into the microphone, keeping it so close to your mouth you could take a bite out of it. I can't count the number of rally speakers I've seen, but not heard, because they paid no attention to where the mic was.
  3. Lean in, part two: Don't forget that the audience, as in any public speaking situation, will take its cues from you. Are you energized? Angry? Ready to lead the charge? Better let us see that in your tone of voice, your gestures, and your facial expression. Don't make us wonder whether you really care.
  4. Use your outdoor voice: Even with a mic and sound system, or a bullhorn, you'll need your outdoor voice to be heard by the furthest reaches of a big crowd. Yes, it may sound as if you're yelling, but this isn't the time for the nuanced whisper. Protest rally speeches more closely emulate the public speaking of yore, from the days before amplified sound. Go for being heard over being subtle.
  5. Go for the wide gesture: This is the moment for the broad gesture, the wide expanse of arms and hands. Make your gestures above the height of any lectern you may be using so they're in camera range--and in view of the spread-out audience.
  6. Find a hook: Maybe it rhymes. Maybe it's sung. Maybe it's just chant-able. Maybe it's good old-fashioned call-and-response. If there's a hook to exploit in your speech--something the group can repeat and chant--use it, and use it again. Giving the crowd a chance to vent is part of the purpose of a protest rally. Don't think you're the only one who wants to speak.
For more inspiration, check out my list of 12 famous protest speeches by women.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Fibonacci Blue)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

I read a lot about women and public speaking, and post my finds first on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. But I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. Here's what I've been reading lately:
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Sally Yates on your moral compass

Fired from her transitional post as Acting U.S. Attorney General by the White House after she refused to defend or enforce President Donald Trump's travel ban on Muslims coming into the United States, Sally Yates went from relatively unknown to famous in a short span. She had instructed Justice Department lawyers not to defend the administration's executive order on immigration and refugees, a move that the White House dubbed "a betrayal," and fired her for speaking her mind and giving her considered legal opinion.

In May, Yates addressed the graduating class at Harvard Law School, and looked back on her own legal career--much of it spent as a career civil servant prosecutor at the Department of Justice--to share four lessons with the graduates. Lesson two? "You never know when a situation will present itself in which you will have to decide who you are and what you stand for." She reviewed what happened in her decision-making on the travel ban, noting that it didn't just take place in the 72 hours between the ban's announcement and her directive to the department, but in all the years that preceded that moment in her career. Here's the advice she distilled for the graduates:
The compass that is inside all of us, that compass that guides us in times of challenge, is being built every day with every experience. I was fortunate to have learned from some inspiring people in my life who not only served as role models, but who challenged my thinking on issues and molded my core. 
Over the course of your life and career, you, too, will face weighty decisions where law and conscience intertwine. And while it may not play out in such a public way, the conflict you will feel will be no less real, and the consequences of your decisions also significant. The time for introspection is all along the way, to develop a sense of who you are and what you stand for. Because you never know when you will be called upon to answer that question.
Leaders in all sorts of organizations might read this speech while keeping in mind the recent survey data that show that employees are happiest when leaders have a moral compass and the employees feel they will "do the right thing." What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Get your listeners thinking about their own experience: "The time for introspection is all along the way," she said, taking what was, on its face, a very public dilemma and turning it into a mental exercise anyone in the audience could do--a fantastic way to engage your listeners.
  • Pay your respects: As with any formal commencement, Yates's insights did not begin until she had worked through the formal thanks, congratulations, and inclusion of the variety of listeners at graduation events, from faculty to parents. Every speech has jobs to do, and that's a big one for a commencement speech.
  • If you can, let us behind the scenes: Part of what's irresistible about this speech is that it shares Yates's thinking and her side--the inside--of a very public and controversial story. She does it justice with an even-handed, straightforward delivery. There's no need to dramatize the events further.
You can read the full text of her speech here, and watch the video here or below.




Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

When "improve presentation skills" comes up in your performance review

If you like this blog, you may thank the client who called me about a bad performance review, in which she--a top performer on every objective criterion--was told by her all-male board, "Your presentations aren't sexy enough."

That didn't surprise me. In fact, it felt like things I'd heard before, and it started me on the path to explore gendered issues in public speaking more than 10 years ago. I've heard from both sides, the person being reviewed and the employer seeking correction in presenting skills, many times now. And I've dealt with it myself, as an employee and as a manager. Here are some observations from the coach that may be useful to both sides:
  1. Seek clarification: One problem with saying "you need to improve your presentation skills" is that you can drive a truck through that wide-ranging list of topics. And many times, that's why it is chosen for your review, particularly if you are a woman: Something vague that you can't fix may be an easy way to damage your record. In the example above, my client drew herself up, and said, "Help me understand specifically what you mean," a nice, neutral comeback. The answer was still vague. She decided, in that circumstance, to demonstrate a willingness to improve by seeking coaching and paying for it out of her own budget.
  2. Remember this may not actually be about you and your presentation skills: One sign: Vague prescriptions for improvement, like being "sexy enough," "more lively," or "better." I told the client with the "sexy enough" feedback that I didn't know how to do that, but I could help her change enough about her presenting that a change would be noted. As we worked together, she shared that the feedback was likely more about her informal relationship with the board, which differed from her male predecessor. 
  3. Ask for help and get them to pay for it: I can't tell you how many times I have been approached by an employee who's been told to improve her presenting--and thinks she has to pay for it out of her own pocket. If it comes up in your performance review, that meeting is precisely the time to ask, "What's available to support my further professional development in this area? I'd like to improve." Suggest coaching from an independent coach. Let them have input into the coaching goals, wince-making though the feedback may be. 
  4. Is it about a particular, high-stakes presentation? If your boss is specific enough to say, "I'd like you to be able to present to the board/sales/external meeting," ask for coaching to prep and practice such a presentation and to give your boss a preview of the improved presentation before the big day.
  5. If you are seeking help, consider what *you* want to improve: It's not just about what your employer wants, and any good coach will want to know what you want to be able to do and how you'd like to change. Don't leave your wish list out of it.
  6. Are you willing to try? That's one of my top factors in predicting your success in speaker coaching and the same thing applies here. If you're surprised by the feedback, are you willing to try something new? That will at least buy you time in this negotiation, and you may learn a few things.
  7. Do they want you to fix something that's actually normal? This is where a seasoned coach can really help. If your feedback is about ums and uhs, vocal fry and uptalk, gesturing, and resting face, you may be getting feedback about perfectly normal things that we like to torment speakers about. Or perhaps you're introverted and the boss is an extrovert. A good coach can discern when and whether these things are actually getting in the way of your good presentation, arm you with data to answer queries, and give you practical ways to make them less noticeable.
  8. Is the feedback about the boss's pet peeves? The boss can trump all, so if she insists there be "no storytelling" in your presentations, or prefers slides, she can have that be the case. But it's important for you to understand which feedback is based on many use cases and norms, and which are just personal preference. Don't forget: Sometimes the boss forbids the very thing that makes him most uncomfortable as a speaker, so he won't be shown up. Not fair, but something worth understanding. 
  9. Ask how improvement will be evaluated: Despite seeking out a great coach, you need to understand what your employer wants as proof of improvement. Does that mean giving an improved presentation to the team in a lower-risk situation? Actually speaking successfully at the board meeting? Some written assessment from the coach? A video? Don't be surprised if your employer has not thought this far ahead, but do ask and listen to what is wanted.
Sometimes, as you may suspect, the boss just doesn't like the employee, or really wants a lot of mini-me presenters who act and look like him. I can tell that's the case when I am asked to "change the leopard's spots," rather than find an authentic way for the speaker to speak and contribute. I usually decline those coaching opportunities.

