Speechwriters take note: It's not just about the writing
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Some time ago a conference of industrial designers in Washington, D.C., highlighted their most amazing gadgets for homes and work.
Funny thing, though. None of the Jetsons-type futuristic gizmos made The Washington Post the next day, says veteran speechwriter Fletcher Dean.
Instead the Post wrote about one old, low-tech design. “It was this: a simple yellow rubber duck,” Dean says, holding aloft the toddler’s toy.
A speaker mentioned carcinogens used in the manufacture of the ducks—which often end up in the mouths of toddlers and teething babies. He scored big-time coverage not through Ciceronian prose, but by connecting emotionally with his listeners: Why in the world would we design, with intent, a product like this for our children to use?
“You do not have to be a great writer to create a great speech,” says Dean.
What do you need? Check out this session, and you will learn:
The questions to ask before you start any speech
- Why reducing the number of messages will enhance your speaker's effectiveness
- Why defining a structure before you write is the secret to engaged audiences and happy clients
- 5 things more important than writing in drafting a speech
Discover why you should know your audience. Dean cites an executive who once said giving a speech without understanding the audience is like writing a love letter and addressing it “To Whom It May Concern.”
“It’s not going to be warm,” Dean says. “It’s not going to be sincere. You’re going to miss out on all the personal things that make a speech a speech.”
Learn how to create and fill out an audience analysis form, which asks detailed questions, such as, “How many people will be there? What are their issues? What are their job titles?”
Find out why you need to understand your purpose. What do you want them to know? What do you want them to believe? Answer these questions before you put your hands on the keyboard.
“Determining what you want to say before you know what you want to accomplish is kind of like packing your suitcase for vacation before you know where you’re going,” Dean says. “If you’re not careful, you could end up in Hawaii with nothing but long underwear and a parka.”
Gather tips for focusing your message. Piling on points weakens your speech. The study Dean cites explicitly makes this point: “The addition of mildly favorable information dilutes the impact of highly favorable information to the audience,” he says.
Hear why you must let the audience in on your structure. Give your speech a structure that matches the material and lets your listeners know where you’re going. Give them a recognizable agenda: Today I will be discussing five points.
Find out what essential speechwriting tool Dean says every writer should employ. Learn to grab an audience’s attention, describe their problem, find a solution, help them visualize their future if your solution is implemented, and call them to action.
You must connect with your audience emotionally through storytelling, Dean says. Quoting a photographer, “Anecdotes trump facts every day, and my photos are just visual anecdotes.”
“If you really want to connect, do it with emotion,” Dean says.
Fletcher Dean is director of leadership communication at The Dow Chemical Company and author of 10 Steps to Writing a Vital Speech. He has a Master of Fine Arts in professional writing from Western Connecticut State University where he is an adjunct professor. Dean has been recognized with four Gold Cicero Speechwriting Awards, including Speech of the Year in 2008. He blogs at www.TheSpeechwriter.com.