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.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Sally Yates on your moral compass

Fired from her transitional post as Acting U.S. Attorney General by the White House after she refused to defend or enforce President Donald Trump's travel ban on Muslims coming into the United States, Sally Yates went from relatively unknown to famous in a short span. She had instructed Justice Department lawyers not to defend the administration's executive order on immigration and refugees, a move that the White House dubbed "a betrayal," and fired her for speaking her mind and giving her considered legal opinion.

In May, Yates addressed the graduating class at Harvard Law School, and looked back on her own legal career--much of it spent as a career civil servant prosecutor at the Department of Justice--to share four lessons with the graduates. Lesson two? "You never know when a situation will present itself in which you will have to decide who you are and what you stand for." She reviewed what happened in her decision-making on the travel ban, noting that it didn't just take place in the 72 hours between the ban's announcement and her directive to the department, but in all the years that preceded that moment in her career. Here's the advice she distilled for the graduates:
The compass that is inside all of us, that compass that guides us in times of challenge, is being built every day with every experience. I was fortunate to have learned from some inspiring people in my life who not only served as role models, but who challenged my thinking on issues and molded my core. 
Over the course of your life and career, you, too, will face weighty decisions where law and conscience intertwine. And while it may not play out in such a public way, the conflict you will feel will be no less real, and the consequences of your decisions also significant. The time for introspection is all along the way, to develop a sense of who you are and what you stand for. Because you never know when you will be called upon to answer that question.
Leaders in all sorts of organizations might read this speech while keeping in mind the recent survey data that show that employees are happiest when leaders have a moral compass and the employees feel they will "do the right thing." What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Get your listeners thinking about their own experience: "The time for introspection is all along the way," she said, taking what was, on its face, a very public dilemma and turning it into a mental exercise anyone in the audience could do--a fantastic way to engage your listeners.
  • Pay your respects: As with any formal commencement, Yates's insights did not begin until she had worked through the formal thanks, congratulations, and inclusion of the variety of listeners at graduation events, from faculty to parents. Every speech has jobs to do, and that's a big one for a commencement speech.
  • If you can, let us behind the scenes: Part of what's irresistible about this speech is that it shares Yates's thinking and her side--the inside--of a very public and controversial story. She does it justice with an even-handed, straightforward delivery. There's no need to dramatize the events further.
You can read the full text of her speech 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 10, 2017

When "improve presentation skills" comes up in your performance review

If you like this blog, you may thank the client who called me about a bad performance review, in which she--a top performer on every objective criterion--was told by her all-male board, "Your presentations aren't sexy enough."

That didn't surprise me. In fact, it felt like things I'd heard before, and it started me on the path to explore gendered issues in public speaking more than 10 years ago. I've heard from both sides, the person being reviewed and the employer seeking correction in presenting skills, many times now. And I've dealt with it myself, as an employee and as a manager. Here are some observations from the coach that may be useful to both sides:
  1. Seek clarification: One problem with saying "you need to improve your presentation skills" is that you can drive a truck through that wide-ranging list of topics. And many times, that's why it is chosen for your review, particularly if you are a woman: Something vague that you can't fix may be an easy way to damage your record. In the example above, my client drew herself up, and said, "Help me understand specifically what you mean," a nice, neutral comeback. The answer was still vague. She decided, in that circumstance, to demonstrate a willingness to improve by seeking coaching and paying for it out of her own budget.
  2. Remember this may not actually be about you and your presentation skills: One sign: Vague prescriptions for improvement, like being "sexy enough," "more lively," or "better." I told the client with the "sexy enough" feedback that I didn't know how to do that, but I could help her change enough about her presenting that a change would be noted. As we worked together, she shared that the feedback was likely more about her informal relationship with the board, which differed from her male predecessor. 
  3. Ask for help and get them to pay for it: I can't tell you how many times I have been approached by an employee who's been told to improve her presenting--and thinks she has to pay for it out of her own pocket. If it comes up in your performance review, that meeting is precisely the time to ask, "What's available to support my further professional development in this area? I'd like to improve." Suggest coaching from an independent coach. Let them have input into the coaching goals, wince-making though the feedback may be. 
  4. Is it about a particular, high-stakes presentation? If your boss is specific enough to say, "I'd like you to be able to present to the board/sales/external meeting," ask for coaching to prep and practice such a presentation and to give your boss a preview of the improved presentation before the big day.
  5. If you are seeking help, consider what *you* want to improve: It's not just about what your employer wants, and any good coach will want to know what you want to be able to do and how you'd like to change. Don't leave your wish list out of it.
  6. Are you willing to try? That's one of my top factors in predicting your success in speaker coaching and the same thing applies here. If you're surprised by the feedback, are you willing to try something new? That will at least buy you time in this negotiation, and you may learn a few things.
  7. Do they want you to fix something that's actually normal? This is where a seasoned coach can really help. If your feedback is about ums and uhs, vocal fry and uptalk, gesturing, and resting face, you may be getting feedback about perfectly normal things that we like to torment speakers about. Or perhaps you're introverted and the boss is an extrovert. A good coach can discern when and whether these things are actually getting in the way of your good presentation, arm you with data to answer queries, and give you practical ways to make them less noticeable.
  8. Is the feedback about the boss's pet peeves? The boss can trump all, so if she insists there be "no storytelling" in your presentations, or prefers slides, she can have that be the case. But it's important for you to understand which feedback is based on many use cases and norms, and which are just personal preference. Don't forget: Sometimes the boss forbids the very thing that makes him most uncomfortable as a speaker, so he won't be shown up. Not fair, but something worth understanding. 
  9. Ask how improvement will be evaluated: Despite seeking out a great coach, you need to understand what your employer wants as proof of improvement. Does that mean giving an improved presentation to the team in a lower-risk situation? Actually speaking successfully at the board meeting? Some written assessment from the coach? A video? Don't be surprised if your employer has not thought this far ahead, but do ask and listen to what is wanted.
Sometimes, as you may suspect, the boss just doesn't like the employee, or really wants a lot of mini-me presenters who act and look like him. I can tell that's the case when I am asked to "change the leopard's spots," rather than find an authentic way for the speaker to speak and contribute. I usually decline those coaching opportunities.

