Monday, August 3, 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, July 31, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Countess Markievicz on 1909's ideal free woman

Countess Markievicz, an Irishwoman born Constance Gore-Booth, made a lifetime out of defying description. A woman of privilege, she worked as a political activist and suffragette. She was at home in ball gowns and in what was then considered men's attire. She fought for Irish independence, taking part in the 1916 Easter Rising and held in prison afterward, the only woman held in solitary confinement. She was sentenced to death, but spared the firing squad; after that, she left Ireland, only to be re-arrested on her return.

From her jail cell in 1918, she would become the first woman elected to the British House of Commons, though she refused to take her seat. Instead, she helped form a legislature in Ireland, and later became the first female cabinet minister in Europe.

But before all that happened, she made an unsuccessful run for Parliament in 1908 from Manchester, England, then joined the Irish republican party, Sinn Féin, and the Daughters of Ireland. The following year, she gave this speech to the Students' National Literary Society, where she considered women's independence at a time when they were considered decorative at best. That contrast--the beautiful idolized woman and the independent one--forms the core of her speech:
Tommy Moore, the popular poet of his day and also many days later, has set Ireland a very low idea of woman to worship. To him, woman is merely sex and an excuse for a drink. Not a companion or a friend, but a beautiful houri holding dominion by her careful manipulation of her sex and her good looks…

The better ideal for women who, whether they like it or not, are living in a work-a-day world, would be – If you want to walk round Ireland, or any other country, dress suitably in short skirts and strong boots, leave your jewels and gold wands in the bank, and buy a revolver. Don’t trust to your ‘feminine charm’ and your capacity for getting on the soft side of men, but take up your responsibilities and be prepared to go your own way depending for safety on your own courage, your own truth and your own common sense, and not on the problematic chivalry of the men you may meet on the way…. 
A consciousness of their own dignity and worth should be encouraged in women. They should be urged to get away from wrong ideals and false standards of womanhood, to escape from their domestic ruts, their feminine pens...We have got to get rid of the last vestige of the Harem before woman is free as our dream of the future would have her….
This speech also was picked out by current Sinn Féin vice president and Dublin Central TD Mary Lou McDonald as her favorite speech. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Mix high ideals with a realistic call to action: In 1909, votes for women and Irish independence were seen as ideals that would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. So Markievicz called on her women listeners to try things that they could imagine themselves doing. To the modern ear, her call for dressing in short skirts and carrying a revolver may sound reactionary--it's certainly the most frequently quoted part of the speech--but it was something that could be achieved. As you can see in the photo, she wasn't afraid to take her own advice.
  • Hitch your wagon to a star: Markievicz made it clear in this speech, over and over again, that an independent Ireland without independent women would not do. In talking about the decorative woman versus the active one, she makes the case for a less passive and more activist approach to indpendence for the nation as well. It's a clever approach. In speaking to women's groups on this score, she was perhaps suggesting to any male listeners that women might have an objection if there were independence for the nation, but not for themselves, thus losing a source of votes for the cause. And to women, it suggested that independence for Ireland only really worked if they, too, were independent. As we say today, a win-win.
  • Give your audience courage: I sometimes think that few speakers realize that encouragement, or the giving of courage, to an audience can be a powerful tactic, something different from a simple call to action. Much of this speech involves encouragement for the young women she was addressing, helping them to envision themselves active in politics and in running the nation. You might try that in your next speech.
The full text of this speech can be found in In Their Own Voice: Women and Irish Nationalism.

Countess Markievicz School, an annual conference in Dublin, helps keep her public speaking tradition alive today, with an annual lecture in her name and training to encourage women more actively in politics. I'm especially pleased that each "school," once completed, includes a web archive of all the speeches given, with links to video--an important archive of women's speeches.

(Layla Claridge provided research assistance for this post.)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Talk About the Talk: @drlucyrogers's space debris talk at InspireFest

(Editor's Note: Talk About the Talk is a series in which speakers I've worked with share their experiences preparing and delivering major talks. Dr. Lucy Rogers and I met at the speechwriting conferences I attend in the UK and Europe, and as you'll read below, she participated in my workshop on What goes into a TED-quality talk earlier this year. In one of our exercises, I asked participants to pair up and share their ideas for TED-style talks, then learn what their partner thought and how he or she would suggest adjusting it--a great technique to help you see what your audience might want. Rogers teamed up with Guy Doza, and continued getting feedback from him after the workshop. I'm so pleased that Rogers shared video and her text so you can see the work involved.)

“We’re aiming to have 75% women speakers at our tech conference and would love for you to be one of them.”

Who could refuse an invitation like that? Most tech conferences that I have been to or spoken at (and tech includes science and engineering in this context) have had a maximum of 10% women speakers.

Back in January 2015, Dr.Sue Black, a friend I met on Twitter, recommended me as a speaker to Ann O’Dea from Silicon Republic, based in Dublin. Ann had a look through my YouTube videos and at my blog and asked if I’d be willing to have a Skype chat with her about InspireFest 2015.

