I’ve heard the following comments from speechwriters in all fields:
- It takes me forever to find the just-right quotation
- Rewrites are killing me
- I can’t get enough face-to-face time with my client
- Transitions take me forever
- My General rewrote the entire opening of my speech. Does that mean I failed him?
- The CEO’s voice? It’s so different from my own voice. I just don’t know how to “get” it
- Research takes me way too long
Do any of these frustrations sound familiar?
Try two things:
- Log your speechwriting hours for a full month. See exactly where you’re losing the most time. (Who puts the worst glitches in your speechwriting process?)
- Note the most productive and satisfying parts of your speechwriting process. Analyze this carefully. What makes some parts of your work go so much better?
If you’re losing too much time … if you’re frustrated by the rewrites … if the final draft of the speech isn’t portfolio-worthy … well, you need to change things. The sooner, the better.
Consider speechwriting tutorials – Basic, Advanced, Master levels. The Joan Detz Online Speechwriting School is as close as your keyboard and as convenient as your phone.
What could you gain from custom-designed training sessions?
You’ve been asked to give a presentation. Should you use PowerPoint – or not?
I’ve seen more presentations ruined by PowerPoint than enhanced by it. I’ll bet you have, too.
Ask yourself these 3 questions before you decide to use PPT in any presentation:
- Would PPT help the audience understand my message?
- Would the visuals convey important information – information that an audience needs to see?
- Would PPT enhance my role as speaker?
Unless you can say “yes” to all these questions [yes, my audience will benefit … yes, these charts/graphs/photos will convey important information … yes, I’ll be a better speaker], skip the PPT.
Too often, I hear speakers throw in a random quote: “According to Ben Franklin [or Margaret Thatcher or Bill Gates or anyone else, for that matter] … ” It sounds arbitrary and – well, it sounds phony.
In teaching my speechwriting tutorials, I’ll sometimes review a speech manuscript that reads, “As Ben Franklin once said … ” Do you know what I think when I spot a quote from a random source? I suspect the speechwriter just went to a collection of quotations and grabbed the first quote on this topic.
If you’re going to cite Ben Franklin, tell the audience why.
* Did you grow up in Philadelphia and become fascinated with Franklin lore?
* Are you reading a terrific biography of Franklin?
* In graduate school, did you write your thesis on some aspect of Franklin’s history?
* Do you have a Franklin motto on your desk? (Tip: A photo of it would look cool as a PowerPoint visual.)
* Was your first job, say, in the US Patent & Trademark Office – and does Franklin remain your favorite inventor of all time?
There are many valid reasons to cite Franklin. Find one.
Tell the audience why you quote someone.
Otherwise, your quote will come across as arbitrary. And your speech will come across as less than top-drawer.
While teaching a speechwriting tutorial last week, my student (a federal government public affairs officer) asked: “What college classes proved most useful for you in speechwriting?”
Interesting question … easy answer: My linguistics classes. I took both undergrad and grad courses in linguistics. (Thanks to The College of William and Mary for granting me a fellowship to earn my Masters in English – studying linguistic theory in the historic Sir Christopher Wren building.)
Linguistics taught me how words work. I use those insights every single day – both as a speechwriter and a speech coach.
If you’re a speechwriter, I’m assuming you know some other speechwriters – at least you should. But more important: Do you know a wide range of professional writers?
Over my years of teaching speechwriting workshops, I’ve observed something: The very best speechwriters are the ones who have the widest writing interests. They belong to a range of writing organizations … they read widely … they attend conferences outside the area of speechwriting … they meet nonfiction writers from all fields just to chat … they pay attention to the craft of putting words in a row.
Take a look at your network. Do you know journalists? Essayists? Biographers? Nonfiction children’s authors? Op-ed writers? Memoirists? I hope so. If not, make it a point to meet some.
I promise: Your career will open up.
Don’t wait too long to start.
For many organizations, team presentations have become a way of life.
Here are some tips to make your next team presentation more effective:
Prior to the presentation
1. Make one person responsible
2. Set the date for your dress rehearsal – and make it firm.
3. Hire a presentation coach early in the process. [Note: Spring and autumn are prime seasons for conferences so skilled speaker coaches are tightly booked during those months. Don’t wait until the last minute to hire a coach.]
4. Capitalize on the unique strengths of your team.
At the presentation
5. Get every presenter settled on stage at the same time.
6. Give each member a good introduction. CAN YOU SAY A FEW WORDS? (St Martin’s Press, 2006) offers detailed advice about introductions.
7. Control the Q&A session carefully. Don’t let a rambling Q&A ruin a well planned team presentation.
A few days ago, I taught a speechwriting workshop in Washington DC. One question that came up? “How can I tailor a national message so it connects with local audiences?”
Here are a few ideas:
1. Praise the city for a recent achievement
2. Tie your theme into the motto of the city/state
3. Cite the speaker’s connections to this area (Did he attend college here? Did she start her first job here?)
4. Quote an expert from an area college/university
5. Read a relevant headline from the local newspaper
6. Share an anecdote about a previous visit to this city
7. Emphasize the speaker’s connections to the area business leaders
8. Note ties to government agencies in this area
9. Retweet something that pertains to this city
Audiences listen more closely when speakers cite a local connection. Try very hard to find one.
Would you like your PowerPoint presentations to look better? Invest a couple hours to read about design from top design authorities.
I keep these books in my library and recommend them highly:
Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences, by Nancy Duarte
Envisioning Information, by Edward R. Tufte
So you’re giving a speech next month? Find out who will introduce you. Better yet, select that person – and then make sure you get a good intro by writing it yourself.
Never send a formal bio. Why? Because most formal bios are too long: no audience wants to hear a lengthy, year-by-year recitation of your official titles.
Instead, write your introduction so it answers these five questions:
* Why is this speaker …
* From “X” organization …
* Talking about this topic …
* To this audience …
* At this time?
Do this, and you’ll a great intro.
Change, Challenge, and the Many Opportunities of #ASJA2016
Wednesday, April 20, 1:00 – 2:00 pm Eastern
Preview the annual ASJA conference (May 20-21) with conference co-chair Lynn Freehill-Maye.
Learn why you can’t afford to miss this year’s event. Get behind-the-scenes details on some of the most anticipated sessions and learn how the conference will help you navigate the ever-changing freelance landscape.
ASJA2016 conference co-chair Lynn Freehill-Maye is an independent writer specializing in travel, food, and sustainability. Her work has appeared in Islands, Culture, Afar, Texas Monthly, Modern Farmer, and the New York Times, among other publications.
Register now for this month’s ShopTalk Event. Free; call in from anywhere.