Finally, do let any coach you call know that this is a performance issue--it creates a very different tone for the coaching from the outset, and it's only fair to let your coach know the stakes involved.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Sheila Dee)

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 7, 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:
  • Focus on fear: She's since given a TED talk and many other speeches, but back in 1997, this is what J.K. Rowling was working on as a speaker...
  • Supreme manterruption: Despite being a U.S. Supreme Court justice, new data show that Ruth Bader Ginsburg--and the rest of the females on the court--get the most interruptions. From whom? The men on the court, of course (who do more of the talking overall). Female justices are interrupted 65 percent of the time, as of 2015. And gender is found even more significant than seniority in terms of who gets interrupted.
  • Did you miss? This week, Famous Speech Friday shared Olivia Gatwood's "Ode to My Bitch Face."  Also on the blog, a post that struck a nerve: When the panel moderator won't let the woman panelist speak, and Kathy Day shared this story of her own: "As part of my work as a volunteer Patient Safety Advocate, I have shared the stage with many men. One particular man, a very self absorbed doctor, got hold of the microphone and completely forgot that I was co presenting. He was saying things that I did not agree with and he was dissing the comments and questions from people in our audience. I was sitting next to one of the event organizers and I told her I didn't agree with what the doctor was saying, and I couldn't go along to get along. She said "SAY SOMETHING". So she gave me a microphone too, and I started to say something. He looked around like he couldn't figure out where my voice was coming from..or who I was. During his own grandstanding, he completely forgot that I was there! I said "It's me. I'm over here!" I turned the conversation around by respecting our audience and answering their questions and taking their comments very seriously. I don't always get to control who I share the stage with and this was one of those times. I told the organizers to never pair me with that doctor again. All of this being said, I have also co presented with some of the most amazing and respectful men around. The contrast can be outstanding."
  • About the quote: Don't let this be your language, eloquent women. Wisdom from Hillary Clinton.
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 4, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Olivia Gatwood's "Ode to My Bitch Face"

If you've read Let's take the 'bitch' out of 'resting bitch face:' About not smiling, you know that I see "resting face" as a normal quality of men and women. But that's the research side. Spoken-word performer and poet Olivia Gatwood tackled the shame side by writing an "Ode to My Bitch Face." And the video of her performing the poem has more than 15 million views on Facebook, so it's safe to say it's striking a chord.

Here's how she introduced the poem:
So does everyone know what this term “resting bitch face” is? So that’s a term coined by someone who was just generally unhappy with the fact that women aren’t smiling literally all the time. So you’re like sleeping, and he’s like, “you have a bitch face!” and you’re like, “I mean I’m literally taking a nap, so I’m sorry, I don’t know.”

So I’ve been doing this thing lately where I write odes to things I think I’m supposed to feel ashamed of, which is largely how shame works. We think we’re supposed to feel it, we’re told we’re supposed to feel it, about the way that we live and act and walk and speak and dress and are. And then we feel it because someone told us to, it’s not an organic feeling really. So I’ve been writing odes to things like that to counteract that feeling. So this is an “Ode to my Bitch Face.”
And here's the poem itself, short enough that I've had it transcribed for you:
You pink armor lipstick rebel steel cheek slit mouth head to the ground mean girl. You had ‘phones in but no music. You house key turned blade, you quick step between street lights, strainer of pricks and chest beaters, laughter is a foreign language to your dry ice tongue. 
Resting bitch face, they call you, but there is nothing restful about you, no. Lips like a flat-lined heartbeat, panic at the sight of you, scream for their mothers, throat full of bees, head spun 360 exorcist bitch. 
Just trying to buy a soda. Just trying to do your laundry. Just trying to dance at the party and then someone asks you to smile and the blood begins to riot. Smile and you chisel away at your own jaw. Smile and you unleash the swarm into the mouth of a man who wants to swallow you whole.
One theory is that you are born like this but I don’t believe it. You came out screaming and alive and look at you now. Look at how you’ve learned to hide your teeth. What’s wrong with your face, bitch? Your face, bitch, what’s wrong with it? Bitch face, I don’t blame you for taking the iron pipe from their hands and branding yourself with it. For making a flag out of your body bag. 
Another theory is that you put it on every morning. Screw it tight like a jar of jelly but I don’t believe that either. You woke up like this and have been for years. How can you sleep pretty when there are four locks on the door and the fire escape feels like break-in bait. They will tell you home is safe zone. 
No, bitch face is safe zone. Bitch face is home. Bitch face is cutting off the ladder, willing to burn in the apartment if it means he can’t get in.
What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • What's your approach to your topic? There's more than one way to put a speech together. In this case, the approach is using an ode--defined as "a lyric poem in the form of an address to a particular subject, often elevated in style or manner and written in varied or irregular meter"--to address topics of shame. That's a category she can turn to again and again. You might consider looking for an approach you can use more than once, for more than one topic.
  • Feel free to introduce yourself or your talk: That's normal in a poetry slam, but any speaker might add some introductory comments as Gatwood does here to provide context and set up the poem for us.
  • Play with voice: The title refers to "my bitch face," suggesting it's about Gatwood. But by referring to herself in the second person, addressing herself as "you," she's giving the listeners two options: Is she talking to herself and her bitch face? Or is she talking about you? The ambiguity lets more listeners in, and helps them relate to the commentary, perhaps one reason this has resonated with so many.
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 3, 2017

