Friday, September 22, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Janet Yellen on holding women back

In America, the chair of our central banking Federal Reserve System (known familiarly as "The Fed") speaks frequently, but with care. Pronouncements by the Fed chair--currently economist Janet Yellen, the first woman to hold the post--are read like tea leaves for signals of change in the economy, and hold great weight. The Fed chair's speeches are transcribed and published routinely to aid in that tea-leaf-reading. And like tea leaves, boy, are they dry, the result of all the anxiety around these formal speeches. I like to imagine the Fed's offices with the motto "Neutral language a specialty" carved above the door. Forget your storytelling and personal anecdotes. Good, solid, plainspoken economics are the thing.

In a speech the New York Times called "unusually narrative and unusually personal," Yellen broke with that pattern at her alma mater, Brown University, for a conference marking the 125th anniversary of women's admission to the university. Also unusual was the coverage it drew, from the likes of the New York Times, Bloomberg, Fortune, and other financial press

While her premise--that the economy could grow more if working women had better support--was fiscal in nature, the speech was peppered with examples of real women who had studied at Brown, and experienced setbacks in their efforts to pursue learning and careers. One of them, a mathematician who graduated in 1923, was Yellen's husband's aunt, Elizabeth Stafford Hirschfelder.

It was the mix of the two styles--personal and plainspoken--that made this speech a success. Noting estimates that the U.S. could boost its yearly economic output by 5 percent if women could participate at the same level as men in the workforce, Yellen said:
Evidence suggests that many women remain unable to achieve their goals. If these obstacles persist, we will squander the potential of many of our citizens and incur a substantial loss to the productive capacity of our economy at a time when the aging of the population and weak productivity growth are already weighing on economic growth.
Let's reflect for a moment on what "participate at the same level as men in the workforce means." Not having to endure and fight harrassment, nor having to quit a good job because of it. Getting hired at the same rate as men, and having as many opportunities to move and find opportunity. Getting the same rate of pay and advancement and benefits. Not having to leave the workday or meetings or business trips early to handle childcare or home chores. Not having to secure childcare. Not having to use personal vacation time for any of the above. Having equitable parental leave. And that's just the short list.

"We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back," Yellen said, quoting Malala Yousafzai, who served as her inspiration for the speech. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • It does make a difference when women speak on women's issues: I'll let Bloomberg say it: "It really does make a difference when the chair of the Federal Reserve is a woman. On Friday, Janet Yellen gave a detailed, 18-page speech at her alma mater, Brown University, making clear just how important the topic of women and work is to her. Without taking anything away from her predecessors at the Fed, it’s hard to imagine Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, or Paul Volcker giving such a talk." And I'll add: Those men could have tackled this economic issue at any time, of course. But they didn't. So here again, women pick up the slack to highlight their issues.
  • Enliven data with real people: In addition to her own relative, Yellen drew on examples of real women graduates of Brown University from the points in history she wanted to illustrate, taking their stories from oral histories collected by the university. And from time to time, she used herself as a reference, noting that in her own profession of economics, she's an anomaly as well, since just one-third of the Ph.D. degrees issued in the field go to women. Even today.
  • Finish the thought: It's been said many times that once women decide to have children, their advancement is limited, particularly in high-powered professions that require long hours and overtime, or excessive travel. Often, the conversation ends there, a fait accompli. But Yellen completes the thought with what could be, if we just tried a little harder: "Advances in technology have facilitated greater work-sharing and flexibility in scheduling, and there are further opportunities in this direction. Economic models also suggest that while it can be difficult for any one employer to move to a model with shorter hours, if many firms were to change their model, they and their workers could all be better off." Hint, hint.
The Fed published the speech here, and you can watch it in the video below. Yellen's remarks begin at the 11:42 mark, but don't miss the sparkling introduction given by Brown University President Christina Paxson that precedes it.




Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

When a great speech comes back to haunt you: Speaker credibility

Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi has become a beloved figure, thanks to all the trouble she has endured in pressing for human rights. But today, the activist-turned-leader of her country is under fire for failing to condemn publicly the systematic persecution and ethnic cleansing of the Rohinga, a Muslim minority in Myanmar.

The persecution includes burning entire villages, raping women, and shooting adults and children for no reason; some 300,000 have been forced to leave the country for Bangladesh. And her words in two famous speeches are now being used to measure her non-response, because they are so different in content and tone from what she is not saying today. The speeches, once so well-received, have put the lie to her action/inaction--and her failure to act has negated the credibility of the speeches in the eyes of many.

Silence and speaking have marked the public career of Daw Suu, as she is known. After a military takeover in her country, she was imprisoned under house arrest for 15 years, effectively silencing her voice of protest. We've covered here her 1990 Freedom from Fear speech as part of Famous Speech Friday, given before her arrest, and in that speech--a great psychological study of oppressors--she said:
It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.
As I noted in that post, these words were not held back for the stirring end of the speech, but were thrown down early in the speech, a direct and bold challenge. There is nothing reserved about this speech, which had credibility because it not only spoke truth to power in defiance, but because it went beneath the surface and analyzed the real motivations of her country's oppressors in a way that speeches rarely do. It is worth reading again.

