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July 2014 | Volume 15

The Speechwriter
Newsletter of the UK Speechwriters' Guild incorporating

MASTERCLASS by Kurt Tucholsky

Welcome to the fifteenth Kurt Tucholsky was a German-Jewish satirist (1890-1935). He
edition of The Speechwriter gave advice on delivering bad as well as good speeches.
newsletter. The purpose of
this publication is to circulate Negative Advice
examples of excellent speeches to
members of the UK Speechwriters’
Always start with the ancient
Romans and mention, whatever
Guild. We do this by picking out
you’re talking about, the historical
openings, closings, one-liners background of the matter. This is not
and quotations and other topical just a German trait — all humans
extracts from newspapers and the wearing glasses do that. Once I saw
internet to identify techniques, a Chinese student at the Sorbonne
stimulate your imagination and
who talked French smoothly and
well, but started to everyone’s delight Positive Advice
provide models which you can
in the following manner:
emulate. Main clauses. Main clauses. Main
‘Let me shortly talk about the clauses.
This newsletter appears history of my home country since the
quarterly and is available to year 2000 before Christ…’ Give either facts or appeal
anyone who is a Standard to sentiment. Use either sling or
Startled, he glanced up at the harp. A speaker shouldn’t be an
Member of the UK Speechwriters’
laughing audience. encyclopaedia. People have already
Guild or the European one at home.
Speechwriter Network. That is the way you have to
go, too. You’re absolutely right: Don’t strive for effects that are
one doesn’t understand anything, contradictory to your personality. A
and who can, without the proper podium is an unforgiving thing —
historical background… that’s right! you’re more more naked up there
People did not come to your lecture than when you’re sunbathing.
Contribute to hear you talk about real life, but
things they might as well look up Mark Otto Brahm’s words: What’s
We welcome book reviews, in books… that’s right! Always give crossed out can’t be laughed at.
speeches and articles for the them history, always.
magazine. Every contribution Man has—next to the drives
published gets a £10 Amazon In addition to what I said about of reproduction and dining—two
speaking techniques, I would like to passions: making noise and not
token. Please send your
remark that a lot of statistics always listening.
submissions to:
improves a speech considerably. It is
very soothing and, since everybody Clear the concept in your head –
8 can remember ten different numbers as little as possible on paper.
effortlessly, it is also great fun.

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Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

BOOK REVIEWS apparently means ‘the weighty one’):

advisors, consultants and coaches,
guiding our speakers through the
Reviewed by Alan Barker horrors of preparation and delivery
– if not always consistently or
coherently. The more we understand
Gravitas about body knowledge, the more
by Caroline Goyder useful we can be in this role.
Icon Books, 2013, £12.99
Take voice production. Goyder
explains, simply and clearly, the
three vocal registers – head, chest,
gut – relating them in a way I
hadn’t seen before to the three
Aristotelian musketeers: logos
(head), pathos (chest), ethos (gut).
She’s very good on the NLP-derived
distinction between association
and disassociation: really valuable
if you’re working with a scientist or
technical specialist. She’s particularly
strong on the speaker’s attitude to eye, and the heart.’ It’s a touchingly
time: chronos (clock time: planning, vulnerable admission, but it serves to
intention) and kairos (being in the point up how jarringly his concluding
moment, attention). ‘All chronos,’ peroration on listening sits with the
she says, ‘makes you stiff and overly rest of the book.
analytical. All kairos makes you a little
fluffy and unstructured.’ Morgan’s theme, after all, is
alignment. Every conversation, he
Gravitas, it seems, is all about says, is two conversations: verbal and

