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April 2017 | Volume 19

The Speechwriter
Newsletter of the UK Speechwriters' Guild incorporating


Welcome to the nineteenth Shais Taub is a rabbi based in Pittsburgh. His talks are rich
edition of The Speechwriter with stories and moral teachings. He gave an address on
newsletter. ‘Raising Spiritually and Emotionally Healthy Kids in Today’s
The purpose of this World’, which you can view online. In his 1 hour 48 minute
publication is to circulate presentation he gave some insights into Jewish storytelling
examples of excellent speeches to techniques. Here are some of the best quotes.
members. We do this by picking
out openings, closings, one-liners Do you know the difference
and quotations and other topical between a narrative and exposition?
When I’m up here on the podium, if
extracts from newspapers and the
I want to say a narrative I can go for
internet to identify techniques, 10 or 20 minutes, it’s no problem.
stimulate your imagination and Once I start to speak expositorally,
provide models which you can that means describing or explaining
emulate. concepts, I have about 3 minutes of
your attention before I have to go
back to a narrative. Otherwise you
start falling asleep.

If he tells stories that add to the

point he makes, you’ll remember his
point. If he has too much information
and not enough stories, you even
Contribute forget the point that he spent most
of the time explaining.
We welcome book reviews,
speeches and articles for the Music is very powerful, at
magazine. Every contribution an emotional level, but that’s You don’t internalise it. So what’s
published gets a £10 Amazon not why we do it in Chabad. the advantage of excitement? All
Everything Chabad is didactic. We’re you need to do is jump aboard. It’s
token. Please send your
communicating an idea. Sometimes very easy to get excited. What’s the
submissions to:
the best way to communicate an idea disadvantage? After it’s gone, it’s
is to communicate an idea, to say it, gone. It’s like a vehicle that takes you
8 explain it. Sometimes the best way for a ride. Emotional excitement, you
is to tell a story that encapsulates get into it. As opposed to an idea. Did
The Speechwriter is edited by the idea. Sometimes the best way you get it? Did it get into you? What’s
Brian Jenner is to sing a song. But we’re always the advantage of intellect? It goes
Design by Europa Studio communicating an idea. We’re not into you. It’s akin to nourishment.
inspiring, we’re educating.
The value of an hour of Torah is
The nature of excitement is not the hour you spend in class, it’s
contagious. You don’t have to how that hour reforms your brain
understand it. It surrounds you, it and changes the way you experience
encompasses you, it takes you over. your reality for the rest of your life.

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Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

BOOK REVIEWS writes, ‘are living bodies of public

language, and when the rhetoric
changes, so do they.’ He quotes
by Alan Barker George Orwell (whose Politics and
the English Language he submits to
a nuanced analysis): ‘the present
political chaos is connected with
Enough Said the decay of language, and … one
by Mark Thompson, can probably bring about some
The Bodley Head, £25.00 improvement by starting at the greater, fuzzier ‘truths’ (what Stephen
verbal end.’ Colbert famously called ‘truthiness’).

The dichotomy between gutless Authenticism also fuels distrust.

rationalism and the ‘punctiliously Nietzsche, along with Marx and
immoderate language’ of authenticist Freud, figures large in what
politics is hardly a new phenomenon. Thompson calls ‘the school of
In 1919, Yeats noticed that ‘The best suspicion’ : all three ‘detected a layer
lack all conviction, while the worst of falsity and deception in human
/ Are full of passionate intensity.’ In utterance that must be stripped away
the short term, Thompson ascribes before the truth can be revealed.’
the impenetrability of policy The meme of ‘false consciousness’
wonkery to the gradual breakdown proliferated in the (very authenticist)
of technocratic consensual politics counterculture of the 1960s; now,
in the post-war period. As data it informs the growing public
becomes ever bigger, it becomes suspicion of mainstream politics (and
harder to explain or justify policy science, and experts of all kinds).
decisions clearly. (Deciding on a The presumption of bad faith in
third runway, for example, is far every politician (‘Why is this lying
more difficult than deciding to bastard lying to me?’) also colours
build Heathrow in the first place.) the investigative and analytical
Decision-making must involve journalism that forms such a major
compromise, but compromise hardly part of Thompson’s own career
The simple answer to the figures in political campaigning, (DG of the BBC, CEO of Channel
question Mark Thompson asks which has by now become more or 4, CEO of the New York Times). His
himself – ‘What’s gone wrong with less a continuous process. ‘The zone analysis of these two competing
the language of politics?’– is that of ambiguity and flexibility,’ writes rhetorics thus spirals, like a widening
it has split in two. On one side, ‘the Thompson ‘– that zone where almost gyre, to encompass the media,
weirdly affectless and dehumanised all political progress takes place – has celebrity advocacy and all the other
style in which many public policy become rhetorically insupportable.’ components of an increasingly
documents are written.’ On the other, complex public space.
‘honesty of emotion and at least From a longer perspective,
the appearance of being willing to Thompson seeks the roots of both At every turn, his deep
engage with the lowliest members rhetorics in the Enlightenment. understanding of rhetorical
of [a] chosen community.’ Thompson Rationalism derives from the principles – from Aristotle onwards
labels these two rhetorics rationalism empiricism of Hume and the – is leavened by vivid stories drawn
and authenticism. Speechwriters positivism of Comte, and from his experience. He discusses
negotiate a course between them authenticism from the counter- Thatcher and Reagan, Berlusconi
on a daily basis. What guidance can Enlightenment writings of Johann and Putin, Clinton and Trump. He
Thompson’s book offer? Georg Hamann, through Hegel describes the parabolic adventure
and Kierkegaard to Nietzsche of spin from Campbell to Cameron.
‘Something has gone awry with and Heideigger (in whose work it All the big stories are here – the
our politics,’ he says; but it’s a mark connects explicitly to nationalism). notorious Belgrano phone-in on
of his intellectual sophistication that Rationalist rhetoric fetishises Nationwide, Jo Moore’s ‘a very good
he resists simplistic explanations. dialectic; authenticism foregrounds day’ email after 9/11, the David Kelly
Instead, he places public language narrative. The rationalist venerates tragedy – and, in substantial chapters
‘in the centre of a causal nexus’: ‘our facts; the authenticist dismisses them that repay repeated study, Thompson
institutions and organisations,’ he as ‘factoids’, preferring to promote explores how a failing public

