Monday, December 5, 2016

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

If you want to keep up with my wide-ranging reading list about women and speaking in real time, follow The Eloquent Woman on Facebook where these links are posted all week long--or just head here on Mondays, where I summarize them all for you. Either way, you'll be expanding your understanding of women and speaking:

Friday, December 2, 2016

8 famous speeches by women before the U.S. Congress

Some would say there's no more high-stakes talk you can give than testimony or an address before the U.S. Congress...and that's true whether you're a senator or representative, a witness, an executive branch official, an expert witness, a citizen, or a foreign head of state. We've got them all in this collection, and each of these speeches brought controversy and frank talk to the Congress. Each of these speeches also is part of The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women, and at the links, you will find, where available, video or audio or text of the speeches, along with an analysis and at least three tips you can use based on these speeches for your next speech. Testify along with these bold speakers:

  1. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's 2009 address to both houses of Congress shared a personal memory of growing up in postwar Germany, as well as a rebuke to the Americans about support for climate change measures.
  2. Anita Hill's Senate testimony against Clarence Thomas's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court set the nation afire with public speaking about sexual harassment, and prompted thousands of women to speak up about their own harassment in the workplace.
  3. Clara Barton's Andersonville testimony to Congress was a graphic description of what she saw in an infamous prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War, delivered at a time when women rarely spoke in public, let alone before the Congress.
  4. Hillary Clinton answered a tough question before a congressional committee during her tenure as Secretary of State, demonstrating how to disagree with a leading question calmly and with control. 
  5. Margaret Chase Smith's 1950 Declaration of Conscience was a rare rebuke to fellow senator Joe McCarthy about his witch-hunt tactics against rumored Communists in America. So strong and singular was this statement that it was later said if a man had given it, he'd be elected president.
  6. Shirley Chisholm introduces the Equal Rights Amendment--not the first time, but again, during the women's movement of the 1970s. Perhaps based on her own experience, she said, "If women are already equal, why is it such an event whenever one happens to be elected to Congress?"
  7. and 8. Representatives Gwen Moore and Jacke Speier on abortion rights and family planning were floor speeches these members of Congress used to share their own personal experiences with unplanned pregnancies in moving, impromptu remarks.

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both, and you'll get the best discount if you sign up by August 1.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Our 9 most popular posts on using slides (or not)

I write about all aspects of public speaking on this blog, but it's the posts about slides that get the most traffic...which suggests to me that many of you are struggling. Here are the most popular posts we've published on slides in the last few years, nine gems that should help you reform your bad habits and use slides (or not) to your advantage. In general, there's nothing wrong with slides...if you use them thoughtfully and have real reason to use them. See if my reasons differ from yours:
  1. Myth-busting: Learn the 6 myths about slides that are holding you back as a speaker. Are these what you're telling yourself?
  2. Space exploration: Crowded slides? You need these 3 smart ways to space out--not cram in--your slide content
  3. Data nerd? How many slides you use, and how long you spend on each one, are among the 6 kinds of speaker data to know about yourself
  4. Come out where we can see you: Slides also are among the 6 things you might be hiding behind as a speaker
  5. The life preserver: Are you hanging on to one slide for dear life? I had one client who used to spend 2 hours on his title slide...before we worked together. Here are 7 fixes for that.
  6. Lose them now: Prepping a TED-style talk? Slides might be among those things that should be missing from your TED talk.
  7. Not every picture tells a story: "But all my slides are pictures" isn't a smart public speaking strategy.
  8. First to go: From NASCAR slides to "any questions?" here are 8 kinds of slides to delete right now.
  9. Fly free: Want to fly without slides? Here are 4 good tactics.
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Devon Christopher Adams)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

If you want to keep up with my wide-ranging reading list about women and speaking in real time, follow The Eloquent Woman on Facebook where these links are posted all week long--or just head here on Mondays, where I summarize them all for you. Either way, you'll be expanding your understanding of women and speaking:

Friday, November 25, 2016

Famous Speech Friday: Helen Gahagan Douglas & the "Pink Lady" speech

Some speakers do what we speaker coaches refer to as "throat-clearing," taking the long way to their topic with lots of preamble, greetings, and other filler. But in 1946, Helen Gahagan Douglas, a Democratic member of Congress from California, cut right to the chase in a floor speech. "Mr. Speaker, I think we all know that communism is no real threat to the democratic institutions of our country," she said. And in 1946, those were fighting words.

That's true even though she quickly followed with, "But the irresponsible way the term 'communism' is used to falsely label the thing that majority of us believe in can be very dangerous." These were the days when alleged communists were brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee for investigation. Her speech preceded, by four years, Sen. Joe McCarthy's famous 1950 speech alleging that communists had infiltrated the State Department, and Sen. Margaret Chase Smith's Declaration of Conscience speech, also delivered in 1950 and a part of The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women.