W hy should speechwriters
read a book about finding
your voice? For me, it’s a no-brainer,
roots and wings. It’s about finding
the down-ness that gives you
non-verbal. When they’re aligned,
we believe the words. When not, ‘the
stability and trust in yourself, and the body language always trumps the
but few speechwriters seem to think spoken content.’
up-ness that opens you up to others.
about speaking as a physical activity.
And – for me, the best news of all – it Alignment is the key to
That’s odd. After all, the words we
improves with age. authenticity, on which subject he’s
write only live when they make
the air vibrate. In Caroline Goyder’s very good. ‘Authenticity is hard,’ he
You’ll find this book useful for says, ‘because we think it’s all about
words: ‘Body knowledge and mind
yourself. And it will help you become being, but it’s really all about doing.’
knowledge need to work together.’
the guru your speaker never knew Most of the time, we’re ‘a jumble of
they needed. unconscious fears and distractions’.
But speechwriters can’t supply
the body knowledge, right? We We need to ‘show up’ as the best
supply only the words. Power Cues: The Subtle version of ourselves. And that takes
practice. Authenticity is optimal
Science of Leading performance.
Start, then, with Principle 3
(there are seven in all). Goyder
Groups, Persuading Morgan promises that we can
provides plenty of techniques that a Others, and Maximizing perform more authentically by
speechwriter could adapt in coaxing Your Personal Impact following his seven ‘power cues’.
the real thoughts and feelings out By Nick Morgan People will believe us, identify with
of their speaker. Then look at her Harvard Business School Publishing, us and follow us. Our brains are hard-
chapter on presentations and talks: 2014, £16.99 Kindle edition £10.19 wired to be social: ‘we think what
much food for thought there, too. makes us human is our uniqueness,
‘I don’t know,’ says Nick Morgan in but it’s really our commonalities.’ We
But of course, speechwriters closing his new book, ‘if the Chinese seek community, and we seek leaders
often provide more than texts. We character for listening really does with charisma, which he defines as
can be gurus (the word in Sanskrit include the characters for the ear, the ‘focused emotion.’ Align; focus; lead.

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Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

Beneath the promises of of bran-tub pick’n’mix and needless The real pity is that this stuff
miraculous personal transformation, repetition. It doesn’t help that contradicts Morgan’s insistence on
Morgan offers interesting ideas. Morgan keeps telling us how tough the need to practise authenticity.
Many fit the fad for ‘breakthroughs it is to achieve authenticity: the word ‘You can work from either the
in neuroscience’. We gesture ‘difficult’ appears 35 times. But then, inside out, that is, from emotion to
unconsciously; our mirror neurons reprogramming your unconscious gesture, or the outside in, that is,
replicate the emotions we observe; was never going to be easy. from gesture to emotion.’ He explains
emotion is essential to good Stanislavsky’s Method well, and
Some techniques are useful;
decision-making; and so on. Some discusses gesture and voice with the
others are hazily explained. One is
were new to me. I want to learn authority of a practised acting coach.
frankly dangerous. Chapter Six (‘Is
about the ‘full-fledged, cat-sized Occasionally, he reveals his core
your unconscious mind holding you
brain’ in my gut; and I’m keen to competence as a speechwriter with
back or propelling you forward?’)
discover my voice’s ‘maximum more than a passing knowledge of
flies perilously close to Rhonda Byrne
resonance point’ (you need a piano). rhetoric.
territory (she of The Secret), even as
But much material is familiar.
Morgan disavows any connection. Rhapsodising about the
Gestures and facial expressions?
‘I do think that if you believe that Roman amphitheatre at Fiesole,
Cite Paul Ekman. Voice production?
you are a follower, you will always be he suggests a more focused topic:
Recommend Patsy Rodenburg.
treated like one... Just simply repeat ‘The combination of ancient,
Telling stories? Who else but Joseph
your mantra every time a negative amphitheater-tested wisdom and
thought... bubbles up…’ Why is such hard science brings us to a place
Each chapter juxtaposes this positive programming damaging? we’ve never been able to reach
discursive material with how-to tips. Because it’s been shown to do little before: complete mastery of personal
There’s a queasy feeling, sometimes, more than arouse negative emotions. communications.’ Now that argument
would make for an interesting book.


‘How do we turn a pompous bag of wind into a thoughtful and motivational speaker?’

I t took until lunchtime at

the World Speechwriter
conference before PR guru, Fraser
From the European perspective,
we were there for the networking.
But David was determined to
Seitel, put his finger on why people champion those American mainstays:
attend international speechwriter quality, value, service. The Europeans
conferences. We’re all seeking that lamented the fact we had only two
magic formula. The gathering was scheduled 15 minute breaks from
organised in May 2014 by the Editor 8.30am to 5pm.
of Vital Speeches, David Murray.
On the second day we had a two
hour panel session to discuss the
future of the profession.

Dan Gerstein summed it up:

‘Don’t call yourself a freelance. Call
yourself a ‘professional speechwriter’.
And don’t have photos of cats on
your website.’

The next global get-together is on

23 & 24 October in Amsterdam.
It was the first ever conference More details here:
of the Professional Speechwriters https://europeanspeechwritersnl.
Association at New York University.

