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Media training: phrases to avoid

I had a one-year contract to work as a national media spokesperson for a tech company – traveling the USA to convey the client’s key messages.

My advice to anyone answering media questions? 1. Know the key messages you must work into each interview. 2. Identify the annoying phrases you must keep out.

As an executive coach, I watch a lot of media interviews and I hear a lot of annoying phrases.

What ranks at the top of the please-don’t-say-this-again list? Perhaps “at the end of the day.”  I watched an executive on a TV interview use it twice within a few minutes. That was two times too many.


Quote: Differences & Diversity

Media interviews talk about fixing the USA’s growing divisiveness. Corporate presentations talk about the need to encourage diversity. Government officials talk about “the bi-partisan need to come together” as a nation.

I ran across this quote from a commencement address given by President Kennedy back in 1963 at the American University in DC. The second sentence struck me, in particular the words “at least we can help make the world safe for diversity” … strong words (mostly 1 syllable) that convey a strong theme:

“So, let us not be blind to our differences – but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”

Make the World Safe for Diversity sounds like a good title for a speech.

The business of speechwriting: Client service

Whether you write on staff or freelance, you want your speechwriting clients to feel like they’re in good hands.

Think about the clients you served last week. Write down 3 specific things you did to convey your professionalism.

Keep this list of actions on file. The next time you work for these clients, find other ways to let them know they’re in good hands with your speechwriting services.

Pretty soon, you’ll be seen as indispensable. That’s what you want.


Public speaking & media training: Statistic of the month

“It’s not normal for you to go to a community, weigh 100 children and have 30 of them close to dying.” (Susanna Raffalli, nutritional coordinator, speaking about the human devastation in Caritas Venezuela)


+ the impact of using the personal pronoun “you” to engage listeners in the statistic (“It’s not normal for you to go to a community … “)

+ the power of using round numbers: “100 children … 30 of them close to dying”. Round numbers are more quotable.

On a personal note:

For the sake of the children who are suffering so terribly in Venezuela, I hope you’ll find opportunities to share this statistic with others. The chaos in Venezuela gets precious little media attention in the US. I’m aware of Venezuela’s situation through international business communication colleagues who are trying to do their professional best in what has become a disaster zone.

Copyright and democracy: a quote to remember

“Copyright protection is a linchpin of democracy. The Founders wrote copyright law into the Constitution because a democracy needs an informed citizenry.”

[from a January 15 2017 speech, given by the Authors Guild executive director Mary Rasenberger]

I happened to reread this speech over the long July 4th weekend and the quote sticks with me. I’m hoping these lines about copyright and democracy resonate with you as much as they do with me.

We need every reminder we can get about the importance of “an informed citizenry”. Please spread the word:

Copyright matters.

Quick advice for speechwriters

What images do you create in the minds of your audience?

“Some say that nothing is more vivid or memorable than a picture. We disagree. No visual image is as vivid as the image created by the mind in response to words.” [Norman Cousins]

Wise words to guide your speechwriting …

Freelance speechwriters: Time to update your website?

Spanish cover Como escibir un discurso

If it’s time to update your website, make sure you cite comments/clients/recommendations from a wide geographical range.

Freelance speechwriting is a global business – if you market it globally.

A freelance speechwriter who attended 5 of my speechwriting seminars has turned a local speechwriting business into a global speechwriting business. I’m delighted to see this. If the entire world is filled with potential clients, why limit yourself to the companies in your hometown?

Essential: Update your website to include blurbs from international clients. Don’t have any international clients yet? Well, cite diverse forums, global topics, English-as-second-language executives.

Maybe you’ve written a speech about Brexit, or climate change, or multi-cultural workforces. Note this speechwriting experience. It all speaks to your broad worldview, and it increases your professional value.

(Yes, in case you’re wondering: Experienced international speechwriters earn higher rates.)

Japanese cover front

Why speechwriters need to look at a client’s past public speaking appearances

From Patrick Henry:

“I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging the future but by the past.”

Look at the speeches your client has given over the past six months.
* What went wrong?
* What proved successful?

There’s always a reason. Look. Analyze. Figure out why your client succeeded with one audience but underperformed with another.


The speechwriter’s skill set: More tips for better listening

Remain silent while a client finishes telling you his account. Then paraphrase your client:

“Now, let me make sure I get your priorities straight. First, CSR needs to …”

At this point, you should get some feedback from your speaker. Feedback usually falls into two categories.

A speaker might say:

* “That’s it! That’s exactly what I want to emphasize.”
OR she might say:
* Well, no, not exactly. I do want CSR to ____, but first we need to ____.”

See? The more you listen, the more you learn. And the more you learn during the interview phase, the less rewriting you’ll need to do later on.

Ah, less rewriting … there’s the reward!

stack of books

Listening tips for speechwriters

When interviewing your client for a major speech, talk less and listen more. You’ll get better information – and the executive will get a better speech.

1. Sit quietly.
2. Watch body language.
3. Listen to tone.
4. Don’t interrupt.
5. Really: Don’t interrupt.
6. Remain silent as the speaker tells his anecdote or shares her data. Note exactly what your client emphasizes (where she speaks louder, where he underscores a key phrase).
7. Think: “What did I learn about this speaker’s messaging priorities?”
8. Also think: “What did careful listening teach me about my client’s public speaking skills?”

Use what you learn to write a speech tailored to your client’s unique needs.


Need help crafting a better speech? I can help you with that.

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