Quote of the day … from William Safire (columnist and writer), who was born on this date in 1929:
“Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care.”
Here’s a quick way to improve your speechwriting portfolio: Come up with a great title for each speech.
Whether you’re looking for a staff PR position or a freelance speechwriting assignment, prospective employers will be impressed if your presentation samples have interesting titles.
Let me emphasize: Something like “Remarks on Energy” does not qualify as a great title for a speech. And it won’t qualify you as a candidate for a great speechwriting job, either.
Need help coming up with good titles? You’ll find practical suggestions in HOW TO WRITE & GIVE A SPEECH (St. Martin’s Press, 3rd edition, 2002).
If you’re applying for a speechwriting job in a tough economy, you need a top-notch portfolio. Titles can help you distinguish yourself.
On this date in 1958, Nikita Khrushchev (Premier of the Soviet Union) gave a speech that lasted six hours.
I’m curious: What’s the longest speech you’ve ever written?
And, here’s a follow-up question: Was that speech worth every single minute of the audience’s time? Or, in retrospect, do you think it could (read: should) have been shorter?
Ever wonder why some PowerPoint presentations simply look better than others? Do you have a sneaking suspicion your own design skills are somewhat less than stellar?
You can learn much about design and typographic principles in The Non-Designer’s Design Book, by Robin Williams (Peachpit Press,
, phone 510-524-2178). I bought my copy several years ago and recommend it highly.
It’s a very short book, and you don’t have to read every word in order to benefit. Even ½-1 hour of intelligent browsing will provide you with practical guidelines – and help you make any PowerPoint look better.
The author stresses the importance of avoiding unnecessary capitalizations … which, as my seminar attendees can tell you, is a point I emphasize whenever I talk about AV support. There is no Reason to randomly Capitalize Words on PowerPoint slides or on Charts or on posters. (See how disruptive this is? And yet, many PowerPoint presentations are filled with random capitalizations.)
The book also does an excellent job of explaining alignment. The purpose of alignment is to unify and organize a page (or a slide or a chart or a poster). Improving your alignment will improve the success of your visuals. This section alone is worth the price of the book.
Speechwriting is a highly lucrative specialty. Staff speechwriters earn six-figure salaries (with good bonuses) … and skilled freelance speechwriters earn $3,000-$10,000+ per speech.
Even better: speechwriting is the most recession-proof PR specialty you’ll find. Where there’s a CEO, there’s a speechwriter for that CEO (either on staff … or freelance).
I can speak from experience: In spite of the terrible economy, good speechwriting work is out there. In the past 3 months, I’ve been busier than ever.
So, use any downtime in December to polish your speechwriting portfolio. Start now.
In the weeks ahead, I’ll use this space to share practical career tips … for experienced speechwriters, as well as aspiring speechwriters.
Meanwhile: commit the time to improve your speechwriting skills … and commit the time to improve your professional network.
Come January, you’ll be very glad you did.
If this holiday season finds you writing speeches about the economy, you can get double mileage with the following quote:
“Christmas is a time when kids tell Santa what they want and adults pay for it. Deficits are when adults tell the government what they want – and their kids pay for it.” (Richard Lamm, former Governor of Colorado)
On December 4, 1783, George Washington said farewell to his officers. The war had been won, and Washington was preparing to return to his private life (and to the pleasures of gardening, it should be added … his role as an avid plantsman merits more attention than it gets, but that’s a topic for another day).
Speechwriters can learn much by the tone of this farewell:
“With a heart full of love and gratitude I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.”
Dec 2, 1927, was a big day for the US auto industry. Henry Ford put his new car on display throughout the country. What was new? The Model A came in colors – replacing the Model T, which came only in black.
It looks like this week will present another high visibility day for US auto makers. As a speechwriter and speech coach, I’d have many words of professional advice to help the Big 3 prepare for their remarks in DC.
But as a citizen, I’ll offer just two words. When you plan your trip to ask for money, car pool.
After all: It’s not what you say … it’s how you say it.
Here’s a bit of banking trivia:
December 1, 1909, saw the nation’s first banking institution to offer a Christmas Club for regular savings. The Carlisle Trust Company (Carlisle, PA) gets the credit for creating this special-purpose savings plan … which, for years, remained one of the most popular ways for American families to accumulate funds.
On this date in 1874, Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born in Oxfordshire, England.
As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the difficult days of World War II, Churchill rallied his nation with his words. Some say he mobilized the English language and sent it off to war.
Here’s the lesson for speechwriters: He made words work.
One of my favorite quotes from Churchill? “I have never accepted what many people have kindly said, namely that I inspired the nation. It was the nation … that had the lion heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.”