Monday, March 2, 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:
Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Patricia Arquette's Oscar speech & history lesson

Actor Patricia Arquette, who took home the Best Supporting Actress award at the Oscars earlier this week, used her acceptance speech to call for equal rights and equal pay for women. In doing so, she noted that women have fought for the rights of many, only to see their own unfulfilled. Here's what she said, after thanking her film, family, and philanthropic partners:
To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.
The remarks got some notable reactions in the hall from other women actors, but when Arquette was asked about her remarks at later events, her statement was picked apart and held up for scorn in many quarters. She took to Twitter to expand on her comments. And most of the criticism focused on her "politically incorrect" commentary, suggesting that she should not put aside the rights of the LGBT community or people of color in order to get women ahead. Many denied that women have had to step aside for the rights of others. Feminist blogs called her remarks "cringe-inducing," and conservative Fox News declared itself appalled, with contributor Stacey Dash quoting selectively from a John F. Kennedy speech to say that Arquette needed to "do her history."

So yes, let's do our history.

In a New York Times op-ed from 2008 sums up one such historic episode in American history:
During the Civil War, many women, including [suffragette Elizabeth Cady] Stanton, had willingly put aside the fight for women’s rights to campaign for the emancipation of the slaves. After the war, they had even stood by patiently when, in 1866, Congress passed the 14th Amendment, defining citizens specifically and solely as “male” — the first use of the word “male” in the Constitution. The politicians soothed the women’s rights advocates by assuring them their turn would come soon. 
But in 1869, when outraged women demanded to know why they were not included in the right to vote, they were informed by their allies in Congress that public opinion left room for just one minority group to make it through the door of suffrage and that this was “the Negro’s hour.”
Stanton, among other women, expressed frustration because women had fought for civil rights for all groups, not just themselves, and so they felt betrayed after they were cut out of legislative protections, a scene that was repeated over and over in the decades to come. During the black civil rights movement in the 1960s, no less a figure than Rosa Parks noted that women's rights were never a consideration. In England, the suffragette movement stopped campaigning completely in favor of the war effort in World War I. Even the JFK speech on the Equal Pay Act cited by Fox News noted specifically that women had not been included: "[O]ur journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.” The fact that people are still campaigning today for both the Equal Rights Amendment and equal pay laws stands as testimony to the omission.

In making her brief statement, Arquette was reminding us of our history, and the facts. In her later tweets, she echoed Stanton and noted that women are a part of all the other civil rights fights, yet legislation giving them equal rights and wages proves elusive still. She noted that "women" is a group that includes LGBT women and women of color. But the reactions were decidedly negative in most quarters. Both male and female commentators singled Arquette out for scorn for everything from her remarks to her use of notes, and praised the male speakers more than the women on their Oscar turns.

Writing on Daily Beast, Lizzie Crocker was among the few to point out feminists' criticisms and note of Arquette's speech that "Hers was a sensible, plainly worded speech. Nowhere did she imply that she was not fighting for equality for everyone." Crocker went on to call the commentary "a low point for punditry." And later in the week, Hillary Clinton praised Arquette's speech, talking about wage and other inequities for women in the workplace and elsewhere.

What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Don't waste your moment: With a world spotlight on her, Arquette understood the opportunity to make a forceful statement that was relevant to her industry--the audience before her--and the nation. As the Wall Street Journal points out, the gendered wage gap in Hollywood looks a lot like the one you and I experience, so her remarks were sure to resonate in the room as well as beyond it.
  • Remind us of what we've forgotten: Bringing us back into history to shed light on what's happening today is just one of many useful roles speakers can play. Arquette's point had feeling behind it based on her own experience and observation, in addition to her sure stance in historical fact.
  • Speak for women: Arquette used part of her remarks to redefine women as those who "gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation," and to make a crisp, quotable demand for their rights. So should we all.
For myself, I wasn't at all surprised by the reactions. Here's why so many women hesitate to speak publicly, or to speak strongly when they do: They suspect, accurately, that they will face the condemnation--silent or otherwise--of both men and women. This is a very public example, but certainly not the first. It is not a reason to stop speaking, nor to hold your fire when you have something strong to say. You can be aware of the expected condemnation without letting it (or yourself) silence you.

I've had many discussions on this very point in history over the years with my friend Carolyn Kitch, who chairs the journalism department at Temple University. Kitch also specializes in American studies and women's history, so when I heard Arquette's remarks, I heard the echoes of history in them. I'm grateful for Kitch's insights on this volatile but important topic, which help me play a role in reminding you about our history.

Watch Patricia Arquette's gender equality Oscars speech

Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What's missing from your TED-like talk, and what should be

"I'm giving a TED talk."

