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 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.