When the male moderator won't let the lone woman panelist speak

It's what women speakers dread about panels with just one woman on them: What happens if the guys overtalk you and the moderator ignores you? Or worse, starts mansplaining your answers so you can't get a word in edgewise. The answer in one recent incident turned out to be "look to the audience for a solution."

Writing on Facebook, audience member Marilee Talkington reported on what happened during a session she attended at the World Science Festival in New York City in early June. The panel was comprised of 5 men and one woman. Talkington writes:
In the first hour of the panel discussion you can see clearly, if watching the video, that Veronika Hubeny, the only woman on the panel is barely given any opportunity to speak. 
And the Moderator, Jim Holt even acknowledges this. 
In the last 20-30 minutes of the 90 minute discussion Jim Holt finally pushes the conversation to Hubeny's field of expertise, string theory, and this is what ensued: 
He asked her to describe her two theories of string theory that seem to contradict one another. 
And THEN, without letting her answer, proceeded to answer for her and describe HER theories in detail without letting her speak for herself. 
We could clearly see that she was trying to speak up. But he continued to talk over her and dominate the space for several minutes.
Talkington, who was live-streaming the talk herself, knew that a larger audience also was watching this mansplaining remotely, in addition to the large crowd in the hall. Then:
With my hands shaking,
I finally say from my seat in the 2nd row of the audience, as clearly, directly and loudly as possible;
"Let. Her. Speak. Please!"
The moderator stops.
They all stop.
The auditorium drops into silence.
You could hear a pin drop.
And then the audience explodes with applause and screams.
Jim Holt eventually sat back, only after saying I was heckling him
And he let her speak.
And of course, she was brilliant.
And as this account adds, the audience burst into applause. It's a good reminder that the audience--the intended recipients of your wisdom--don't like women being ignored and talked over. And they are the people you are here to make happy, moderators and panelists, no matter what you think.

Start watching a little before the 1:05 mark in the video below to see this moment. While you watch, consider the words of Rebecca Solnit, who coined the term "mansplaining:"
It's the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harrassment on the street does, that this is not their world.
Everything about this panel--the preponderance of men, the man guiding the conversation to the other men, the mansplaining--underscores that thought.

I love that the title of the session is "Pondering the Imponderables," when the main imponderable is why it took almost an hour to turn to the lone woman on the panel in a session--that's two-thirds of the way into a 90-minute session--and then the moderator felt compelled to try to answer her answers for her. A hat tip to Technically Speaking for pointing me to this egregious example.



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, July 31, 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, July 28, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Japan First Lady Akie Abe's keynote in English

Perhaps you do not expect a keynote address from a high-level international symposium on coastal resilience, a climate change issue, to make the cut for Famous Speech Friday, even if it is given by the wife of the Prime Ministerr of Japan, Akie Abe.

But this 2014 speech, given at the Ford Foundation in New York, recently made headlines after U.S. President Donald Trump gave an interview to the New York Times and brought up his dinner partner at a G20 summit of world--and her English skills. From the interview transcript:
TRUMP: So, I was seated next to the wife of Prime Minister Abe [Shinzo Abe of Japan], who I think is a terrific guy, and she’s a terrific woman, but doesn’t speak English.
HABERMAN: Like, nothing, right? Like zero?
TRUMP: Like, not “hello.”
HABERMAN: That must make for an awkward seating.
TRUMP: Well, it’s hard, because you know, you’re sitting there for——
HABERMAN: Hours.
TRUMP: So the dinner was probably an hour and 45 minutes.
Where does the speech come in? Within hours of the interview being posted, the speech--delivered in fluent English, except for the short reading of a poem in Japanese--surfaced on the Internet. This led observers to the conclusion that the First Lady of Japan may have pretended not to speak English to avoid interacting with Trump.

