10 simple steps to better speechwriting


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Ever wanted to know how to write the perfect speech for your MP or Chief Executive? William Neal, Head of Communications at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and former Account Director at MHP, will take you through 10 top tips for achieving this.

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10 simple steps to better speechwriting

  1. 1. 10 Simple steps to better speechwriting William Neal, Tuesday 24 September, Labour Party Conference
  2. 2. Speeches – the oddest medium of communications • Wordy, florid • Awkward, clumsy, strange • …but it’s what we expect and like • Throw out some of the rules of good writing 227/09/2013
  3. 3. Step 1 – Don’t re invent the wheel • The sum of nearly all knowledge is available online • There has never been a better or easier time to access a previously hidden world of information • http://www.britishpoliticalspeech.org/ • What strategic comms do you already have?• What strategic comms do you already have? • Speechwriting should be about polishing what you already have, not starting again 327/09/2013
  4. 4. Step 2: Environment and audience • Where are you giving the speech? • Interesting building that you can relate to the subject matter? • Who is it too?• Who is it too? • What is the culture? Country/religion? • Jokes, think carefully, don’t spend too long on them 427/09/2013
  5. 5. Step 3: Make the most of the opening • Think of a wedding – the tenseness of the opening, the relief when it goes well. Tactics: • Break the ice and make people feel comfortable• Break the ice and make people feel comfortable • An interesting fact or statistic. • A funny story that speaks to your larger theme. • More risky, pose a question to the audience and get them to put their hands up 527/09/2013
  6. 6. Step 4: Help people along – transitions are key • Work hard on good “bridge paragraphs” • Signal intent • Get people listening again • Spell it out • Let them know when an ending is approaching• Let them know when an ending is approaching 627/09/2013
  7. 7. Step 5: Get the right length • If in doubt, keep it short • 100 – 125 words = 1 minute • Unless it’s a keynote lecture, most corporate speeches should 5-10 mins at the very most 727/09/2013
  8. 8. Step 6: Have a Structure • A path and a destination. • People will want to know where you’re going and why. Not feel directionless and tense. • Let them know in your opening on what you’ll be covering. • Edit: focus on structuring and simplifying.• Edit: focus on structuring and simplifying. • If it doesn’t help you get your core message across, drop it. • Don’t be scared of repetition: Say your key message again and again 827/09/2013
  9. 9. Step 7: Empathise, humanise, personalise “Empathize... personalize... humanize. It’s time to end the bad habit of talking dry economic statistics, budget numbers and the alphabet soup of government programs and departments. When you talk about the issues facing America, talk about what it means to real people - families, small business owners, employees, parents, children and grandchildren - their jobs, their lives and their hopes for the future. Take the time to show them that youtheir lives and their hopes for the future. Take the time to show them that you understand their situation, that you are familiar with the problems they face and that you have solutions to offer.” Frank Luntz, Leaked briefing for President Bush, 2004 927/09/2013
  10. 10. Step 8: Use the power of three • Martin Luther King Jr., used the power of three throughout his many influential speeches. • Education, Education, Education • US President Barack Obama used 29 three-part lists in roughly 10 minutes during his victory speech 1027/09/2013
  11. 11. Step 9: Paint a scene • “Opening doors" or "breaking down barriers", “a new era of change” • Paint a picture with your words • Your own words will tell you if you are being interesting or boringboring 1127/09/2013
  12. 12. Step 10: Use contrast and antithesis • Use a negative and then a positive to create impact. It makes your point seem more important. • "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." JFK • "You turn if you want to, the lady's not for turning.”• "You turn if you want to, the lady's not for turning.” Margaret Thatcher • Antithesis, is introducing absolute opposites in same sentence: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” 1227/09/2013