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language affects the discussion Trivium: the classical (Tell that to the vice-chancellors
of three contentious issues: the of our universities...) Trivium will give
presentation of scientific research, liberal arts of grammar, you a pleasurable smattering of each
the decision to go to war, and the logic & rhetoric art, with some amusing add-ons to
boundaries of free speech. Edited by John Martineau keep you turning the pages.
Wooden Books, £14.99
How, then, to address the crisis? This is actually a compendium of
Can we resist the onslaught of finely six short books by different authors
honed political rhetoric, developed, – with three appendices by yet more;
in part, from the language of as a result, each treats its subject
marketing, through focus groups and slightly differently. Turn to the book
‘linguistic optimisation’? Thompson on rhetoric – and there’s no need to
calls up our capacity for prudence – read Trivium end-to-end – and you’ll
what the Greeks called phronesis – to find a decent enough introduction to
help us ‘perform a sense-check on its classical roots (but nothing about
anything that sounds too good to be later rhetorical theory). There are
true.’ But how prudently, for example, gaps, even in such a brief overview:
did the British consider the decision although it describes the five canons,
whether to remain or stay in the EU? it barely mentions topics of invention
One way to develop prudence, he and deals not at all with the skills of
suggests, is to put public language delivery. You’ll find a few intriguing
‘at the heart of the teaching of civics.’ pages in the appendices on proverbs
It’s a tall order: ‘the humanities as a and the art of memory, but no fewer
whole,’ he writes, ‘stand at low tide, than 37 of the book’s 52 pages are
judged less economically valuable given over, perhaps inevitably, to
John Martineau has developed
… than the sciences.’ But if the most figures of speech.
Wooden Books, based in
important question confronting any
Glastonbury, as a collection of
society is how we are to live with Rachel Holley does a rather fuller
beautifully crafted pocket-sized
each other, then becoming skilled job with grammar. It would be hard
oracles, which he describes as ‘a
in public language must be a first to imagine a more cogent account.
mathemagical ancient wisdom series’.
step in addressing it. Thompson’s Earl Fontainelle promises much with
Each book promises knowledge
words should raise a cheer among logic and actually over-delivers: some
hidden, forgotten or downright
all liberals: ‘Let’s teach our children aspects of the subject are introduced
arcane, in modular form (no chapter
rhetoric.’ without being explained.
runs to more than two pages).
Production values are high: Trivium,
And where can we professional These core sections are framed
like all the other titles in Martineau’s
rhetoricians seek improvement, with material reflecting the
catalogue, cries out to be picked up.
at the verbal end? ‘The seeds development of the humanities in
of renewal,’ writes Thompson, the Renaissance. Octavia Wynne
Enlightenment and
‘germinate in unexpected places:’ takes us on a wonderful journey
entertainment are cunningly
in the language of the immigrant, through poetics: you need never
intertwined. The trivium, as any
the refugee and the marginalised; worry again about distinguishing
self-respecting speechwriter knows,
in satire; and – intriguingly – in hip an anapest from a villanelle. As with
is the trio of liberal arts that, in
hop. And he sees a promising new every section, the quotations are
medieval universities, comprise the
bud within political discourse itself. wide-ranging and rich. The final
humanities: grammar, logic and
‘Though it is often spoken by the book in the collection, by Gregory
rhetoric. (Wooden Books has also
weak and dispossessed,’ he writes, Beabout and Mike Hannis, offers the
produced a companion volume,
‘there is something unstoppable most through-written account of its
Quadrivium, covering the four
about the language of fairness.’ subject, ethics.
‘scientific’ arts: maths, geometry,
music and astronomy.) The subjects
Mark Thompson’s remarkable Trivium opens with a marvellously
are ‘liberal’ because they liberate the
– and remarkably readable – book batty ‘poet’s dictionary of
student into citizenship: without
bulges with useful information and enchantments’ by John Michell,
them, we cannot participate fully in
ideas. For anyone who contributes whose esotericism places him at the
civil society.
to public language, Enough Said is very heart of Wooden Books’ ethos
essential reading. (some of us fondly remember his
book, The View over Atlantis, and his

