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Welcome to the blog of author and speechwriter/ coach, Joan Detz.
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Editing speeches and PowerPoint presentations

Here’s what’s crossing my desk right now:

I’m editing a manuscript speech and a couple of PowerPoint presentations.

One client needs me to edit a manuscript speech. The draft was produced in-house. My job? To polish it. My focus? To make it tweet-worthy. Savvy organizations want their speeches to produce social media attention.

Another client needs me to edit the speaker notes for a couple of PowerPoint presentations. Because a complex day-long meeting cannot run overtime, speakers need to stay within their allotted time frames. I edit PPT speaker notes with my eye on the clock: Can the speaker say all this without running overtime?

It’s important to know the number of words-per-minute for each speaker. It comes down to math: How much can a speaker say in 6 minutes? Consider an executive who speaks 120 words per minute vs an exec who clocks 185 words per minute.

I cut so every presentation honors the allotted time.



On this date in history …

In 1980, the Abscam scandal broke out.

Too young to recall this? Take a few minutes to check into it. (You can’t make this stuff up.)

As I see it: It’s just one more reason to be grateful for the journalists who shed light where light is much needed.

I’m looking forward to talking with many journalists at #ASJA2016 on May 20-21 in New York City. It’s the one conference where I can meet with the nonfiction writers I respect so much.

Do Google’s actions impact you?

I just received this email from the Authors Guild, where I’m a member. I’m sharing it because … well, because authors (& readers) have a lot at stake: 

Yesterday, bestselling authors, book publishers, rights organizations, and copyright experts from around the world filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the Authors Guild’s petition asking the Court to hear its case that Google must be held accountable for digitally copying millions of copyrighted books without permission or payment.

Authors and dramatists adding their names to a friend-of-the-Court brief filed in Washington, DC today include Stephen Sondheim, Margaret Atwood, Tony Kushner, J.M. Coetzee, Malcolm Gladwell, Douglas Wright, Michael Frayn, Marsha Norman, and Yann Martel.

Major publishers Elsevier and Hachette were among those filing a separate brief, while other briefs came from the Copyright Alliance and the Copyright Clearance Center, among others. All were filed by a Feb. 1 deadline dictated by the Court.

You can read the briefs, and our full press release, here.

Writing awards: reporting on the environment


SEJ’s Awards for Reporting on the Environment honor the best environmental journalism in seven categories, bringing recognition to the most important stories on the planet. TV, radio, print and online journalism about environment or related issues are eligible. $500 offered for first-place winners in seven categories. Eligible stories: Environment and related topics across all media broadcast or published from March 1, 2015 – Feb. 29, 2016. Eligible books: Environment and related topics published or E-published in 2015. Deadline to enter: April 1, 11:59 P.M. your local time.


All entries must include an online entry form. Where uploading or linking stories is impossible, hard copies can be mailed. See details by clicking the ENTER NOW link below. More information can be found in the FAQs and 2016 Rules.



Did you know…

* Entry fees are lower for SEJ members. To enter at the member rate, Join SEJ.   (Eligibility requirements apply.)

(Tell me more about joining.)

* Seven categories include investigative (large and small market), environment beat reporting (large and small market), explanatory reporting (NEW!), features writing and books about the environment.     * Winners will be announced in July and recognized at SEJ’s Awards Presentation Ceremony in Sacramento, California, in conjunction with SEJ’s 26th Annual Conference, Sept. 21-25.

Writers need to be on Twitter

If you’re a writer, you need to be on Twitter.

Whether you’re a staff writer or an independent writer, Twitter will build your career. Here’s how:

If you work on staff …

* Twitter makes you visible to potential employers

* Twitter allows you to learn from the leaders in your field/industry

* Twitter opens up global networking options

If you do freelance writing …

* Twitter provides a worldwide showcase for your best writing

* Twitter brings you to the attention of organizations that hire freelance writers

* Twitter helps you keep current with the business trends of independent writing

Don’t have an account yet? Set one up as soon as possible. And let me know your handle so I can learn about your work. I’m @JoanDetz.

I tweet regularly about #speechwriting #writing #publicspeaking #HowToWriteAndGiveASpeech #HTWGAS #freelancing #translators #Toastmasters #presentationskills #amwriting – and a wide range of global topics geared to my clients’ interests (from #publichealth to #design to #science to the #economy).

stack of books

How to succeed at freelance writing

Learn how to prosper as an independent writer at ASJA’s 45th Annual Writers Conference.

The media landscape has shifted dramatically in the past two decades—and successful freelancers know how to navigate these twists and turns to earn a satisfying living. Join us for two days of education, networking, and sharing winning strategies with top writers, editors, agents, content buyers, and more. Speakers and attendees represent such companies as The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The New Republic, The New York Times Book Review, The Atlantic, Family Circle, The Atavist, Seal Press, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with more being added all the time. 


When you don’t have a boss looking over your shoulder, how do you structure your own time most effectively? An independent writer herself, Laura Vanderkam has made a career exploring where our hours really go and how to allocate them better. She is the author of several time-management and productivity books, including I Know How She Does It, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, and 168 Hours. Vanderkam also raises four children, contributes to outlets like Fast Company and Fortune, and still finds time to blog daily. Leave her talk with tools to get more done and feel less stress about it.


Josh Levs will share the story behind his highly acclaimed book All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families and Businesses — And How We Can Fix It Together (HarperOne 2015)The father of three took on a policy at Time Warner that prevented him from being able to care for his newborn, preemie daughter and sick wife. As a result of his legal action and the publicity it generated, the company revolutionized its policy, making it much better for dads and moms. Levs will also advise attendees on how to navigate the changing media landscape by sharing how he carved his own career path—including creating on-air roles at NPR and CNN—and offer a no-holds-barred look at what it’s really like to write and publish a book now.