But Women in the World pointed out that Abe had already met in more intimate settings with the President and First Lady of the U.S. on a state visit to America, having numerous conversations with each of them. Since neither Trump speaks Japanese, we might conclude that everyone spoke English. If so, Trump has managed to not only lie about her English skills, but to dismiss and silence the first lady of Japan by suggesting she is not the multilingual leader that she really is.

As for Abe, some observers suggest the snub during dinner was intentional, and a form of "nasty woman" pushback against Trump--speaking, whether during dinner or into a microphone, being a choice women can exercise. From The Guardian:
But these smaller acts of defiance – whether a handshake ignored or a conversation avoided – are significant too, performed as they are by women on the world stage. Such snubs are not the actions of mutely servile political wives but sentient, ideologically engaged women who are making their feelings known in the best way that they can.
Laying aside for the moment why a U.S. president needs to insult the wife of another world leader, what about the talk? Speaking from the perspective of a nation that experienced a major tsunami, Abe talked about the sea rise and the proposals to build gigantic 48-foot-tall sea walls, discussing the pros and cons of the proposal without advocating for one or the other. She advocated a preference for balanced approaches that dealt not only with the concerns of the moment, but future impacts. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Make use of poetry: Abe takes the time to read a short poem in Japanese, "so you can sense its distinct rhythm," since the Japanese language is nothing if not rhythmic at its heart. She then translates it as "The forest is longing for the sea/The sea is longing for the forest." It's a moment of connection and color in this speech, something you can emulate in your next speech. I'll be adding this one to our list of 7 famous poetic speeches by women.
  • Connect the poetry to the policy: The sea walls, of course, would separate the forest from the sea. Early in her speech, she describes Kensennuma, an area hard hit by the tsunami. Before the disaster, it was known for its seafood. Abe noted "the fish and shellfish, fresh and tasty as they may be, are dependent upon the land, or more precisely, the nourishment flowing downstream into the inlet from the mountain forests. Without them, the woods in the mountains, the water in the inlet cannot become enriched, and cannot grow its famous oysters. In Kesennuma at one point there emerged a group of oyster farmers who take the sea-mountain interplay so seriously that they took to the shore and began planting trees in the mountains."
  • Have a non-standard start and finish: So often, our public officials are talked into pro forma, typical, throat-clearing starts and mundane endings for their speeches. Not so here. Abe begins with "Among the many problems Japan faces, there is only one, at least to tell you about today." Yes, that gets your attention. And her ending--"Please give us your wisdom and ideas"--is perfect for a conference of experts. Starts and endings are places to be strong, to give emphasis, and to alert the audience of what's ahead in your speech and in the discussion to follow. Don't waste them on trivialities.
In short, it was a poetic, nuanced, smart policy speech...in fluent English. 

Abe's remarks begin at about the 2:18 mark in the video below:

Keynote Address - Her Excellency- Madame Akie Abe, First Lady of Japan

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, July 27, 2017

Silencers: Hostile and benevolent sexism and how to tell the difference

If this blog has a mission beyond making sure everyone gets the skills they need to be a great public speaker, it's this: Women speakers, whether they're giving a speech or speaking up in a workplace meeting, need to know about the silencers being deployed against them, and how to get over, around, and through them. And Donald Trump's recent sexist ploys--one violently graphic about TV presenter Mika Brzezinski, one flirty and coy with Irish journalist Caitriona Perry--are good demonstrations of this very common technique.

In The logic of Trump's sexist attacks, you'll find an excellent analysis based on social psychology research:
The incidents are two sides of the same coin. Two decades ago, a pair of social psychologists, Susan Fiske and Peter Glick, distinguished between what they called “hostile” and “benevolent” sexism. Hostile sexism manifests itself in derogatory or threatening comments about a woman’s appearance, capacities, or behavior. Benevolent sexism, by contrast, manifests itself in praise or chivalry that nonetheless reaffirms a woman’s subordinate status. Telling your female coworker that she’s ugly is an expression of hostile sexism. Telling your female coworker that she’s pretty is an expression of benevolent sexism. Sexually assaulting a female colleague is an expression of hostile sexism. Suggesting that a female colleague needs help carrying her bags is an expression of benevolent sexism. Hostile sexism may be more antagonistic and aggressive but benevolent sexism also conveys the message that women should be valued for their appearance, and that they are not equal to men.
The more a woman conforms to traditional gender norms, the more likely she is to experience benevolent sexism. The more she threatens them, the more likely she is to experience hostile sexism. 
Though one is labeled "benevolent," neither type of sexism is kind or nice. The article goes on to note that both are expressions of male power. And I would add that they tend to have the effect of silencing women, for a variety of reasons. The man (or sometimes the woman) is counting on you to not "make things difficult" by objecting, and with benevolent sexism, may be trying to get you to thank him for doing it...so the focus is no longer on what you might want to say. You may not wish to draw the attention to yourself that the comments or action are drawing to you. You may just want it to stop. And you also know that bringing it up won't win you lots of friends, male or female. So you stay silent. In a hostile work environment, where benevolent and hostile sexism are rampant, you may silence yourself simply to avoid unwanted attention or being shut out of opportunity in the industry. This New York Times article on women in the tech industry coming forward about sexual harrassment puts it bluntly: "Saying anything, the women were warned, would lead to ostracism."

