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August 2015 | Volume 17

The Speechwriter
Newsletter of the UK Speechwriters' Guild incorporating

MASTERCLASS by Richard Lanham

Welcome to the seventeenth Professor Richard Lanham, from the University of California,
edition of The Speechwriter wrote a book The Economics of Attention. The book sweeps
newsletter. The purpose of across many art forms, but he focuses on the problem that we
this publication is to circulate are now swamped with information - what we lack is the time
examples of excellent speeches to and concentration to pay attention and make sense of it. He
members of the UK Speechwriters’
says that rhetoric is the answer.
Guild. We do this by picking out
openings, closings, one-liners Castiglione, in his Renaissance Book
and quotations and other topical of the Courtier, built a conception of
extracts from newspapers and the civilised behaviour around it that he
internet to identify techniques, called sprezzatura - a well-rehearsed
stimulate your imagination and
provide models which you can • We think words ought to come
emulate. to us as naturally as breathing,
without artifice. And, we also
This newsletter appears think, they should be understood
quarterly and is available to in the same way. They should be
transparent and unselfconscious.
anyone who is a Standard
Revising word, image, or sound
Member of the UK Speechwriters’ violates these unconscious
• ‘Rhetoric’ has not always been
Guild or the European a synonym for humbug. For most assumptions. To look at the
Speechwriter Network. of Western history, it has meant the expressive surface, reflect on how
body of doctrine that teaches people we have communicated what we
how to speak and write, and thus, wish to, puts pressure on what we
act effectively in public life. Usually have said. We look at it as a stranger
defined as ‘the art of persuasion’, it might, or try to. We think about what
might as well have been called ‘the we have said with a different side of
Contribute economics of attention’. It tells us the brain. We will then see, especially
how to allocate our central scarce if we have been trained in revision,
We welcome book reviews, resource, to invite people to attend where and how we have failed to ‘say
speeches and articles for the to what we would like them to attend what we wanted to say.’ This involves
magazine. Every contribution to. Rhetoric has been the central more work, and more drafts. We put
published gets a £10 Amazon repository of wisdom on how we pressure, in this way, on our own
make sense of and use information thinking.
token. Please send your
since the Greeks first invented it…
submissions to: • What grabs people’s attention?
• Rhetorical figures are patterns There are verbal patterns that grab
of speech or writing that provide people’s attention, information
patterns for thought. always come in some kind of
• Rhetoric teachers have always
advocated, as the final talent, the • Style will determine which
inspired improvisation that emerges arguments we pause to consider.
from profound preparation. Baldesar

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Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

BOOK REVIEWS often gripping and bang up to date.

He ranges far and wide, from popes,
Winning Minds: secrets
presidents and prime ministers to from the language of
by Alan Barker Hopper in A Bug’s Life and Gorgo, leadership
Queen of Sparta (in 300). These by Simon Lancaster
examples shine. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, £19.99
Speechwriting for
Leaders: Speeches that
leave people wanting
more (Kindle Edition)
by Charles Crawford,
Diplomatic Courier, Washington DC,
2014, £9.63

Powerful, too, is his insight into

the political speechwriter’s role:
congenial but often massively
frustrating. Crawford offers solid
advice on how to make yourself ‘the
source of authoritative guidance
for the whole organisation on every
aspect of the leader’s public speaking

After which, his foray into

corporate leadership seems a pallid Books for leaders – and for
diversion. The chapter on business aspiring leaders – need to combine
speeches opens with Gerald Ratner pragmatism, intellectual credibility
(much re-heated) and limps through and flair. Many leaders are ex-
notes on AGMs, conference speeches, managers: they’re seeking the key to
thought-leader speeches, after- inspiring others, not just to do things
‘In a great speech,’ writes Charles right, but to do the right thing. They
dinner speeches, crisis response and
Crawford in his introduction, want ideas that are powerful but
‘Making important announcements
‘everything fits like a jigsaw: words, not complicated, delivered in a style
such as launching new products’. It
emotional tone, audience, occasion, that’s racy without being superficial.
feels generic and lacks the acerbic
context, and message.’ His aim in this
wit that derives from hard-won
much-heralded and conspicuously Simon Lancaster manages all
praised book is to show how this with aplomb. Other political
speechwriters can put the jigsaw speechwriters have tried to transfer
Read Crawford for his insider tips.
together, for leaders at the very their attention to the broader canvas
At one point, he quotes one of his
highest level. ‘Speechwriting at this of corporate leadership, not always
satisfied trainees: ‘I really like the fact
level,’ he asserts, ‘is different.’ successfully. Lancaster at least shows
that you are so intolerant on points
of detail.’ ‘She was right,’ he purrs, that he’s worked with leaders outside
Crawford comes well equipped the Westminster bubble.
invoking the jigsaw again: one or two
to discuss high politics. Years of
ugly holes, where pieces are missing,
experience in the diplomatic corps His aim is to link rhetoric and
are what people will notice first. But
– in South Africa, in the Balkans, in neuroscience. I was taken, for
scattered aperçus, however carefully
Poland – have yielded numerous example, with his observation
assembled, do not a method make.
anecdotes, both triumphant and that figures of speech might have
As you wade through the final three
catastrophic, straight from the specific psychological effects.
pages of testimonials, you’re liable
diplomatic bag (raw photocopies Take asyndeton, the omission of
to conclude that the only way to
of his reports sit at the back of the conjunctions: the resulting short,
really benefit from Charles Crawford’s
book). His insights are entertaining, sharp clauses imply rapid, shallow
wisdom would be to hire him.