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Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild


by Martin Shovel

R ecently, the Guardian invited

the very funny and clever
stand-up comedian, Milton Jones,
Words into pictures…
pictures into words…
The word ‘Chinese’ gives rise to
‘whispers’, so let’s look at a drawing
of one Chinese person whispering to
to analyse his comic technique. He Cartoon thinking brings to another.
began with some reflections on this, light the intimate relationship, and
his opening gag: interplay, between drawn images,
mental images and words. All it
Incredible to think, isn’t it, that the requires is something to make a mark
Chinese language started off as English with (pens are useful!), something
in England, but then one person to make a mark on (paper comes
whispered it to another person… in handy!), and an unfettered
As a practising speechwriter
(words person?) and cartoonist Let’s kick off with some doodles
(pictures person?), I’d like to share inspired by the phrase, ‘Chinese The drawing depicts a single
a few insights into how I think this whispers’, starting with the word act of whispering, but the notion
delightful gag works, because I ‘Chinese’. of Chinese whispers conjures up
believe the same set of techniques an image of a chain of people
could help you bring your own whispering – let’s look at one in
stories, speeches and presentations action.
to life.

Jones observes that when one

of his gags works ‘it’s because it puts
a silly cartoon in people’s heads,
and they suspend their disbelief
for a millisecond.’ I know exactly
what he means – cartoon thinking Cartoon thinking often employs
is my stamping ground. I use it exaggeration to get our attention,
everyday in my work as a cartoonist, and make its point – rhetoricians call
speechwriter, and workshop leader – it hyperbole. ‘Chinese whispers…
and I’m convinced it lies at the heart The currency of cartoon Great Wall of China…’ – what if we
of all good communication. thinking is stereotypes: the bad imagine a Chinese whisper that’s as
cartoonist is blinded by them; the long – or maybe even longer than –
The grain of sand in Jones’s good cartoonist deconstructs and the Great Wall of China?
creative oyster is the phrase ‘Chinese subverts them. The act of thinking
whispers’. He uses the term ‘reverse about a word or image is akin to Pictures in your mind’s eye
engineering’ to describe the cartoon throwing a pebble into a still pond
thinking technique he uses to pull – instantly, and without conscious At this point on our creative
the phrase apart and then put it back determination, your mind begins to journey, the mental image begins
together again, differently. ripple with associated images, words, to offer much more imaginative
recollections and feelings. versatility than its physically drawn
‘Most of my stuff is reverse- counterpart. In my mind’s eye, I can
engineered from tripping over ‘Chinese…inscrutable… fly at great speed above a Chinese
a phrase or an idea and working populous…whispers…Great Wall… whisper that circles the world. What’s
out what the most unlikely take-away…Red Army…power… more, I can swoop down and zoom in
misinterpretation might be (now Chinese language…difficult… to look at the faces of the individual
the phrase reverse engineer has me pictograms…’, and so on. The whisperers too. (Compare Churchill’s
thinking). At some point, I played order of associated words and iron curtain descending across the
with the concept of Chinese whispers feelings will, of course, vary from continent ‘from Stettin in the Baltic to
like a Rubik’s cube in my head, person to person, but stereotypical Trieste in the Adriatic’ – as a mental
until I’d settled on the unlikeliest thinking guarantees that many key image it catches fire, but would fall
combination.’ associations are shared. flat on its face as a PowerPoint slide).

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Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

Chinese whispers is a visual As this stage, Jones has a clever argument) – devices also beloved by
metaphor for the degradation of idea, but his next big challenge is speechwriters and speechmakers!
a message as it passes from one to translate it into words that do
whisperer to the next. What message it justice. Like all good writers, he In a recent Desert Island Discs
could these people be sharing? knows that less is more. He tells us programme, comedian Jack Dee
It’s time to play with another basic that sometimes it can take him years described these devices another way
cartoon thinking technique that to get the wording of a gag just right: when he talked about the stuff you
involves turning things on their head, ‘a subtle inflexion or an extra word don’t say being just as important
it’s called reversal. can make all the difference. But when as the stuff you do say: ‘it’s allowing
a joke is successful it makes people the audience to join the dots and do
What if the Chinese whisperers see something in a completely new some thinking for themselves, which
aren’t Chinese at all. What if they’re light.’ is brilliant.’
English like Milton Jones, and me?
England and China…what if the And like all good performers – Martin Shovel will be running a
chain of whisperers stretches all the whether they be stand-up comedians workshop on Cartoon Thinking
way from England to China? or speechmakers – he knows that for Speechwriters at the Autumn
audiences love to be involved in conference in Amsterdam
Two very different languages, the act of creation, and like nothing
English and Chinese. What could better than being invited to fill in www.europeanspeechwritersnl.
connect them? What if the the gaps. The rhetorical devices that
degradation of the message involved make Jones’s gag tick are synecdoche
one of the languages morphing (building a picture of the whole from
into the other? You see where this is a significant detail) and enthymeme
leading, don’t you? (filling in the missing gaps of an