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musings on ley lines...) THE ANTI-STORYTELLING STORY: HOW NOT

Michell sees each letter as TO WRITE A POLITICAL SPEECH
embodying some kind of natural Delivered by Leonoor Russell at the Edinburgh Speechwriters’ & Business
meaning; ‘In some cases,’ he suggests,
‘even the shapes of letters ... seem
Communicators’ Conference, 20 & 21 October 2016
to accord with the sounds they
denote.’ With a nod to Plato’s Cratylus Dear Colleagues,
and some splendid cartoons, his
dictionary opens the ear to the When I asked Brian what I could
infinite possibilities of euphonics. do to attribute to this conference,
he told me to just be (and I quote)
Trivium, then, is a book to dip into funny and Dutch. Now unfortunately
for inspiration and delight, though it’s unlikely I’ll be funny, but I can
at a fairly hefty price. Put it in the absolutely guarantee you: I’ll be
bathroom. Dutch.

What I am going to talk to you Every day I arrive at the office

QUOTATIONS FROM about today is something we don’t feeling like this:
talk about very often in these
SISTER MIRIAM speechwriting conferences.
JOSEPH ABOUT THE Traditionally – and rightfully
TRIVIUM so – we talk a lot about storytelling.
About how politicians and business
leaders can deliver fiery speeches
Logic is the art of that grasp the hearts and minds of
thinking; grammar, the art the audience and spur them into
of inventing symbols and action.
combining them to express But in reality I’m more like this:
thought; and rhetoric, the art While I may dream of one day
of communicating thought writing a speech like that; in my
from one mind to another, particular job that’s out of the
the adaptation of language to question. I write speeches for
circumstance. someone who has a representative
role: the President of the Dutch
The utilitarian or servile Senate. Since the President
arts enable one to be a servant represents all the different political
– of another person, of the parties of the Senate, it is my main
state, of a corporation, or of a job to sure her speeches don’t offend My office is here: in the dungeon,
business – and to earn a living. or annoy anyone. So it’s not so much just below sea level. And they hardly
The liberal arts, in contrast, ‘I have a dream’ but more ‘I slept very ever let me out. This is actually a very
teach one how to live; they well last night thank you.’ special occasion for me.
train the faculties and bring
them to perfection; they What I am about to share with
enable a person to rise above you today is basically:
his material environment to
live an intellectual, a rational, The Anti-Storytelling Story: How
and therefore a free life in not to write a political speech.
gaining truth.
How do you stay away from
The function of language saying anything partisan, without
is threefold: to communicate becoming bland? The senate employs a small staff
thought, volition, and of 50 people. The work environment
emotion. But before we go into that, let me in the senate is full of tradition,
show you where I work: rich in history and sometimes a

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tad conservative. I always compare performances she represents parties speeches for meetings with foreign
it to Downton Abbey: the family who may have opposite affiliations political figures. For those speeches I
represents the senators and the and beliefs. This means that she have to be extra careful, because not
servants represent the staff. The role cannot say anything that might be only is the position of the President
of the butler Mr Carson is played considered partisan. of the Senate non-partisan, it is also
by – I am sorry to say this Sir Grice independent from that of the Dutch
- the Clerk. The staff eat before the But how do you do that? How government. Which means you can
senators eat, we go to bed after they do you not say something political say even less.
go to bed and we all gossip about in a speech about politics? That’s
each other. basically not saying anything at all. The example I’m giving you now
I once heard a political consultant is a speech I wrote that ended up not
But don’t for a moment think that describe this difficult position as being used. (I think we’ve all been
this might not be the best workplace follows. She said: ‘Good morning there).
in the world. Because very much like ladies and gentlemen, let me start
in Downton Abbey, there is also a very by saying that anything you want to We recently had a visit from Prime
strong sense of duty and belonging. hear: I cannot tell you. And anything Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When
We take care of each other and we I can tell you: you probably do not writing the speech I had to make sure
work together towards a shared want to hear.’ that the language I used couldn’t be
goal. Which is something I value very perceived as either pro or anti-Israel.
much. In my experience, the trick to still But at the same time, the speech had
say something that people actually to have at least some substance. So
I work for: want to hear is to remain impartial, I chose to use the words of former
not neutral. You don’t have to be President Shimon Peres, someone
bland if you cannot pick a side. Let who is respected around the world
me explain to you what I mean for his efforts in bringing about
by that by giving you examples of peaceful coexistence in the region.
speeches I have written. I knew that none of the political
parties would object to that.
About 30% of the speeches I
write are eulogies about former The quote from Mr Peres that
senators. We commemorate them I used was: ‘Peace is not the mere
Ankie Broekers-Knol. A fantastic in a plenary session of the senate. absence of war, it is a virtue that
woman to work for and a gifted Normally in eulogies, you describe a springs from a state of mind, a
speaker. person’s achievements. But if you go disposition for benevolence, confidence
on and on about ‘the great work he/ and justice.’ (It was originally a quote
As President of the Senate, she did for our country’ you end up from Spinoza). By using his words, I
Ankie represents as many as 12 giving a value judgement. And that could avoid having to take a stance
political parties. Her representative is something you cannot do. You’re and I could let Mr Netanyahu give
role ranges from attending royal picking a side. Either all 12 parties are his opinion on the peace process by
functions, receiving delegations from doing great work for our country, or responding to what former President
across the world, delivering speeches none of them are. (Actually there’s Peres said.
at events within the parliament still a debate about that going on).
and across the Netherlands, and In this example I used someone
also speaking at international So to stay away from giving a else’s words to avoid sounding
conferences. I suppose her role is value judgment about someone’s partisan. But that’s not always
comparable to that of the Presiding achievements, I focus on the person’s necessary. I have found that by
Officer of the Scottish Parliament. life and ambitions. I sum up reasons appealing to core values, to ideas
why they went into politics in the and beliefs that bind all politicians, I
The position my speaker is in, is first place and what they hoped to could still make sure the speeches I
a tricky one. On the one hand, she achieve for our country during their write have substance.
has her own political affiliations term of office. In doing so, I make For instance, in a speech for a
and beliefs. They are the reason she sure the speech shows respect for meeting with veterans the President
joined the Senate in the first place. the work all senators do. of the Senate spoke about how
And even as President she still has all politicians must be aware of
the power to vote on legislation. I’ll give you a second example. the immense consequences of
On the other hand, in her public Another big part of my job is writing their decision to deploy armed