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Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

breathing and hence anxiety (one

of Cameron’s typical rhetorical
Unsurprisingly, language is
Lancaster’s forte. The chapters on
strategies, he tells us). Lancaster metaphor and story are among his
suggests that ‘new developments best. You want to understand a
in behavioural economics and leader? ‘Analyse their metaphors.’
neuroscience’ show Aristotle’s What’s your personal story? How
theories to have been ‘astonishingly does it demonstrate your values?
accurate’. Some of his references are How do organisations assemble
entirely predictable: Damassio and stories into cultures? Any manager
Kahneman, Goleman and the Heath seeking to transform themselves into
brothers. Others are refreshingly a leader will find Lancaster’s answers
offbeat. We’re more likely to believe useful.
statements when they’re simply
repeated, it seems – or if they contain And he understands the great
rhymes. rhetorical lesson is that appearances
are everything. If you can’t be
The framework Lancaster chooses honest – and leaders often face that
to structure the book isn’t, in fact,
new at all. Paul MacLean’s theory of
the triune brain appeared back in the
challenge – then you must create ‘the
illusion of honesty’. The logical brain
responds, not to actual logic, but to
P arty political speeches and
broadcasts are not effective
in changing people’s voting habits,
1960s; Lancaster has a go at aligning ‘the appearance of logic’. but they do help to confirm the
it to Aristotle’s three musketeers. preferences already held. Sermons
Logos maps to the neocortex, and Which doesn’t set us up very well rarely convince agnostics, but
pathos to the limbic, ‘emotional brain’. for the final section. If the logical they give solidarity to the faithful.
The fit between ethos and MacLean’s brain is interested only in what seems Similarly, lectures are ineffective in
‘reptilian brain’ – which Lancaster logical – well, what price rational changing people’s values, but they
renames ‘the instinctive brain’ – feels thinking? (But then, rhetoric and may reinforce those that are already
more forced, although the point that logic have always enjoyed a stormy accepted.
we expect our leaders to provide relationship.)
security and rewards is well made. Elections dominated by television
It’s hard to see how tricolons and other media presentations
Lancaster fits his various tools and have much to do with logic. And sometimes lead to disenchantment
techniques into these three neural the Ciceronian speech structure with politicians generally. There is a
compartments. He clearly thinks the (Exposition, Narration, Division and good reason for this.
‘instinctive brain’ by far the most the rest) is surely not an exercise in
important: he devotes 82 pages to it, balance (to which Lancaster devotes Presentations can produce doubt
compared to 47 for emotion and only a whole chapter). When did you ever by giving negative information that
34 for the ‘logical brain’. hear a great leader open a speech is inconsistent with the values of
with ‘On the one hand...’? the audience; but arousing positive
He also touches on Joe Griffin and enthusiasm requires something quite
Ivan Tyrell’s APET model – without This final section loses different. Enthusiasm, and motivation
acknowledging them, which is a momentum. It’s a pity, because generally, cannot be given in
shame. Griffin and Tyrell stress the so much of the book is genuinely presentations such as broadcasts and
importance of pattern-matching: we insightful and readable. lectures. Motivation is an inner flame
create meaning by filtering sensory that has to be there already.
impressions through mental patterns, There’s a hidden lesson in this
some inherited and some learned, book. It’s never stated explicitly, but Passive reception of information
and ‘tagging’ them emotionally. Lancaster’s examples of imaginary will not fan the flame (unless there is
These matches are mediated by the speeches point up a skill that’s critical an emotionally prepared mind). That
limbic system, which regulates the for speechwriters, and probably for requires energy and activity in the
hormonal responses Lancaster is leaders as well: an endless curiosity mind of the receiver.
so keen on: the book is filled with about general knowledge.
‘squirts’ of dopamine, serotonin and What’s The Use of Lectures? By Donald
oxytocin. So the division between Bligh
‘instinct’ and ‘emotion’ seems fuzzier
than he implies.

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Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

Igniting the heart or
extinguishing the will to
live? Why imagination
matters for speech
by Rev Dr Kate Bruce at the 10th
Speechwriters and Business
Communicators Conference at
Westminster College, Cambridge 16
April 2015