by Hal Gordon

L ooking for a new way to

enliven your next speech? Try
having your speaker read a letter to
Even letters from the long dead
can make your listeners sit up and
take notice. On one occasion, my
carrying artillery … In time of peace,
I believe I can give you … complete
satisfaction … in the construction of
the audience. CEO was receiving the Leonardo buildings both public and private,
da Vinci Award from a large state and in the conducting of water from
Reading a letter from a satisfied— university. This particular CEO was a one place to another.’
or dissatisfied—customer can life-long engineer, and he never tired
be a highly effective way for an of telling audiences how valuable At the very end of the letter
executive to make a point at a engineers are to society. Leonardo, the master engineer, adds
company meeting. In the same almost as an afterthought: ‘I can
way, if you speaker is appealing for So I opened his speech with further execute sculpture in marble,
contributions to a charitable cause, one of Leonardo’s letters. Not just bronze or clay. Also, in painting, I can
reading a letter of gratitude from any letter, but an engineer’s job do as much as anyone else, whoever
someone who has been helped by application that the multifaceted he may be.’
that particular charity personalises genius had once submitted to
the appeal and reassures potential Ludovico Sforza, ruler of Milan. The letter tickled the audience,
donors that their money will be well and gave my CEO a perfect
spent. ‘I can,’ wrote Leonardo, ‘construct springboard from which to extol the
bridges which are very light and virtues of engineers in general. So
If you’re writing a roast or a strong and very portable, with which the next time you need a new angle
retirement tribute, old letters can be to pursue and defeat the enemy … for a speech, check the mail or pick
touching, hilarious or both. Letters I can also make a kind of cannon up an anthology of letters. You might
from important people can also be which is light and easy of transport, find the very thing you need to bring
great attention getters. with which to hurl small stones like your next speech to life.
hail … I can make armoured wagons

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Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild


Five defects of character that make you a better speechwriter by William Cohen

2) Abrasiveness by slipping the odd paragraph into

the speeches of NATO’s Supreme
There’s surface consciousness - Allied Commander in Europe.
when a speaker half concentrates on
what they need to be saying - and 4) Kleptomania
there’s passion. Dale Carnegie once
said, if you knock a man over in the Rhetoric is open source software.
street, he’ll never be at a loss for If you see a good phrase or a fine
words. Punching your speaker should sentence structure, steal it wholesale.
be a last resort. Applying sarcasm or A few adjustments to a purple
a little goading to think harder is a patch, and it becomes your own.
good strategy. Press your speaker’s If a quotation is from dead person,
buttons until the gouts of honesty update it. Give it to someone in
spew out. the news. Jokes can be lifted from
speeches found on YouTube because
1) Laziness 3) Megalomania the good ones are unlikely to be
original and the original ones aren’t
Conscientiousness is a fault in Walter Mitty is a meek, mild man likely to be very good.
a speechwriter. The worst type of with a vivid fantasy life. He’d make
speechwriter is someone who tries to a great speechwriter. If you write 5) Sycophancy
include everything. for the Chairman of a multinational
company, you need to get into his ‘We are phenomenal suckers for
shoes. So you are the Chairman for flattery…we tend as a rule to believe
A speech should never be like
the duration of this assignment. At praise and to like those who provide
an article in The Economist. You’re
the recent World Conference for it, oftentimes when it is clearly false.’
creating an emotional experience
speechwriters in New York, David The great guru of Influence, Robert
not facilitating an exchange of
Petraeus admitted that, as a squirt Cialdini said this and he’s a very
information. Don’t make the
speechwriter, he tried to shape policy smart man. Don’t forget to tell the
audience work too hard.
audience how wonderful they are.