We chatted about my portfolio career, and I suggested various topics I could talk about, including “Robotic Dinosaurs,” “Work can be fun," “How to get from there to here,” and “Space Debris”.

We finally (about five days before the conference!) settled on “Space Debris."

I am a member of Toastmasters International and this has helped me improve my public speaking technique. I have also attended a few European Speechwriters Network (ESN) conferences, so have gained hints and tips about constructing speeches. At one of the recent ESN conferences, I also attended the “How to give a TED-Quality talk” workshop by Denise Graveline.

I decided to implement some of the things I had learnt or that had been suggested at that workshop into this speech.

First – write the script. This was new for me. I usually think of what I want to say, break it down into eight parts and write a few key words to remind me the stories in each part.

But, I sat and stared at my computer for a while and eventually wrote a script. I then asked Guy Doza, a friend I had met through the European Speechwriters Network, to have a look at it and give me any feedback.

My original script was a little vague in places and disjointed. Guy helped me focus on the main point of the talk, and suggested ways to help the audience come away with a clear call to arms.

Guy also suggested using more rhetorical devices and painting more pictures - how much debris per day? - rather than just a number.

By writing the script I made it tighter, put more rhetorical devices and quotes in than I would have in my “normal” way of picturing stories.

The script I wrote for the talk is given below. I froze it on the Tuesday, before giving it on the Thursday. If you watch the video (here and below), you’ll see I wasn’t word perfect. I changed the first line and I missed out some of the jokes.

When I was practicing and timing myself in my hotel room, I also realised it was too long - Denise had said, aim for 100-120 words per minute – I had written too many words so I had to cut some bits. (Read the final script here.)

I was nervous before the start – it was the biggest conference I had spoken at, and it was in a theatre, with a proper stage, proper lighting, proper headset microphones plus all the backstage people etc. I had to wait backstage in the dark while two other speakers gave their talks. I watched their slide presentations from the wrong side of the screen, and almost learnt to read backwards.

However, when I was on stage, I relaxed. The audience were friendly, laughed at my jokes, and I felt encouraged by them. Even the “casual saunter” back to the lectern to refer to my notes (see photo) wasn’t as embarrassing as I thought it would be. Note to self: freeze the speech longer in advance to give yourself chance to learn it.

I had decided not to use slides – I relied on making visual pictures. I prefer this as I first started public speaking in a storytelling setting. I often find slides a distraction, but it does mean that I have to be able to hold the audience’s attention.

Immediately after the talk I had some great feedback – both on twitter and in real life. I even got asked if I had given it as a TED talk – and that I should. I was really chuffed by this - I was aiming for the “TED Quality” talk that Denise had highlighted in her workshop.

I watched the video three weeks after I gave the talk. I was very impressed at myself! Thanks to Toastmasters I have eliminated most of my verbal crutches (ums, ers etc.) and also the random hand waving I used to do.

Because I wrote the speech out, the rhetorical devices and word pictures were much stronger. The speech I feel had a purpose and a call to arms.

My only worry now is that I will get pigeon holed as only being able to talk about space or science. I have many greater issues I’d like to speak about - “Women’s equality” “Finding your own path”, or even “How to hold your audience’s attention.”

(Photo by Conor McCabe)

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, July 27, 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, July 24, 2015

Famous Speech Friday: Stav Shaffir and "What is a Zionist?"

In February, The Eloquent Woman participated in a webinar about public speaking fears, including the fear that some women have about putting themselves out there with a speech containing strong opinions. These nerves can silence women and give away their power before they even open their mouths--and there's too much of that going on already.

Member of the Israeli Knesset (MK) Stav Shaffir recently offered a great reminder of what we might miss if we keep quiet rather than challenge authority or voice an unpopular opinion. Her blast of a speech in the Knesset in January got her removed from the chamber, but went viral and prompted an international discussion about Israel's economic and military future.

Getting escorted from the room is becoming a trend for Shaffir, the youngest member of Israel's parliament. Shaffir was removed twice from a Knesset Finance Committee meeting in December 2014, after she and others questioned a last-minute transfer of funds to the Israel Defense Ministry. In October of 2014, she was physically dragged from the committee at the request of the chairman, after demanding more transparency in the committee's dealings. Surrounded by angry heckling and protests from some in the ultra-Orthodox community, Shaffir and two other women MKs have also joined other women in praying, wearing traditional prayer shawls and reading from the Torah at Jerusalem's Western Wall, in defiance of the tradition that has normally banned women from such practices there.

Before becoming a politician, Shaffir was a journalist and a leading activist in the 2011 economic and social justice protests in Israel that some compared to the U.S. Occupy movement. She has said in several interviews that she found the transition to politics difficult, even as she came to realize that politics were critical to achieving the left's goals in Israel:

"I don't like the fact that, in 2013, less than a quarter of our parliament is women...women are not very welcome there," Shaffir said during that year's elections. "I'm spending a lot of time talking to younger give them the example that it's possible, we can do it, that we can survive in that violent, masculine atmosphere."

