The Five Roles of a Speechwriter: a Speech about Speechwriting

28 May 2012

My name is Brian Jenner and I’ve brought a photograph to show you today.

It’s me, with the tool of my trade.

It cost me £600 and it stands in my study. It’s a lectern.

When I finish writing a speech, I print it off, go to the lectern and read it out. The lectern doubles up as a desk and I can make amendments in the margin as I go along.

Woody Allen said that 90% of being a success was turning up. I’d say that you’re 50% on the way to becoming a professional speechwriter if you read out every speech you write.

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In Praise of Boris Johnson’s Speeches

19 March 2012

Brian Jenner argues that the London Mayor’s speeches are smarter than most people give him credit for.

While searching for candidates for the UK Speechwriters’ Guild Business Communicator of the Year 2012, I found a speech by Boris Johnson on the CBI website.

It was so good, it was tempting to put him forward for the award, even though he’s a politician, not a business man.

What makes Boris so special?

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Soapbox (this article appeared in PR Week 14 October 2011)

25 January 2012

I’ve been commissioned to write an analysis of the speeches at the Party conferences by Messrs Clegg, Cameron and Milliband, but I’ve got a confession to make. I didn’t watch them.

Instead I’ve been reading Chip & Dan Heath’s book, Switch: how to change things, when change is hard. The authors say analysing the causes of a problem rarely helps to solve it. If we want to change something we have to study what’s working and champion that.

As a speechwriter, I love listening to great speakers but I don’t expect to find them at party conferences.

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Pitching the World

23 January 2012

Lots of our members would like to go freelance. Last week a blogger reported his experiment of writing to 650 MPs offering his services as a speechwriter. He tried raw honesty as as tactic and submitted a sample speech.

You can read about his experiences here: http://pitchingtheworld.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/how-to-be-a-political-speechwriter-part-one/

The Ups and Downs of Speechwriting

15 January 2012

Speechwriting can be a satisfying and lucrative career. But our jobs hang by a thread, and we can never afford to forget that.

There are two ways of dealing with this insecurity. One is by using speechwriting as a stepping-stone to an editorial or managerial position. The other is by cultivating speechwriter survival skills.

Here are some tips I’ve picked up over the course of my own career:

First: Always remember that you have two clients: the person you write for – and yourself. And you are just as important as the client.

There’s no conflict of interest here. If you’re working to make your client look good, you’re also making yourself look good. For example: You’re hired to write speeches? Offer to ghost an article or op/ed for your client. If it gets published, the client looks good and you’ve got another choice writing sample to add to your portfolio; something to show potential employers that you’re good at different kinds of writing.

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Politicians and broadcasters: collaboration or capitulation?

7 November 2011

Should politicians be making more speeches and taking part in fewer interviews?

Public speaking expert, Dr Max Atkinson, will explain why making speeches is a much more effective way to communicate messages than taking part in interviews, because broadcast interviews seldom deliver anything but bad news for politicians.

He will expound the ‘snakes and ladders theory of political communication’ when he delivers the UK Speechwriters’ Guild Christmas lecture on Thursday 8 December at the School of Life, 70 Marchmont Streeet, in Bloomsbury.

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Management Speak: Why We Listen to What Management Gurus Tell Us

Book Review – Management Speak: Why We Listen to What Management Gurus Tell Us

27 October 2011

By David Greatbatch and Timothy Clark
Published by Routledge, (156 pages)
ISBN 041530623X, £29.99

This book is a laconic, but rather devastating academic analysis of how business gurus ply their trade. Part of me thinks there may be a streak of envy in all this because academics are notoriously poor communicators. All the same the authors dissect how the gurus work their magic. They tell rather banal stories, they avoid criticising the audience directly, they make everyone laugh and they craft tales which paint themselves as being at the cutting edge.

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Profile: Stuart Mole

27 October 2011

Stuart Mole is a freelance speechwriter and consultant. He is a former Director-General of the Royal Commonwealth Society and a former Director of the Secretary-General’s Office in the Commonwealth Secretariat.

What was the first speech you wrote for somebody else?

My guess it was when I was appointed the Parliamentary Press Officer of the Liberal Party back in 1975. My first draft was for Clement Freud, then MP for the Isle of Ely. He did the jokes and I inserted the party policy. I am not sure it was the ideal way to write speeches. Read more

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