A story from
the good
old days. A time
As the story goes, the big
moment had arrived. The stadium
was full and the crowd was ready.
Hearing this, his aides rushed
forward, fearing he was going into
cardiac arrest.
before the Berlin Brezhnev was helped out of his chair
Wall came down and supported by an aide under Brezhnev saw them, straightened
and the Warsaw either elbow as he moved to the up, motioned them back, refocused,
Pact collapsed. massive podium set up at Central looked down intently, regripped the
Lenin stadium. podium and then again groaned:
Some of you will remember the ‘Oooooo’
summer of 1980 when the Soviet His aides placed his hands on Horrified his aides once more
Union proudly hosted the Moscow either side of the podium put on his began to move forward. Just then
Olympics. reading glasses, opened his speech Brezhnev’s speechwriter shooed
at the first page and stepped back. them out of the way, moved to the
The Soviet leader of the time, Soviet president, whispered in his
Leonid Brezhnev, was despite Gripping the podium hard, ear.
advanced age and poor health, Brezhnev looked down, studied
determined to give the speech that the page intently and proclaimed: ‘Mr President, that’s the Olympic
would welcome the world to Moscow ‘Ooooo’ logo. The speech starts here.’
at the 1980 summer games.

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Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

Earlier this year, Richard Newman, from UK Body Talk, entered a speech into the international speechwriting
competition run by Vital Speeches of the Day. He won the overall Cicero Award prize for the best speech. Here is
the text of his speech: ‘Pick Me’.

D o you remember the feeling

of playing sport at school,
standing in line, waiting to be
my life. Thanks to the inspiration he
gave me I now have a wonderful life.
I have a beautiful wife, wonderful
a Tuesday or Wednesday, around
mid-morning. When I answered the
door the guy said, ‘What are you
picked? Thinking ‘pick me, pick me’. son, lovely house and I do something doing home today? Are you sick?’
I love everyday, while helping others.
Then finally you were picked and I told him that I ran my own
after a brief sigh of relief you realised There’s nothing special about me. business. That day I was working
you had been chosen by the team If I can do this, you can do it too and from home.
that you really didn’t want to be on. probably twice as well and five times
faster. ‘Oh I’d hate that, that sounds
The players didn’t include you, terrible!’ he said.
they never gave you the ball, but at You are about to decide which
least it was better than not being path your life will take, as you leave ‘Why’s that?’ I asked. It wasn’t
picked. education. Imagine this. What if you the first time I’d heard this type of
could live a life that you love? What if comment. In fact I used to feel the
Reality shows are pushing the you could give more, earn more and same way myself. I never intended to
‘pick me’ culture. Vote for me. Don’t live more than you ever imagined start a business. I just had a passion
evict me. Expose everything about would be possible as a corporate that people were willing to pay
me, as long as you pick me. clock-punching cog? me for and before long it was my
You might think you can escape This is not about ‘getting rich
it by switching the TV off. You can’t, quick’. It’s about being passionate He gave me a whole string of
because businesses are built with the and productive. objections. I hear these all the time.
same boundaries. Interview me. Hire Money. Age. Knowledge. Safety.
me. Promote me. Whatever happens, It’s not about ‘pick me, hire me Maybe you’re thinking about some of
pick me. Then following the sigh of and when you’re done fire me’. these already.
relief you get from being hired you
realise you didn’t want to be on their It’s simply about ‘what can I do Firstly, he said he hated
team either. that inspires me?’ paperwork and spreadsheets.
The truth is I’ve never done a
According to a study by Deloitte, And what if we could start the spreadsheet. I hate them. When I
80% of people who are employed journey to zero unemployment? told him he looked amazed.
don’t like their job. At the same time, There are 19 million graduates
around 50% of graduates in Europe unemployed in Western Europe. The ‘But how do you get anything
are unemployed, unsure what to do, current system isn’t working. You done?’ he asked.
unimpressed with the options of could try fighting with all of them to
unpaid internships and desperately get picked for a job you might not When I got my business started
hoping to get picked. even want, or take a different path. and I needed a spreadsheet I just
asked around. A friend of mine
I came here to talk to you today So instead of waiting for someone said he loved doing them and so I
for one reason. When I finished my to pick you... offered to buy him a beer if he did
education I was £22,000 in debt. I had one for me. He agreed. He’s still my
no mobile phone or computer (it was …pick yourself. accountant today, but now I have the
the 90s!). I was living at home with money to pay him!
my parents, feeling lost. For a brief Let me tell you how.
time, I even felt suicidal. I thought So I told him not to worry about
I would never be picked - by an In 2007 I moved house and I spreadsheets.
employer, by a girlfriend, by anyone. needed someone to fix the internet
I had no idea what to do next. Then and TV connection. So we called ‘Well, I don’t have a business
I saw a guy giving a speech for 20 the company and soon a ‘cable guy’ degree. I know nothing about
minutes and it changed the course of arrived to do the job. It was probably business!’ he said.