Freed in 2012, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and her acceptance lecture at the awards ceremony also has become a touchstone speech about human rights. Here's a passage that is coming back to haunt her today:
Are we not still guilty, if to a less violent degree, of recklessness, of improvidence with regard to our future and our humanity? War is not the only arena where peace is done to death. Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages.
And yet here we are in 2017 with the speaker appearing to do just the thing she decried: Ignoring suffering. New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof has an excellent analysis; Kristof has covered issues about human rights, women and girls, and international violence for decades and really captures the dilemma and the gap between Daw Suu's words and her failure to act in this important case. Like many observers calling her out now, it's the speeches he comes back to, again and again.

Kristof does have some direct clues, despite her silence, and shared the criticism from human rights leaders:
Based on a conversation with Daw Suu once about the Rohingya, I think she genuinely believes that they are outsiders and troublemakers. But in addition, the moral giant has become a pragmatic politician — and she knows that any sympathy for the Rohingya would be disastrous politically for her party in a country deeply hostile to its Muslim minority....Another Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, wrote a pained letter to his friend: “My dear sister: If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep.”
The Reverend Tutu nailed it with that comment, something that all women who strive to have their voices heard should heed: If the price of your power is your silence, the price is surely too steep.

Just yesterday, Daw Suu finally addressed the issue in a speech that appeared to nod to both sides, not a satisfying answer to her questioners. She avoided the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York this week, and this speech came nearly a month after her last public statement, an unusual period of self-determined silence. But worst of all, reports said, "[h]er speech was remarkably similar in language to that of the generals who had locked her up for the better part of two decades."

What can an ordinary speaker learn from this extraordinary circumstance?

First, I think it highlights something we choose to forget or ignore many times when we give a speech. A speech is a statement of belief. We assert things in speeches, and defend or decry them. We share opinions. We put our marker down: This is what I think, believe, hope, expect. We ask others to share our views, vote our way, act in our behalf or that of our cause. Not in every speech, but in many of them. We push ideas, and ask you to accept them, even applaud them.

But sometimes, perhaps, speakers forget or choose to ignore the speeches they've given. Not so the outside observers, who can use your speeches as a measure of what you said then versus what you are saying now. This happens, of course, more with public figures like Daw Suu, or U.S. presidents, or members of Congress or parliaments, and it should. Speeches are a public statement, and yes, they can serve as a measure of your credibility--a truth no matter how famous or ordinary you may be.

I've learned from working around the world that in many countries, the idea of formal speechwriting and even rhetoric--just a system for organizing thoughts into language--are considered dirty words, thanks to their misuse by politicians and despots intent on saying one thing and doing another. The misuse of speeches in this way undercuts entirely the credibility of speechmaking. In some countries around the world, one does not identify oneself as a speechwriter, or talk about having prepared a speech, or having someone else prepare a speech for you--all for fear of looking like you are just manufacturing propaganda. And that's a shame, although a realistic reaction to the misuse of speeches.

In a democracy, however, we still look to speeches as an important part of the process--and scrutinize them as well, using words to hold the leaders the account. The widespread criticism of Daw Suu is a part of that process, the outside world holding her to account for her words. It's a great reminder to speakers that your words can indeed come back to haunt you and your credibility, so choose with care.

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Amber Tamblyn: "The more we open our mouths, the more we become a choir"

Film and television actor Amber Tamblyn has been on our screens since she was 12 years old, and this week, the now-34-year-old actor took the time to write in the New York Times about the issue of women who've been harassed and how difficult the backlash they face makes it to speak up. I'm Done with Not Being Believed is an important read about one of the most common ways women are silenced, both in the workplace and their private lives, when they try to speak up about sexual harassment.

This isn't a speech, though it certainly could be one. But it's importance lies not just in raising the issue, but in offering other women a picture of how other women like them suffer, and how this woman is going to change her behavior to stop tolerating the backlash and silencing. So I recommend you share it widely, after you read it for yourself.

Because she made bold to complain about harassment on the set and was not believed, Tamblyn writes, "I have been afraid of speaking out or asking things of men in positions of power for years." Calling the demands that women who've been harassed show some proof "the credentials game," she says she and other women are done with that. 

The stirring conclusion of the article should give encouragement to any woman who cares about speaking up, and speaking in public: "We are learning that the more we open our mouths, the more we become a choir. And the more we are a choir, the more the tune is forced to change."

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Red Carpet Report)

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Monday, September 18, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

I read a lot about women and public speaking, and post my finds first on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. But I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. Here's what I've been reading lately:
  • Wait a minute: This video takes a look at the prevalence of women being talked over. It's at the link, and below. On our Facebook page, this was far and away the most popular post last week.

ATTN:

It's time to stop talking over women. 
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Susan Bro:"They tried to kill my child to shut her up"

On August 13, Susan Bro lost her child in an unimaginable fashion, after her daughter Heather Heyer was struck by a car as she participated in a counter-protest rally against white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia. Heyer's death was the coda for a weekend of anger and outrage that spilled over to the rest of the nation.

Eulogies are notoriously difficult for speakers, especially if they involve the death of a loved one. It is remarkable that Bro was up to the challenge just days after her daughter's shocking death, in the middle of a very public debate over violence and blame in Charlottesville. Her seven-minute speech for Heyer's memorial service was both a tender remembrance and a stunning call to action.