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forces. What might seem politically I got my job 4.5 years ago All beginnings of speeches are
attainable, may very well not be through beginners luck. Which a mystery. Whenever you’re stuck,
militarily attainable. This statement meant that for the first months I there’s no use in forcing it out
appeals to the core value of taking had a deadly combination of feeling because that only leads to total
responsibility for your actions and overconfident and insecure at the agony. I once wrote a speech that
respecting the sacrifices soldiers same time. I was so terrified of, that for six
make. excruciating weeks all I had was this:
There was a different President
When you look for things that of the Senate back then. And when
all people have in common or at he asked me to prepare a speech in
least agree upon, you create an French I said: naturellement! Which
atmosphere of respect. You create is basically the only French word I
a basis for people to say: I disagree know. OK so far so good, but then I
with you on a number of things but had to actually write it. Through the
in the end we’re all here for the same use of a dictionary, Google Translate
reason. If you do that, you can have (...), and someone who actually
substance in your speeches, remain speaks French it didn’t turn out half
impartial and not sound completely bad. In fact it turned out quite well.
neutral or bland. But the worst was yet to come. After
my boss delivered the speech he
That is the most important lesson came up to me to thank me…. in
I learned in working for the Senate. French.
There are two other valuable lessons And then one weekend when I
that I want to share with you today. I was horrified. All I could had almost given up, I was having
And to illustrate them, I am going to answer was (you’re going to have a conversation with my 88 year-old
use the words of a college dropout to translate this for me): ‘Je suis grandmother and suddenly I figured
from the University of Edinburgh. de tous les marchés a la maison’. out how to start the speech. What
What does that mean? Nothing! It’s I am trying to say is: don’t chase it.
He was a former med-student a direct translation of a Dutch saying It will come to you. Especially when
whom everyone had high hopes meaning ‘I can cater for anything’. you take your mind off it.
for but couldn’t stand the sight of Luckily, he thought I was being funny
blood. A bit of a failure, really. But I and walked away laughing. But I was To round off my story I have
am going to use his words anyway horrified. And I made it my mission to say that I have truly found my
because they perfectly support what never to get into situation like that passion in speechwriting and I
I want to share with you. again. Don’t be afraid of admitting consider myself very lucky that I
what you do not know. Perceive your get paid to do it. It does have its
The first lesson is this. ignorance clearly. downsides. They expect us to know
everything about everything, and
The second lesson I’ve learned is at the same time you never really
this: become an expert about anything.

You have to be able to place

yourself in the position of the
speaker; know what the audience is
thinking and at the same time not
lose your own personal views and

And when you’ve managed all

that, they don’t even expect you to
do mere speechwriting alone. You
have to be a web editor, social media
expert and press secretary at the
Does anyone here speak French? same time. To be honest, most of the
Good. I’m going to need you. time I feel like this:

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It’s really not all bad. There are Moments like that do not require
those rare, precious moments of that my speaker is delivering word
sitting in the back of the room and for word what I’ve written. It’s about
noticing the public is interested or knowing she/he is doing well. And
even enjoying the speech. I love it that I helped in that process.
when people nod at each other in
agreement with the speaker. I know the speeches I write will
not change the course of history.
Whenever that happens, I feel like I’ll probably never craft a vision
this: for Europe, America or Scotland.
My words will likely never be
immortalised in a brilliant song like
Iron Sky from the famous Scottish
singer Paolo Nutini.

