On this date in 1944, in Belgium, the Battle of the Bulge had reached a major crisis. The US 101st Airborne Division was surrounded, and the Germans called upon its acting Commander, Major General Anthony McAuliffe, to surrender. McAuliffe’s brief answer became a US rallying cry for the rest of World War II: “Nuts.”
On a personal note: I grew up hearing these wartime stories. My father, Vernon Gerald Detz, was one of seven brothers – all of whom served in the military during WWII. It’s hard to imagine what it was like for any mother to see all seven of her sons go off to a wartime military, but “the Detz boys” (from the little town of Marietta, PA) were enormously proud to serve … and did so with distinction. As a child, I heard their stories of battles, and the phrase “Nuts” came to occupy a place of honor in our family.
Writing about energy? This week in history marks a couple of notable events:
In 1879, in Menlo Park, New Jersey, Thomas Edison gave the first demonstration of his electric light … a private demonstration, for just a few select people.
Then, in 1880, electric lights lit up the theater area of New York City. Shortly after this very public introduction of bright lights, the following expression became part of our national lexicon: “There’s a broken heart for every light on Broadway.”
Today is the birthday of English actor Sir Ralph Richardson (born in 1902). We’ll make his line the Quote of the Day:
“The most precious things in speech are the pauses.”
As a speechwriter, make sure you’re building those pauses into your manuscripts.
On this date in 1957, the first commercial nuclear power plant in the US went into operation … supplying electricity in Shippingport, PA.
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)