The author also shares why a focus on a woman's appearance--hair, makeup, facial or body features, and wardrobe--are effective as silencers, as we've seen recently with Hillary Clinton, Amal Clooney, and Angelina Jolie. From the article:
Viscerally, Trump likely understands what the research shows: that focusing people’s attention on a woman’s appearance makes them value her abilities less. For a 2009 study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Nathan Heflick and Jamie Goldenberg asked one group of college students to write about Sarah Palin’s appearance and another to write about her “human essence.” Then both groups were asked a series of questions about her. The students who had written about her appearance rated her as less competent. In a different study, participants told to focus on Michelle Obama’s looks deemed her less competent, too.
Wonder no longer why U.S. Senators like Hillary Clinton or Kirsten Gillibrand have favored wearing the same black pantsuits over and over. They want their competency out front, not this brand of sexism.

This article quotes experts who say that hostile sexism can be a motivation for women to take action, but if it's persistent, it demoralizes them. So take immediate action, and call people on this behavior as it's occuring, eloquent women. And share this article on How not to advocate for a woman at work, which offers practical alternatives. 

(MSNBC photo of Morning Joe hosts Brzezinski and Scarborough)

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, July 24, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Savvy speakers keep up with my wide-ranging reading list on women and public speaking by following The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where these links and articles appear first. I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. It's a great way to expand your public speaking knowledge:
  • Style me for speaking: Wardrobe Oxygen has a good series on what it's like to work with a personal stylist. She did so here for a major fashion blogger conference she was attending, but many speakers consult stylists for high-stakes talks like TED and TEDMED and TEDx talks.
  • More documentation that women speakers are overlooked: Yet another study in which we learn that a particular scientific specialty (here, neuroimmunology) tends to choose male speakers over women...
  • Did you miss? This week, I noted that We don't want to listen to eloquent women. Same as it ever was. Famous Speech Friday shared a speech by Malala Yousafzai at the Canadian Parliament.
  • About the quote: Audre Lorde nails one of the challenges for eloquent 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, July 21, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Malala Yousafzai at the Canadian Parliament

(Editor's note: Leonoor Russell, a speechwriter from the Netherlands, calls this speech "a joy to watch," something we often forget about speeches. They can be fun, funny, and joyous, even in a staid parliament setting. I asked Russell to write about this speech for Famous Speech Friday.)

Malala Yousafzai - to many simply known as 'Malala' - is a Pakistani activist for female education. At age 11 she started writing a blog for the BBC about her life during the Taliban occupation. Originally, the blog was anonymous. But in the three years that followed she started doing more and more public performances, which led the New York Times to do a documentary on her.

Her public criticism of the Taliban's restrictions on girls' primary education caused Malala to receive various death threats. In 2012, a Taliban gunman shot her in the head as she rode home on a bus after taking an exam. The attempted murder was unsuccessful, but nevertheless left her very badly injured.

A traumatising event like this would silence the bravest of hearts; but instead Malala chose to let her voice sound louder than ever before. She continued her activism and started giving speeches all around the world. At age 17, Malala became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.

Last April, the Canadian government awarded Malala an honorary Canadian citizenship. In a moving, inspirational (and funny!) speech to the Canadian House of Commons, Malala accepts this rare honor. The speech is a joy to watch.

The speech touches on a number of highly political issues.

On immigration: "Welcome to Canada is more than a headline or a hash tag. It is the spirit of humanity that every single one of us would yearn for, if our family was in crisis. I pray that you continue to open your homes and your hearts to the world's most defenceless children and families — and I hope your neighbours will follow your example."

On education: "Education is vital for security around the world because extremism grows alongside inequality — in places where people feel they have no opportunity, no voice, no hope."

On emancipation: "We can gain peace, grow economies, improve our public health and the air that we breathe. Or we can lose another generation of girls."

Her most important message: "I used to think I had to wait to be an adult to lead. But I've learned that even a child's voice can be heard around the world."

What can we learn from this magnificent speech?

  • Be in control of the situation. After about 5 standing ovations in 10 minutes, Malala warns the audience that she is only on page 7 of her speech; so that they had better pace themselves before they get tired. A brilliant tongue-in-cheek remark that immediately puts her in control of the situation. She alone sets the pace for her speech and determines when and where there will be a pause. A remark like that requires confidence. What we can learn from this is that when you radiate confidence on stage, you put the audience at ease. Your listeners will feel comfortable, knowing that the speaker is in full control of the situation. 
  • Don't be afraid to keep it light. Despite the many weighty issues she addresses, Malala still manages to keep the speech light. She hilariously refers to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's age, tattoos and yoga-practice. She then uses her joke to make a serious point: "While it may be true that he is young for a head of government, I would like to tell the children of Canada: you do not have to be as old as Prime Minister Trudeau to be a leader!" By doing this, Malala manages to strike the perfect balance between playful gags and sincere gravitas. 
  • Write from the heart, speak with skill. This is a skill I had never recognised as such until Denise pointed it out to me in a speech from Michelle Obama. Showing emotion when you talk about personal experiences in a speech is a good thing, but you must always make sure you don't let that emotion distract from your main message. It is better to put your emotions in when you are preparing the text in advance. But when you read it out loud, you must to so with skill and tact. The audience will know a heartfelt message when they hear it. 
Malala masters this to a T. She refers to the fear she felt when she used to go to school and how she would hide the books under her scarf. When her mother tears up, Malala continues with a steady voice. This is impressive, given the horrible experiences that she has had to endure. (And don’t get me started on the fact that she is 19 years old and standing in a foreign parliamentary plenary hall filled with dignitaries.)

