Friday, November 13, 2009

November Lunch Recap: Speechwriting

So if you missed yesterday's lunch, you definitely missed out!! Our speakers rocked... and I've heard nothing but rave reviews since the minute the program ended. (Heck, we practically had to kick people out because so many were hanging around chatting afterward!) As for me? I had every intention of tweeting via my Blackberry during the lunch, but got so caught up in the presentations that I forgot to do so.

First, our speakers:
Some of the highlights:
  • Always start with a bang... but make sure it's an appropriate one. (Your "bang" can be a joke, an anecdote, or a quotation)
  • Write for the ear... meaning short, simple, clear sentences. Also, use active voice.
  • Practice the rule of 3... all great speeches do. (This means using examples or phrases in groups of three.)
  • Repetition... it works. (Think about one of the most famous speeches in history: Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech.)
  • Write your beginning and your ending first.
  • Support each of your points with examples and stories.
  • Remember that the point of a speech is not to convey information. If you want to convey information, send a memo or writer a letter. A good speech is not someone reading a white paper or a person reading off a PowerPoint. A good speech is one that moves the audience to action!
  • Tell stories, not stats! No matter how dry the subject, you can always find a good story. (And people remember stories much better than they do stats.)
  • Research, research, research! Research should include interviewing the person who will be delivering the speech, but it also means doing independent research. (Newspapers can be your best friends, especially if they've done interviews or profiles with the person for whom you're writing the speech.) Internet is a speechwriter's best friend.
  • Learn about your audience and who it is. This is crucial.
  • A practical piece of advice: when you're printing out the speech, only include writing on the top 2/3 of the page. (If someone's reading off a speech at the bottom third of a page, he/she can't easily look up and connect with the audience.)
And this doesn't even delve into the mere entertainment factor from our speakers... like how Jeff compared speechwriting to making a stew. (You had to be there...)

I'd be remiss if I finished this post without a shout out to the folks running and working at The Darlington House in Dupont Circle. This was our first time here since the restaurant had opened up under this name. (It used to be Childe Harold.) The food was delicious... and affordable. The service was impeccable. The private room was gorgeous and truly private. They did a spectacular job! If you're hosting a private event, talk to them.

Looking for more perspective on our lunch? Check out a blog post on Denise Graveline's The Eloquent Woman blog.

Oh, one last thing. Jeff gave us a great quote about how marketing is like shaving... but you'll need to come back to the blog next week to read more about that.

-- Robin

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