With more than 1,200 members, ASJA stands as the country’s leading association of successful nonfiction writers. While writing may seem like a solitary pursuit, ASJA members know meeting with others in the publishing industry to exchange ideas and learn new skills can help them thrive in a changing world.

The 2016 conference will offer more than 35 instructive topic sessions and invaluable one-on-one meetings with editors, agents, and publishers. Three “pitch slams”—live, open-mic querying sessions with top business, travel, and women’s magazine editors—offer instant feedback and even allow writers to land assignments on the spot. Networking opportunities will abound through a special lounge for members; a welcome brigade led by well-known freelancing-guide author Kelly James-Enger; individual mentoring sessions; networking lunches; and much more. And each day will begin with an inspiring and instructive address from an award-winning author.

The conference returns to a high-powered two-day format this year so you can make the most of your time and resources. In addition, sessions will follow five tracks to help you navigate the schedule and zero in on the areas that best fit your interest and experience levels: Books & Beyond, Pro Tips, Breaking Into, Essentials, and Work Life.

New sessions this year include:
  • Six-Figure Freelancing in 2016
  • How to Crack Content Marketing (and an advanced-level counterpart, How to Make More Money  With Your Content Marketing)
  • Health & Medical Writing, No Science Degree Required
  • The Journalism of Ideas: Crafting Smart, Provocative Stories for Elite Publications 
  • The Art of the Book Proposal: The Ideas Selling Now
  • Indemnity Clauses and Who Really Owns Your Notes
  • Sneaky New High-Tech Reporting Tools with Sree Sreenivasan, the first Chief Digital Officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Other sessions will focus on energizing your long-form narratives, going freelance earlier in your career, freelancing over 50, fresh social media and smartphone tricks, managing clients and finances, snagging funding from alternative sources, and much more.

Enjoy two jam-packed days: Friday features sessions exclusively for ASJA members, while on Saturday, we’ll open the doors to all students, writers, and aspiring writers. Join us in NYC in May 2016 to learn new skills, make fresh connections, and come away energized and inspired to reach your big career goals!

Why speechwriters need to get assignments in January (Hint: conference season is just around the corner)

Spring is a prime season for conferences, which means it’s a prime season for speechwriters.  January is when the big speechwriting jobs are assigned for March, April or May conferences. Ditto with speaker coaching: coaches are booked in January (if not earlier) for spring speaking appearances.

If you work on staff as a writer, you’ve likely seen an uptick in speechwriting or PowerPoint assignments.

If you work as a freelance speechwriter, you should be getting more requests for your writing services. A word of caution: If you’re freelancing and you’re not getting good speechwriting assignments, boost your marketing. Don’t delay. The jobs are out there and someone is getting them.

Don’t be distracted by winter’s snow. Spring conferences are coming.

Winter view from Joan's office

How to manage the freelance writing life

I’ve been working as a freelance speechwriter and executive coach since my first book came out in December 1984 (How to Write & Give A Speech, St. Martin’s Press). If you’re doing the math, that’s more than three decades of earning a good living – and enjoying a good life –  simply by freelancing my speechwriting/coaching services. How to Write & Give A Speech has produced more than 30 years of nonstop royalties. I love what I do for a living.

Many of my friends are also professional freelance writers. Some focus on speeches, others do annual reports … corporate histories … healthcare materials … blogs … magazine articles … journalism … children’s books … web content … cookbooks … pet books. You name it, you can make money writing about it.

All successful independent writers have to manage the feast-or-famine nature of freelancing. One week you have more work than you can handle, but the next week … uh, maybe no assignments.

If you’re new to freelancing (or if you hope to quit your staff job and become a freelancer), you’ll need to learn practical methods for managing your workload.

Attend #ASJA2016 on Fri-Sat, May 20-21 in New York City.  The annual American Society of Journalists and Authors conference will show you how to succeed as a freelance writer.

I attend every year. Plain and simple: I owe my career success to ASJA conferences.

How could you benefit by attending?


IABC Heritage Region is seeking speakers for the 2016 regional conference

Calling all Speakers! 

The IABC Heritage Region is currently seeking speakers for the 2016 Regional Conference  

The IABC Heritage Region is currently seeking speakers for the 2016 Regional Conference being held October 9-11, 2016, in downtown Columbus, Ohio, at the Renaissance Hotel. The conference will consist of approximately twenty 75-minute breakout sessions and in-depth 3-hour sessions on key topics affecting today’s business communicators. It is anticipated the conference will draw 200-225 communicators from the Northeast and Midwest United States as well as Canada.

The following link is the request for the 2016 HeritageConferenceSpeakerRFP for anyone interested in making a presentation at the 2016 IABC Heritage Region Conference. Potential speakers must submit the completed form by February 19, 2016. Highly interactive sessions and case studies are in great demand by our audience, therefore proposals that focus on either of these topics may increase the likelihood of being selected for a speaking slot.

For more information about the speaker RFP, please contact Mara Samuels, 2016 Heritage Region Conference Speaker Committee Chair, at or 732-872-2515 (o) or 732-803-0081 (m)

Please note that the IABC Heritage Region Conference does not compensate for speaker fees, travel, accommodations or other expenses. Speakers are invited to enjoy a complimentary registration to the conference as a thank you for participation.

Mara Gordon Samuels 2016 IABC Heritage Region Conference Speaker Committee Chair (o) 732.872.2515 (m) 732.803.0081

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