Igniting the heart or extinguishing

the will to live?
I have a doctorate in and encourage; challenge and
On reflection – embarking on communication. change.
a speech amongst an audience of
professional speech writers, with this No pressure there then. Transformative speech pulsing
title – may have been a tad unwise. with possibility.
I teach a variety of subjects in a
‘A small voice inside me is saying ‘a theological college. Speech which sings a new song,
tad unwise? in the cadences of hope.
My main interest is in helping
A tad unwise?? would be vicars how to preach. From ‘Public speech: Igniting the heart or
time to time I travel around the extinguishing the will to live?
Downright suicidal.’ country helping preachers to work
on the craft of their task. Why imagination matters for
Well – a bit of background. speech writers.
I am a preacher myself – with
I have always loved language. leanings towards stand-up comedy. Well, I learned from the PhD that
you should always define your terms.
I spent seven years in secondary I am aware of the variety of
English teaching, responses which the word ‘preacher’ Igniting the heart?
might generate.
Helping young people to see the I mean speech which catches the
importance of mastering language in I labour against the stereotype of hearer’s vision, raises the inner cheer,
all its forms. authoritarian, declamatory, hectoring the nod of recognition.
speech which brooks no opposition.
I’ve been a minister in the Church The inner: ‘Yes… I’m right with
of England for the last 14 years. The anti-sermon with its language you,’
that mugs, mutes and manipulates.
I do really wear a dog collar – I mean speech which lights up
when I have to. I wrestle with the reality of the the ears.
half-baked sermon.
(Contrary to popular Extinguishing the will to live?
misconception I did not witness a Well-meaning pontificating pulpit
murder and I am not being hidden patter of the ‘should’ and ‘ought’ Speaks for itself. Let’s not go
in the Church of England as part of a variety. there. Please…
witness protection programme. My
name is, regrettably, not Delores van I want the speech of the Church Why imagination matters for
Cartier). to strengthen and support; equip speechwriters?

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Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

Well we’ll get to that in a moment. Ah but – (there’s always an ah but A few years ago I came across a
isn’t there?) book called ‘And Finally Comes the
‘Public speech: Igniting the heart or Poet’ by an American theologian,
extinguishing the will to live? Don’t words also have the Walter Brueggemann.
capacity to bore us to death?
In the age of the digital, the fast It’s a book addressed to
moving image, the all-pervasive The flattened ‘blah blah blah’ of preachers.
camera, I want to bat for the the predictable.
enduring power and punch of the As a preacher and a teacher
spoken word. Stale words – mouldy language. of the art of preaching, I read his
introduction and I thought – ‘Bugger.
But then I would, given my The empty ‘Yadda Yadda Yadda’ – This guy is saying what I have always
background. which leaves us thinking ‘heard it all thought.
I expect you would too – being And he’s saying it way better’.
wordsmiths yourselves. ‘Meanwhile we are all getting
older…’ Brueggemann astutely observes
Effective human speech has that ‘reduced speech leads to
power and punch. No question. Ah but – (here we go again) reduced lives’.

- ‘Four score and seven years ago Don’t words also have the By reduced speech he means
our fathers brought forth on this capacity to distort reality? language which trivializes human
continent a new nation…’ need and flattens out our capacity to
Airbrush out inconvenient truths. wonder and dream.
- ‘Ask not what your country can
do for you…’ A dead body is still a dead body. Speech that mutes the cry of
Never mind that they call it ‘collateral anguish; speech that peddles the
- ‘Never was so much owed to so damage’ . snake oil of easy answers; which
many by so few…’ whispers ‘all is well’ when all is not.
A bullet in the head is still a bullet
- ‘I have a dream’ in the head – ‘friendly fire’ or not. This is language which snuffs out
the candle.
Effective human speech has Words can bring us to death,
transformative power. never mind bore us there. And whistles in the dark.

Language can transform the base And yet… In contrast Brueggemann calls
metal of the mundane into the gold for ‘alternative modes of speech’;
of new apprehension. For all its capacity for death- speech which is dramatic, artistic,
dealing distortion, language is still invitational, tensive, prophetic, and
Words can cause the heart to laden with hope-filled potential. poetic.
Capable of painting vistas of new Speech which peels back
Words can open our eyes to possibility. the layers of inanity and tedium
glimpse new vistas of possibility. disclosing new hope, new vision, and
And let’s face it – if we cannot new possibility.1
Words can open up the moment articulate our hope for the future, we
of disclosure – ‘Aha, now I get it.’ have no future to work towards. I am left asking the how question.

Suddenly the penny drops Whatever your religious For all his vision of the what
and the lights go up and we see perspective. and the why of such speech,
something as we have never seen it Brueggemann is a little hazy on the
before. The writer of the Book of Proverbs how.
had a point: ‘Without vision the
Words do things. people perish.’

Brueggemann (1989), 1-11.

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Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

He often speaks of the the steps of yours and see whether the pages of the bible, foraging for
importance of imagination, but anything in my approach might sensory details; throwing them into
doesn’t explain what the imagination agree with or inform yours. my knapsack for later consideration.
brings to speech writing or how we
might engage it. The four functions of imagination At some stage I will leave the
at work: ancient world behind. And in my
Which is annoying. mind’s eye, or in my real shoes,
Sensory, intuitive, affective and wander through the malls of
So for some years now I’ve been intellectual. contemporary culture.
wrestling with that question: how
can I use my imagination to create The sensory imagination: What are the issues of the day?
spoken discourse which ignites the
heart? Which causes the listener I want people to see through their What do I see in the headlines?
to lean in, which binds the hearers ears.
together affectively in the nod What’s the latest on the silver
in recognition, the burst of wry Writing for the ear requires screen?
laughter, the courage to name hard the employment of multi-sensory
truths and work at the shared desire language, helping the hearer to What are the sensory hooks
to live a better life. imaginatively see, hear, smell, touch, which might speak into my sermon?
and taste.
Speech which names the Are there obvious places where
presence of my CEO in the everyday To this end I need language which the horizons of the ancient text and
muddiness of life. is pictorial, evocative, multi-layered. the contemporary context fuse?

