Friday, October 31, 2014

17 famous speeches by British women in The Eloquent Woman Index

In my keynote speech to the UK Speechwriters Guild in 2013, I noted that the Guardian chose just three speeches by women in its list of 100 great speeches of the 20th century. The most recent was Margaret Thatcher's 1976 "Iron Lady" speech--suggesting, by omission, that it's been a long time since a British woman's given a good speech. Let me set the record straight: There are plenty of great and famous speeches by British women, and this collection of 17 speeches from The Eloquent Woman Index features nearly a dozen delivered since Thatcher's speech took place. I've got the three that made the Guardian's list, and 14 more--and that just scratches the surface.

This eclectic collection ranges from monarchs and MPs to authors, athletes and activists. Each post includes text of the speeches by these eloquent Englishwomen, along with video or audio--where available--and what you can learn from their famous speeches. I list them here in chronological order:
  1. Queen Elizabeth I's speech to the troops at Tilbury, the oldest speech in the Index, is a great example of women's words being co-opted. Of the three surviving versions, all published later by men, chances are good that none of them reflects what she said.
  2. Emmeline Pankhurst's "Freedom or Death" speech was given in the U.S., where the militant suffragette came to avoid another imprisonment and raise funds. She lays out the stakes, as she saw them, in the fight for votes for women.
  3. Nancy Astor's maiden speech in Parliament was a first for the nation. In speaking as the first woman member of Parliament, her voice stood out for many reasons, not least her distinctive tone and humor. She's the lone American in this group, an adopted daughter of England.
  4. The Virginia Woolf lectures that became "A Room of One's Own" were probably difficult to hear, and spent a lot of time suggesting that the speaker was trying to meet the expectations of her audience. But the argument she advanced--that women need income and privacy if they are to create art--still resonates.
  5. Novelist Dorothy Sayers's lecture on the "lost tools of learning" at Oxford was a return to her roots, and to the university that didn't give her a degree until well after she'd earned it. (At the time, it wasn't the custom to grant degrees to women, even if they'd done the work.) She made the case for returning to a classical education in post-World War II England.
  6. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's "Iron Lady" speech earned her that nickname, warning that Britain needed to increase its Cold War defense against a possible Soviet attack. It was the Soviets that dubbed her the "Iron Lady" after she delivered this speech.
  7. Queen Elizabeth II's tribute to Princess Diana was the monarch's first live television address, a smart move in reaching a mourning nation and world. In this post, we also include the queen's very first speech, given as a teenager on live radio in World War II, as a bookend to the modern speech.
  8. Jane Goodall's "What separates us from the apes" is a speech she gives to get audiences excited about saving apes and other wildlife. The primatologist known for living amongst the apes now spends about 300 days a year traveling and giving speeches to advance her work.
  9. Elisabeth Murdoch's speech to the UK television industry started right in by taking the industry to task for not inviting more women to speak in this prestigious annual lecture, and didn't mince words the rest of the speech, either.
  10. Tilda Swinton's "David Bowie Is..." speech put the award-winning actress in the role of Number One Fan at the opening of a museum retrospective on musician David Bowie's style.
  11. British Olympic cyclist Nicole Cook's retirement speech did not let her go gentle into that good night. Instead, she took the sport to task for its lack of funding and support for women cyclists.
  12. Sue Austin's "most mobile person" TEDMED talk had the audience rethinking what it means to be in a cage, whether that meant mental or physical limits. Her underwater dives in a wheelchair furthered the definition as she described what it felt like to get past the cage and move.
  13. Caroline Criado-Perez spoke about talking back to cyber bullies rather than being silenced by them, and used the harsh words of her attackers in her speech to make them part of the record. She's the woman who was threatened and harrassed online after her successful campaign to get a woman other than the Queen on British currency.
  14. Tanni Grey-Thompson's "shout a bit louder" on disability was a tribute speech by a current Member of Parliament to a deceased one who'd served as an important role model to her and other people with disabilities. In the process, she speaks movingly about living with society's attitudes toward people with disabilities.
  15. Classics scholar Mary Beard spoke about the "public voice of women" and took us from the first time in recorded history that a man told a woman to shut up--The Odyssey--to the present day, looking at how we see and hear (or don't) the voices of women.
  16. Home Secretary Theresa May took the British Police Federation to task in a 2014 speech that left her audience in stunned silence. This speech had a forceful job to do, pushing forward police reforms in the wake of more than a dozen scandals and investigations. After it, she surged high in the polls.
  17. Penny Mordaunt's loyal address in Parliament replied to the Queen's opening of the 2014 sessions...and represented the first time in more than a half-century that a woman had been asked to do the honors. After this speech, she was asked to join the government in a senior role. This ceremonial speech indicates she has a bright speaking future ahead.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Monroe's motivated sequence: Pitch and persuade with a capital P

Every talk or presentation has a job to do, and that job determines the content, delivery, and much more. There's no more of a workhorse presentation than the pitch, by which I mean any presentation where you're trying to persuade an audience to do something.

