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Speechwriting: The Basics, and Fast, by Michael Long

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Speechwriting: The Basics, and Fast, by Michael Long

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This presentation comes from our March 2012 chapter meeting. Mike Long is the former director of the White House Writers Group, and an accomplished speechwriter, author, essayist, and award-winning screenwriter and playwright. He has written remarks for members of Congress, U.S. Cabinet secretaries, governors, diplomats, CEOs, and four presidential candidates.

This presentation comes from our March 2012 chapter meeting. Mike Long is the former director of the White House Writers Group, and an accomplished speechwriter, author, essayist, and award-winning screenwriter and playwright. He has written remarks for members of Congress, U.S. Cabinet secretaries, governors, diplomats, CEOs, and four presidential candidates.

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Speechwriting: The Basics, and Fast, by Michael Long

  1. 1. Speechwriting: The Basics, and Fast Michael Long Georgetown University Mike@MikeLongOnline.com 703.408.7570
  2. 2. Speechwriting: Philosophy  Nobody wants…  Speeches v. Presentation v. Oratory  Oratory: Mainly emotional  Speeches: Mix of information and emotion  Presentation: Information (Power Point)
  3. 3. Speechwriting Six Steps 1. Assess the Event and the Speaker 2. Create a Spec Sheet 3. Identify the Big Ideas and Put Them in Order (“Identify and Prioritize”) 4. Add Evidence 5. Write the Open and the End 6. Make it Better: Social Media, Sourcing & Loose Ends
  4. 4. Speechwriting Step 1 1. Assess the Event and the Speaker 2. Create a Spec Sheet 3. Identify the Big Ideas and Put Them in Order (“Identify and Prioritize”) 4. Add Evidence 5. Write the Open and the End 6. Make it Better: Social Media, Sourcing & Loose Ends
  5. 5. Speechwriting: Practicalities & Mechanics  Collaborative  w/principal (rarely)  w/staff (usually)  Timetables  Iterations  Getting it down on paper  The rule: 1 minute = 100 words
  6. 6. Speechwriting THE KEY IS ORGANIZATION
  7. 7. The Big Secret: The Music Man and The Custom Garment
  8. 8. Speechwriting  Before you write a word, spend time thinking.  How much time do I have to write it?  How long is the speech? How to write  What form for delivery, cards or text or other?  Who is the audience?  What is the speech supposed to be What to write about?  What do you want the speech to achieve?
  9. 9. Speechwriting Step 2 1. Assess the Event and the Speaker 2. Create a Spec Sheet 3. Identify the Big Ideas and Put Them in Order (“Identify and Prioritize”) 4. Add Evidence 5. Write the Open and the End 6. Make it Better: Social Media, Sourcing & Loose Ends
  10. 10. Speechwriting Prepare Spec Sheet Mechanics  Speaker  Audience  Date  Personal connection  Location  Last time there  City, building, room  Personal ties  Duration  People to acknowledge  Order  Text / Notes / Outline
  11. 11. Speechwriting Prepare Spec Sheet Content  Topic  from before  What do you want the speech to achieve?  also from before  Three main ideas  “The Meeting”
  12. 12. Speechwriting Step 3 1. Assess the Event and the Speaker 2. Create a Spec Sheet 3. Identify the Big Ideas and Put Them in Order (“Identify and Prioritize”) 4. Add Evidence 5. Write the Open and the End 6. Make it Better: Social Media, Sourcing & Loose Ends
  13. 13. Speechwriting  Identify and Prioritize  Write the middle first: Outline the Structure  Nothin’ fancy  Make a list of the big points you need to make  3 or 4 max  No more than that, ever  These will be the tent poles, the tree branches, etc
  14. 14. Speechwriting I. Opening – DON’T WRITE THIS YET II. Middle A. Big Point #1 B. Big Point #2 Main points C. Big Point #3 III. Closing – DON’T WRITE THIS YET
  15. 15. Speechwriting I. Opening A. Big Point #1 B. Big Point #2 Here’s what’s coming: bite-size C. Big Point #3 II. Middle A. Big Point #1 B. Big Point #2 Here’s what’s coming: bite-size C. Big Point #3 III. Closing A. Big Point #1 B. Big Point #2 Here’s what I told you: bite-size C. Big Point #3
  16. 16. Speechwriting Step 4 1. Assess the Event and the Speaker 2. Create a Spec Sheet 3. Identify the Big Ideas and Put Them in Order (“Identify and Prioritize”) 4. Add Evidence 5. Write the Open and the End 6. Make it Better: Social Media, Sourcing & Loose Ends
  17. 17. The Writing: Structure II. Body – Point 1: Subjective assertion • Support: Objective evidence = EVIDENCE – Point 2 • support – Point 3 • support
  18. 18. Kinds of Evidence  Anecdotes  Jokes  Personal experiences  use of humor  Statistics  Step-by-step logic  Facts  Props  History  Case studies
  19. 19. Speechwriting Step 5 1. Assess the Event and the Speaker 2. Create a Spec Sheet 3. Identify the Big Ideas and Put Them in Order (“Identify and Prioritize”) 4. Add Evidence 5. Write the Open and the End 6. Make it Better: Social Media, Sourcing & Loose Ends
