Monday, June 29, 2015

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

President Obama's eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney

This was not a slow news week in the United States, with landmark Supreme Court decisions at home and terrorist attacks elsewhere in the world. But one of the best speeches of President Obama's presidency took place with far less coverage than those events, at a funeral service for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of 9 worshippers killed by a white supremacist during a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina. Even as this speech was unfolding, readers were messaging me to make sure I had it in my sights.

The event also carried another distinction for the President. From the National Journal:
Charleston is the 17th mass-casualty shooting of his presidency, the 17th time that one incident claimed at least three lives, bringing to 149 the death toll from these bursts of gun violence on his watch. It is the 11th time that he has issued a statement in reaction. And Friday will be the seventh time that Obama has spoken at a memorial, trying to comfort the bereaved and make sense out of the handiwork of a killer.
It's believed that the President has spoken at more such memorials than any other President, and he has been dubbed the United States's "mourner-in-chief." Or maybe it just feels that way, thanks to live-streaming and YouTube. What was so special about this speech, and what can you learn from it for your own?
  • Work your acknowledgments into the context of the speech, rather than just load them all at the beginning. The President, in describing the salutory qualities of Rev. Pickney, called him, "A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed. To Jennifer, his beloved wife; to Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters; to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina." Letting the names of the acknowledged flow as context about the people he was serving makes eminent sense--and makes the acknowledgment more meaningful.
  • Structure and task shape a good speech: Speechwriters and speaker coaches say "every speech has a job to do," and that task should be reflected in the speech's structure. Here, the phases of the eulogy are crystal clear, each with its task: A description of the life of the deceased person being honored, the first task of a eulogy. And in this case, because of the significance of the crime, the lives of those slain with him and the role of the black church in society. Making sense of a senseless massacre. The symbolism of the Confederate flag and how it is seen differently in the wake of the murders. Our years of ignoring that symbol, and a call to action for how to behave differently. A conclusion that remembers the dead again, so that those worshipping leave with their names in mind. A theme about grace that winds its way through the speech to tie all that together. Do your speeches know their task and reflect it?
  • Connection is everything: Without a connection to your audience, you may as well read your speech in a closed soundproof booth. There's real feeling in this speech, and not just because the President adopted the traditional style of preachers for it. When he says the names of Rev. Pinckney's children and looks straight at them...when he urges the audience to understand that God was using the killer to a higher purpose...when he sings, rather than recites, 'Amazing Grace," he's connecting. This is a highly responsive audience, standing, clapping, and saying Amens aplenty, but the real points of connection are often quiet moments in this speech.
In his description of Rev. Pinckney's life, the President concludes with a thought that might be on any listener's mind: 
What a good man. Sometimes I think that's the best thing to hope for when you're eulogized -- after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man.
Be sure your eulogies for others do the same. I think this speech will go down as one of the President's best and most moving. Read the transcript of this speech. Read it. Read it again. And by all means, watch it in the video here or below.



(White House photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Julie Andrews's 1964 Golden Globes speech

As modern film award acceptance speeches go, it's a nanosecond long. The couple of minutes in which actor Julie Andrews received her 1964 Golden Globe award for her role in Mary Poppins encapsulate joy, thanks, and humor, as any good award acceptance does. But hers had one thing more, the thing that made it famous: A deft back-handed compliment to the man who didn't cast her in the lead of a competing film, My Fair Lady. Not just any man, either: Her target was Jack Warner, president of Warner Brothers, in front of a film industry crowd that laughed as much in surprise as at the cleverness of her speech.

Like any good film, this has some backstory. Andrews was cast in the lead of My Fair Lady on Broadway in 1956, a role that requires serious singing skills as well as acting skills. The success of the stage version led to plans for a film. Warner Brothers paid an unprecedented $5 million for the film rights. And then they cast the decidedly non-singing actress, Audrey Hepburn--a choice seen as a major slight to Andrews.

But the move freed her to consider Disney's film of Mary Poppins, which is what she was acknowledging when she said, "And, finally, my thanks to a man who made a wonderful movie and who made all this possible in the first place, Mr. Jack Warner."

What can you learn from this famous speech, one of the shortest in our collection?
  • Shade thrown with a spoonful of sugar: Playing on the persona of her film character, always correct, Andrews managed a competitive one-two punch with such speed and charm that you might almost miss it--except that it wasn't lost on the audience at all. She merely praised Warner and thanked him, but the meaning was clear. It's a great bit of acting: She stayed in character as the sweet, polite woman while showing her competitive spirit.
  • Speed and brevity help with a surgical strike: This rapid-fire bit of cleverness was over almost before it began, aiding its impact. Andrews didn't need to elaborate, and got the last laugh as a result. Andrews, a good actor, turned to look at Warner with sincerity as she began her last sentence, then turned straight to the audience, starting to laugh at her own joke--two good non-verbal underscores to her verbal punch.
  • Use your endings for impact: Strong starts are important, but endings offer another opportunity for impact. Placing her dig at the end let Andrews leave the stage with the audience (including Warner) still reacting and applauding.
Andrews got the last laugh in another way, winning best actress awards at this ceremony and at the Academy Awards. Watch the very short video, which includes interviews that tell the story, as well as the speech itself.


Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

4 unusual books for tackling your public speaking fears

There are loads of books targeting public speaking fear head-on. But I like a slightly different, off-center approach, without the usual suspects. Here are three currently available books I share with clients who are nervous, anxious, or fearful of public speaking, along with a much-anticipated fourth option:
  1. Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking is a book I was given when learning to make art. Not unlike other forms of performance, making art requires you to be brave enough to express yourself, then show that to one person, then get useful critique from a teacher or peer, then put it on public display, then charge for it. Each step has its perils and rewards...and don't they sound a lot like what speakers do? A great short read.
  2. V Is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone is Seth Godin's picture book (the A for anxiety is shown above), and while he's hoping to inspire public-facing marketers and entrepreneurs, again, there's much in common with public speaking here, among the most vulnerable of exercises.
  3. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain's best-seller, will remind you that part of your hesitation about speaking may be introversion rather than fear. But as public speaking is one of her fears, and well-covered in this book, you'll get the nuances and differences here, too.
  4. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges from social psychologist Amy Cuddy--the woman who made "power posing" a famous tactic for boosting confidence--is now available for pre-order. I'm so looking forward to a book by this great speaker and researcher, whose TED talk on power posing is now the second-most-watched TED talk ever.
Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook see links to good reads, resources and ideas from other sources there, in addition to posts from the blog. But you won't miss a thing, since I'm summarizing that extra content and putting it here on the blog for all readers to see. Here's what I shared in the week just past:
Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Danielle George's Royal Institution Lecture

The Royal Institution's annual Christmas Lectures are a public forum that most scientists only dream of--and for most of the Lectures' 189-year history, dreaming was as close as a woman ever got to the Faraday Stage in RI's London headquarters. The Lectures began in 1825 as a way to introduce young people to cutting-edge science with the help of spectacular demonstrations and experiments. The list of Christmas Lecture luminaries includes Michael Faraday himself, John Tyndall, Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins. The first woman to give the Lecture was neuroscientist Susan Greenfield--in 1994.

That makes this year's speaker, University of Manchester engineer Danielle George, only the sixth woman to give the Christmas Lecture. George is a radio and microwave communications expert who has worked on everything from massive telescope arrays to Rolls Royce engines. Teaching is also a particular passion of hers, so the Christmas Lecture was a natural fit for her. Her "Sparks Will Fly" series is a rollicking good time of visually dazzling experiments, enthusiastic audience participation, and a London-wide stage that includes an office building turned into a video game and guests beamed in via hologram.

George is the first woman engineer to give the Lectures, and the first one to do so while eight months pregnant. There was a back-up plan in place, in fact, for a BBC commentator to give the Lecture if George's daughter arrived early. In an interview with The Independent, George said she hoped the sight of her on stage would be inspiring:
Hopefully, it sends a subconscious message that as long as your baby is fine and you're feeling fine it doesn't stop you from doing anything. So you can get on with your work, still make a difference and still change the world in a positive way--and you don't have to stop for nine months because you are pregnant."
There's a lot to learn from George's Christmas Lecture, but here are a few of the things that stood out in this famous speech:
  • Say "yes" to a speaking invitation. "When I first received an email asking if I might be interested in presenting the Lectures I thought it must have been sent to me by mistake so I ignored it," George recalled. "But then I received a second email a few days later which convinced me that maybe it really was a genuine request and not spam after all!" I hear a little bit of the "imposter syndrome" in this reply, and it's one of the reasons why women sometimes turn down speaking invitations. Why not say "yes" for a change, and see what happens?
  • Prepare, practice, and practice again. In an interview with The Eloquent Woman, George told us that she began working with a producer at RI in September to write a draft script. "This was mainly due to the type of lecture I wanted to give and the logistics involved," she said. "I wanted each lecture to have a grand challenge and spend the lecture working toward that challenge." Filming began in December, "and we usually had one rehearsal the day before and then a full dress rehearsal on the morning of the filming. There were certain parts we wanted to practice more than others, such as when I had a guest on the lecture," George said.
  • Be flexible with your speech if necessary. Each lecture has George moving into the audience to find children willing to help out with a variety of experiments, along with demonstrations that have to be moved on and off stage as George speaks. Both of these features meant that George couldn't be strict about sticking to a word-for-word script. "I had a screen to prompt me on what I was talking about but I didn't script my actual words so I was happy that we didn't need to re-take parts lots of times," she said. "I loved the feeling that I honestly didn't know how each grand challenge would end--would we complete it successfully? What would I do or say if it didn't work? It kept me on my toes."
I'd also add that this was one of those rare lectures that gets to the heart of how scientists think and work. George shows how researchers need to break down those "grand challenges" into smaller and more manageable tasks, and she demonstrates that seesaw of fear and excitement while waiting for an experiment to unfold. When things go a little bit wrong (I'm wincing with you, assistant who took a paintball in the side!), George doesn't shrug it off or explain it away. It's all just science in its messy glory.

You can watch all three parts of George's Christmas Lecture at The RI Channel. We especially like the second in the series, shown below. Which one is your favorite?

Sparks Will Fly: How to Hack Your Home

(Freelance writer Becky Ham contributed this Famous Speech Friday post. You, too, could be lucky enough to hire her to write for you.)

Got a panel coming up? Whether you're a conference organizer, speaker, or moderator, you'll have a better panel--and a sparkling discussion--if you plan with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. At just $3.99 in all ebook formats, it's like having a coach with whom you can prepare and bring on stage with you.