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Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

I told him that when I was 17 my fancy computers, fancy brochures and I employ a dozen people. All
Dad said to me, ‘Son you’re going to and going to fancy networking thanks to a free haircut.
University to study business, because events. Within six months he had
everyone needs to know about spent it all and had nothing left. So you don’t need money, it
business.’ I told my Dad that I would Fancy that. doesn’t matter what age you are, you
never need to know about business, won’t need to fill in spreadsheets
because I was going to either be However, a different company I if you don’t want to and you don’t
a teacher or an actor. Ironically, I know was set up for £50. This guy need a business degree.
ended up running a business where bought a couple of blue lights to put
I teach acting skills to business under his car, to make it look like it Finally, as he set about fixing my
people. We laugh about it now, but was out of The Fast and the Furious. internet and TV, I asked the cable guy
if I’d studied business I wouldn’t have He drove to a bar that weekend and if he enjoyed his work. He said ‘No,
taken the time to follow my passions a guy came out who said, ‘Wow, that but at least I have a safe job.’
and studied acting and teaching and looks cool, can you do that to my car?
I wouldn’t have a business at all. How much does it cost?’ He told him That was in 2007. Then the
£100. The guy said, ‘Great I would greatest recession our generation has
So you don’t need to study have paid £500!’ So the next week he ever known hit. His cable company
business, I told him. drove to another bar and two guys merged with another and thousands
came out. “Wow, your car looks cool, of jobs were lost. His job wasn’t safe
‘Well, I’m just too young to run a how much does that cost?’ I’ll do it after all. Nor is any job really.
business!’ he said. I replied, ‘Let me for £500 he said. Within six months
tell you a story. Two young graduates, he had made over £50,000 profit. Before the cable guy left he
fresh out of University, went to stopped to ask me, ‘Okay, so how do
speak to Richard Branson about a So you don’t need money, I told you do it then? How do you run a
business idea. They wanted to start a him. In fact, my business was started business?’
business consultancy, offering fresh for a free haircut. I was getting my
advice from new graduates to big hair cut one day and telling my I picked up a photo that I keep
businesses. Branson told them it hairdresser about all the things I was on my desk at home. It’s a photo
was a bad idea and that they should passionate about, around teaching, of three guys, who are 18 years old,
work for ten years, then start their acting and communication. He wearing dinner jackets. It was taken
business. They ignored him. They offered to give me a free haircut the night that we all finished school,
ignored Richard Branson! They set up if I came to teach his hairdressers at a British version of prom night.
their company ‘Fresh Minds’ which how to communicate better with
is now one of the 100 highest rated their customers. I was scared that I ‘These three guys told me
companies to work for in the UK.’ wouldn’t know how to do it. I said no. everything I needed to know’, I told
The next time I got my hair cut he him.
So it doesn’t matter what age wouldn’t let me go without agreeing
you are. The right age to start is right to do it! So I did. So here it is. All the advice I was
now. ever given about how to succeed
His hairdressers liked the training in business. This can help you, no
‘But I haven’t got any money!’ the session I created for them so much matter what profession you go into.
cable guy told me. that they asked me to train their Are you ready? Its just three simple
entire chain of hairdressers. things.
When I started my business I
didn’t even have a desk! No phone. Pretty soon I got a phone- The first guy in the photo is
I had to share a computer with my call from a guy who said he ran Christian. He taught me something
Dad. I had already spent everything a big engineering company and I’ll always remember. There were
the bank would lend me, maxed out needed someone to train his staff two fish and chips shops near our
my credit card and borrowed from for an exhibition. He said his school where I grew up (by chips,
my parents. I had just a few pennies hairdresser had recommended I mean the British chunky French
to my name. me! Since then things have grown fries!). Everyone at school went to
by recommendation and word-of- the nearest one. One day Christian
‘You don’t need money,’ I told him. mouth. We have never borrowed said to the guy who ran the shop, ‘Do
Let me tell you about two businesses. money from anyone. Fourteen years you have any bread, I really want a
I know one guy who borrowed later we now run a multi-million chip butty!’ Now if you haven’t tried
£50,000 and set up a business. He pound company training 4000 this, it’s a sandwich filled with chips
spent the money on a fancy office, people per year, around the world and ketchup, a British schoolboy’s

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Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