Finally, do let any coach you call know that this is a performance issue--it creates a very different tone for the coaching from the outset, and it's only fair to let your coach know the stakes involved.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Sheila Dee)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

I read a lot about women and public speaking, and post my finds first on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. But I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. Here's what I've been reading lately:
  • Focus on fear: She's since given a TED talk and many other speeches, but back in 1997, this is what J.K. Rowling was working on as a speaker...
  • Supreme manterruption: Despite being a U.S. Supreme Court justice, new data show that Ruth Bader Ginsburg--and the rest of the females on the court--get the most interruptions. From whom? The men on the court, of course (who do more of the talking overall). Female justices are interrupted 65 percent of the time, as of 2015. And gender is found even more significant than seniority in terms of who gets interrupted.
  • Did you miss? This week, Famous Speech Friday shared Olivia Gatwood's "Ode to My Bitch Face."  Also on the blog, a post that struck a nerve: When the panel moderator won't let the woman panelist speak, and Kathy Day shared this story of her own: "As part of my work as a volunteer Patient Safety Advocate, I have shared the stage with many men. One particular man, a very self absorbed doctor, got hold of the microphone and completely forgot that I was co presenting. He was saying things that I did not agree with and he was dissing the comments and questions from people in our audience. I was sitting next to one of the event organizers and I told her I didn't agree with what the doctor was saying, and I couldn't go along to get along. She said "SAY SOMETHING". So she gave me a microphone too, and I started to say something. He looked around like he couldn't figure out where my voice was coming from..or who I was. During his own grandstanding, he completely forgot that I was there! I said "It's me. I'm over here!" I turned the conversation around by respecting our audience and answering their questions and taking their comments very seriously. I don't always get to control who I share the stage with and this was one of those times. I told the organizers to never pair me with that doctor again. All of this being said, I have also co presented with some of the most amazing and respectful men around. The contrast can be outstanding."
  • About the quote: Don't let this be your language, eloquent women. Wisdom from Hillary Clinton.
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Olivia Gatwood's "Ode to My Bitch Face"

If you've read Let's take the 'bitch' out of 'resting bitch face:' About not smiling, you know that I see "resting face" as a normal quality of men and women. But that's the research side. Spoken-word performer and poet Olivia Gatwood tackled the shame side by writing an "Ode to My Bitch Face." And the video of her performing the poem has more than 15 million views on Facebook, so it's safe to say it's striking a chord.

Here's how she introduced the poem:
So does everyone know what this term “resting bitch face” is? So that’s a term coined by someone who was just generally unhappy with the fact that women aren’t smiling literally all the time. So you’re like sleeping, and he’s like, “you have a bitch face!” and you’re like, “I mean I’m literally taking a nap, so I’m sorry, I don’t know.”