And lifts our vision to a better To shape such language I need to With my sensory imagination
future. garner as much sensory experience I watch intently, listen carefully,
as I can. breathe in deeply and run my fingers
Speech which will go down well over the textures of the bits and
at HQ. (Because it’s speech I am As a preacher my sermon writing pieces I gather.
answerable for). process begins in the ancient text of
the Bible. I will come home at some point
Perhaps in their own ways your and empty out my knapsack. Sorting,
jobs and mine have some striking I try to read it with my sensory jotting and junking.
similarities? imagination on high alert:
Stockpiling ideas for the creative
How to do this? What would it mean to walk the process.
landscape of this world?
Imagination. The sensory imagination at work.
What would I see, taste, touch
In all, our fields. smell, hear? Now to the intuitive imagination.

Imagination matters for speech How do I get the two dimensional Picture a pan on a low heat,
writers. printed word to stand up and wrap hear the pan lid knocking as the
me in its horizons? contents simmer; flavours blending,
But what do we mean by temperature rising,
imagination? I place myself in the scene
watching it unfold around me on the What’s cooking?
I want to walk through aspects cinema screen of my imagination.
of my sermon preparation and talk The intuitive function is at work.
a little about what I see as the four I want the world of the ancient
functions of imagination at work: text to live again. This can’t be hurried.

Sensory, intuitive, affective and If it lives for me, I can paint it in No rushing too fast to an end
intellectual. words for the hearer to step in and point.
Maybe as I trace the steps of No allowing the ticking clock to
my writing journey you can overlay So I head off on a field trip into force the process.

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Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

A good sermon cannot be written Incubated in the intuitive An example:

in one sitting; there needs to be imagination.
space and time. I recently gave a sermon on the
Sensory imagination, intuitive Valley of dry bones in the book of
So the ingredients are left on imagination. Ezekiel.
the back burner as I attend to other
matters pressing in. And so to the affective The expanse of dry bones is a
imagination: symbol of the deathly experience of
The pot will come to the boil in the exile of Israel in Babylon.
time. In 1994 I fell in love.
I pondered…
If I try and rush too quickly from I fell in love with a handsome
ideas to finished script the result is man, a dapper man, a wise and How did it feel to be carted off
always undercooked. courageous man, a man who wore into a strange land?
tweed three-piece suits, a pocket
Half-baked. Indigestible. watch and horned rimmed glasses. To feel abandoned?

In this phase I sometimes play Who was this dashing fellow? I found my imagination
with words on a page, letting ideas overlaying the ancient exile
rise up and fall away, like bubbles in I speak of course of Gregory Peck. experience with images of round
the pan. ups, cattle trucks, death camps. And
As a young English teacher I came overlaying this with contemporary
Jotting phrases, minting across the gorgeous Gregory in the experiences of exile:
metaphors, pondering; turning ideas film version of To Kill a Mockingbird.
over and over. The people of Mosul.
(About 30 years too late – the film
Letting odd phrases fuse was made in 1962). Refugees far from home.
One scene stays with me. Rootless wanderers denied the
Here I am open to the lyrical identity of belonging.
voice, employing poetic insight and Atticus the lawyer, played by
craft, looking for language which will Gregory Peck, says to his daughter What is that like? How does this
disclose the more beyond what we Scout: feel?
directly experience.
‘You never really understand a I bring my affective imagination
Trying to engender new seeing in person until you consider things from closer to home:
the hearers. his point of view -’
What about those experiencing
There is always that point when ‘- until you climb into his skin and other forms of exile.
I think it will never come to the boil, walk around in it.’ 2
and I might have to throw the whole The exile of long-term
lot down the sink and start again. Without doubt, there is much unemployment?
to learn from the wisdom of Atticus
And yet… Finch. Or people robbed of the security
of the self by mental illness?
When I come to bring it all That ability to imaginatively place
together something happens: ourselves in the shoes of another. Or the exile of sudden
unexpected loss?
Ideas fuse, words flow, metaphors This is the affective imagination
are forged. at work. How does the promise of hope
sound in such situations?
The structure begins to emerge. As a preacher I try to project
myself into the shoes of characters in What does that hope look like in
The address is coming to life. the biblical text as well as people in flesh?
my congregation.
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (London: Heinemann, 1960), 35.

