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Welcome to the blog of author and speechwriter/ coach, Joan Detz.
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Writing by committee …

Some wise words from advertising genius David Ogilvy:

“Much of the messy advertising you see on TV is the product of committees. Committees can criticize advertisements, but they should never be allowed to create them.”

Ditto for speeches:

Committees can critique speeches, but they should never be allowed to write them.

Years ago I worked on a convention speech that was written by a committee of about ten. (I was the only writer in the group – the rest came from sales, manufacturing, marketing or HR.) Two words can sum up that speechwriting experience: Never again.

stack of books

Changing your presentation: When is it too late?

In theory, it’s never too late. You can make changes to your presentation anytime. But – and this is a big but – changes always present a cost.

Sometimes changes pose a financial cost:
* rush fees for a graphic designer to fix your PowerPoint
* rush fees for a speechwriter to rewrite your notes
* higher costs to rent rehearsal space
* higher production rates
* the need for additional proofreading

Sometimes changes pose an opportunity cost:
* What could you be doing if you weren’t making your 11th change? (What should you be doing?)
* Does changing the content mean you’ll have less time for rehearsals?
* Could redesigning your PPT take away from Q&A preparation?
* Do ongoing changes hurt staff morale?
* Do last-minute changes introduce errors/typos?

Whether it’s a financial cost or an opportunity cost: Either way, you’ll pay.
And the later you make those changes, the more they will cost. Beware night-before rewrites.

The best way to avoid changes? Plan. If you plan your presentation carefully, you’ll be less likely to require last-minute changes.

Always prepare an outline before you script your remarks or do your PowerPoint. The more you understand your content and your audience, the more you can remain in control of your presentation.

As a speaker, ask yourself, “How much am I willing to sacrifice for hasty changes? Money? Quality? Frustration? Lost sleep? Less rehearsal time?”

Yes, errors absolutely do need to be fixed. Other items? Not so much.

Foreign Book Covers

How to Write  Give a Speech smallforhomepage

Are you ready for your next Q&A session?

I just finished coaching a client for a big Q&A session. In particular, I focused on coaching the executive to improve his question-and-answer skills with international audiences.

The a-ha moment for my speaker was: “Preparing for a Q&A takes at least as much work as preparing to give a major presentation.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Allocate your preparation time accordingly. Don’t skimp on Q&A practice. (FYI: The more diverse your audience, the sharper your skills have to be. Content alone won’t suffice … you’ll need multicultural communication skills to save the day.)

Right from the beginning, budget time for Q&A practice each time you rehearse your presentation. Don’t wait until the last minute to think about the questions you might get.

Need help? This book has a detailed section on Q&A sessions – and you can borrow it widely from public libraries:

How to Write  Give a Speech smallforhomepage

2017 ASJA conference (I’ve already marked my calendar)

Keynotes Announced for ASJA’s 46th Annual Writers Conference – Fri May 5 & Sat May 6, 2017, Roosevelt Hotel, NYC

By Estelle Erasmus

As Chair for the 2017 ASJA Conference in NYC, I’m delighted to share that we have been getting many of your proposals for sessions and I’m really impressed with the level of diversity and the content of these sessions. ASJA members are certainly deep thinkers and are keeping consistent with our conference theme of Pivot. Publish. Prosper.

With that said, I’m thrilled to announce our additional keynote speakers for members only day and nonmembers day.

Both speakers write and talk about subjects in line with the conference’s main mission to educate and inform writers and help them learn new tools and techniques for flourishing as freelance writers. And both represent the diversity we are dedicated to embodying in our conferences.

Bios for both speakers and more information on the conference as it evolves can be found on the ASJA website.

Member’s Only Day – May 5th Keynote Speaker: Vanessa Hua

Vanessa Hua is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and author of Deceit and Other Possibilities, which O, The Oprah Magazine calls a “searing debut.” For nearly two decades, she has been writing about Asia and the diaspora in journalism and in fiction, examining the ways immigrants bring their traditions, their histories, and their ambitions to America. She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award, a Steinbeck Fellowship in Creative Writing, as well as honors from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists’ Association. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, FRONTLINE/World, Washington Post, and elsewhere. She has filed stories from China, South Korea, Panama, Burma and Ecuador. Her novels are forthcoming from Ballantine. Her website is Vanessa Hua.

Vanessa’s talk will focus on how her stories shed a light on untold stories, and the physical landscapes that give the stories a sense of realism, plus her path to publication. Follow her on Twitter at @Vanessa_Hua

NonMembers Day – May 6th Keynote Speaker Andrea King Collier

Andrea King Collier, an ASJA member, is a multimedia journalist, essayist and author. She’s been on the full-time freelance path for over 25 years.

Her specialties are essays, health and wellness, health policy. Her work appears across print, online, and broadcast outlets, including Salon, National Geographic, The Plate, Civil Eats, Ebony, AARP Magazine, Next Avenue, NBCBLK, Washington Post, Pacific Standard, Town and Country, Essence, Heart and Soul and others.

She is the author of Still With Me… A Daughter’s Journey of Love and Loss from Simon and Schuster and The Black Woman’s Guide to Black Men’s Health, from Warner Wellness. Her work has also been anthologized in the Best Food Writing Series, and the O Magazine Book of Happiness, to name a few.

She also teaches online courses for writers on craft and the business of sustainability for freelancers. Collier has served as a ASJA board member. She is also a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ). She is a current AHCJ Great Lakes Fellow. She is also the creative director of the Symposium for Professional Food Writers. Collier is a graduate of Indiana University in Journalism and Political Science. She is based in Lansing, Michigan.