It also was a tribute to how outspoken Heyer herself was about her beliefs, and a sharp rebuke to those who tried to silence her. One of the most memorable lines from Bro's speech, which led to a standing ovation, was this: "They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her."

There's a lot to unpack and to admire in this simple speech. What can you learn from Bro's eulogy for Heyer?
  • Think about what a personal story can do within a eulogy. It's not surprising to include personal details in a speech like this, but Bro also used her remembrance to create a theme for the eulogy. She talked about the dinner table debates launched by her daughter, and how they were sometimes so uncomfortable that they drove Heyer's father out to the car to seek peace in a video game. This story does a remarkable job of tying the personal aspects of Heyer's life to the larger political issues that dominated Charlottesville on the weekend that she was killed.
  • Bring eloquence to a eulogy with plain speaking. Throughout the speech, Bro urges her listeners to continue Heyer's work for justice, telling the audience that "you need to find in your heart that small spark of accountability." Eulogies for famous people--as Heyer unfortunately became--often ask for action from their audiences, but the language here is particularly blunt and therefore striking. Some of my favorite admonitions from Bro include, "You poke that finger at yourself, like Heather would have done, and you make it happen." and of course the final line of the speech, "I'd rather have my child, but by golly if I got to give her up, we're going to make it count."
  • Encourage women speakers--before they become women. It's both heartbreaking and inspiring to hear Bro share how much listening she did in the short time she had with her daughter, and how often she encouraged her to speak, by engaging in those dinner table discussions, hanging in there when the topics got tough or voices were raised. It sounds like such a simple thing to do, but the mere act of listening to girls when they speak, and allowing them to express their opinions, can create a woman who isn't afraid to raise her voice--and who can never be silenced.
The full video of Bro’s eulogy is here and below:



(Freelance writer Becky Ham contributed this Famous Speech Friday post.)


Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Want to boost conference attendance? Add women speakers

There's a little-observed phenomenon going on in conferences today: Many "mainstream" conferences in all industries feature few women speakers, and women speakers experience serious hurdles to get on their programs. But at the same time,  "women's conferences" pack their houses, make huge profits, see big attendance, get lots of sponsors, and generally thrive.

I know this because I watch when anyone mentions the paucity of women speakers at conferences on Twitter. The only exceptions are the women's conferences. And while I see the joy of the participants, I also see that these conferences are big business.

I get why women might well choose self-segregation--much as people of color did over a century ago when they were shut out of white conferences--in tweets like this one, suggesting that gender balance should be ignored:
Despite that patriarchal view, and the well-worn trope that we don't want "just anyone" presenting, adding women speakers greatly impacts conferences...in a good way for the bottom line. Take this tweet as just one example:
Why might that be? As women know, when you scan a conference program and see few or no women speakers, you understand immediately that you'll be an anomaly, standing out in a bad way. You'll be the "other." And, as we've reported on the blog, a paucity of women speakers and attendees often leads the men-in-majority to make misogynistic decisions about conference entertainment, or even the presence of prostitutes. You'll find a recent example in Above the Law's post, Conference lacks women speakers, but makes up for it with showgirls. For more, read The prostitute factor: Why we're not serious about women at conferences, which focuses on some top conferences, like the World Economic Forum and a Microsoft conference. It's one of the most-read posts on thus blog.

Think about the reverse. Conferences where women feel not only safe, but included, and celebrated, are an easy "yes" for both participants and speakers. That might be a women's conference, but it need not be. Any conference can be one where women can see themselves participating at all levels...if it wishes. Build a smart code of conduct, offer fees and travel reimbursement to your speakers, and make it easier for women speakers to say "yes" when you call. After all, women do *not* just want to speak and participate in conferences for women.

I think "mainstream" conferences should get smart and take your cue from conferences like the Massachusetts Conference for Women, which can brag about a sold-out attendance of more than 10,000. If those 10,000 women attend all of the sessions at a total of $285, that's more than $2.8 million from just the registrations. That doesn't include fees for the 250 exhibitors, and dozens of sponsors. So advertisers and sponsors want to reach women, a demographic they can target specifically at these conferences. Hmm.

Just a reminder to conference organizers: The attendees missing from your meeting, and the profits missing from your wallet, may belong to the same group that's missing from your program. Above the Law blog put it this way: "[I]f you are an attendee, stop attending conferences that continue to perpetuate exclusion. Spend your $750 on a conference that’s doing more to embrace diversity and inclusion than simply putting pictures of women or POC on its website or on its PowerPoint presentation. Undoubtedly, your own client base will become more diverse with time, so why would you want to attend a conference that’s an echo chamber?"

Indeed. That's just what I did when a longtime conference I attended ignored my harrassment complaints, then required attendees to tick a box saying they would not sue the organization. My $750 plus spent on that meeting goes to much more satisfying uses these days.

