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Welcome to the blog of author and speechwriter/ coach, Joan Detz.
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How to make your next presentation more interesting

Here’s the most common question I get when I teach speechwriting or presentation skills workshops: “What can I do to make my speeches more interesting?”

My answer is: “Vary your research.”

It’s not enough to give the audience statistics – no matter how terrific you think your stats might be. (Truth be told, statistics can be downright boring – but that’s a topic for another day and another blog.)

Instead, you need to give the audience a wide range of research details. Consider some of your options:

* anecdotes

* audio clips (Even a 20 second sound clip can bring new life to a presentation)

* charts/graphs

* comparisons/contrasts

* date in history (Speaking on September 22? Cite something relevant that happened on the date 10, 25, 50+ years ago)

* definitions

* demonstrations

* endorsements (If someone has good words to say about your organization, find a way to work in this endorsement)

*  examples

* expert opinions

* interview excerpts

* letters (from colleagues, customers, officials, clients … )

* news stories

* polls

* pop culture references

* props (Don’t overlook this option. People sit up and pay more attention when they see real objects used to make a point)

* quotations

* statistics

* studies (from academia, associations, foundations …)

* visual support



When content and delivery come together in a speech: “French intellectualism” from The Economist

The Economist always catches my attention. Take a few moments to read this article on French intellectualism, with its fine example about speechmaking:

Why the life of the mind is so important in France

IN 2003, as America was gearing up for the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, a tall Frenchman with a thick silvery mane took the floor at the UN in New York. Dominique de Villepin was then France’s foreign minister, and what marked minds was not only his uncompromising anti-war message, but the way he uttered it: his speech was a magnificent rhetorical appeal to values and ideals. In a deep, silky tone, he spoke for an “old country” that has known war and barbarity but has “never ceased to stand upright in the face of history and before mankind”. As the “guardians of an ideal, the guardians of a conscience”, the UN, like France, he declared, had a duty to plead for disarmament by peaceful means.

See full article

Want to build your business? Nothing beats a good byline

Are you an entrepreneur? Financial advisor? Graphic designer? Business consultant? Freelance speechwriter?

Do you run a small accounting firm? A one-person legal office? An independent medical services business?

Do you want to get more visibility for your business – but you don’t have a large marketing budget?

Well, here’s your very best marketing option:

At least 4 times a year, write a short bylined piece. It doesn’t have to be a major article (although that’s a brilliant option – more on this publishing option in a moment).

Consider: A simple letter to the editor … an op-ed piece … a contribution to your college’s alum section … a how-to piece for a trade publication … 10 tips to share via your professional organization … helpful online advice … a short piece for a civic organization’s forum.

Bylines garner attention. And bylines build business.

Cite your credentials in the author note at the end of  your piece. Be sure to include your Twitter handle. (Please – please – tell me: You are on Twitter, right? If you’re not on Twitter in 2015, you are missing many/many business opportunities.) For example, my credit line might be, “Joan Detz is the author of How To Write & Give A Speech, ‘A how-to classic’ (The Washington Post), now in its 31st year of continuous publication. @JoanDetz”

Change your credit line each time, depending on the topic of your piece, the audience, current events, geography, etc.

Wonder how I’ve learned so much about bylines? I’ve been an active member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors for a couple of decades. I attend their annual conference in NYC every year – and volunteer as a speaker most years. (Check @ASJAhq to learn more about this outstanding professional organization.)

If you’d like to publish a major article, read on:

On August 28, ASJA is bringing their stellar writing conference program to Washington DC. I’ll be there – learning and networking. Will you? The sessions are not to be missed. The networking is in a class of its own.

Attend – and learn how to get the bylines you need to boost your own career.

How to make your next PowerPoint tell a story

If you’re using PowerPoint just to put numbers on a screen, you’re missing the power that comes from a dynamic presentation.

Presentations do more than convey data. They tell a story. The really good PowerPoint presentations use data to reach an audience – not to fill a screen.

Try using some of these lines to build storytelling into your next PPT presentation:

* Here’s how it looked at the beginning.

* Watch what happened next.

* Can you see the trend starting to build?

* Pay attention: This is where the story changes.

* Let’s look at the key players.

* This step changed the whole narrative.

* When/where/how did we first hear from the new players on this scene?

* The next chapter proved more difficult.

* A story isn’t over until it’s over – and this story isn’t over.

* Here’s the conflict.

* Here’s our fork in the road.

* The data moved us to this next phase.

* The results give all of us a new story.

* Here’s where you play a role.

Tip: In addition to using these storytelling phrases when you speak, try using a few lines as stand-alone visual messages on the screen. Your PowerPoint (and you) will pack real clout.

See all the APEX speechwriting award winners

Category 78 notes the APEX winners for Speech & Script Writing:

To all the winners: My congratulations! APEX awards have been highly respected for years.

To all the folks who’d like to win in the future: You can’t win an APEX if you don’t enter. So plan now to enter next year. In the meantime? Consider connecting with these speechwriting achievers on LinkedIn and also following them on Twitter.  Excellence fosters excellence.

Who won the APEX speechwriting awards?