I hope to listen to many more of Malala’s speeches in the future.

Denise adds: Don't miss the amazing opening, after her thanks to various dignitaries. You can see the full text of Malala's speech, and watch the video here or below. You'll have to wait for three ads, but the speech is worth it:

Malala Yousafzai's full speech to the Commons

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, July 20, 2017

Same as it ever was: We don't want to listen to eloquent women.

Hillary Clinton took her break after the 2016 election, then emerged slowly, an outing here, a speech there. But around the time of U.S. university commencements--a time when speech-making is especially frequent for leaders of all kinds--I started noticing the jabs suggesting she should, well, shut up.

I wasn't surprised, but I was pleased that some others started to notice. In Why Democrats need to listen to Hillary Clinton, Nancy LeTourneau notes, "by suggesting that she needs to shut up and go away, it’s clear that these folks aren’t interested in listening to what she has to say." Paul Waldman turned it around, starting his article this way:
You've seen the headlines, begging Joe Biden to just give it up and get out of our faces already. "Dems want Joe Biden to leave spotlight," says The Hill. "Dear Joe Biden, please stop talking about 2016," says a USA Today columnist. "Joe Biden is back. Should Democrats be worried?" asks The New Republic. "Can Joe Biden please go quietly into the night?" asks a column in Vanity Fair. A Daily News columnist begins his missive with, "Hey, Joe Biden, shut the f--- up and go away already." Folks sure do hate that guy. And all he did was give a couple of commencement speeches and an interview or two.
Follow all those links and yes, you'll get articles in that tone about Hillary Clinton, not Biden, despite the fact that both of them have been giving plenty of speeches and interviews in the same time period.

Then Senator Kamala Harris, questioning Attorney General Jeff Sessions as part of her role on the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee, was repeatedly interrupted both by her witness and by Republican men on the committee. (The Washington Post includes a complete rundown of the exchange.) A CNN presenter dubbed her "hysterical," which gets a must-read treatment in Jezebel's Kamala Harris's 'Hysteria' and the 'Objective Perspective' of Men.

Again, the shutting up of Sen. Harris was noted--as was the commonplace nature of this experience for all women. Susan Chira, writing in the New York Times, quoted Laura R. Walker, chief executive of New York Public Radio:  “I think every woman who has any degree of power and those who don’t knows how it feels to experience what Kamala Harris experienced yesterday....To be in a situation where you’re trying to do your job and you’re either cut off or ignored.” And, from the Post: "Women of color 'understand what Kamala Harris is dealing with,' Tanzina Vega, a CNN reporter who covers race and inequality, wrote on Twitter. 'Raise your hand if you’ve been shushed, silenced, scolded, etc.'" Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, shared That time I was told to sit down and shut up at Citi.

So here we are again, discussing the silencing of women. And while 2017 appears to be on point to set some kind of a record in this department, I have to remind myself that it's "same as it ever was." As Mary Beard said at the very start  of her wonderful lecture on The public voice of women, part of our Famous Speech Friday series:
I want to start very near the beginning of the tradition of Western literature, and its first recorded example of a man telling a woman to ‘shut up’; telling her that her voice was not to be heard in public. I’m thinking of a moment immortalised at the start of the Odyssey.
Since then, the art of silencing women has evolved, from placing torture devices like a scold's bridle on them to keep them silent, to telling women they talk too much, are "shrill" or "hysterical," or mansplaining and manterrupting. We focus on their outfits or appearance, and we aim procedural rules only at women in an assembly, but not the men. But it's still happening.

You'll find examples every week on this blog--so many that I've considered changing one of our top features from "Famous Speech Friday" to "Famous Silencing Friday:"
And that's just my short list of prominent and visible silencings in 2017, so far, darlings. But if it can happen to women who appear to have clear platforms for making themselves heard, we know it's happening to you.

I found a recent example that shows you're never too young to be silenced, if you're female. This 12-year-old girl is shown in the video below telling her Mormon assembly in Utah that she is gay...and is asked by one of the white men presiding to stop speaking mid-speech, after he turns off her microphone:


She's 12, people, and learning early in life what lies ahead.

As you can see at the end of the video, Savannah pulls an Elizabeth Warren and delivers the rest of her speech on YouTube. As I asked in Why (and how) you should publish your speeches: "If you give a speech, but don't take steps to publish or preserve it afterward, did you make a sound? The answer could be contributing inadvertently to silencing women all over the world." We live in an age when self-publishing couldn't be easier, and I hope more women who've been silenced--and those who get to speak--will take up this advantage so they can be heard not just once, but for all time. That little video went viral, and got Savannah all sorts of support.