So I’ve been doing this thing lately where I write odes to things I think I’m supposed to feel ashamed of, which is largely how shame works. We think we’re supposed to feel it, we’re told we’re supposed to feel it, about the way that we live and act and walk and speak and dress and are. And then we feel it because someone told us to, it’s not an organic feeling really. So I’ve been writing odes to things like that to counteract that feeling. So this is an “Ode to my Bitch Face.”
And here's the poem itself, short enough that I've had it transcribed for you:
You pink armor lipstick rebel steel cheek slit mouth head to the ground mean girl. You had ‘phones in but no music. You house key turned blade, you quick step between street lights, strainer of pricks and chest beaters, laughter is a foreign language to your dry ice tongue. 
Resting bitch face, they call you, but there is nothing restful about you, no. Lips like a flat-lined heartbeat, panic at the sight of you, scream for their mothers, throat full of bees, head spun 360 exorcist bitch. 
Just trying to buy a soda. Just trying to do your laundry. Just trying to dance at the party and then someone asks you to smile and the blood begins to riot. Smile and you chisel away at your own jaw. Smile and you unleash the swarm into the mouth of a man who wants to swallow you whole.
One theory is that you are born like this but I don’t believe it. You came out screaming and alive and look at you now. Look at how you’ve learned to hide your teeth. What’s wrong with your face, bitch? Your face, bitch, what’s wrong with it? Bitch face, I don’t blame you for taking the iron pipe from their hands and branding yourself with it. For making a flag out of your body bag. 
Another theory is that you put it on every morning. Screw it tight like a jar of jelly but I don’t believe that either. You woke up like this and have been for years. How can you sleep pretty when there are four locks on the door and the fire escape feels like break-in bait. They will tell you home is safe zone. 
No, bitch face is safe zone. Bitch face is home. Bitch face is cutting off the ladder, willing to burn in the apartment if it means he can’t get in.
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • What's your approach to your topic? There's more than one way to put a speech together. In this case, the approach is using an ode--defined as "a lyric poem in the form of an address to a particular subject, often elevated in style or manner and written in varied or irregular meter"--to address topics of shame. That's a category she can turn to again and again. You might consider looking for an approach you can use more than once, for more than one topic.
  • Feel free to introduce yourself or your talk: That's normal in a poetry slam, but any speaker might add some introductory comments as Gatwood does here to provide context and set up the poem for us.
  • Play with voice: The title refers to "my bitch face," suggesting it's about Gatwood. But by referring to herself in the second person, addressing herself as "you," she's giving the listeners two options: Is she talking to herself and her bitch face? Or is she talking about you? The ambiguity lets more listeners in, and helps them relate to the commentary, perhaps one reason this has resonated with so many.
Watch the video here or below:


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Thursday, August 3, 2017

When the male moderator won't let the lone woman panelist speak

It's what women speakers dread about panels with just one woman on them: What happens if the guys overtalk you and the moderator ignores you? Or worse, starts mansplaining your answers so you can't get a word in edgewise. The answer in one recent incident turned out to be "look to the audience for a solution."

Writing on Facebook, audience member Marilee Talkington reported on what happened during a session she attended at the World Science Festival in New York City in early June. The panel was comprised of 5 men and one woman. Talkington writes:
In the first hour of the panel discussion you can see clearly, if watching the video, that Veronika Hubeny, the only woman on the panel is barely given any opportunity to speak. 
And the Moderator, Jim Holt even acknowledges this. 
In the last 20-30 minutes of the 90 minute discussion Jim Holt finally pushes the conversation to Hubeny's field of expertise, string theory, and this is what ensued: 
He asked her to describe her two theories of string theory that seem to contradict one another. 
And THEN, without letting her answer, proceeded to answer for her and describe HER theories in detail without letting her speak for herself. 
We could clearly see that she was trying to speak up. But he continued to talk over her and dominate the space for several minutes.
Talkington, who was live-streaming the talk herself, knew that a larger audience also was watching this mansplaining remotely, in addition to the large crowd in the hall. Then:
With my hands shaking,
I finally say from my seat in the 2nd row of the audience, as clearly, directly and loudly as possible;
"Let. Her. Speak. Please!"
The moderator stops.
They all stop.
The auditorium drops into silence.
You could hear a pin drop.
And then the audience explodes with applause and screams.
Jim Holt eventually sat back, only after saying I was heckling him
And he let her speak.
And of course, she was brilliant.
And as this account adds, the audience burst into applause. It's a good reminder that the audience--the intended recipients of your wisdom--don't like women being ignored and talked over. And they are the people you are here to make happy, moderators and panelists, no matter what you think.

Start watching a little before the 1:05 mark in the video below to see this moment. While you watch, consider the words of Rebecca Solnit, who coined the term "mansplaining:"
It's the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harrassment on the street does, that this is not their world.
Everything about this panel--the preponderance of men, the man guiding the conversation to the other men, the mansplaining--underscores that thought.

I love that the title of the session is "Pondering the Imponderables," when the main imponderable is why it took almost an hour to turn to the lone woman on the panel in a session--that's two-thirds of the way into a 90-minute session--and then the moderator felt compelled to try to answer her answers for her. A hat tip to Technically Speaking for pointing me to this egregious example.



Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.