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To answer that we need to shift experiment; the imagination is at Logic, hypothesis and
perspective, to see as another. work in this ‘if…then’ speculative supposition, aspects of the art of
thinking. persuasion, belong in the toolbox of
To vicariously experience a the intellectual imagination.
different world, empathy switched Structuring a logical reasoned
on. argument means seeing the flow of So:
the discourse – identifying cracks in
If words are to speak to people, the argument and taking remedial Sensory imagination – drawing in
we need to spend time thinking and action. from close observation.
seeing as others might.
Which is again inherently Intuitive Imagination – letting the
Wrestling with question and imaginative. random connections spark.
To argue well, means having the Affective Imagination – standing
The affective imagination hard at ability to see where your opponent in another’s shoes.
work. will head and cut off their path.
Intellectual Imagination –
Sensory imagination, intuitive Imaginative move. hypothesising, supposing, shaping
imagination, affective imagination reasoned argument.
and now. Cicero saw the art of public
speechmaking being to teach, ‘Public speech: Igniting the heart
The fourth aspect of imagination I delight and persuade. or extinguishing the will to live?’
want to address is the intellectual.
Persuasion means helping Engage the imagination in all its
We must never polarise reason someone to see the anomalies in forms:
and imagination. their current position and move to a
new apprehension. Sensory, Intuitive, Affective and
Rather it is a resource which Intellectual - Hearts will ignite.
reason can employ. Taking someone on that journey
calls for an imaginative awareness And there won’t be a corpse in
Imagine the scientist of where they are and of how they sight.
hypothesising, shaping an might be moved.


CONFERENCE 2015 22-23 October 2015 - Neue Mälzerei, Berlin, Germany

T he European
Network autumn
3. Alexander von Reumont, Principles of Multicultural
4. Alexei Kapterev, Visual Communication for
conference will be held at
Neue Mälzerei in Berlin on
22 & 23 October 2015. At the main conference the speakers will include:
Our conferences offer Hans Kristian Amundsen, Norwegian Labour Party,
a unique way to understand the challenges of writing David Krikler, Aperture Communications, Marina Lacroix,
speeches by spending two days in the company of some McKinsey & Co, Suzanne Levy, Dutch Ministry of Education,
of the top speechwriters in the world. Science and Culture, Nicholas Wyke, EUROCONTROL, Brent
Kerrigan, Global Speechwriter, Jay Heinrichs and many
Pre-conference training will take place on the Thursday.
more to be announced.
Delegates can choose from four pre-conference training
workshops: The conference is for anyone wanting to improve their
ability to write and deliver speeches.
1. Jay Heinrichs, Heroic Speechwriting
For more information and to purchase a ticket, visit:
2. Martin Shovel & Martha Leyton, The Nuts & Bolts of

The Speechwriter August 2015 | Volume 17 9

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild


A speech by Hanneke Kulik from the instrument for speechwriters. I use

Dutch Ministry of Finance at the them as often as possible.
10th Speechwriters and Business
Why? Firstly: the smiling. Let’s not
Communicators Conference at
forget how important that is. Smiling
Westminster College, Cambridge 16 people look better, feel stronger
April 2015 and live longer. So, every time that
you manage to put a smile on the
face of the audience, you make a

B rian, I must say, you are a

clever guy. I was convinced
life couldn’t get any better at the
contribution to a better world.

It’s a comforting thought that not

year. And I worked as a journalist
spring conference in Oxford last for a Dutch newspaper back then. only the Julian Glovers and the Cody
year. And now it turns out it can. So, I had a great excuse to interview Keenans are in a position to write
I finally understand where your Katrina. Of course you are aware speeches that change the planet.
vaguely amused smile came from of the fact that the Eurovision Simply because they work for world
when I begged you to keep every Song Contest is extremely serious leaders. We all can do it by making
speechwriter’s conference from now business. So my first question was: people smile. Yes we can!
on in Oxford. I must admit, that was What are you going to wear on The
after the discovery of the surprisingly Big Night? And she said: ‘Well, I’ve Another argument for using
tasty wine in the oldest pub in Oxford brought a glittery outfit. The kind you indirect stories is: they reveal
where we had gathered. Which may are supposed to wear. But I believe something about the person
have given my plea a somewhat I prefer the green blouse that I’m involved. It is that behind-the-scenes-
emotional edge. Anyway, that smile wearing at the rehearsals all the time. feeling that works so well. Winston
of yours said: woman, have patience! I bought it at Cambridge Market and Churchill’s cigars, the Obama family’s
Just wait and see. And yes, I see it I have the distinct feeling that it is my dog and Katrina’s blouse: they all
now. Cambridge is also part of the lucky blouse’. make us feel that we know the star
British speechwriters’ heaven. Thank involved a bit and that he or she is
you for bringing us here. And so it happened. She sang just like us.
the song, she shone the light, she
Bringing us to the home of the wore the blouse. You can check it But there is third reason why I
best scientists, the clearest dictionary on YouTube. Every song contest fan would recommend using such stories
and the most dramatic spies in the fell for her green eyes, the matching in a speech. When you are watching
world. But for me Cambridge is color of her blouse and her sing- the sky at night, and you try to focus
above anything else…: the home of along song. So, the United Kingdom on one star in particular, astronomers
Katrina and the Waves! won the great European battle of will tell you not to look directly into
utter glitter in a simple green blouse the light of the star. First try to get
Katrina Leskanich, Kimberley of Cambridge Market. a grip on the halo around that star.
Rew and Alex Cooper started the Your eyes will have time to adapt
band here in the eighties. Remember There is a rumour Katrina and to focus. This way you will get a
Katrina? The happy rock chick with sent the blouse to a collector much better view of what you want
big hair, huge shoulder pads, loads of who’d begged her for a memorial to observe.
make-up and always a pair of all stars artifact. No, it wasn’t me! So the
at her feet. The sneakers on which blouse, still containing samples of Indirect stories have a similar
she was ‘walking on sunshine’. Katrina’s sweat, ended as the proud effect. They offer the context that
centerpiece of an obscure song people need, to understand the core
I thought Katrina was incredibly contest collection. message and feel what is actually
cool. Years later, in 1997, I met her going on. Where you are heading for.
in Dublin, both a bit older and more I love stories like that. Don’t you? Stories offer the brain a bit of time to
sophisticated. Stories that put a smile on your get in the mood and to focus on the
face. Stories that shine a light on point you want to make.
She represented the United human nature. Stories that seem a
Kingdom at the Eurovision Song bit beside the breaking news. And in So, side stories provide fun,
Contest with Love Shine a Light that my view these stories are a powerful feelings and focus. Who would want

