What truths have you found about initial speechwriting engagements?
If you call in a writer a few days before you’re scheduled to present, there is only so much we can do (and it isn’t much). That question needs to be answered early and succinctly, and all the other content will flow from it. Many successful executives are actually quite introverted, and the most successful of them tend to be incredibly private, so this part of the process is challenging for them. We won’t use everything you tell us but we need to know the entire landscape so we can best curate the content.
Remember we’re on the same team and the more we know, the more the speech will resonate as truly your own. Also, if we’re in this line of work we have thick skins. Executives have many resources at their disposal, other than time.
But like the best of dating, when a client/writer partnership works well it can work very, very well.
Inspirational, on-message remarks will be delivered that motivate audiences and best of all, sound exactly like the speaker. There is never enough time to write a thoughtful speech, so the earlier you engage your writer the better. The speechwriter’s job is to translate your expertise into moving and memorable remarks, told in your own voice and through your individual lens on the world.
Having partnered with a handful of new clients this year to research and write major speeches, I can tell you a few truths about those first engagements that might make yours go better than the average blind date. More time leads to more thorough research, more conversations that enable the writer to hear and capture your voice, and more refinement. (Hint: because they asked you to is not the answer). The client is the subject matter expert, the writer is the communications expert. The better we know the speaker, the better the speech we can write. What stories can we tell to highlight the key points?
Even better, it usually results in more time for practice – the holy grail of the best speakers. After you talk, what is it you want that audience to think, feel, believe and best of all DO differently then before you spoke? In the past weeks I’ve collaborated with clients to write speeches on entrepreneurship in the Middle East, the need for advanced scientific facilities for leading researchers, and intergenerational wealth transfer. Don’t worry if your writer doesn’t have a depth of experience in your industry;it actually enables them to bring a fresh perspective (ala the perspective of your audience in many cases) and true communications skills. But with a new client this is often more akin to speed dating – we need to get to know you based on a single call or series of emails. Tell us about yourself, your background, a favorite story or two (preferably ones that relate to your topic). Send us links so we can watch and learn your style and vocabulary. The writer needs to hear the good and the bad about your feelings on the topic, the audience and the intended outcome of the presentation. Personal stories are always best, but you need to let us know if anything is uncomfortable or off limits.