There's a lot of that going around. I hear hundreds say it casually, many more than there's room for at any of the official TED conferences. Sometimes, the speaker is referring to a locally organized TEDx conference. But more often, if pressed, they'll say they're giving a "TED-like" talk, something in the style of TED. And then comes the "but:" "But I'm going to [insert change you're making to the TED form here]."

I've coached nearly 100 speakers featured on the TEDMED stage, at TEDx conferences around the world, and on TED.com--and scores more for TED-like talks. My advice? Aim for TED quality. To do that, you need to pay attention to the things that are likely missing from your TED-like talks, and some things that should be missing. Here are just some of the missing and should-be-missing items:

What's missing
  • Why we would want to share this idea: "Ideas worth sharing" is the TED motto. That doesn't mean it's an idea you think is worth sharing, mind you, but one we would think is worth sharing. And by we, I don't mean your immediate family, your boss, or your employees. You can't just put the idea forward, you need to make clear why we'd want to pass it around.
  • Intrigue: Even as straightforward a TED talk as how to tie your shoes includes intrigue--in this case, it's the idea that you've been doing a simple task wrong all your life, and how to tell. That's one reason the simple 3-minute talk has 4.7 million views and counting. Draw your listener in with intrigue, often a missing element in a TED-like talk.
  • The real story you should be telling: I can't tell you how many times I hear speakers include in an aside the thing that should be the real focus of the story. This can be tough to spot, and you may be avoiding it because it's the thing that makes you more vulnerable, precisely what we want in a TED talk.
What should be missing
  • Most of your slides: The rule of thumb for a TED-quality talk is never to use a slide to repeat what's coming out of your mouth. Don't use them to duplicate your words. Don't use them as cue cards. Make word pictures we can see in our mind's eye. Talk directly to us without the slide-shield, and you'll connect better. Most of the people I see giving TED-like talks decide to use all the slides they want, and it really does separate the amateurs from the pros in this format.
  • Your branding or pitching: The best TED talks by CEOs don't mention their companies, their taglines, their marketing mantras. Nor do the best nonprofit talks make a plea for funding. TED asks that you not make your talk a commercial in disguise, even for a worthy cause. See if you can meet this bar--you may be surprised at how well it positions you as a thought leader. The program and the introduction may do this work for you, so save your talk time for your ideas.
  • The lovely picture of success: If you view a TED talk as a marketing exercise, one in which you present a smooth front of success, you've failed before you open your mouth to speak. TED talks are loaded with failure, shame, vulnerability...and the lessons, redemption, and connection that go with them. Question yourself on this score. Are you sanding down all the rough edges? If so, you aren't giving us a TED-quality talk.
There are many more factors among the missing and should-be-missing for these important talks. We'll cover this topic in depth at my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant £100 discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April.

I also work with groups to help them prep for TED-quality talks with a mix of group workshops and 1:1 coaching, or with individuals 1:1. Email me at eloquentwoman at gmail dot com if you'd like to try this approach.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by misspixels)

Monday, February 23, 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:
Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Charlotte Church's lecture on sexism in music

Now, here's a strong opening for a speech:
I’d like you to imagine a world in which male musicians are routinely expected to act as submissive sex objects. Picture Beyonce’s husband, Jay Z, stripped down to a t-back bikini thong, sex kitten-ing his way through a boulevard of suited and booted women for their pleasure. Or Britney Spears’s ex, Justin Timberlake, in buttock-clenching, denim hot pants, riding on the bonnet of a pink Chevy, explaining to his audience how he’d like to be their teenage dream. 
Before we all become a little too hot beneath the gusset, of course, these scenarios are not likely to become a reality. Unless for comedy’s sake. The reason for this is that these are roles that the music industry has carved out specifically for women. It is a male dominated industry with a juvenile perspective on gender and sexuality.
The speaker was Welsh singer, songwriter and actress Charlotte Church, delivering the 2013 John Peel lecture to an audience at BBC 6 Music, an industry conference. If you remember her as the very young girl with the voice of an angel, this talk will change that view. Here, she looks at the modern origins of how women in music are treated:
The culture of demeaning women in pop music is so ingrained as to become routine. From the way we are dealt with by management and labels, to the way we are presented to the public. We can trace this back to Madonna, although it probably does go back further in time. She was a template setter. By changing her image regularly, putting her sexuality at the heart of her image, videos and live performances, the statement she was making was: “I’m in control of me and my sexuality.” This idea has had its corners rounded off over the years and has become: “Take your clothes off, show you’re an adult.”
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Don't mince words when your industry is your audience: Not unlike Elisabeth Murdoch's taking-to-task of the UK television industry--also a Famous Speech Friday entry--Church wastes no time putting her issue before the industry. For many, including performers and talent, the chance to address top executives is a rare one. Waste no time getting to your point.
  • Dig deep: Church's example of how Madonna's bold approach later "had its corners rounded off" is itself bold, an effort to go past image to reality. In doing so, she calls it as she sees it, speaking truth to power. She digs just as deeply into the impact on her own career, taking time to note that early pressure to present herself as sexualized affected and limited her later choices in how she wanted to be seen as an artist. Using yourself as an example should always have this much impact.
  • Turn the gender tables: Just as suffragette Nellie McClung reversed genders to hilariously question whether men should vote, Church turns the tables on Jay-Z and Justin Bieber to make a crystal-clear point about what women in the industry are asked to do. It's a vivid visual example.
There's audio available of the full speech in the video below, and you can read the full speech here.



