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A busy week … and not a “typical” assignment in sight

I’ve had my own consulting business since January 1985. People often ask what my “typical” assignment is. I chuckle: No such thing in this office as a “typical” assignment.

I began this week by teaching a 2-hour presentation skills workshop at an educational institution in the greater Philadelphia area … editing a speech for a client in Virginia … doing (ongoing) speechwriting for a financial services client … preparing to coach a corporate executive in Toronto … and teaching a full-day speechwriting workshop to the US military in Washington DC.

I don’t have a “typical” assignment. I don’t have a “typical” week.

And that’s how I like it! Each client is unique, each speech is different, each training/coaching assignment brings its own satisfactions.

How to handle your first freelance speechwriting assignment

Yesterday I received an email from a journalist who wants to move into freelance speechwriting. She asked if I had any advice. I do. And, since many writers want to move into freelance speechwriting, I’ll offer my advice via this blog.

Here’s the key point to keep in mind:

When you seek freelance speechwriting assignments, you should try to work directly for the client. Avoid intermediaries – for example, avoid working through public relations firms or agencies.

Why? Lots of reasons. Truly, lots and lots of reasons. For now, here are two:

1. If you accept speechwriting assignments through a PR firm or some sort of an agency, it’s quite possible the firm/agency will make more money than you do. You’re the skilled writer who’s doing the work, but the hefty fees will go to the firm, not to you. A PR firm might bill the client $20,000 and pay only $3,000 to a freelancer who’s desperate enough to work at this rate.

2. If you work through a PR firm, you might be kept “hidden.” You might not meet the client in person. In fact, you might not even be allowed to talk with the client on the phone. Reality: the client might never know about your existence, let alone learn your name and hear about your credentials. Often a client will only know that a speech is being written “through the firm”. If you do a great [anonymous] speechwriting job, the firm will get the credit – not you. How can you get referrals to grow your speechwriting business if you don’t have direct contact with clients?

International Translation Day

If you write international speeches, you are well aware of the importance of translators and interpreters.

Coming up: 30 September 2014 is International Translation Day.

Take a few minutes to educate yourself – not just about the translation profession (what’s required, who’s qualified), or about the business of hiring translators (how much do you have to pay for a translator in Europe? in Asia? in the US?), but also about the importance of “language rights”.

How to have a great day … via Norman Vincent Peale

In the late ’80s through the early ’90’s, I had the pleasure of corresponding with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of the classic Power of Positive Thinking.

A few weeks ago, while I was browsing in a used book store, I came across a paperback of another book he wrote: Have a Great Day – A thought for each day to energize your spirit, motivate your mind, and bring joy to your heart! – that’s Dr. Peale’s exclamation point, not mine (published in 1985 by Ballantine Books).

I opened it yesterday to see the thought he had written for July 31:

“Positive thinking is how you think about a problem. Enthusiasm is how you feel about a problem. The two together determine what you do about a problem”

There’s a message in here for speechwriters who want to improve their client service.

There’s a much bigger message in here for citizens who wish to improve the world they see around them. As I write this, there’s a whole lot about the state of our world that needs improving.

To echo Dr. Peale’s words: What will you do about the problems you see?


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How government can help citizens communicate (with lessons for corporate communicators, as well)

This article describes how Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo have each developed targeted programs to engage their citizens in dialogue and communication.

Montenegro’s program, “Be Responsible”, earned an award from the National Association of Government Communicators in June in Washington DC. I happened to be in attendance when the award was presented: the applause was loud and the buzz was great. Deservedly so!

It’s well worth any professional communicator’s time to know about these three communication programs from the Balkans.

How to organize a speech: Tell the audience upfront

Last week, I taught a speechwriting session at The Cornell Club of New York. I told the attendees, “You can organize your material almost any way you like as long as you tell the audience. Organize your material so it’s easy for them to follow.”

Here’s an example from the Minister of Economic Development (Ebrahim Patel), Republic of South Africa (given 22 July 2014). Up front, the speaker announces that “the six ‘i’s” will organize the speech:

Radical economic transformation requires that we do things differently and that we achieve greater outcomes. It means changing the economy to the benefit of ordinary South Africans …

To achieve this, we need to focus on six “i”s:

  •     Infrastructure
  •     Industrialisation, investment and innovation
  •     Inclusion, and
  •     Integration.