In some cases, that means investing in your product. In others, you want to prompt votes, donations, or even a pay raise. But you want something from this highly specialized audience. Action must follow if your pitch is to succeed. For that workhorse of a presentation, there's a workhorse of a solution in a venerable--but highly effective--rhetorical structure called Monroe's motivated sequence.

Developed in the mid-1930s by Alan Monroe at Perdue University, the sequence has five steps, or types of content, that make your pitch persuasive. In order, they are:
  1. Attention -- Pitches need strong starts, and you need to get the audience's attention with a dramatic fact, quote, story or example.
  2. Need -- This is not, as some pitch presenters think, their need. It's stating the audience's psychological need, the one which your product or service will satisfy.
  3. Satisfaction -- How will you satisfy the need to your audience's satisfaction? Again, this isn't about what would satisfy you.
  4. Visualization -- What would the world look like with your solution? Without it? Or a little of both?
  5. Action -- Tell the audience what they can do to solve the problem. That might be a traditional call to action (votes) or one that propels your solution forward (investment).
I sometimes wonder whether Monroe ever met his contemporary, American conposer Meredith Wilson, best known for his musical play The Music Man. It's set in 1912 in middle America, and a slick traveling salesman comes to town looking for a way to convince the community that it needs a boy's marching band. His plan is to sell them the instruments and band uniforms, then skip town with the money before he provides anything. To do that, in a song called "Ya Got Trouble," he walks right through Monroe's motivated sequence, from getting the townspeople's attention, to defining their psychological need to give their children a moral upbringing, to providing a band as a diversion from the less-desirable pool hall in town. The song's known for its repetition of the line about "ya got trouble/Right here in River City/With a capital T/and that rhymes with P/and that stands for Pool."

This song includes both positive and negative visualizations, and the call to action is clear as a bell. And while it's an old-school, old-fashioned pitch, you'd do well to study its example. You've never seen anyone drum up support, as it were, like this.

Today, the business world is where we see most pitches, and you can be a smart presenter by putting Monroe's to use in the boardroom. On the US television show Shark Tank, which shows some of what it's like to pitch to venture capitalists, two women engineers recently demonstrated a great pitch presentation for a toy they invented called Roominate--a doll house that girls can not only play with, but build, hack and wire to meet their own specifications. Right off the bat, the pitchers ask the women investors what they'd have thought if they could have had this kind of dollhouse as children, but keyed to their eventual career choices. It's a smart opening gambit that sets the stage for later visualization.

Shark Tank's a great show to watch if you're pitching, with plenty of good and bad examples. You'll also get a good sense of what it's like to pitch to an "audience" of investors or judges. Seth Godin just published a post titled Pitchcraft, with a series of questions that mirror the steps in Monroe's, but from the point of view of the investors/supporters/donors listening to your pitch. It's a useful, brief test to see whether your pitch will answer their questions, and an insight into what they are thinking.

I've been coaching for a couple of organizations that have asked university researchers to make five-minute pitches in the style of Shark Tank. They're using the untraditional format to help projects compete for some grant money and to enliven the conference program, and they've asked me to do 1:1 coaching for the people planning and delivering the pitches. In many cases, these are very senior university executives, provosts and administrators--but this type of pitch is foreign to them. I've been sharing these two examples, "Ya Got Trouble" and Roominate, to illustrate the flexibility and staying power of Monroe's motivated sequence.

I recommend the sequence because it works. Your pitch will stay focused on the audience to whom you're pitching, you'll describe a problem and connect it to a solution, and you'll be able to make the "ask" appropriately. Monroe's also can help keep your pitch on time. In five minutes, using the sequence as your template, you can cover a lot of purposeful ground.

You can read the lyrics to "Ya Got Trouble" here, and do watch the master, Robert Preston, at work in the 1962 version of the musical The Music Man, below. Beyond that video is the Roominate pitch on Shark Tank. Very different, but equally good examples. Need help crafting your next pitch, or helping a group with individual pitches? Email me at eloquentwoman AT to get the prep and support you need.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by kris krüg)

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Monday, October 27, 2014

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:
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Friday, October 24, 2014

Famous Speech Friday: 1994 lecture by Miep Gies, Anne Frank's protector

I'm in Amsterdam today for the autumn conference of the European Speechwriter Network. I'm excited about the conference, and eager to see the Anne Frank house for the first time. As I do, I'll be thinking about Miep Gies, an adopted daughter of Holland.