‘No mate, I sell fish, chips and went for the interview. We wrote a confidently and effectively, so that
ketchup! No bread.’ good luck card for him. We were so they can achieve their dreams.
confident he would get in we even
‘I know,’ said Christian. ‘What if I wrote a poem on the envelope that That’s the second step. If you
buy some bread from the shop next said, ‘Oxford Ian, he’s our man, if want to succeed in business, in
door and give it to you, will you sell he can’t get in, no one can.’ I went life and in relationships…you
me a chip butty?’ to give him the card one morning need to get as good as you can at
at school and he just looked at the communicating.
‘NO!’ envelope, read the poem and never
even opened it. The last guy in the photo just
So we left. We went to the other gave me one simple piece of advice.
chip shop. He didn’t have bread ‘I didn’t get in,’ he said. Three words. I have these words
either, but he offered to buy some. in a frame in my bathroom so that
We went back to school and then I couldn’t believe it. He handed everyday when I look in the mirror I
everyone at school wanted one! We me a letter that had arrived that can remember to live by his advice.
never went back to the nearest chip morning from Oxford University that When we were all saying goodbye to
shop. Nor did anyone else we knew. said, ‘Dear Ian, you are clearly a very each other and life was taking us in
intelligent young man, but you lack different directions he simply said to
I remember Christian saying, as the communication skills we require me, ‘Fulfil your potential’. Those three
he ate his chip butty, ‘It’s not difficult from our students, so we will not give words have motivated me every day
is it?! All you need to do to succeed in you a place at our University.’ since. Every day when my business
business is just… Do One Thing Well’. seemed to be going nowhere. Every
In that moment I knew two day when I had no work, just a
I’ve always remembered that. It things. Firstly, Oxford had missed passion to help people. Every day
has been true for my business too. out on having one of the nicest, when other people thought I should
When the recession first hit, my Dad hardest working students they could ‘get a real job’. I just focussed on
told me I was going to go out of ever imagine. Secondly, I knew that those three things.
business, because nobody spends I would never be as intelligent or
money on training in a recession. hard working as him, so if I wanted to Do one thing well. Become an
One of our biggest clients called us succeed in life I had better get damn expert at communicating. Fulfil your
in and told me that they were having good at communication skills! potential. I’m not suggesting that
cut-backs to streamline their training. running your own business is easy.
They had over 1000 suppliers and The problem was that I was It’s not. It’s really hard. It requires
they needed to get down to 150. terrible at communicating. I had an time, effort and dedication. But it’s
I feared the worst. We were going almighty fear of talking in front of not complex. It’s simple. Everyone
to lose them. To my delight, in the people. One day a teacher had asked can do it. Just find something that
meeting they said that we had the me to read something out in class you love doing, that other people will
highest rating of any supplier of and my whole body froze. The sweat benefit from, and you’ll get paid for
training for them, so they were going poured off my head. My body shook living your passion. That’s it.
to increase our work and wanted our violently. He asked me to sit down
help to find more good training. All and the class didn’t even laugh at me. Or don’t. Get a safe job instead.
we’d ever done was aim to Do One They just stared in silence. Join the 80% of people who don’t
Thing Well. It paid off. enjoy their work. Or the 19 million
On my 16th birthday a friend of waiting in line to get hired.
So choose one thing you love mine gave me a book called Body
doing that other people benefit from Language by Allan Pease saying to Whatever happens next for
and will pay you for. Then do it the me, ‘Richard, you really need to read you, whatever you choose to do,
best you can. That’s the first step. this. For all our sakes! You’re terrible remember that you don’t need to
with people!’ wait for someone else to pick you, in
The second guy in the photo order to live the life that you want.
was Ian. Ian was the brightest guy in After Ian got that letter, I took You can pick yourself instead.
school; he studied all day and night this communication thing seriously.
and even aimed to read two books I studied every book I could get Richard Newman will be a keynote
per day in the summer holidays. my hands on to figure out how to speaker at our autumn conference in
His dream was to go to Oxford communicate. It’s that passion that Amsterdam on the 23 & 24 October.
University. still drives me today. I want to help https://europeanspeechwritersnl.
as many people as I can around
He passed the entry exam and the world to communicate more

The Speechwriter July 2014 | Volume 15 10

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild


Speechwriter for the UK government, who previously worked for The Open University

