Strong partners, powerful speeches: Cultivate the relationship with your speaker

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What You’ll Learn:: 

Let’s say you’re the secretary of defense. You want to encourage combat veterans who need help to see a therapist.

But there’s institutional resistance in the Pentagon. If military personnel ask for help, they might lose their security clearance. Which means their career is over.

How to emphasize the change during a talk at a base? Working with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speechwriter Rosemary King suggested a way. Emphasize the message, “True leaders get help when they need it.”

She had Gates walk out in the audience, calling on non-commissioned officers: “Hey, sergeant, I need your help. You’ve got 12 guys who work for you, and they’re afraid to go that route. But if you go get [help], it’s OK. You can encourage them.”

Good approach? Glean more tips in this session with King. You’ll learn:

  • 5 tips for cultivating creative collaboration with your speaker
  • How to make the most of limited time with your speaker
  • The pillars of building a rock-strong relationship
  • The value of "writer reflections," your thoughts on the boss's next big speech

King discusses how inspiration hits: It’s not just somebody siting alone in an office and a light bulb goes on, she says. It’s a collaborative process. Guttenberg wedded the wine press and a coin press and came up with a printing press.

Hear how to create a common understanding with your bigwig. Find out how to search together for a call to action.

Does your propeller-headed senior leadership refuse to talk about anything but spreadsheet numbers? Convince them of the power of storytelling. Nobody will listen to paragraph after paragraph without specifics.

Learn to overcome the power difference between you and your bigwig. “If you can create a space where ideas are equal, you can really, really have a productive exchange,” King says.

Find out ways to creatively open speeches. One CEO wanted to tell the story of violinist Joshua Bell, who was mostly ignored when he played Bach on a Stradivarius in a subway station for a story by the Washington Post. So the poobah opened her speech with a violinist playing the number, then went straight into her talk.

“This all happened because she was willing to experiment with delivery,” King said.

Gather tips for brainstorming side-by-side with your speaker, not just rushing back to your office and trying to recall what he or she told you. You’ll learn to build a creative partnership.

Stock up on ideas for getting around the gatekeepers without offending anyone. And harvest tips for capturing your leader’s voice. Find out why one speaker said, “My God, Rose, you really captured my voice.” It only took the repetition of one word: Find out what it was.

Learn how to push back with your bigwig, and ask follow-up questions.  Get to the speech’s real purpose with tricks like “the headline exercise.” And learn how to make good use of the time when your poobah fields a phone call during your precious half hour meeting.

Get started here.

March 2013

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Presenter bio: 

Rosemary King

Rosemary King, PhD, is an acclaimed communications professional and owner of a writing business. She is a master at crafting messages that move people to action. Previously, she served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years. She was speechwriter for Defense Secretary Robert Gates and two chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers and General Peter Pace. Her work has reached international audiences and has been delivered on the U.S. House and Senate floors, in think tanks, and at university commencements. Rose authored Border Confluences (University of Arizona Press) in 2004 and is a graduate of Arizona State University, Harvard University and the Air Force Academy. She lives in Portland, Ore.