(Creative Commons licensed photo from Craig Martin's photostream on Flickr)

Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

From Macbeth to cut-and-paste, exhibits look behind Lincoln's speeches

Lincoln, a month before his second inauguration.
Photo by Alexander Gardner
We pay attention to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's speeches today, 150 years after his assassination, for a wide range of reasons. He was a frequent speaker: Lincoln: Speeches and Writings 1832-1858 and Lincoln : Speeches and Writings : 1859-1865 together share hundreds of speeches and debates, and are the volumes I keep close to hand. Lincoln wrote all of his speeches himself, and made a distinction between his reading copies and those for publication. (For example, the Associated Press text of his delivered Gettysburg Address has subtle differences from the final published version; it's in the second volume, above.) His language was taut, soaring, or healing, by turns and by design. That rich eloquence was steeped in hours of reading and re-reading great texts.

More than that, Lincoln bucked trends to make his speeches work: In a time when the typical speech was a stem-winder of 2 hours or more in length, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is just 272 words, or a little more than two minutes long--the equivalent of giving a TED talk next to a filibuster. He didn't just know how to count words, he know how to make words count. I'm also going to guess that, in some ways, Lincoln's speaking style was closer to what rhetoric calls the "effeminate" or feminine style of speaking, more intimate, conversational, and with greater emotional tone. If so, it's a style he shared with Presidents Reagan and Clinton.

This year, to mark the anniversaries of his second inauguration and his assassination, two exhibits give us a look behind his speeches to their influences and even how Lincoln put his reading copies together. Already on in New York City at the Morgan Library, Lincoln Speaks is an entire exhibit devoted to the great man's speaking. You see his own copies of Shakespeare and other works that influenced him, speeches in his own neat handwriting, and how later presidents like FDR aligned themselves with Lincoln in their own speeches, bringing the material full circle. You can find a complete online version of the exhibit with images of all the documents and the interpretive material.

And in early March, for just four days, the Library of Congress will display Lincoln's second inaugural address, famous for the line, "With malice toward none, with charity for all." From the library's announcement:
Visitors will be able to view all four manuscript pages in Lincoln’s own handwriting; see his two-columned reading copy, comprised of text cut and pasted from the printer’s proof; and view photographs, a contemporary news account of the inauguration and an assessment of the speech by abolitionist and human-rights leader Frederick Douglass, all from the Library’s collections....The March display will allow visitors to see not only those documents but also major collection items placed on public view in the ongoing exhibition "The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom" including the "I Have a Dream" speech by Martin Luther King Jr. and several items on special display from the collection of civil-rights pioneer Rosa Parks, including her Presidential Medal of Freedom.
That's a lot of public-speaking greatness in one place, for just four days. This article takes a closer look at the cut-and-paste work Lincoln did to create his two-column reading copy. That alone is a great delivery tip to steal from a great speaker: Have you ever tried a two-column reading copy?

I saw the Morgan Library exhibit on the day it opened last month, and I'm so fortunate to live in Washington, where it will be easy for me to get in line for the Library of Congress exhibit. I don't just get excited about seeing these speech texts because I've written, coached, and delivered speeches, but because they bring home in a way nothing else can the enormity of work that went into each speech. Every word is seen as chosen, edited, and delivered for a purpose. These words helped prevent my country from failing its experiment in democracy. How much more weight can words have?

(You can see the photo of Lincoln here in Washington at the National Portrait Gallery.)

Come to my pre-conference workshop at the Spring Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference in Cambridge, UK, this April. What goes into a TED-quality talk will help speakers, speechwriters and conference organizers understand how to craft and deliver a talk in the style of TED, whether you're getting ready for a TEDx conference or just a presentation in this popular style. Go to this link  for more details on what's included, as well as a significant discount for readers of The Eloquent Woman. The workshop is on 15 April, and the conference is 16-17 April. Please join me!