But I also believe that there’s

real value in writing speeches that
do not offend anyone, that inspire
empathy and that remind us what it
But I guess all speechwriters is that truly binds us. They are equally
are like that. We can do a bit of necessary to achieve that sense of
everything at the same time. And unity and belonging we all crave for.
when you think about it, that is an art
in itself. Thank you.


Delivered by Charlie Ward at the Edinburgh Speechwriters’ & Business Communicators’ Conference, 20 & 21
October 2016

That all-important life ceremony role in the coronation of George III. arrived, and the moment came for
is to the freelance speechwriter, His job was to ride his horse into him to ride into the hall, his horse
what ‘something strange in Westminster Hall, make obeisance to refused to go forwards.
the neighbourhood’ is to the the king, and ride back out again.
Ghostbuster. When you’ve been Talbot argued and shouted and
asked to say a few words, and you Now I have no idea what pleaded, but it only made the animal
want to seem more intelligent, more obeisance is, but I think it’s safe to say more confused. So poor old Talbot,
eloquent and more amusing than that Talbot knew everything there on the most important day of his
you really are: who ya gonna call? I’m was to know about making it, and he life, had to ride into Westminster
sure there’s a good joke to be had saw the coronation as an opportunity Hall in reverse, giving the king an
here about Brian Jenner being the to make the best obeisance ever. Like unparalleled view of his horse’s arse.
Bill Murray of speechwriting. Thank all gentlemen in 1761, he knew that
you for organising the conference, a man of honour never turns his back Luckily, most of us will never have
Brian. on the king; and Talbot decided that to ride a horse at a coronation, but
the coronation was the right time at some point or another, almost all
My favourite example of someone to take this principle to its logical of us will be asked to give a speech
trying to do go that extra mile, is the extreme. at a social ceremony, whether it’s a
story of man called Talbot; or, to give birthday party, a wedding, a funeral,
him his nickname, The Earl Talbot, Diligently, fastidiously, he spent or - God forbid - the annual dinner of
Baron of Dynevor in the County of many weeks in Westminster Hall, a golf club.
Carmathen and Lord Steward of the training his horse to go backwards.
Household. As his name suggests, And in fairness to Talbot, his hard Nobody expects to sit down at
he was a pretty important chap, work really did pay off. In fact he was a piano and play a sonata, or walk
so naturally he had a ceremonial so successful, that when the big day onto a tennis court and serve an ace:

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we know that these are skills which

require practice and technique. But
the same principles do not obviously
apply to public speaking. Because
we can all write words, we think we
should be able to write a speech,
and because we can all say words,
we think that we should be able
to deliver a speech. After all, how
difficult can it be to speak from the

For a Chief Executive to employ a

speechwriter is a sign of status, but
to ask for help with a social speech is
somehow an act of shame.

Indeed, a lot of people will do isn’t dull. With a social speech, there On the one hand, it has to specific
almost anything to avoid seeking are a multitude of ways to be boring. about the subject of the speech,
help from a speechwriter. They while Like Talbot and his hapless steed, the particular qualities that make
away long nights in front of blank we want to make it clear that we’ve a person delightful, absurd and
page, wondering why they can barely made an effort, so we invariably Mike Long
individual. This usually involves
remember their fiancée’s name, let speak for too long. We want to seem a questionnaire and at least one
alone any stories worth telling about polite and gracious, so we begin interview, but it’s often equally
how they fell in love. In despair, they with a long and dreary list of thanks. helpful to get information from other
turn to the internet, and copy a joke At a funeral, we sources. There is
which compares the ideal length of a want to do justice a kind of block
speech to a miniskirt. to a person’s that sets in when
life, so we give For a Chief Executive to somebody is asked
But I want to suggest that a stock a chronological employ a speechwriter is a to give a speech,
adjective can be just as impersonal summary of sign of status, but to ask for and it’s often other
as a stock joke, and in its own way, everything they help with a social speech is friends and relatives
far more revealing than that pesky did. who remember
somehow an act of shame.
miniskirt. To say on your wedding the stories that are
day that you love someone because I don’t want to worth telling.
they are beautiful and caring pretend that any
(citation - most grooms since the of this is beneath On the other
beginning of time) is not a sign of a me: I have written speeches with all hand, a personal speech also has
mislaid thesaurus: it suggests that of these shortcomings. I don’t think to be specific to the person who
the speaker hasn’t thought carefully it’s necessarily the job of a freelance delivers it, especially the qualities
about the person they love. speechwriter to offer dazzling that make them a bit ridiculous. We
originality, or an intelligent thematic all know that self-deprecation is a
Forget the art of rhetoric: a social structure. Even when someone thinks speechwriter’s best friend, and in
speech is a rare opportunity for that they want a really memorable my case self-deprecation may be my
someone to say what they cherish in speech, they often discover that they only friend.
someone else. This is equally true for would be happier with something a
a humorous speech, where it’s all too bit more familiar. Happily, the process of helping
easy to confuse taking the piss with a stranger with a social speech is
pissing on someone’s dignity. Indeed, The paradox is that they want often fascinating. After all, these
inappropriate bodily functions seem a speech that they might write are speeches about families and
to be a recurrent feature in the best themselves, but they don’t actually friendships in all their complexity.
man’s speeches that I read. want to write it. So I would suggest They’re about the people who make
that the only way for a speechwriter us feel fantastic, and also allow us to
The speech which reveals its to make somebody else’s speech feel vulnerable. They bring back the
subject to be a racist, incontinent personal, is to make it absolutely incidental moments when we have
philanderer is not ideal, but at least it specific. laughed uncontrollably, embarrassed