  20. 20. Speechwriting  Write Opening and Ending I. Opening A. Acknowledgements (speech only) A B. Rapport/Attention-getting R C. Topic T D. Subtopics (depending on length) 1. Big Point #1 S 2. Big Point #2 3. Big Point #3 II. Middle III. Closing
  21. 21. Speechwriting  Write Opening and Ending I. Opening II. Middle III. Closing A. Big Point #1 B. Big Point #2 Here’s what I told you: bite-size C. Big Point #3 D. Personal remarks (if desired) E. Call to Action (if necessary)
  22. 22. Speechwriting  Also at the end...  If you want to plant a single take-away message in the mind of the audience, state it here—clearly!  Make it a simple, memorable sentence or phrase.  Repeat it throughout the talk.
  23. 23. Speechwriting Step 6 1. Assess the Event and the Speaker 2. Create a Spec Sheet 3. Identify the Big Ideas and Put Them in Order (“Identify and Prioritize”) 4. Add Evidence 5. Write the Open and the End 6. Make it Better: Social Media, Sourcing & Loose Ends
  24. 24. Speechwriting  Add Polish  Think like a fourth-grader/sound like a PhD: “talk it out”
  25. 25. Speechwriting  Add Polish  Convert to text or turn in an outline  Avoid “leading” interstitial language  Replace weak/placeholder anecdotes with stronger ones  Add more color, detail and evidence  Revise recognitions/acknowledgements  Look for better rapport/personal connections  Wordsmith/clean up language  Keeping inspired...
  26. 26. Speechwriting  Test it by reading out loud  Write for the ear, meaning...  Use  short, declarative sentences  Avoid  STAGE DIRECTION / PAUSES / “WAIT FOR LAUGH”  “lost in the weeds” detail – consider what a listener can easily hold in his head, not on paper
  27. 27. Speechwriting: Social Media • BEFORE  Use Twitter hashtags to ask audience what they want to hear (as appropriate)  Tweet/FB pithy quotes from the speech  In catchy language, identify questions/issues you will address  Occasionally countdown to the date
  28. 28. Speechwriting: Social Media • DURING  Encourage liveblogging, tweeting and FB- ing as you speak  Offer hashtags to identify the speech and/or topics  Have someone tweet/FB on your behalf matching quotes/stories with links to further information or documentation
  29. 29. Speechwriting: Social Media • AFTER  Post a short video of the opening on FB; link to text or video  Post grafs/quotes; link to text or video  Convert to multiple blog entries  Post distilled elements as “Note” on FB
  30. 30. Speechwriting: Sourcing  Yes, it’s necessary  The great forgotten task of speechwriting  What if the speaker gets asked later?  Speaker just wants to know  Endnotes, not footnotes  Not mixed in with text  Separate page  Embedding sources in the spoken text  When and when not to / length of citation  “According to…”
  31. 31. Speechwriting: Sourcing • The Rule: – The more controversial the fact, the greater the need to document its source 50 million children 300 million in the US go to people live in bed hungry every the US night LESS The need for sourcing MORE “That sounds “Are you sure?” right.”
  32. 32. Make Writing Easy on Yourself  The Printing-Proofing Trick (Font & Size)  Give it a title  Use subheads and/or section marks  One sentence = one graf  White space
  33. 33. Your Questions  How can I write talking points that are effective, and how can I do it more efficiently? Talking Points are  phrases,  sentences and  very short paragraphs that a speaker can use as a basis for an extemporaneous talk.
  34. 34. Your Questions Talking Points  Keep them short.  Get to the point.  Write for the ear – when possible, use catchy phrases  Alliteration, consonance, assonance, imagery  Use this thinking for writing sound bites, too.  Use white space and labels so the speaker can sort through the material at a glance.  Also okay: Jumping off points to jog the memory to further comment
  35. 35. Your Questions  When given a broad topic, how do I narrow it down to something manageable? (e.g., professionalism)  How do I write quotable, memorable lines – sound bites?  How do I drive home a line – how do I get reporters to pick up the line and how do I get audiences to remember it?
  36. 36. Your Questions  How do I “break into” speechwriting inside the office?  How do I capture the tone and voice of the speaker?
  37. 37. Your Questions  What are some source materials for commencements, general remarks and other events that are oriented more toward mood than toward fact?  “Condemned to Repeat It” by Wick Allison  “This Day in Business History” by Raymond Francis  “Tunesmith” by Jimmy Webb  “Theatre” by David Mamet  “Get some art in you…”
  38. 38. Speechwriting Review: Six Steps 1. Assess the Event and the Speaker 2. Create a Spec Sheet 3. Identify the Big Ideas and Put Them in Order (“Identify and Prioritize”) 4. Add Evidence 5. Write the Open and the End 6. Make it Better: Social Media, Sourcing & Loose Ends

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