Shaffir's "What is a Zionist?" remarks are an exclamation point of a speech, so passionate and yet so succinct in spelling out the values and goals of Israel's left that many have called it a "credo" or "manifesto." What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Gain structure for your speech from repetition. Shaffir uses repetition to describe the people she says are getting rich as a result of right-wing budgets; the people who are losing out in Israeli society as a consequence; and how this contrast defines what she calls a true Zionist. In the first two instances, repetition serves to lay out her case against the right wing, as a sort of recitation of pros and cons. After that, she uses repetition to build up to an emotional ending. Shaffir said her remarks were impromptu (more on that below), so repetition also may have given her a little extra time to collect her thoughts as she spoke.
  • Speak directly to a specific audience. This speech would feel far less compelling if Shaffir used constructions such as "The opposition wants..." or "Those who say this..." to speak about the right wing. Instead, she uses "You" over and over again, as if she is having an argument with one person standing right in front of her. It's an attention-grabbing tactic, and it fits in well with the fury behind her words.
  • Speak now, and seize the moment. Ever want to say something on the spot, but stay silent because you only speak in public with notes and weeks of preparation behind you? There's a place for those kinds of speeches, and then there's a place for your thoughts right here and right now. Shaffir said afterward that she had not planned her remarks that day, but improvised them after hearing another politician attack her party in the Knesset. In this case, a planned speech probably wouldn't have had nearly the emotional impact--or the crackling brevity--of this response.
You can watch the full speech here, with captioning in English:


(Freelance writer Becky Ham contributed this Famous Speech Friday post. Creative Commons licensed photo by Wendy Kenin)

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, July 23, 2015

Did I just get #publicspeaking advice? Shade? Or a virtual "shut up"?

I've written here about how women speakers' hair, wardrobe, and overall appearance can be used against them as "virtual mute buttons" that keep us from hearing their words. But there's another virtual mute button out there, one that's even more perturbing to women speakers: Public speaking advice that's really an attempt to put them back in their place, preferably a silent place.

Here's a good example: A young woman friend sought my advice after she'd been on a radio program, interviewed about a debate on a feminist issue. Her role was to defend the feminist perspective, and she did so, eloquently and energetically. But after the interview aired, a male mentor called her and said, "Janet, you really need to be more likable in these interviews." Her question to me was: How? Should she have laughed more or made jokes? Smiled more? Talked about the issue in different language? A different tone of voice? Thankfully, a radio interview ruled out what would have been additional questions on dress and appearance.

So here was an eminently likable young professional woman, an excellent speaker, trying to figure out how to be more likable (dictionary definition: pleasant and appealing).  She saw it automatically as something to work on. I saw it as a way to shut her up, or at least, throw her off her game. You may hear something different--an urging for you to be or feel more confident, or talking to you about changing your hair or wardrobe.

The "likable" criticism is especially insidious--that is, treacherous and crafty at the same time. That's because, as I posted in 2008, there's research to show that in the eyes of society, women can be seen as either competent or likable, but not both. So if you're competent, we don't like you, and if you're likable, we don't see you as competent. Considering that most management consultants say that executives should aim for both competence and likability, this is as good an example of a double-standard for women as I have seen. My post quoted journalist Nick Kristof talking about the research: lesson from this research is that promoting their own successes is a helpful strategy for ambitious men. But experiments have demonstrated that when women highlight their accomplishments, that’s a turn-off. And women seem even more offended by self-promoting females than men are....The broader conundrum is that for women, but not for men, there is a tradeoff in qualities associated with top leadership. A woman can be perceived as competent or as likable, but not both.
And simply doing your speaking in public, be it a conference hall or on the radio or television, can easily be seen as "promoting your own successes" or "highlighting your accomplishments," thus bringing out the subtle undermining. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg put it this way: “For men, likbility and success is correlated. As they get more successful, more powerful, they’re better liked. For women, success and likability are negatively correlated. As a woman gets more successful, more powerful - she is less liked."

Here's how I characterized it in Criticizing and undermining: How do you respond in a meeting?:
In a world where most businesspeople understand that it's wrong to discriminate against women, that discrimination hasn't gone away--it's just gone underground. Undermining is a coded, seemingly more clever way to unsettle strong women in the workplace. After all, if a man or a woman threatened by your success or potential can't overtly block your progress, they can at least try to get you to be quiet, to doubt yourself or to pay attention to the criticism, instead of your goals. If you're impervious to that criticism, they can work at making it seem as if many others doubt you, damaging your reputation, perhaps.
The boundary-setting tactics in that post work just as well when you've just given a speech or a media interview, as well as in meetings. If this happens a lot--and it does--you'd be smart to have some prepared responses in your back pocket. First and foremost, before you rush to accept the advice, think about why it's being given.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Rach)

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.