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ourselves horrendously, or wept is invaluable, not just to tailor the don’t explicitly suggest that I might
inconsolably. words to the speaker, but to make be working on a speech for Barack
sure that the speaker understands Obama, but nor do I rule out the
So part of the challenge is what the writer has written. It can possibility. I mention this, because
identifying what the person really be embarrassing when a speaker I think it means that I feel a similar
wants to say: then all you have to do doesn’t get a simple joke, but sense of shame about writing social
is figure out how they should say it, it’s far more embarrassing when speeches to the people for whom I
and persuade them that that is quite an audience spots a joke which write them.
distinct from how they normally a speaker has
would say it. There is an obvious missed. It’s very At the
difference between someone who is easy for the The paradox is that they want beginning of this
too busy to write a polished speech, proverbial horse to a speech that they might write speech, I used
and someone who is unable to write wave its arse in the the phrase ‘the
themselves, but they don’t
a polished speech. Indeed polish king’s face. all-important life
and eloquence are often unwelcome actually want to write it. ceremony’, and I
in a social context. The flowers of In truth, I have think that is the
rhetoric have a tendency to wither in always been a defining feature of
somebody else’s bed. Nobody wants bit embarrassed the social speech.
to sound like Charlie Ward, including about writing social speeches. It really matters to somebody, and
Charlie Ward. From the conceited way that I talk it’s natural that when we stand up in
about speechwriting at parties, front of family and friends, we care
The easiest solution is to write you might think that I was living a desperately about what they think.
in neutral, blunt phrases, because role in my own little Aaron Sorkin
they’re easy to understand and script. Whenever someone has There’s no need to make your
unlikely to go wrong. It’s the style asked me who I write for, I tell them horse walk backwards: it’s enough
that is least likely to sound like that they should ask me for whom just to say something that you
somebody else, for the simple I write - obviously. Then I explain really want to say, in a way that
reason that neutral, blunt phrases earnestly that all my speechwriting will encourage someone else to
don’t sound like anyone at all. This work is done in confidence so I remember it.
is really where a session on delivery can’t really talk about the clients. I


The 15th Speechwriters’ &

Business Communicators’
Conference will be in
Leuven, Belgium on
Thursday 26 & Friday 27
October 2017.

The conference will take place in Irish Franciscans for development as number of bedrooms for delegates.
at the Leuven Institute for Ireland in a secular resource. Irish colleges were Brussels is only 25 kilometres away.’
Europe. important centres for the writing of
Irish history and the preservation of Tickets will be on sale in early April.
‘The venue was recommended by Ireland’s rich cultural traditions. So
one of the delegates to the Oxford there’s some appropriate symbolism Check the website:
conference last year. I checked it out there.’ said Brian Jenner.
and I thought it was just right.
‘Leuven is a beautiful university
In 1983 the Irish College in town. The institute has a converted
Leuven was made available by the chapel as an auditorium and a