also a problem Peggy Noonan old-skool touch I do all my proofing

identified, that most people and revising on paper, with a red
What was the first speech you recognise that they can’t sing or biro.
ever wrote? dance or paint, but everyone thinks
they can write. ‘I’ve been writing Which British dramatists do you
It was for the funeral of a since I was five years old, I don’t admire?
schoolfriend who died just before need someone to write for me, so
we got our A-level results. Not the why does that guy spend money on That Shakespeare guy has a nice
kind of thing most 18 year-olds find someone?’ turn of phrase, I think he’ll do well.
themselves doing. I found a copy of
it the other day and it’s actually not Sir Ken Robinson made What makes you jealous of other
that bad… that wonderful TED talk about speechwriters in a team?
education. What’s the secret of
What was the best thing you inspiring people to learn? I try not to be jealous of other
remember about the Ragan writers. If I see someone doing
Communications conference in Increasingly, and somewhat something I’d like to be able to do I
Washington you attended? ironically given the title of this concentrate on learning from them
magazine, I think the secret of rather than being envious. That said,
I could talk about all kinds of inspiring people to learn is not to I do I get a touch of the green-eyed
practical hints and tips I picked up stand at the front of a room and talk monster about the people some
and the contacts I made and so on, at them for an hour. You have to friends get to write for!
but the real benefit was finding engage, debate, start a conversation.
myself surrounded by so many Above all, you have to make people Could you write a speech urging
other speechwriters. It can be a understand how what they’re UK voters to leave the European
lonely job sometimes, so having learning relates to their life. In the Union?
the opportunity to meet with other age of instant wireless access to
people who face exactly the same information, simply pouring facts I like to think I could write a
challenges was a real eye-opener. at people isn’t enough. You have speech about anything if I put my
to be able to transform that mass mind to it. And writing negatively,
Some newspaper commentators of information into meaningful criticising a concept rather than
observe CEOs and equate having knowledge. defending it, is usually much more
a speechwriter to getting a straightforward than writing about
company jet - a sign of decadent Have you given many speeches why something is good – just look at
extravagance. How would you of your own? music reviews or sports reports. Off
respond? the top of my head I’m struggling
I really, really don’t enjoy public to think of any great pro-Europe
I always describe my job as speaking and avoid it whenever speeches in the UK. Ted Heath’s one
writing what the speaker would want possible. I’m much happier sitting in the Commons in (I think) 1971,
to say if they had time to research, behind the scenes with a keyboard maybe? But the anti side have got
write and edit it themselves. A senior and making words do wonderful loads of material to draw on, from
politician or business leader giving things for other people. But Tony Benn in 1991 to Dan Hannan’s
three speeches a week to wildy sometimes you just have to – so far contemporary YouTube diatribes.
different audiences with different I’ve spoken at two funerals and a
expectations and needs simply wedding (my own). Have you heard any good
doesn’t have the opportunity to speeches in favour of Scottish
do all that work. It wouldn’t be a What font do you use for your independence?
practical use of their time or skills. scripts?
I’m sure most CEOs could also Somewhat shamefully I haven’t
manage their own diaries, run their Different clients have all got their paid a huge amount of attention to
own offices, fix their own computer, own preferences for their actual the independence referendum. What
but nobody complains about them scripts. I always draft in 12pt Calibri, I have heard of the debate has been
having PAs and IT support. There’s spaced at 1.5pt. And in a pleasingly very negative on both sides – the

The Speechwriter July 2014 | Volume 15 11

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

No camp have had dire warnings to drop in lots of obscure references

about what will happen and the Yes in an attempt to show how clever
campaign seems to focus its emotion you are. Instead, focus on talking
on being anti-English rather than about what art means to you, how it
pro-independence. I think both sides has affected your life, and what it can
could do with a little more positivity do for others.
and hope in their messaging.
The Speechwriter is edited by Brian
Tell us about a speaker you’ve
heard recently who has impressed

Design by
I’ve heard a lot of speeches by a
lot of speakers – business leaders,
politicians, educators. But one that
really stands out was my friend
Emma’s dad, doing his father-of-
the-bride speech at her wedding.
He had the entire room in tears by
the end of his first paragraph and
then managed to explain how he
felt through a series of stories about
his daughter that mentioned every
single guest by name. I’ve never seen
anything like it.

What’s your favourite reference


I use the Yale Book of Quotations

a lot, it’s a great source not just of
quotes to include in speeches, but
also starting points to get your
brain working. Fowler’s Modern
English Usage is also super-useful,
especially when dealing with picky
audiences who will write angry
letters to the newspapers if you
say ‘at the vanguard’ rather than
‘in the vanguard’. And finally, I see
the internet as one massive and
vital reference book, albeit one that
requires a lot of cross-checking!

Can you give us any tips on

how to make memorable speeches
about the arts?

Don’t think you have to be an

expert in order to appreciate the
arts, and don’t try to pretend to be
an expert if you’re not. As Clemency
Burton Hill said recently, you don’t
have to have credentials to be able
to listen to classical music, to enjoy it
and be moved by it. So resist the urge