McKinsey calculated that Canada alone could boost its gross domestic product by $150 billion by 2026 if gender equity were promoted across the board. I can't think of a better place to start than with women speakers at conferences that aren't targeted to women alone.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by UN Women)

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Monday, September 11, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

I read a lot about women and public speaking, and post my finds first on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. But I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. Here's what I've been reading lately:
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Taylor Swift's harassment testimony

It was courtroom testimony by a harassed woman the likes of which is rarely seen, and that's really the pity here. But when singer-songwriter Taylor Swift took the stand in a Denver, Colorado, federal courtroom, her words resonated around the world. Why? Because she would not allow any blaming and shaming of herself as the victim...a boundary she set with forceful words. As the New York Times put it, "She’s sold millions of albums and heard stadiums full of fans chant her lyrics at sold-out concerts around the world. But the Taylor Swift line that might resonate the loudest now is 'He grabbed my bare ass'."

A radio host who posed with her in 2013 for a photograph had groped her. She accused him of doing so to his radio station, and he was fired. He sued Swift for loss of his job, and she countersued for assault and battery, asking damages of just one dollar to make her point. In August 2017, she was in the courtroom answering questions from the radio host's attorney. Here's a sampling of her responses, a primer in holding your own without shame:
  • "I'm not going to let you or your client to make me feel like this is my fault, because it isn't."
  • "I'm being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are a product of his decisions. Not mine."
  • When asked why the hem of her skirt in the front was not pushed up, perhaps indicating there was no groping, she replied, "Because my ass is located on the back of my body."
  • "He did not touch my ribs. He did not touch my arm. He did not touch my hand. He grabbed my bare ass."
  • Asked what she could have done differently, she replied, "Your client could have taken a normal photo with me."
The responses, so unlike what we're used to hearing, were dubbed assertivesharp, gutsy, and satisfying. And so was the result. The jury found that she had been groped and awarded her the requested damages of one dollar. In a statement, Swift showed that she understood precisely what was really at stake: The ability of women and girls to speak up and be heard when they are sexually assaulted or harassed: “I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this. My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard.”
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Don't react, respond: Too often, when a woman brings an accusation of harassment, the lines of questioning are similar to those Swift faced: They're designed to make you uncomfortable, to doubt your standing or your memory, and to suggest subtly or not that you yourself may have been a cause of the action. Resist the urge to get angry or sad, or react in any way, and simply respond. Swift's almost clinical answers do the trick here, setting verbal boundaries again and again and again. This is exhausting, and worth practicing beforehand if you find yourself in such a circumstance, be it in the office or a courtroom. But if you can keep your emotion out of it, your responses will be stronger.
  • Refute, refute, refute: Count all the "nots" in the above statements. Swift pairs every positive statement with a not-statement, to play up the contrast between what is alleged and what really happened, and she does it over and over and over to underscore the point. The more you repeat it the more solid your testimony becomes.
  • Say it plain: One of the insidious factors in this type of questioning is the avoidance of direct words to describe the action. Not so with Swift. There are no euphemisms for ass here. The language is simple and clear, and thus cannot be construed in any way but one. There aren't any flowery adjectives and adverbs to hide what happened, just a simple, clear explanation.
Say it plain also applies to the moment when harassment occurs, although even Swift didn't do this (and was questioned about that in court, too). But if you can, jump away, yell "What do you think you're doing?" or "Stop grabbing my breast!" or whatever it is. Loudness helps. The perpetrators of physical sexual harassment count on you being too ashamed to say what is going on or to tell anyone. There's no more important public speaking you can do than to stand up for yourself and say what is happening, clearly and loudly, in such a situation. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

No video here, but the words carry the day today.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Paolo Villanueva)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Chelsea Handler on how DUI school got her over her fear of public speaking

Comedian Chelsea Handler, creator and host of the show Chelsea on Netflix, was interviewed recently by David Axelrod on The Axe Files podcast. It's where the outspoken comic revealed how being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) and having to go to DUI school helped her overcome a fear of public speaking. After Axelrod mentioned her DUI, here's what she said:
Yes, yes, thank you for bringing that up. I got a DUI when I was like 21 and I had to go these DUI classes and you go for 6 weeks, it felt like 6 years, but it was a long period of time and you go once a week and every week somebody had to get up and tell their story about their DUI. And I had never publicly spoken before. I was 21 and I had made a terrible mistake, obviously. 
So and I just would always be like, don’t pick me, don’t pick me, don’t pick me, I can’t get up. I don’t know what I’m going to say, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I wasn’t prepared. And on the very last class of the very, he picked, it was my turn because everyone else had gone. Because I kept maneuvering different ways to sit in the classroom so that he wouldn’t pick me. 
And I got up and I told my story just off the cuff about what happened and my sister. I had my sister’s ID and she was Mormon now, too, and she was doubly pissed because I shouldn’t be drinking. Meanwhile my Mormon mother had given me her ID, so, and I called the cop a racist even though we were both white. So I had all these little things about the story and people were laughing and I was like, this is awesome. And the whole room was laughing and finally the guy came over and said this isn’t a standup comedy class, get down now. You’re like up here for a little bit too long. Like I would not get off the stage. 
And somebody said that night, they were like you should do standup comedy. And I was like really? That seems awful. And they said, yeah you should. And I did just because they suggested it. I was like okay, maybe I should do standup comedy. At least then I can write my own lines and don’t have to read something else. Something that someone else had written for me. You know? And that’s what I really love. I love to be able to be in charge of my material. 
It's a great testimony for trying the thing you think you cannot do in public speaking--you might, like Handler, discover that you like it, and like creating your own material, two big discoveries for any public speaker.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Fortune Live Media)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

I read a lot about women and public speaking, and post my finds first on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. But I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. Here's what I've been reading lately:
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Joan Baez's Rock Hall induction speech

She called her induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame "prestigious, and very cool." But Joan Baez, the lyrical folk singer and fighter for social causes, might have been describing herself. She burst onto the folk scene in 1960, with her first three albums going gold, and has been succeeding ever since for nearly 60 years. It was Baez, then the more famous one and called the "barefoot Madonna," who popularized Bob Dylan's music early on.