She died at the age of 100 in 2010, and her obituary in the New York Times notes something unusual about this woman speaker: She didn't begin her speaking career until she was in her 80s, after the publication of her memoir Anne Frank Remembered. The book shared her role in hiding the Frank family from the Nazis, as well as in saving the journals and papers that became The Diary of a Young Girl, as she describes in this gripping passage from her 1994 lecture:
People sometimes call me a hero. I do not want that because I told you already that those in hiding were the bravest people. I also don't like it because people should never think that you have to be a very special person to help those who need you. I myself, am just an innocent woman, I simply had no choice. I could foresee many, many sleepless nights and a miserable life if I had refused to help the Franks. Yes, I have wept countless times when I think of my dear friends, but still I am happy that these are no tears of remorse for refusing to assist those who were in trouble. Even if help might fail, it is better to try than to do nothing....I'm grateful that I could save Anne's diary. When I found it, scattered all over the floor, I stole it. I decided to store it away in order to give it back to Anne when I should, when she should return. I wanted to see her smile, receiving the diary. I wanted to hear her say, 'Oh, Miep! My diary, wonderful!' But after a terrible time of waiting and hoping, word came that Anne had died. At that moment, I went to Otto Frank, Anne's father, the only one of the family who had survived. With the words, 'this is what Anne has left.' Can you understand how this man looked at me? Lost his wife, lost his two children...he had a diary. I pushed him out of my office. 'Please, go to your private office.' After an hour he phoned me, 'Miep, I don't want to see anyone.' My answer was, 'I have taken care of it.' Otto in turn gave the diary of Anne to the world and I feel that this was the right decision.
If you don't know Gies's story, here's an attempt to recreate the day when Frank's family was discovered and taken to the concentration camps. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Women speakers can contribute at any age: I don't know many women who'd start speaking in their eighties, but I'm glad that Gies did. It gave her a 20-year career as a speaker, something I'm sure you aren't considering when you say "it's too late to start." 
  • Find and share a different perspective: Throughout the speech, Gies talks about the perspectives of children, citing what Frank said and what she herself experienced as a child growing up in Austria and Holland--all to put the lie to some of the things parents commonly tell their children about who deserves help or blame. Similarly, she speaks frankly about being an Austrian ashamed of the atrocities committed by Germans and Austrians, and how those feelings were challenged by others. If you've got a perspective that's not among the usual suspects, it will add contrast, drama and perhaps surprise to your speech. Put it in!
  • Sometimes, speaking in your second language is a bonus: Gies delivers the lecture, which took place in America, in English, sometimes seeking help from a colleague and using simple language. She doesn't need complex sentences to describe this complex situation. The power of what happened propels this speech, no embellishments needed.
You can see the video and read the transcript here or watch the video below. Because it took place on the occasion of Gies being awarded the Wallenberg Prize, there are several introductions before her remarks begin at about the 19-minute mark. Don't miss the gem of this particular lecture: A question-and-answer session with Gies follows her remarks. What do you think of this famous speech?


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

From the vault: So, do you start sentences with so? If so...

(Today, since the word "so" is taking a beating in others' posts, a more detailed and nuanced look at whether this is, indeed, a filler word you should omit. The original post appeared in 2010.)

The word "so" brings out strong feelings, it turns out.  A public radio host who interviews scientists, when asked what they should do differently, sees it as a repetitive distraction. He says, "Stop starting every discussion with the word ‘so.’ You ask a scientist, 'Why is the sky blue?' and they say 'So...'."  On The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, Carolyn Bledsoe chalks it up to a mental pause, a replacement for "um." She said, "the more sophisticated speaker have stopped saying ums, ers, and ahs. Instead they have started using 'and,' 'so,' 'then.' When evaluating these speakers, I remind them of sentences that became paragraphs because of these words. Instead of a period, they now need pauses."  Maria Elena Poulos came to the defense of "so," saying, "SO used correctly in a sentence or presentation can be most can connect the speaker with a direct point." And many of us wince when we hear the sing-song so that sounds like a Valley Girl attempt to advance the narrative: "So then I said he should leave. So he did..."

Who's right here?  Is "so" really the new "um" -- and is that wrong?  Turns out, they all may be right.  "So" has many uses, according to this analysis in the New York Times.  And, as with any term of art, you need to think through your intent in using "so" to make sure it's working for you and not against you:
  • As a logical connective word, which is how software engineers in Silicon Valley began using it (and, many believe, how it came to dominate the start of a sentence).   It suggests authority, and indicates an explanation is coming, which is why scientists may be using it.
  • As an empathetic connection, indicating that you've chosen what you're about to say because it's relevant to your listener, as in, "So it might be helpful to know that...."
  • As a pause to think.  If so, it's acting like an "um"--which, by the way, is a normal part of speech.  But repeating one time-buying phrase like "so" over and over causes your audience to start counting (and it's too short to buy much time to think).
To understand more about "so," check out my "all in one on ums" post, which offers more on how to replace it with time-buying phrases and why we "um" in the first place.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by rosarodoe with words added)

Monday, October 20, 2014

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:
If you found this post useful, please subscribe or make a one-time donation to help support the thousands of hours that go into researching and curating this content for you.