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Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

to resist them? Well… interesting English had taken over. And so he introduced himself to me asking:
question. had to start all over again. Sprechen Sie Deutsch? I was a bit
flabbergasted, and stammered:
I’m afraid quite a lot of policy And for a speech in the south jawohl, ein bischen aber, if you want
advisors do. I guess I’m not the only of the Netherlands I used the story me to actually understand what you
one in this room who needs to deal of the first local girl that more are saying please, let’s continue in
with a certain amount of opposition than hundred years ago received Dutch.
to agreeable language, to persuasive a technical education and became
arguments and to clear metaphors the first Dutch female engineer. Had So he did. And he simply said: ‘I
quite frequently. For a speechwriter she lived today, she would have had was in Auschwitz in World War II’. I
that’s business as usual. Negotiating great difficulty finding a job because already knew he was born in Vienna
on a speech with the policy advisors of severe youth unemployment and escaped with his Jewish family
is not always like walking on to the Netherlands in the darkening
sunshine. Only too often it is like To be followed by the more years before the war. Through the
walking through a minefield. abstract, you could also say, the more Dutch camp Westerbork he ended
boring part of the speech. up in Auschwitz. Heinz told me
There is an explanation for this. that he and his friends decided in
Yet recently a speechwriter friend that horrible place, never to speak
A Dutch scientist, Marc van remarked that little is lost if the German again, which was his mother
Oostendorp, studied the written audience is less concentrated in the tongue. But for them German
language of the public service and middle of the speech. had become the language of the
large, international companies murderers of their families. So they
thoroughly. He found out that there As long as you wake them spoke Dutch and English when they
is a direct link between extremely up in time to hear your fabulous met in the barracks at night.
vague language and situations conclusion. How about that
in which consensus is key. Quite encouraging piece of wisdom? Finally the Russians liberated
often the parties involved are most Auschwitz in January 1945. By that
satisfied with the vagueness of the And I’m afraid I need to wake time there was not much left of Heinz
language. Clear language is futile as you up now. I’ve made my point, except his extraordinarily strong
long as many parties all want a piece but I have one more story to share spirit. He told me that the Red Cross
of the cake. with you. A story about human placed him in a private sanitarium in
courage, about language and about Switzerland where he could regain
So, what can you do besides storytelling itself. some of his strength. He would need
feeling thwarted and becoming that before he could start his quest
a grumpy old speechwriter? I do This is the story of Heinz for surviving family members. It
what most speechwriters do in such Feigenbaum. I met him at a dinner turned out later there were not many
a situation: we claim the opening party in The Hague on a beautiful left to look for. But in Switzerland he
and the conclusion and let our spring evening in 1997. Yes, also the regained something that would give
counterparts believe that the stories year of Katrina. It turned out 1997 him the strength and the wisdom to
we put there are nothing more but was a great year for collecting stories. go on and fight the doom that the
chitchat and small talk. But we know Heinz was the father of Ruth, a friend Nazi’s had cast on him.
better than that, don’t we? Of course of mine. My children called him
Dr. Freud already has taught us long grandpa Heinz soon, and although One morning the lady of the
ago, there isn’t such a thing as small he had nothing to do with the house came to him and said: ‘I
talk. ketchup, I must say his tomato soup noticed in our conversations that you
was like nothing else. But the best are a literate man. As it happens we
So for a speech in Japan I thing about Heinz was his ability of have a wonderful library here, so I
introduced the founder of Keio telling stories. Not sweet and cuddly will give you the key. Feel free to go
University in Tokyo who learned ones. Heinz was an Auschwitz- there and pick any book you like.’
to speak Dutch in the nineteenth survivor. And unlike so many others,
century, since the Dutch were the he liked to speak about it. Because And so Heinz did.
main trade partners of Japan. He had he wanted to tell as many people as
been looking forward very much possible what it had been like in that At that point I realized that he
to an actual conversation with the Nazi extermination camp. hadn’t only suffered physically, but
Dutch. So by the time he was ready, intellectually as well. Imagine what
he ran to the harbour… Only to learn I was standing in the blossoming it’s like, years without reading… So,
that the Dutch were gone and the garden of Ruth, when Heinz for the first time in many years Heinz