Follow her on Facebook at

Andrea’s talk will focus on tips and insights on how she developed her political writing specialty and what it cost her and what she gained. She will also teach a mini class on her popular “gridding” concept to get many story ideas and increased income from any assignment. Follow her on twitter @andreacollier

Follow ASJA on twitter @ASJAhq

Awards competition from NAGC: Time to enter your speechwriting?


The 2017 Blue Pencil & Gold Screen Awards Competition is now open!

Are you an employee or contractor who has produced a communication product for federal, tribal, military, state, regional, county, municipal or other government entity?

Be recognized: Enter your product(s) in the NAGC 2017 Blue Pencil & Gold Screen (BP&GS) Awards Competition.

This annual international awards program recognizes superior government communication products and those who produce them. We constantly work to ensure our categories reflect the changing face of communications in and out of government.

Enter as many categories as you choose – the number of opportunities to share your best work, innovation, creativity and use of technology may surprise you.

For authors who have books available in French libraries …

My own books have been translated into Japanese, Dutch, Polish and Spanish. In 2017, HOW TO WRITE & GIVE A SPEECH will be published in Chinese – both in print and ebook. So far, my books have not been translated into French – but if you’re an author of a book that appears in French libraries, read on:

Dear Authors Guild Member,

We want to make sure you know that if your books are available in French libraries, you may now be able to receive compensation for it. SOFIA, a government-authorized French organization that distributes money collected pursuant to the public lending right and for private digital copying, has opened its doors to American authors. Proceeds from the lending right and from private copying are split equally between author and publisher. In the case of works that have been translated into French, the author’s share is split between author and translator.

In order to receive funds, you must be a member of SOFIA. There is no annual subscription fee, but members pay a one-time sum of 38 euros, which you can either pay immediately or authorize SOFIA to deduct from your payments. All book authors, regardless of the type of work published, can subscribe to SOFIA provided that they have published at least one book through a publisher and have signed a publishing contract. This membership application and brochure produced by SOFIA contain more detailed information. You can also find more information on the SOFIA website.

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American Society of Journalists & Authors: regional writing conference Sat Nov 5 in Atlanta

ASJA will offer the Dream Bold writing conference this Saturday in Atlanta. Here are some session highlights:

Dream of Breaking into Trade, Custom, Digital and Alumni Magazines
11:15 p.m. – 12:15 p.m.

There has never been more work for writers – the secret is knowing where to look and how to catch an editor’s eye. In this session, learn how to build relationships with editors (what to do, what to avoid at all costs), how to keep your name top of mind when editors are assigning, ways to re-slant your research and sell your work to different, non-competing markets, how to pitch to custom magazines using your journalism clips, and much more. Featuring Tanisha Sykes, former personal finance editor at ESSENCE and Jennifer Goforth Gregory, successful content marketing writer.

Dream of Breaking in and Making Big Bucks from Business Writing
1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Love to Write, But Hate to Starve? Exploring the $75+/Hour World of “Commercial” Writing! You CAN make a GOOD living writing! Many businesses large and small rely on outside freelancers to handle their writing needs-and for a host of solid economic reasons. And they’re willing to pay handsomely (i.e. $50-125+ an hour). Join Peter Bowerman, author of the award-winning Well-Fed Writer titles ( and nationally renowned authority on lucrative commercial freelancing, for a fast-paced, informative, and entertaining workshop. You’ll study actual samples, and learn all the who, what, where, and how-to of turning your writing skills into a lucrative career with enviable lifestyle benefits. If you’ve dreamed of thriving as a writer, don’t miss it.

Dream of Building Your Personal Brand
4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Today’s journalists and authors are in a tough spot. There are too many writers trying to land the same high-paying gigs. The answer? Create an amazing personal brand that makes you stand out. In this interactive session, award-winning author Beverly Harzog takes you through a few simple steps to help you identify your unique brand and how to use it your benefit. Whether you’re a freelance journalist or an author, you’ll come away from this session will the tools you need to take your writing business to the top.

A quote about elections – from a business perspective

“An election goes on every minute of the business day across the counters of hundreds of thousands of stores and shops where the customers state their preferences and determine which company and which products shall be the leader today and which shall lead tomorrow.”

Bruce Barton

Publishing Tips for the Multimedia Age

On Wednesday, November 16, the National Association of Government Communicators hosts Greg Leatherman, managing editor of ECO magazine and former communicator for NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the FBI. Greg will present Publishing Tips for the Multimedia Age, a look at how you can turn the material you produce for your agency into copy ready for publishing, and then find outlets that want to share your story.

Webinar Wednesdays are held 1-2 p.m. Eastern time. NAGC members participate at no cost. Non-members register for $49*.

How line editing can improve your next speech

This week, I’m line editing a speech for a client I’ve worked with for years. The client wrote the first draft of the speech in-house and then sent it to me to polish. With some line editing, I was able to:

* Make the speech easier for the executive to deliver

* Make the speech easier for the audience to follow

* Make the speech more memorable

* Make the speech more tweetable

Agreed: It’s important for us as speechwriters to be strategic in our thinking. But it’s equally important to have sharp line editing skills.

Skilled line editing can make the difference between a mediocre delivery and a great delivery. It’s absolutely essential when we write for speakers who use English as a second language. Every syllable matters.

Are you allocating enough time to hone each sentence in your manuscript?


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