The Speechwriter April 2017 | Volume 19 10

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild


by William Cohen

Robert Cialdini is a professor of piles. He then tried to work out the

psychology and he wrote Influence differences.
- a book which describes all the
psychological techniques sales The problem passages were
people try, to get you to buy things. characterised by a lack of clarity,
It’s a classic. You have to read it if stilted prose and use of jargon. The
you’re in the business of persuading successful sections had a logical
people to do things. 30 years after structure, vivid examples and
Influence, Pre-Suasion is his follow-up humour. But he also discovered
book. something that he hadn’t expected,
the most successful of the pieces
What Cialdini has identified is that each began with a mystery story.
if you want to persuade an audience
to do something different, the key ‘The authors described a state
is to prepare yourself in advance. He of affairs that seemed perplexing
puts it like this, ‘A choice of what to and then invited the reader into the
say or do immediately before making subsequent material as a way of
an appeal significantly affects its dispatching the enigma’.
persuasive success.’ He gives a six point example of
There is something intriguing how to structure a mystery story.
As a university lecturer, Cialdini about this because Max Atkinson,
enjoys his job, but there are who made a study of rhetorical 1) Pose the Mystery
challenges. Chief of those is to get devices, found the puzzle/solution
students to devote their full attention format to be one of the most 2) Deepen the Mystery
to the lecture material so they effective. Cialdini explains how a
understand the concepts involved. device that can describe how a joke 3) Home in on the Proper
The average lecture lasts 45 minutes. or a rhetorical question works can Explanation by Considering
You’re dealing with hormone-fuelled be expanded on a large narrative (And Offering Evidence Against)
young people who are surrounded canvas. Alternative Explanations
by other sexually attractive people.
How do you get them to pay Cialdini decided to use mystery 4) Provide a Clue to the Proper
attention to a stuck-in-the mud structures in his lectures to students. Explanation
university professor? When he started out, he mistimed
one of his presentations. The mistake 5) Resolve the Mystery
He uses what Albert Einstein proved his theory. While students
proclaimed as ‘the most beautiful usually start packing up five minutes 6) Draw the Implication for the
thing we can experience’ and before the bell signals the end of the Phenomenon Under Study
simultaneously ‘the source of all true lecture, on this occasion, nobody
science and art’. moved. When he tried to end
the lecture without resolving the And what did Albert Einstein
When he was writing Influence mystery, the students complained. claim was so remarkable it could be
he knew he had to write for a They wouldn’t leave until the mystery labelled as both, ‘the most beautiful
general audience, rather than an had been explained. thing we can experience’ and ‘the
academic one. He decided to go to source of all true science and art’?
the library and look for all the books He concluded that not only
he could find that had been written are mystery stories excellent His contention: the mysterious.
by academics for non-academics. communication devices to hold
His strategy was to read the books interest, they are also better at
and find those sections which were conveying instruction than other
most effective and least effective traditional teaching methods.
and arrange them in separate

The Speechwriter April 2017 | Volume 19 11

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild


by Brian Jenner

Daniel Pink is a role model for Join our tribe

what a speechwriter can achieve. He
started out working for former US
Vice-President, Al Gore. He has since 5) The Pixar Pitch
become a prolific business author
and speaker. He wrote a book called Emma Coats, a former story artist
To Sell is Human a few years ago. He at Pixar, the US animation film studio,
says that the hard selling tactics used has cracked the Pixar code, and
by second-hand car dealers are an created a template for a new kind of
anachronism. Selling is much softer pitch.
and more sensitive in our world. is direct, or silently if the question is
rhetorical. Once upon a time...
In the book he explains the six Every day,
ways you can amplify your sales My question pitch: Where else do One day...
pitch. He has a critical insight. The top speechwriters connect with other
purpose of a pitch isn’t necessarily Because of that...
top speechwriters?
to move others to immediately Because of that...
adopt your idea. The purpose is to 3) The third tool is to find a Until finally...
offer something so compelling that rhyming pitch. Rhymes taste great
it begins a conversation, brings the and go down easily and we equate The European Speechwriter
other person in as a participant, and that smoothness with accuracy. Network Pixar Pitch.
eventually arrives at an outcome
that appeals to both of you. As an Speechwriters, put aside the odium Once upon a time, there were
exercise, I thought we could apply Emerge from behind that podium! no conferences for speechwriters in
these principles to how we spread If you are, like us, skilled Europe.
the word about the European Sign up for our exclusive Guild
Speechwriter Network. Every day, they had to make up
4) The email subject-line pitch. It’s their job as they went along, without
1) The ultimate pitch for an era a plea for someone’s attention and really being able to exchange ideas
of short attention spans begins with an invitation to engage. Utility and with colleagues or find out who the
a single word - and doesn’t go any curiosity motivate people. As does true experts were.
further. This idea comes from Maurice specificity. One day someone had the idea
Saatchi who claims attention spans
to copy the conferences put on for
aren’t merely shrinking, they’re nearly t Utility: Meet speechwriters who face speechwriters in America.
disappearing. Ask yourself: What the same problems as you do
technology company do you think t Curiosity: Are you a gregarious Because of that, European
of when you hear the word ‘search’? loner who writes? speechwriters travelled long distances
If you’ve answered Google…you’ve t Specificity: Are you interested to attend these conferences.
made Saatchi’s case. literature, languages and Leuven?
Because of that, the skills became
I suppose our one-word equity is 5) The Twitter pitch. more accepted and the role was
‘speechwriting’, but as a Network, I respected as an important part of
want to emphasise that we ‘do’ things. The mark of an effective tweet, political and corporate life in Europe.
Which means we need a verb. My one- like the mark of any effective
word pitch is ‘connect’. Until finally, those with an unusual
pitch, is that it engages recipients
combination of skills realised that
and encourages them to take the
2) The second tool is the question they could be very valuable to leaders
conversation further
pitch. When I make a statement, who didn’t have time to think properly
you can receive it passively. When I for themselves. Instead of being just
You’re a poet and a genius but
ask a question, you’re compelled to ‘writers’ they could become prized
you’re paid to write dross. Does that
respond, either aloud if the question counsellors.
sound familiar?

The Speechwriter April 2017 | Volume 19 12

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild


Paul Saville used to be a PR Manager with WRAP. He now works for BP.