The Speechwriter August 2015 | Volume 17 11

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

went to meet his old friends: books. It was the language of Thomas Mann mother tongue once more and some
It must have been a thrilling moment as well.’ of the enchantments of his youth.
for him. He opened the door of the
library and there they were. The This may not be the main story of So, my dear friends, writing
loves of his life. Buddenbrooks, Der the Second World War. But for Heinz down good stories is not a small
Zauberberg, Der Tod in Venedig. The Feigenbaum it was. And for me it matter. It can do good in many, often
books of Thomas Mann. offered the context, the halo around unexpected ways. It is the love for
the star, that helped me to really feel language that binds us. So, in the
‘And at that moment,’ Heinz said, what it must have been like. Being spirit of Katrina; let that love shine a
,,I knew I wanted to speak German there and trying to find a way back. light, in every corner of the world.
again. Because I realised German It was beautifully written language
was not only the language of Hitler. that helped Heinz to embrace his Thank you.


Jim Reische, Vice President, Communications, Grinnell College

W here do you do your best

speechwriting? In your
office with phones bleeping and
down at my desk is to submit to an
onslaught of demands for time and
peril. But I’ve now seen the benefit
of going a step further. Drafting
or revising a speech on location
colleagues dropping by? At home sharpens my mental image of the
amidst a riot of restless kids and So I sought refuge. Realising occasion: suddenly I’m in tune with
barking beagles? Why not just lug that college presidents often speak everything from acoustics and
a laptop to your next Metallica in rooms that are largely otherwise atmospherics to crowd flow and
concert? unused, I figured I’d hide out and the all-important intangibles. Will
write. The first site I tried was the the founders’ portraits look down
Maybe you’re better at filtering campus chapel, which is reliably admiringly on a litany of historical
out the clangour of the modern vacant at most schools most of the highlights? Could the view through
workplace than I am. But the time. Sitting there on a stern wooden the floor-to-ceiling windows invite
pursuit of silence recently drove bench, hurting for inspiration (and a a visionary tour d’horizon? The
me to discover a new approach to cushion), I remembered the plaque possibilities are as varied as the
speechwriting: place-based writing. in the rear of the room honoring the places.
11 Grinnell students killed fighting
As I told my colleagues at the for the Union Army. They constituted I don’t think the idea amounts to
recent (and terrific) PSA Leadership almost our entire student body at a flash of brilliance. It was more of a
Communication Days for college and the time: the loss of so many male happy stumble over something that
university speechwriters, ‘I like going students prompted the college to in hindsight was patently obvious.
places and writing stuff.’ So I went admit women long before it might Experienced writers recognize that a
places: specifically, to the sites where have done otherwise. Suddenly I had successful speech requires the right
my principal was scheduled to speak. half of a pretty good speech—and words, spoken by the right person,
And I wrote stuff: to wit, his speeches. the better half, at that. in the right place, at the right time,
to the right audience. Place is an
It worked. I got the peace and Inspired, I started making place- important factor in the equation:
quiet I needed. But I also found based writing a habit. If I couldn’t get writing in a place helps me write for
something more: my speeches got to a location in advance I’d at least that place.
better, because the rooms helped me arrive early on the day of, for a little
write them. rewriting in situ. We’ve all encountered rooms
that electrified rote turns of phrase,
The move was propelled less by Plenty of speechwriting and others that smothered the most
inspiration than desperation. As the handbooks (Bob Lehrman’s Political fiery calls to action. The connection
vice president of a national liberal Speechwriter’s Companion, for one) between speaker and space is a form
arts college I’m pulled in a thousand urge speechwriters to think about of partnership. So why not work with
directions every day. Crisis after venue. We disregard the subtleties your partner … and get it to work for
crisis, initiative upon initiative: to sit of setting at our (and our speaker’s) you?

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Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild



G ood presentation of
manuscripts is a vital part of
being a speechwriter. An immaculate
manuscript deters meddlers. You
want to persuade your speaker that
to make a change to your text is like
pulling a brick out of a delicate Jenga
tower. The whole performance could
be put in jeopardy.