The APEX awards for Speech & Script Writing have been announced. Dr Stanley Dambroski (National Science Foundation) and Teresa Zumwald (Zumwald & Company) rank among the winners.
Both Stan and Teresa are alums of my speechwriting seminar series – Basic, Advanced and Master levels – and I know their work well. Kudos to both for this distinguished award!
More details on APEX award winners to follow …

Publishers Weekly webcast: Spanish language books in the USA

Title: Spanish Language in the US: Trends, forecasts, and titles to watch for

Date: Thursday, June 18, 2015

Time: 01:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Duration: 1 hour


PW invites librarians, booksellers, readers and publishing pros to join us on June 18th, 1pm ET for a webcast exploring the hot topic of Spanish language titles.  Moderated by PW contributor and Spanish language book marketing and PR specialist Leylha Ahuile, our panel of industry experts will explore important aspects of this growing segment of the U.S. market, including:

  • Who makes up the market for Spanish books in the U.S.?
  • What are the trends in sales of Spanish language digital books in the U.S.?
  • How has the decreasing number of book retailers and resources that provide book reviews of Spanish language titles affected the market?
  • What categories are most in-demand?
  • The hottest current and forthcoming Spanish language titles


Leylha Ahuile, President and Founder, PromoLatino


Larry A Downs, Senior Vice President, Spanish Publishing, HarperCollins Christian Publishing

Diana Calice, Manager, Spanish Distribution Program, Independent Publishers Group

Lluvia Agustin, Director Of Spanish Sales, HarperCollins Christian Publishing

Edward Benitez, Celebra

Jaimie DePablos, Vintage


In February of 2015, Alba Editorial of Barcelona published the Spanish edition of HOW TO WRITE & GIVE A SPEECH – “A how-to  classic”, The Washington Post (St. Martin’s Press, 4th edition, 2014). Elena Bernardo of Madrid provided the translation. My greatest professional satisfaction of a 30+ year career is knowing that the public speaking advice in this book is now easily available to the many millions of Spanish speakers around the world.

Spanish cover Como escibir un discurso

Jump start your freelance writing career in Washington DC

A Capital Event

August 28, 2015

National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor

Washington, DC 20045

New Markets and Skills for your Freelance Writing Career

The nation’s capital offers a wealth of markets, resources, and story ideas that keep freelance writers in the area busy. DC’s many media companies, associations, government agencies, foundations and other organizations offer lots of opportunities for freelancers. The city also has some of the world’s best libraries and research resources. Want to capitalize on this to further your freelance career? This conference will show you how.
This daylong conference will feature two educational tracks for both experienced freelancers and those just starting or considering a freelance career. Each of the two tracks — Building Your Freelance Toolkit and Tapping DC’s Resources — will consist of four sessions covering topics such as writing about politics and government, finding your niche, cyber marketing, and writing for associations and trade organizations. No matter where you call home, the information and contacts from this conference will give your freelance career a boost. 

In addition, attendees can sign up for a 30-minute personal mentoring session with an experienced freelance writer to get specific assistance. ASJA members can take part in a DC-edition of Client Connections. The day will kick off with a keynote speaker and end with a networking reception at the National Press Club.

More details coming soon!

Never been to an ASJA writing conference? It’s time. Give yourself the career boost you simply can’t get elsewhere. I attribute the 30+ year publishing success of How To Write & Give A Speech (St. Martin’s Press, 4th edition, 2014) to ASJA conferences.

What are you missing by not going?


Sign up for email updates to stay informed about the latest ASJA2015 news. »

How to succeed as a global communicator

A few weeks ago, I spoke about speechwriting and presentation skills to the Philadelphia chapter of IABC (International Association of Business Communicators).

No one in the room was a professional speechwriter. No one in the room was a professional presenter. But all of them needed to write short remarks or make basic presentations as part of their business communication work.

More important: They recognized the global components of successful communication. Clients can come from anywhere. Vendors can come from anywhere. Employees can come from anywhere.

And social media attention does come from everywhere.

I urged the attendees to think like entrepreneurs: “Make yourselves visible in the global marketplace.” If you’re a financial advisor, a corporate consultant, a freelance writer, a trainer, an events planner, a conference manager, a nonprofit executive (the list goes on), you need to present yourself as globally savvy.

Here are practical tips to position yourself as someone ready, willing and able to do communicate successfully in the global marketplace where we all do business:

1. If you have any foreign language skills, note them. Perhaps you only have very basic Japanese language skills – well, “very basic” is a whole lot better than “none”. Add this credential to your LinkedIn profile. Note it on your resume.

2. If your once-strong foreign language skills are getting rusty, take ten minutes a day to brush up this valuable asset. (As my Busuu app reminds me: “People with foreign language skills earn 20% more.”) Recently, I’ve been using Duolingo to get my German skills back in shape … it’s  downright amazing what can be accomplished in just ten minutes a day.

3. Did you spend your junior year abroad? Note that educational program on your resume.

4. Do you vacation in foreign countries? Your wide cultural interests have merit. (I once coached a nonprofit exec who vacationed every year in Barcelona – yet neglected to note these valuable travel experiences in any bio.)

5. Do you regularly visit family in a distant country? Your diverse life experiences (and your apparent willingness to travel!) will make you far more valuable to certain organizations.

6. Do your LinkedIn connections come from a range of countries? If not, fix that now. Make it a priority to connect with people who work in your field all around the world.

You never know where your next client, your next project, your next endorsement, your next referral, your next job will come from. Be ready.


It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It by Joan Detz

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