I see three trends. One has been persistent throughout recorded history: Women get silenced, in many ways, over and over and over again. The second is that each successive generation of women hears these stories and thinks, "But that won't happen to me," charges out into the world, and eventually finds out that, indeed, the same thing has happened to her. Over and over again.

The third comes and goes in different periods of history: People are talking about that silencing, shining a spotlight on it.

We seem to be in one of those periods of talking about it, so let's talk, eloquent women. Keep calling it out...on the spot, if you can. Find other platforms. Keep noticing when it happens. And if that happens to be in your workplace meeting, rather than the U.S. Senate, speak up and say, "Actually, I would like Jane to finish her thought," or something that will keep another woman's voice on, rather than switched off. Keeping the pressure on may help raise a few more women's voices, and we can't have enough of that.

(Creative Commons licensed photos of Kamala Harris by aSILVA and of Hillary Clinton by Kyle Taylor)

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, July 17, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Savvy speakers keep up with my wide-ranging reading list on women and public speaking by following The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where these links and articles appear first. I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. It's a great way to expand your public speaking knowledge:
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, July 14, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Minn. Rep. Hortman calls out white male colleagues

She wasn't speaking. Another woman legislator, Rep. Ilhan Omar, America's first Somali-American legislator, had just spoken against a public safety bill before the Minnesota state legislature.

But Rep. Melissa Hortman, the body's minority leader, had taken the measure of the room, and didn't like what she saw...or more precisely, didn't see. Most of the white male legislators had left the floor of the state House of Representatives for the cloakroom, where a card game was in progress. It's another way of silencing women speakers, by denying them an audience.

So Rep. Hortman moved to force them to come back to the chamber to listen to their fellow representatives, particularly the women of color who were speaking. And she made plain what the situation was: “I hate to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room, but I think this is an important debate,” she said.

Angry, one of her male colleagues rose to brand her remarks as "inappropriate," that marvelous vague epithet so often leveled at women speakers who speak their minds. So Rep. Hortman made a little speech in reply, saying, in part:
I have no intention of apologizing. I am so tired of watching Rep. Susan Allen give an amazing speech, Rep. Peggy Flanagan give an amazing speech, watching Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn give an amazing speech, Rep. Rena Moran give the most heartfelt, incredible speech I’ve heard on this House floor, as long as I can remember, watching Rep. Ilhan Omar give an amazing speech ... and looking around, to see, where are my colleagues? And I went in the retiring room, and I saw where a bunch of my colleagues were, and I’m really tired of watching women of color, in particular, being ignored. So, I’m not sorry.
Her refusal to apologize caused a furor of opposition from those white, male colleagues, but Rep. Hortman held her ground. What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • If you see something, say something: Using even a short speech to describe what you see around you can be both simple and powerful, as speaking tactics go (and it's well suited to the fishbowl of a legislature and to extemporaneous remarks). The evidence of your eyes is testimony of a different sort.
  • Say it plain: While the reactions focused on how "inappropriate" it was to single out white men, Hortman's remarks had both accuracy and force going for them, because she said plainly what was happening.
  • Use the floor to lend visibility: Rep. Hortman didn't just use her remarks to call out the absentee legislators, but to note the speaking skills of her colleagues who are women of color, a gracious gesture that underscore her point that women speakers were being ignored.
Watch the video of her remarks below.


(Minnesota State Legislature photo)



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, July 13, 2017

Do your company's meetings and offsites need a code of conduct?

In the recently released "Holder report" recommendations prepared by Covington & Burling for Uber about its corporate culture and needed changes, there was buried a recommendation that women speakers should know about: Codes of conduct should apply to both in-house meetings and offsite meetings.

Why companies like Uber get away with bad behavior puts a finger on this recommendation:
[The report] also said that workplace rules governing sexual harassment and other prohibited behavior should extend to offsite conferences and meetings. “It should not be necessary to draft separate policies for these events,” it added dryly.
You'll find that in section VIII., item A, under "EEO Policies" in the Holder memo linked above. And they're right: You shouldn't need a code of conduct for offsite vs. on-site meetings of your organization. But women in any workplace might want to check on a few policies of their employers just now.

Why? Because codes of conduct help women speakers to speak in a setting that is free of harrassment, one of the more aggressive ways of silencing women. And I'm betting you don't know what your company or organization requires, if anything, of meeting participants, so you should find out. Codes of conduct are often a focus when we talk about attending conferences, but you'll have many more meetings that take place under your own organization's auspices, so why not have codes of conduct articulated there, too? Questions you might want to ask include:
  • Do we have a code of conduct for our organization in general? Is it clear that the code applies to any meeting in which our employees and visitors are participating? If not, why not?
  • Do we have a code of conduct for our meetings, including those with visitors? For our offsite meetings? If not, why not?
  • Have there been complaints of harrassment at any of our meetings, onsite or offsite, internal or with visitors?
  • If we have policies, what are we actively doing to make employees, managers, and visitors aware of them?
My post Does your conference have a harrassment code of conduct? I wish mine did shares a sample code from SecondConf, and there are plenty of examples online if you need a model.