Gahagan Douglas, in this speech, sought a middle ground. She posited that conditions under communism were not all bad, and that conditions under democracy were not all good. But the speech, titled "My Democratic Credo," put her squarely on the side of democracy:
I do not think we value democracy highly enough. The great mass of the American people will never exchange democracy for communism as long as democracy fulfills its promise. The best way to keep communism out of our country is to keep democracy in it-to keep constantly before our eyes and minds the achievements and the goals which we, a free people, have accomplished and intend to accomplish in the future under our own democratic system.
Provocative, bold, and forward-thinking for its day, the speech nonetheless produced bitter fruit for Gahagan Douglas when she later campaigned for the Senate in 1950 – the year when attacks on communism were at an all-time high. A primary opponent dubbed her "the pink lady" and said she was "pink right down to her underwear" on the strength of the speech and other remarks. She faced none other than future U.S. president Richard Nixon in the general election, and he built on the pink lady image by having flyers about her printed on pink paper, and comparing her to a pro-Soviet member of Congress. The dirty tricks worked, and Nixon won the Senate election with 59% of the vote, effectively ending Gahagan Douglas's public service career – the allegations proved too controversial for her to win future appointments. One of her supporters, Democratic National Committee vice chair India Edwards said Gahagan Douglas couldn't get appointed dogcatcher.

Gahagan Douglas, however, may have gotten the last laugh on Nixon: she coined for him the durable nickname "Tricky Dick," which outlasted them both, and later proved to be true. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Use the "Russert test" when you're stating a strong position: In Washington, media interview subjects are often advised to use the test recommended by the late Tim Russert, an NBC political presenter who advocated turning your points around as if your opponent were saying them and using them against you. That kind of test might have occurred to Gahagan Douglas, but if so, she apparently ignored it, believing in the strength of her argument. It's a good exercise, if only to anticipate how you will be challenged, sometimes using your own words.
  • The middle ground takes more explaining: One of the reasons many speakers choose to paint their issues in stark tones of black and white is that it's easier to pull off. The middle ground, the more nuanced argument, take more explaining. You'll notice that this is not exactly a short speech, nor should it have been.
  • Leaven the negative with a hopeful vision: Much of this speech focuses on the negative, criticizing the voices of opponents and describing in stark terms their negative views. Gahagan Douglas herself expresses her feelings by describing herself as "jealous" for various democratic institutions that had been dubbed communistic. (An example is "I am jealous for democracy. I do not like to see the things that democracy can accomplish credited to communism.") Gahagan Douglas attempts to balance that negativity with paragraphs like this one: "We must make democracy work. We must realize the greatness that is in America. We are proud of our past and proudest because of what we can build upon the past. We do not want to turn our eyes backward and to keep the dead hand of the past upon our growth. And above all we want to shake off the deadening hand of monopoly." But the difficulty of the speech lies in its effort to attack the attackers of communism, which requires a negative tone.
In the end, it's a brave speech and one of the early efforts to fight against the Communist witchhunts. Unfortunately, its fame results more from the way it was used against the speaker than for the speech itself.

This speech is not available in video or audio formats, but you can find the full text here.

(U.S. Congress photo)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both, and you'll get the best discount if you sign up by August 1.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The speaker coach's last-minute backstage toolkit for TED talks or your talk

I'll be backstage coaching speakers next week at TEDMED, the medical and science TED conference, for my sixth year. Some of our speakers are first timers on a big stage; others, seasoned pros. But good old fight-or-flight syndrome can affect all of them--along with many other last-minute issues.

They all go on to rock the TEDMED stage, and you can rock yours, whether you're doing last-minute prep for a TED talk or just your next talk...if you remember these bits of wisdom that backstage coaches keep in their toolkits for those final moments before the speakers take the stage:
  1. Your body has a mind of its own: Sadly, it won't be your higher-order prefrontal brain controlling things. That's the part of your brain you need to put words together and emit them from your mouth. Instead, your caveman or limbic brain will be kicking in just about now, and with it, loads of awful physical symptoms, from dry mouth to shaking hands and tight breathing. If you think "Hey, that's my caveman brain kicking in and I really need my public-speaking brain right now," your brain will come back to its senses--really, it's that simple. So don't give in to the caveman brain's signals.
  2. Don't spend those last moments practicing: Ideally, you've already practiced enough. Take a short walk, get some alone moments if you are introverted and need to build energy, or shut your eyes and meditate, even for a few minutes of in-breaths and out-breaths. Last-minute practice doesn't necessarily aid the end result, and may make you more nervous.
  3. Smiling is the best fix-it tool: A smile is the speaker's Swiss Army knife, loaded with aid for any occasion. Smiling before and during your talk will tell your brain to start pumping nerve-calming chemicals and feel-good chemicals, no other action needed. Smiling looks good to an audience, and it counteracts the tendency of most mouths to look flatlined or downturned (aka, sad-looking). You and we will feel better. 
  4. Get out there, find your mark, and wait: We ask our speakers to find the place they wish to stand, face the audience, smile...and wait. Wait for the audience to stop applauding. Wait three more beats, just to be sure. Then start. That lets you gather your courage, get used to the stage, and--critically for talks that are being recorded on video--gives us a prayer of capturing your carefully crafted opening lines without applause cutting them off and making them unintelligible. Your nerves may be telling you to get going and get it over with, but you will just ruin the start if you listen to them.
  5. Remember: What will you look like when you're done? I love to ask this question of our TEDMED speakers, and it never fails to produce glorious, sparkling, I-just-won-the-lottery smiles. That's when I say, "Now *that's* the smile I want to see on your face onstage. Don't save it for the end." Go and do likewise. A simple reminder to yourself before you go onstage will do the trick.
(TEDMED photo)