These six “i”s work together, to achieve radical economic transformation.

To read the entire speech (which uses “the six ‘i’s” for structure):

Do you suffer from podium jitters? How to conquer your nervousness at the lectern

Last month, teaching a presentation skills workshop in Washington DC, I covered the entire process required to prepare, rehearse, and deliver an effective PowerPoint presentation.

Of the dozens of sub-topics I addressed, which do you think drew the most questions? “How do I get over my nervousness? What can I do about my terrible fear of public speaking?”

Some of my advice:

1. Realize you’re not the only one who gets nervous at the mere thought of public speaking. Most speakers feel some degree of “the jitters” when they present.

2. Realize the audience doesn’t see many of your “fear of speaking” problems. The sweaty palms? The tight neck muscles? The butterflies you feel? Yes, they are real to you, but honestly, your audience can’t see them.

3. Realize you know your material better than anyone else in the room. Days before you speak, keep reminding yourself, “I’ve researched this information for 3 months. I know this topic inside out. The audience can learn a lot from me. This presentation will be good for my career.”

4. Realize no one in the whole room would like to take your place at the lectern. They’re glad to be sitting in the audience. They’re very glad you’re doing the talking so they can just listen.

If you’re serious about tackling nervousness, please take an hour or two to read It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It (St. Martin’s Press). You can borrow the book from a library and get a detailed section on “Nervousness”, with dozens of practical tips and examples. Tackle those podium jitters … and watch your career take off.

“Her book helps alleviate speakers’ anxieties so they can concentrate on their messages.” (Loren Gary, editor, Harvard Management Update)

Would you like me to speak to your organization about public speaking, speechwriting, and presentation skills? Contact me, and I’ll design an onsite session that works with your goals, your needs, your budget, your class size and your agenda.

Media coverage of missiles

Yesterday’s news coverage was filled with discussions about missiles. One interesting item missing from that media coverage? Yesterday was the anniversary of the first Polaris missile.

On July 20 1960, the US submarine George Washington fired the first Polaris missile. The action was noteworthy for at least a couple of reasons: 1) it marked a new era in warfare; 2) it was completed way ahead of schedule.

How to write & give better speeches: The Cornell Club of NY

This past week, The Cornell Club of NY invited me to lecture on speechwriting and public speaking. I provided the group with 9 steps for writing and giving better speeches.

Do you need to prepare an important presentation? If so, I hope these 9 steps will help:

1. Focus your content. You can’t say everything in one speech. If you try to say everything, the audience will probably remember nothing.

2. Understand your audience. Before you start preparing: Get a list of the organizations that have registered and include material that’s relevant to them. The day of the presentation: Arrive early and introduce yourself to individuals in the audience.

3. Use a variety of research. Not just statistics, but quotations, examples, anecdotes, news headlines, personal stories, endorsements, etc.

4. Organize your material so it’s easy for the audience to follow.

5. Write your material so it’s easy for the audience to understand. (Don’t say “at this particularly juncture in time.” Say “now.”)

6. Give your presentation some style. As advertising genius David Ogilvy once said, “Nobody ever sold anybody anything by boring them to death.”

7. Be careful with humor. When in doubt, leave it out.

8. Improve your delivery. With each presentation, focus on one specific area you need to improve: eye contact, smiles, body language, vocal techniques. Keep at it. There’s always room for improvement.

9. Pay attention to the media coverage your speech might generate. Ignore social media at your own peril.

To learn more, read the 30th anniversary edition of HOW TO WRITE & GIVE A SPEECH (St. Martin’s Press, March 2014) … “A how-to classic” (The Washington Post) 

How to amp up your online authority: from Square 2 Marketing

5 Ways To Build Your Online Authority

You may have an online presence, but is it an authoritative one? Are your social media posts resonating with the right audience?

Do you focus on talking about the problems and solutions your prospective   customers care about?

Practicing thought leadership in your industry helps to establish trust and authority in a highly targeted market. By creating an online authority, you’re conducting the most relevant online dialogue that your customers are searching for.

To learn more, contact Eric Keiles


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