You might get some pushback or questions about why you're raising this issue just now, and Uber has given you the perfect cover to do so. "I've been reading about all the issues at Uber, and I want to make sure none of that ever happens here. The attorneys who did the review made specific mention of company meetings and offsites as situations that should have a code of conduct, so I wondered whether we had one, too," is all you need to say. That'll get their attention. And if you want to be sure there's a record of your request, follow up your conversation with an email, and keep a copy.

What happens if your request is ignored? That's what happened when I complained to my longtime conference about harrassment. Instead of addressing the problem, they consulted an attorney. The following year, attendees were required to tick a box when registering, promising not to sue the organization. That told me all I needed to know, and I stopped attending. You can take your skills elsewhere, too, or you can make that part of a further complaint. It's called "voting with your feet," and many have suggested riders do the same with Uber to make their disapproval known.

We often wonder whether we can make a change in an area as big and amorphous as this one. But if every reader of this blog asked her human resources office about this policy, you'd start seeing change. Feel free to forward this blog post if you like. And if every reader of this blog attending meetings hosted by other organizations--not just formal conferences--asked, "What is your code of conduct for meetings?" you'd find eventual change there, too. Let's use Uber's very public misconduct as a lever to make meetings more hospitable for women speakers, shall we?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Lucas Maystre)

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, July 10, 2017

The Eloquent Woman's weekly speaker toolkit

Savvy speakers keep up with my wide-ranging reading list on women and public speaking by following The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where these links and articles appear first. I always collect them here for you on Mondays as well. It's a great way to expand your public speaking knowledge:
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, July 7, 2017

Famous Speech Friday: Bette Midler at the 2017 Tony Awards

Bette Midler, currently starring in the revival of the musical play "Hello, Dolly!" on Broadway, is what they call a triple threat: She can sing, dance, and act. And on the heels of her moment of triumph at the 2017 Tony Awards, having won the award for best leading actress in a musical, host Kevin Spacey reached for joke material from one of the oldest myths in the book about women in public speaking: That they talk too much.

Midler, like many a top-winning actor whose prize comes at the height of the Tony Awards show, didn't feel compelled to stick to the 90-second limit imposed this year on acceptance speeches. She did a fulsome three paragraphs of thanks, working without notes to name-check many people involved in the enormous cast of her sold-out show. And just before she got to the windup of her speech, the band tried to drown her out, cleverly using Irving Berlin's "There's No Business Like Show Business," in the part of the song where the lyrics say "Let's go on with the show!"

Midler was having none of it. She surfed the music, continuing her delivery. Finally, realizing the music wasn't going to stop, she interrupted herself, getting cheers from the audience in the hall:
And I just want to say, I want to say, revival...shut that crap off!
Then she continued past the thanks to make the core point of her speech, sans music. It's a good one, worth hearing:
I just want to say that revival is an interesting word. It means that something is near death, and it was brought back to life. Hello, Dolly! never really went away. It has been here all along. It is in our DNA, it is in our national songs that will live forever. It is optimism, it is democracy, it's color, it's love of life, it's hilarity. This is a classic. Come and see it. It's not just me! The whole thing is utterly... this thing has the ability to lift your spirits in these terrible, terrible times. Come and see it.  
And lastly, I want to dedicate this, I want to salute the people who actually came before me. The brilliant, brilliant inimitable Carol Channing, who made my life, who was a gift to me. The extraordinary Pearl Bailey, and all of the hundreds of women who came after me and who lit the way, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you all.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, along with her thanks paragraphs, took up just 4 minutes and 10 seconds. Not a crisis in television, nor in public speaking.

In one of his next turns as host, actor Kevin Spacey came onstage with actor Robin Wright, dressed as their characters from the Netflix series House of Cards: President Frank Underwood and First Lady Claire Underwood. In the very short bit, he tells his wife they should leave, and then adds, "I want to get out of here before Bette Midler thanks anyone else." And tellingly, Wright said nothing while onstage, a silent wife witness. See it in the video below:



What can you learn from this famous speech?
  • Sometimes, you need to hold your ground as a speaker: Midler's show is sold out for months to come, and, as such, it's a major money-maker for the industry. She won one of the top prizes of the evening. Her cast and crew are enormous, among the largest on Broadway. No apology need be made for wishing to thank them amply and make a larger point, as the best speeches do. And I doubt a man would be shamed in such a way for speaking too long.
  • Make that larger point: Midler took a musical that's set as the 19th century gives way to the 20th, and brought it all the way forward to today with her closing remarks, reminding the audience why Broadway works: "Hello, Dolly! never really went away. It has been here all along. It is in our DNA, it is in our national songs that will live forever. It is optimism, it is democracy, it's color, it's love of life, it's hilarity."
  • Her thanks were a tour de force: Many actors thank a few people well, and many more thank many people poorly. But listen to Midler work her way with relative ease through her long list of thanks. *That* is a bravura performance, and one her work partners surely appreciate.
I love you, Kevin Spacey, and I figure you had that joke set up with a blank where you put Bette Midler up for shame. Next time, think harder. I expect better from you, especially on a night when the rest of your hosting was outstanding.

Watch the video of Midler's speech 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.