I remember making a point of What’s your most useful

going to see the speaker at the reference book?
conference and I decided to sit
at the back so I could gauge the I have several, but recent ones I
audience reaction. It was a buzz, like are You Talkin’ to Me by Sam Leith,
but when it was over I remember Winning Minds by Simon Lancaster
almost expecting to be patted on the and Trade Secrets by Brian Jenner.
back for a job well done or at least a
knowing wink or nod from audience Do you rehearse your speakers?
members. The audience of course
didn’t know it was my work, and the In previous roles I have had the
speaker wasn’t about to tell them. It chance to do this and if the speaker is
can be a strange profession at times. receptive to rehearsals I find it great
What was the first speech you fun, but when they are not, then it
ever wrote? Who is your favourite public can be very frustrating.
My wedding speech. At that time I What techniques do you use to
worked in PR so was used to writing Sajid Javid. Whilst I don’t always grab the attention of the audience?
and presenting, yet the thought of agree with his politics, his speeches –
drafting a speech and delivering helped by some brilliant writing - are I am a big believer in a little bit
it terrified me. I remember really in my opinion head and shoulders of humour to kick things off. Even
enjoying the process of writing above other cabinet ministers and if creates the smallest of chuckles.
it – the research, thinking up jokes, probably all British politicians right It’s enough to warm the audience
ensuring the structure flowed. The now. He seems to understand the to the speaker. It always amazes me
bit that surprised me the most was I importance of a good speech. He’s how many speakers go up to the
loved delivering it. I really caught the funny, relevant and not afraid to lectern looking gloomy, as though
bug for speechwriting at that point, tackle big issues. His speech at the they are about to tell the audience
though public speaking still terrifies Union of Jewish Students’ Annual that the beige buffet they have just
me. Conference in 2014 is a particular been consuming over lunch has in
favourite of mine. It’s worth digging fact been found to contain traces
How did you find out about the out his speeches at DCLG and from of Salmonella. When I did get the
UK Speechwriters’ Guild? his time at BIS and DCMS. chance to rehearse speakers I would
ask them to smile as they get to the
Once I’d got a taste for What did you like about the lectern and look like you mean it. It
speechwriting I looked at ways to conferences you’ve attended? sounds obvious but it doesn’t half
incorporate it into my work in PR. So, make a difference to how the next
I looked for opportunities to offer I remember the host Alan Barker 2000 words will be received.
help where execs I was working for at reading out a comment from a
the time were due to give speeches. delegate at the UK Speechwriters’ Do you have any jokes you use
At that time I was eager to learn Guild Conference in Cambridge a on a regular basis?
from other speechwriters, but was couple of years ago. The delegate
surprised at the lack of information had said that the conference I don’t have set jokes that I use
about the profession. Who were all contained the nicest people and often though I remember scripting
these speechwriters and where were they made him feel welcome. Alan a joke about the Kardashians for
they hiding? Luckily I discovered jokingly turned to the audience and a former business leader and they
the UK Speechwriters’ Guild and it said ‘So well done.’ That conference seemed to like it. Unfortunately, like
opened up a whole new world to me. in 2015 was my first with the a timeshare property, what looked
speechwriters and I totally identify good on paper was pretty awful in
What was it like the first time with the delegate feedback. Learning reality. Watching from the audience
you heard one of your speeches whilst laughing along the way. I wanted the ground to open up and
delivered? swallow me as the speaker stumbled

The Speechwriter April 2017 | Volume 19 13

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

over the words and appeared to called Tennyson or Ellison Ford, to Thankfully, I believe speeches are
visibly wince whilst delivering the a boy’s letter with recommended seen as important at BP, and much of
joke, leaving the whole thing flat rocket designs to the Royal Australian that is down to the work of my boss
and the audience silent. It was a Air Force, which was replied to some and his predecessor. The volume
lesson to not overreach with jokes 52 years later. It’s a diverse mix of of speeches is high and can be
and if they are to be used they need letters, that if nothing else, helps anything from keynote addresses
to be in keeping with the speaker’s inspire ideas for speeches. at multi-national conferences to
personality. This wasn’t and it was informal dinner debates. The great
obvious to all concerned. Are the texts that are posted on thing about BP is that it recognises
the BP website the same as are speechwriting as a profession, which
Tell us about a book you‘ve read delivered at the venue? is rare in the UK. Plus you do get
recently on the train good access to most of the executive
Pretty much. The opening remarks team ahead of speeches.
I will pick Letters of Note, which was may contain an anecdote or two
a Christmas present from my wife. that may miss the final cut, but we What are your other tasks apart
I recommend it. It’s essentially a try and stay as true to the delivery as from speechwriting?
collection of letters throughout time possible. actually has a really
from a whole variety of people from good archive of a variety of speakers Article writing for our in-house
different walks of life. From Alec and speeches that go back to 2010. magazine and website, interview
Guinness telling a friend that he has Q&As, report forewords, but the
signed up to do a film with ‘poor Do you think speeches are majority of work is speechwriting.
dialogue’ (Star Wars) with some guy becoming less important for BP?

The Speechwriter is edited by Brian Jenner


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