Her voice--high and clear and strong--figured in this acceptance speech in more ways than one:
My voice is my greatest gift. I can speak freely about the uniqueness of it precisely because it is just that: a gift. 
The second greatest gift was the desire to use it the way I have since I was 16 and became a student of and practitioner of nonviolence, both in my personal life and as a way of fighting for social change. What has given my life deep meaning, and unending pleasure, has been to use my voice in the battle against injustice. It has brought me in touch with my own purpose. It has also brought me in touch with people of every background. With open, generous, fun loving, hardworking people, here in this country and around the world. It has brought me in touch with the wealthy, the ones who are stuck in selfishness, and the ones who give generously of their time and resources to benefit the less fortunate, and light the way for others to do the same.
Baez wound up her speech with a call to action for social justice:
Where empathy is failing and sharing has been usurped by greed and the lust for power, let us double, triple, and quadruple our own efforts to empathize and to give of our resources and our selves. Let us together repeal and replace brutality, and make compassion a priority. Together let us build a great bridge, a beautiful bridge to once again welcome the tired and the poor, and we will pay for that bridge with our commitment. We the people must speak truth to power, and be ready to make sacrifices. We the people are the only one who can create change. I am ready. I hope you are, too. I want my granddaughter to know that I fought against an evil tide, and had the masses by my side.
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Play to the entire audience: Baez relates how her own granddaughter didn't know how famous her grandmother was--until she took her backstage at a Taylor Swift concert. She notes she's sharing that story because many younger viewers watching might have the same problem, and does it without a shred of shame or hesitation. It adds a funny, self-deprecating-but-not-really note.
  • Craft a moving call to action: Her call to social justice echoes the poem to immigrants on the Statue of Liberty, "give me your tired, your poor," and evokes a bridge instead of the wall between the U.S. and Mexico threatened by the current U.S. president. And in the tradition of the best calls to action, she includes herself, not exhorting the crowd to do anything she would not do.
  • A little alliteration never hurts: "A special thank you to my manager, Mark Spector, for having kept my career visible, viable, and vibrant," added an almost musical touch to the opening. When you can use it well, alliteration lands softly on the ears of the audience; it sounds smooth and less awkward than it might when you're writing it. And she didn't have to stretch to achieve it; these words are appropriate to the task.
In the picture above, Baez is with Jackson Browne. Her rendition of his song "Fountain of Sorrow" is a favorite, well worth a listen.

Read the full text here and watch the video here or below.



Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Why my favorite conference won't let speakers sit down

The UK Speechwriters' Guild and European Speechwriter Network conference is my favorite for many reasons, but particularly this one: They don't let the speakers sit when delivering their remarks.

Here's how organizer Brian Jenner explains the policy:
We don’t let speakers sit down. If a speaker is telling us something important, we prefer them to stand up. We don’t do sofa interviews and we don’t do panels – because you can appear on those without proper preparation.
Yes, speakers, we're on to those of you who sit on a panel scribbling notes and looking things up on your phone at the last minute, taking advantage of your seat and the table in front of you. And we already know that seated interviews are a signal that the (typically celebrity) speaker didn't want to prepare remarks. Jenner likes a well-prepared speaker, and I do, too. But there are other key reasons why you should stand when you speak:
  1. Standing improves your vocal quality:  You'll breathe, project and sound better if you're standing, in part because your diaphragm will have the space to do its job at top performance levels. But you'll also sound more energetic--try it out. This works on conference calls as well as on stage.
  2. You'll feel more energetic when you stand. Energy is vital for public speaking, which requires so much of you. If you're just sitting and listening, your body starts to relax after about 10 minutes, and you lose attention and focus the longer you are in that state. This reason alone is why I suggest other formats when invited to do a seated interview on stage.
  3. Standing gives the audience a visual focus.  In the old parlance, "you have the floor" really meant that you were out on the floor, standing as the speaker.  We're conditioned to watch the person standing when all else are seated, so take advantage of that. And standing means more of the audience can see you.
  4. Standing gives you options for movement.  It's tough to be dynamic from a chair, but when you are standing, you can move closer to or away from your slides, a questioner, or the group.  You can move to keep and hold their attention or to illustrate a point. 
  5. It establishes your authority.  Standing for your presentation in a small meeting, or standing up when your turn comes by on a panel, helps you stand out as a leader. It's a subtle way to show you're taking charge without having to say so.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Bart Heird)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

I read a lot about women and public speaking, and post my finds first on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. But I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. Here's what I've been reading lately:
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, August 25, 2017

28 famous speeches by women in the United Kingdom

One impetus for this blog has been the many lists of famous speeches which list few or no women speakers--including a top 100 list of 20th century speeches published by The Guardian. On it were just three women speakers for the entire century: suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst; writer Virginia Woolf; and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, making the most recent woman's speech on the list from the 1980s. I knew we could do better.

