Speechwriter? Lowly Servant

I once wrote a speech for boss who read the speech before hard and stood at a podium and pronounced the word awry – OR-EE. I chuckled.

I once wrote a speech for a boss who never opened the file I presented. Said boss then stood before an audience, opened said file and commented: “Oh good. The font is nice and big – I will not have to squint.” I shuddered.

As part of my favourite side gig, I wrote a speech for a groom (ghost writing of course) once who took time and care to read, practice and deliver his speech with care. His wife cried tears of joy and love. I teared up too when he called to say thank you.

Following awards (now over a decade old), speeches for managers, CEOs and even Ministers if Government, I still get the same level of respect doled out to those in my field for the craft – little if any. Nevertheless, without sounding acrid or waxing poetic, I share these tips to avoid being yelled at/ disrespected and to garner appreciation (God bless that groom!) for your gift of speech craft:

  • Learn the Phrase: “For the consideration of“. I once entitled a speech “prepared for” prior to the person’s name and title – they launched into a tirade about the fact that “pr people” are always trying to toot their own horn. One needs to realize that indeed, though you ARE writing what they SHOULD say – should is conditional and THEY  have to approve what has been prepared – following intense consideration by the cerebral mind that was too busy/high and mighty/ flacid to prepare same.
  • Avoid Typos: Woe unto those that present a document with a typo, incorrect word choice (there/their) or worse – misspelt designation. Such tasks are unforgivable and forever solidify your position as a lowly speechwriter – you will never have a voice if you just can’t type.
  • Screw the Audience, Focus on the Presenter: So your 7 years of school, 15 years of experience and this great blog “communication questions” tells you to focus on the audience prior to preparing (for consideration of course) any speech…Alas, this advice is greatly misplaced should you be writing for the non-Steve Jobs-esque (sp!) manager. Remember, unfortunately many of those in power in the Caribbean care more about what THEY think than what their audience does. They are more interested in being verbose than being understood..many more have never heard of alliteration  much less understand the reason, rhythm and rhyme similar words said in a line can bring to a verbal presentation. Give in and more placid your journey at work will be as a speechwriter.
  • Fight the Power: Under no circumstances question edits! Fight the power to grow a backbone. By an undershirt that says “I am right”, wear it under all your fancy work suits to prepare yourself for the sinking feeling in your stomach you get when preparing speeches so dull they put your PC to sleep when you type them.

These my friends are tips I wish I could follow – by my passion sends me running blindly into the speechwriting bull ring event after event. Sadly, the pain I feel each time I am impaled by the harsh mispronunciation, edits and gross disrespect my speech writing passion garners is clearly less than the joy I feel knowing I put up a good fight. Next time I will arm myself with a good dictionary and guest list and get the thing right I often say…I’ll be a better proof reader next time….but you know what,  chuck it all for the excitement and the hope tomorrow I’ll get it all right…like I did for that groom who remembered to say thank you.

Amazingly my wedding speeches tend to garner tears and thank you s (one was mouthed from the podium). I think it’s because my heart is in what they say. The real tip of speech writing if to get to know what the person presenting the speech wants to convey and what their audience wants to hear. Find a happy medium and you may actually evoke a tear…from someone other than yourself!

Hug yourself lowly servant! Kidding! Hugs!


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One Response to “Speechwriter? Lowly Servant”

  1. Kevin Says:

    I am mixed on the whole idea of speech writers, especially in the way you have described it.

    I can understand that many people who have to give speeches, because of their jobs (or marriage), are not necessarily eloquent enough to write their own speeches, and sometimes, they just don’t have the time, but at the same time, you can’t (shouldn’t) just give the brief to a font of eloquence and tell them to run off and write something.

    The problem of course is that when you do that, the speech does not come from within you, it is NOT you. I really despise hearing speeches read and not delivered.

    Sure the speech writer has a role to play, an essential and invaluable role to play. But it must be more of a collaboration between pen (or keyboard) and mouth, rather than the mouth reciting what the pen has written. Of course that generally means that the mouth must appreciate the professional capabilities of the pen, which as you say, is sadly lacking.

    Buy the way (typo intended), as one who makes speeches (which I write for myself thank you very much), I must point out that is a typo in the second sentence of the paragraph entitled “Fight the Power: Under no circumstances question edits”. Surely it should be “BUY an undershirt…” and not “BY an undershirt…”

    I think the speech writer must be also be able to channel the speech giver, so that when he/she reads it, they think “yeah, I would say it like that” and when people hear it, they think “yeah he/she wrote that”

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