A few spelling mistakes and Averages - passive sentences, an average of 3.2

grammatical errors have the opposite words per sentence, an 85.2 reading
effect. The speaker gets above • Sentences per Paragraph 4.7 ease and a 2.3 Flesch Kincaid Grade
himself and starts telling you how to level.
do your job. • Words per Sentence 23
If you want to write a good
So when you’ve finished drafting • Characters per Word 5.3 speech, I would suggest that if
your masterpiece, it helps to have a the average number of words per
Readability - sentence is over 20, you’ve got a
rest for ten minutes. And then go to
‘Tools’ in Word (assuming you use problem. Likewise if your number of
• Passive sentences 21% passive sentences is over 20%.
Microsoft Word) and click on the
‘Spelling & Grammar’ option. You can
• Flesch Reading Ease 32.1 The advantage of running your
go through your document rather
laboriously checking for spelling speech through this process is that
• Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 12.0 you get a statistical picture of how
mistakes. It usually involves pressing
‘ignore’ about 50 times. you’ve constructed your speech. I’ll
It’s contentious to establish fixed explain what the statistics mean and
laws of speechwriting, but surely you can make your own mind up
At the end of the process you will readability is a vital quality, because a
be told the ’Spelling and Grammar whether you’re on the right track.
speech will be read aloud in front of
check is now complete’. At which an audience.
point you click ‘ok’. It will then throw The Flesch Reading Ease uses
up some ‘readability statistics’. the word, paragraph and character
When I’m doing speechwriting statistics to calculate how easy
training, I get sent scripts with your content is to read on a scale
Here things get interesting. I went familiar faults. It’s hard to point out
through this process with a speech of 0-100. The lower the result, the
to people who’ve got in the habit of more complex your piece is to
by Vítor Constâncio, Vice-President writing speeches in a certain way,
of the European Central Bank. The read. The closer you get to 100 the
that their sentences are three times more perfect the readability of your
speech was titled, Strengthening longer than they need to be. Or,
Macroprudential Policy in Europe. I text. Mr Constâncio’s score of 32.1
when a certain bureaucratic turn would suggest that his words had a
chose it because the ECB is known of phrase has taken root, that they
for being a bit loquacious - (though soporific quality. A short perusal of
have far too many passive sentences. his text confirms that.
things are improving!). Here are the It’s useful to introduce them to the
readability statistics: readability statistics and get them to The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level
think about it for themselves. takes the numbers and turns them
Counts -
into a hypothetical American school
The problem is producing grade level. In other words, it tells
• Words 3476
something in the house style of a film you how many years of education
script looks terrifyingly thin. But film someone needs to understand your
• Characters 18836
scripts are designed to be read and writing. If you’re not familiar with
immediately understood. the American grade system, simply
• Paragraphs 42
add five onto the grade number and
If you take the last speech in The you’ll get the average age instead.
• Sentences 150
Shawshank Redemption, you have no

The Speechwriter August 2015 | Volume 17 13

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild


Speechwriter for the Confederation of British Industry

came to hear it! Soon after, I was spoke in a way that brought abstract
lucky enough to get a traineeship at images to life, even in the ‘pre sound-
the European Commission where I bite era’ – just take his phrase little
specialized in speechwriting. five-foot-five nations to describe small
countries, for example.
You studied French and German.
Are you still managing to keep your Do you get to see your speeches
languages up to a good standard? delivered?

I just got back from two weeks in I don’t really see them as ‘my’
France and I was in Dusseldorf a few speeches – as the drive and direction
weeks back, so I try to keep them comes from the speaker and
ticking over. Luckily I don’t have to organization, but I do try to see as
What is a typical audience for a
write speeches in French or German many as possible. A speech is a ‘lived’
CBI event?
any more – although I do respect experience and it’s always interesting
First and foremost UK business anyone who writes speeches which to see if it can hold people’s attention
leaders from companies of all aren’t in their native tongue. I very and how they react to certain parts.
sectors and sizes, but also a whole nearly became a translator and I
actually think that translating from What font do you use for your
range of other groups – students,
one language to another is pretty scripts?
educationalists and civil servants to
name but a few. good practice for translating from
policy language into something Whatever the speaker wants! But
people can hopefully relate to and Arial 14 double-spaced is usually a
How many speeches do you
remember. good starting point.
write each week on average at the
What were the highlights of What’s your favourite business
working as a speechwriter for the book?
I know it’s a cliché, but there’s
neither a typical week nor a typical Local Government Association?
I like Evan Davis’ book Made in
speech here! It’s a bit quieter at the
It was a real crash-course in Britain because it’s clear in its writing,
moment, being summer – but it can
British politics – local and national. optimistic in its tone and has reams
be up to three a week.
Working there during the Scottish of examples of things that we do
Referendum was particularly well as a country. I try to read pretty
Is there much scope to include
interesting, as was working for a widely though – not just business
membership organisation for the books.
Yes – although it really depends first time. I also helped to prepare
speeches to be given in some of Do you ever give speeches
on the speaker and whether or not it
the UK’s bigger conference venues yourself?
suits the event.
– like Manchester Central and
Bournemouth ICC, which was a good Rarely. I think the last ‘proper’
How did you end up writing
learning experience. speech I gave was at my friend’s
speeches in Brussels?
wedding in Texas. Half of the guests
At the end of my first day working Who is your favourite speaker? had come over from the UK and half
in Brussels as an intern for a small were from Texas, so it was a challenge
NGO, the Executive Director asked if That’s a difficult one. I think that to keep them both referenced and
I could write her a speech to give to Bobby Kennedy’s speech directly entertained. But I think ‘personal’
some human rights activists the next after the death of Dr. Martin Luther speeches are a bit of a different kettle
day. As I’d rented a hotel room, which King Jr (entirely improvised and of fish anyway!
only had one plug in the bathroom, I delivered from the back of a flatbed
truck) is incredibly moving and The Speechwriter is edited by Brian
wrote the speech that evening with
shows the power of a specific speech Jenner
the laptop balanced on the toilet
(which wasn’t easy). She gave the at a specific moment. In terms of

Design by
speech, but only about six people language, I think that Lloyd George