So I'm proud that the blog now has a collection of 28 famous women's speeches from England, ranging from 1588 to 2017, and covering the worlds of sport, art, theater, politics, feminism, literature, activism, sexism, music, film, science, television, engineering, technology, and disability. And yo, The Guardian, more than half of my list occurred in the 20th century. No paucity of women's speeches there. Each of these speeches appears in The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Speeches by Women, and at the links below you will find--where available--text, audio or video, and tips you can glean from these famous women speakers, ignored no more:
  1. Elizabeth I's 1563 speech on her singlehood was an occasional type of speech she gave from time to time, explaining to her Parliament why she was still single and childless. For this one, you can see the script in her own handwriting.
  2. Elizabeth I's 1588 speech to the troops at Tilbury has a few different texts that survive, but it's still considered among the most stirring speeches of all time.
  3. Ellen Terry's lectures on Shakespeare's women, delivered between 1911-1921, took the famous actress on an around-the-world speaking tour that let her explore feminist themes in the Bard's work.
  4. Emmeline Pankhurst's 1913 "Freedom or Death" speech laid out the stakes for women suffragists in its title. She delivered it on a fundraising trip to the U.S., taking a break from being imprisoned over and over in England.
  5. Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" lectures in 1928 became a long-form essay that has inspired writers--particularly women writers--ever since. She also explored familiar themes to women speakers in these lectures and her description of them.
  6. Virginia Woolf's 1931 "Professions for Women" lecture, the follow-on to the 1928 lectures, talked about upending the view that women's work was solely in the home. She employs a powerful metaphor to make the case.
  7. Dorothy Sayer's 1947 speech on the lost tools of learning brought her back to the University of Oxford, where her own degree was delayed five years because of her gender. She argued the merits of a classical education for the post-World-War-II generation
  8. Julie Andrews's 1964 Golden Globes speech was brief and saucy, tweaking the nose of the studio head who didn't cast her in "My Fair Lady," allowing her to win the award for the role she got instead: "Mary Poppins."
  9. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's 1976 "Iron Lady" speech was really titled "Britain Awake," outlining tough defenses in the Cold War. But the Soviets dubbed her the "Iron Lady" after this speech, and the nickname stuck.
  10. Princess Diana's 1997 speech on banning landmines was delivered in London following a fact-finding mission to Angola. She was still speaking on this issue right up until her death later in this year.
  11. Elizabeth II's 1997 tribute to Princess Diana brought the frequent-speaking monarch a new challenge: A worldwide live audience on television, her first time doing a live-remote speech.
  12. Jane Goodall's 2002 TED talk on what separates us from the apes drew on the British scientist's Welsh storytelling ancestors, music, and even Shakespeare--all good influences for a talk that, in the end, is about communication.
  13. Elisabeth Murdoch's 2012 speech to the UK television industry took her audience to task for failing to invite a woman to deliver this prestigious lecture, then gave a personal and passionate speech about her work.
  14. Caroline Criado-Perez's 2013 speech on cyber-bullying followed her campaign to get an image of Jane Austen on the currency. It describes the violent, virulent cyber-bullying she enduring, recording it for history.
  15. Tanni Grey-Thompson's 2013 speech on disability memorialized the first disabled member of Parliament and told her audience it needed to "shout a bit louder" about the issue.
  16. Olympic cyclist Nicole Cook's 2013 retirement speech pulled no punches in describing the underfunding, sexism, and other challenges women in sport face.
  17. Sue Austin's 2013 TEDMED talk described her performance art diving in deep ocean in a wheelchair...and pointed out to the audience the mental cages that entrap them.
  18. Charlotte Church's 2013 industry lecture on sexism in the music industry started with a bang: Asking the audience to picture male musicians depicted as women artists are. 
  19. Tilda Swinton's 2013 "David Bowie Is" speech at the opening of a major exhibit about Bowie put her squarely in the role of fangirl...to good effect. It's a loving, thoughtful tribute.
  20. Theresa May's 2014 speech taking the UK Police Federation to task, delivered during her term as Home Secretary, is a fierce, effective reform speech that made immediate waves outside the hall. Inside, she got polite applause at the start, but at the end, her audience was all stony silence.
  21. Emma Watson's 2014 United Nations speech on being a feminist is notable because we've since learned she had been advised to leave the f-word--feminist--out of it entirely. I'm glad she thought better of that.
  22. Penny Mordaunt's 2014 loyal address in Parliament, the formal response to the Queen's speech opening Parliament, was just the second time a woman had ever been asked to deliver this high-profile speech. Let's just say she made the most of it.
  23. Mary Beard's 2014 lecture on the public voice of women is a tour de force from the classics scholar. I quote this speech often, which is so thoughtful on why and how we ignore eloquent women.
  24. Dame Stephanie Shirley's 2015 TED talk shared a lifetime of lessons from this tech pioneer, who figured out how to start a successful company on the kitchen tables of women programmers.
  25. Engineer Danielle George's Royal Institution Christmas lectures in 2015 would already be high-stakes, featured on television and featuring only the sixth woman to deliver these prestigious science talks. But to do it while pregnant was just one of the many surprises in these engaging talks.
  26. Mhairi Black's maiden speech in the UK Parliament set the chamber on fire, so to speak. It's a fiery first speech from the Scottish National Party MP whose election made her the youngest member elected since the 17th century.
  27. Prime Minister Theresa May's first PMQs in 2016 let us see a woman prime minister facing the toughest crucible of public speaking around: Prime Minister's question time in Parliament, a weekly feature. In this first salvo, she gave as good as she got.
  28. Mary Beard's 2017 lecture on women in power was a timely follow-on to the 2016 U.S. election and taught us that history is just repeating itself when it comes to how uncomfortable society is with powerful women. Another must-read.
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The American suffrage "Prison Special" speaking tour of 1919

Most Americans don't know that the first people to protest in front of the White House--now a resistance tradition--were the suffragists, fighting for equality and votes for women in the early 20th century. The American suffragists were rather less violent than their British counterparts; dubbed "the Silent Sentinels," they stood in front of the White House quietly, holding gigantic banners with protest messages--often, with President Woodrow Wilson's own words on them. Some 2,000 sentinels joined this protest, which began in 1917. Starting in June of that year, the arrests began, sending the Sentinels to a prison in Occuquan, Virginia; you can see a list of the prisoners here. Often, they responded with hunger strikes, and were then force fed by their jailers; in November, the prison superintendent ordered guards to beat, choke, and attack the suffragists.

Silence may have marked the start of these public protests, but public speaking was the campaign's next tactic. The plight of the prisoners captured public and media attention, and the suffragists, who were brilliant public relations strategists of their day, understood how to take advantage of it. By March of 1918, all of the suffragist arrests and imprisonments had been declared unconstitutional by a court of appeals. But the suffragists were not done. Not quite a year later, the proposed 19th Amendment that would give U.S. women the vote was defeated in the U.S. Senate. The House had passed it, the President had signaled support, but no one was pushing the states to ratify it, a necessary and major task. To make a final push to re-rally Senate support and get states to sign on to the legislation, the suffragists planned an ambitious public speaking tour. It's an historic moment for women in public speaking.

The 'Prison Special:' One last push for women's suffrage describes the tour at its start:
They called it "Democracy Limited," but the public immediately dubbed the three-week suffrage tour of February 1919 "The Prison Special." Its purpose? Make one last push for suffrage by harnessing the power of personal narrative. Its focus? The inhumane prison sentences served by so many women who fought for the vote.

The concept was relatively simple: the tour's slogan was "From Prison to People" and the train traveled the nation, packed with 26 members of the National Women's Party. When they arrived at their destination, they would don uniforms like the ones they were forced to wear at the Occoquan Workhouse, the prison that would eventually house over 150 suffragists. Alice Paul was force-fed egg yolks and placed in solitary confinement in a psychiatric ward. There, women were beaten, dragged, kicked, and even knocked unconscious by guards unsympathetic to the crowds. Now the same women brought their tales of incarceration and unsanitary, shocking conditions to the public, concluding with passionate pleas for President Wilson to act at last.
You could consider the 'Prison Special' a precursor to the Moth or a traveling TED conference, with speaker after speaker sharing her personal story of imprisonment. And after hearing that, who could say their task--voting to give women the vote--was more difficult? They traveled the length and breadth of the continental United States, from Charleston and New Orleans to Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago, and more.

The tour was not a joyride. The women faced limits placed on them by the railroad authority; they had wanted a prison door mounted on their train car, but the authority forbade any sign that they were aboard. There were sometimes violent counter-protests along the way. But they spoke to large crowds in city after city. The 'Prison Special' tour had a spectacular end, winding up its 23-day tour in New York City with a pageant at Carnegie Hall and a crowd of 3,500 people. Best of all, it did the trick, prompting Senate approval of the legislation in mid-1919. By 1920, the 19th Amendment had been ratified by enough states to make women's votes the law of the land, nationwide.

If you're visiting Washington, DC, you can hear and see more about the Prison Special speaking tour at the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument. The house is the former home of the National Women's Party, after it left its headquarters across the street from the White House on Jackson Place. Don't miss the tour; you can see the massive fabric appliqued banners carried by the protestors in front of the White House, and many artifacts from the suffragists' work over many decades.

(All photos from the Library of Congress collection of records from the National Women's Party. From top to bottom: Speakers on the 'Prison Special' tour, San Francisco, 1919; suffragist Lucy Branham in Occoquan prison dress, speaking at an outdoor meeting during the 'Prison Special' tour, 1919; Mary Winsor of Pennsylvania, holding the suffrage prisoners banner in 1917; baggage for the 'Prison Special,' piled up in front of NWP headquarters on Jackson Place, Washington, DC)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

I read a lot about women and public speaking, and post my finds first on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. But I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. Here's what I've been reading lately:
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Elizabeth I's 1563 speech on her singlehood

It wasn't enough that she was the queen, the ruler of the British Empire. Parliament wanted Elizabeth I to marry and produce an heir. In 1563, five years into her eventual 45-year reign, the House of Lords presented her with a petition asking her to do just that. The British Library has the manuscript of this speech, and it shared these insights:
This manuscript, in Elizabeth I’s own hand, is a draft version of a speech given to Parliament on 10 April 1563. The speech is a response to a petition from the House of Lords urging the Queen to marry and produce an heir. It is one of a number of speeches she wrote between 1559 and 1567 in response to continued pressure from Parliament to marry. Throughout these debates, Elizabeth reserved the right to choose who she would marry, and indeed whether or not she would marry at all. From the early 1580s she began to be represented as a perpetual Virgin Queen. 
The Lord Keeper Nicolas Bacon delivered the speech in Parliament on the Queen's behalf, and she was present for that delivery. In the transcript, you can see, as the British Library analysis notes, "This speech is tentative and ambiguous compared to some of her other speeches on the subject of marriage, which were often angry and insistent that subjects should not rule a monarch. In the insertion written sideways along the left of the page, Elizabeth seeks to pacify the Lords by admitting that, while celibacy is best for a private woman, ‘so do I strive with my selfe to thinke it not mete [appropriate] for a prinse’." (The "prince" in question being Elizabeth.)

What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Don't paint yourself into a corner in negotiations with your speeches: She might appease the petitioners this time and rail at them the next, but Elizabeth "reserved the right to choose who she would marry, and indeed whether or not she would marry at all." In 1583, that was astonishing, but her speeches didn't give any of her rights away.
  • Speeches come and go, but actions speak louder than words: Elizabeth, sometimes called "The Virgin Queen" (because if she wasn't going to get married, she *had* to be a virgin, right?), never did marry or give birth to an heir--despite her many speeches on the topic. At the end of the day--or the end of your life--it's your actions that will speak for you, ultimately.
  • Good cop, bad cop is an ancient strategy: While this speech tempered her arguments against marriage, her temper came through in others. Using a diplomatic touch here, an angry tone there, probably helped Elizabeth extend this conversation rather than bring it to a conclusion. It might be one of the longest games of chicken ever played between a monarch and a parliament.
I love that we can see the draft in her own handwriting, don't you? 

(Portrait of Elizabeth from Wikimedia Commons, The Sieve Portrait, 1583, about 20 years after she gave this speech. Image of the text of her speech via the British Library.)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

6 public speaking tips for your next protest rally speech

With protests rising in number worldwide, public speakers need to dust off--or just learn for the first time--the skill of addressing a public protest rally. It's a particular form of public speech, and one we are apparently rusty at doing, based on some of the recent rallies I've seen.

Protest rally speeches are loaded with declarations, with audience response, and with interruptions for said responses, applause, chants, and cheers. It takes a stable and thoughtful speaker to make the most of this opportunity in person. And because today's rallies are often recorded and put on YouTube, it's worth giving a thought to how this will look and sound online as well as in the heat of the moment. Here are six more tips for today's protest speaker:
  1. Manage your time: If we learned no other lesson from When a man hogs the mic at the Women's March, it's that protest speakers should err on the side of being briefly powerful rather than holding forth. Even 20 minutes feels like an eternity to the audience standing in front of you at a rally, and your five minutes is just a fraction in a four-hour rally. Edit with that in mind.
  2. Lean in, part one: Sound systems vary at outdoor protest rallies, from bullhorns to platforms with mics and concert-level sound systems. But when the audience is large and outdoors, nearly every sound system will fall short at some point. Do your part by leaning into the microphone, keeping it so close to your mouth you could take a bite out of it. I can't count the number of rally speakers I've seen, but not heard, because they paid no attention to where the mic was.
  3. Lean in, part two: Don't forget that the audience, as in any public speaking situation, will take its cues from you. Are you energized? Angry? Ready to lead the charge? Better let us see that in your tone of voice, your gestures, and your facial expression. Don't make us wonder whether you really care.
  4. Use your outdoor voice: Even with a mic and sound system, or a bullhorn, you'll need your outdoor voice to be heard by the furthest reaches of a big crowd. Yes, it may sound as if you're yelling, but this isn't the time for the nuanced whisper. Protest rally speeches more closely emulate the public speaking of yore, from the days before amplified sound. Go for being heard over being subtle.
  5. Go for the wide gesture: This is the moment for the broad gesture, the wide expanse of arms and hands. Make your gestures above the height of any lectern you may be using so they're in camera range--and in view of the spread-out audience.
  6. Find a hook: Maybe it rhymes. Maybe it's sung. Maybe it's just chant-able. Maybe it's good old-fashioned call-and-response. If there's a hook to exploit in your speech--something the group can repeat and chant--use it, and use it again. Giving the crowd a chance to vent is part of the purpose of a protest rally. Don't think you're the only one who wants to speak.
For more inspiration, check out my list of 12 famous protest speeches by women.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Fibonacci Blue)

Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

I read a lot about women and public speaking, and post my finds first on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook. But I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. Here's what I've been reading lately:
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent woman on Pinterest, or follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.