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June 2011 | Volume 06

The Speechwriter
Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

MASTERCLASS by Max Atkinson


Welcome
Welcome to the sixth edition
of The Speechwriter newsletter.
The purpose of this publication is
M ax
Atkinson’s
classic book Lend Me
PUZZLES
Puzzle: This is a moment of some
mixed emotions for me.
to circulate examples of excellent Your Ears has dozens Solution: I haven’t been on prime
speeches to members of the UK of tips for public time television for quite a while.
speakers, but it is ~ Ronald Reagan
Speechwriters’ Guild. We do this
his chapter six: ‘The
by picking out openings, closings, Persuasive Power of RHETORICAL QUESTIONS
one-liners and quotations and Words’, that provides Shall I compare thee to a summer’s
other topical extracts from a summary of the day? ~ Shakespeare
newspapers and the internet to most powerful tools available to a
LISTS OF THREE
identify techniques, stimulate speechwriter.
your imagination and provide THREE IDENTICAL WORDS
One reason why they are No, no, no. ~ Margaret Thatcher
models which you can emulate. eschewed so regularly is that they are
incredibly simple. You can construct THREE DIFFERENT WORDS
This newsletter appears entire speeches using combinations I am the way, the truth and the light.
quarterly and is available to of these techniques, and indeed ~ New Testament
anyone who is a Standard President Obama usually does. They
should be pasted on the wall of every THREE PHRASES
Member of the UK Speechwriters’ Government of the people by the
speechwriter’s study. They are:
Guild. people for the people. ~ Abraham
CONTRASTS Lincoln
I come to bury Caesar not to praise THREE CLAUSES
him. ~ Shakespeare Happiness is when what you think,
CONTRADICTIONS what you say, and what you do are in
Advice is judged by results, not harmony. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Contribute intentions. ~ Cicero THREE SENTENCES
We need your speeches. Most COMPARISONS Dogs look up to us. Cats look down
I have taken more out of alcohol, on us. Pigs treat us as equals.
of the examples in this edition are
than alcohol has taken out of me. ~ Winston Churchill
taken from the Americans.
~ Winston Churchill Why does the rule of three work
We want to raise standards in OPPOSITES so well? From conversation analysis,
the UK. Please send examples of Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is Max Atkinson suggests it is because
forever. ~ Napoleon three gives the impression of
speeches to:
completeness.
PHRASE REVERSALS
8 info@ukspeechwritersguild.co.uk Wise men talk because they have
something to say; fools, because they
have to say something. ~ Plato

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The Speechwriter June 2011 | Volume 06 2

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

BOOK REVIEWS the Plain English Campaign, which


is refreshing, and at the same
which paint themselves as being at
the cutting edge.
time he never sounds arrogant.
He manages to make dull points The authors show how Max
about language engaging and Atkinson’s analysis of political
memorable. There’s not much rhetoric is equally applicable to the
specific about speechwriting, but spellbinding oratory of the gurus.
in fact the message I took away was Reading it fills you with confidence
that all good writing is based on the as a speechwriter, because you’re
principles of fine speechwriting. studying the flesh and bones of oral
communication. What many people
might find slightly disturbing is how
they borrow from techniques used
by charismatic preachers like John
Wesley. Sure enough I watched some
Tony Robbins after reading the book
and saw some rather clever sleights
of hand being used.

Once you know this stuff, it’s like


having the equations to produce a
brilliant speech. The principles are
simple. Of course there are elements
that come with the mystique of the
speaker: style, hand gesture and
projecting message completion
Brilliant Business Writing points, but this can rarely be
How to inspire, engage influenced by the speechwriter.
and persuade through The book was limited slightly by
words its repetition of examples and small
selection of speakers analysed. You
By Neil Taylor, Published by Prentice can now see them all in action on
Hall, (248 pages) YouTube. I’ll never think of a guru in
ISBN 0273744585, £10.99 Management Speak quite the same way again.
Why We Listen to What
I spotted Neil Taylor doing a
presentation about using language Management Gurus Tell Us
Brian Jenner
effectively on The Economist website.
When you write these kind of books By David Greatbatch and Timothy
www.thespeechwriter.co.uk
it’s very easy to be worthy and a Clark, Published by Routledge
bit dull, Taylor uses lots of fresh (156 pages)
examples (Hemingway’s best short ISBN 041530623X, £29.99
story), unusual perspectives (write
your message in haiku) and good This book is a laconic, but rather
advice (create a contents list for long devastating academic analysis of
documents). how business gurus ply their trade.
Part of me thinks there may be a
What I really like about the streak of envy in all this because
book is its tone of voice – a subject academics are notoriously poor
much discussed by copywriters. communicators. All the same the
Taylor manages to be encouraging authors dissect how the gurus
and fun, without being corny or work their magic. They tell rather
condescending. He’s not afraid to banal stories, they avoid criticising
take a pop at Lynn Truss and John the audience directly, they make
Humphrys, English teachers and everyone laugh and they craft tales

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The Speechwriter June 2011 | Volume 06 3

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

INSPIRATION But when we laugh at Homer,


there’s a little laughter of recognition.
Because in truth, we’ve all fallen
Openings “Annual income 20 pounds,
annual expenditure 19 pounds 19
victim at some point to short-
termitis.
and six, result happiness.”
I believe this focus solely on the
I come before you as a man of
print, not the spoken word.
A broadsheet editor determined
“Annual income 20 pounds,
annual expenditure 20 pounds ought
short-term has led to the two biggest
challenges we face today: Economic
and six, result misery.” and Environmental. The financial
to follow the trusted maxim: all
meltdown stands as a stark warning
power tends to corrupt, power point
Perhaps we could change our of living beyond our means. But the
corrupts absolutely.
motto to “Micawber was right”? greater challenge is climate change.
And only by thinking long term do
Lionel Barber, Editor of the Financial
Except I’m not quite sure that we stand any chance of solving both.
Times, Hugh Cudlipp Lecture, 31
“happiness” or indeed “misery”
January 2011
describe the atmosphere in the BBC So today I’d like to talk about
as we seek to live within our new how we deal with the environmental
means. challenge, and why I think it will be
business that leads the way. Now
Last October we agreed a new that may sound surprising - after all
licence fee settlement with the governments surely have the most
Government to freeze the licence fee crucial role to play?
until April 2017.
Well, governments must work
Helen Boaden, Director, BBC News, together to agree global targets
Speech given at VLV Annual Spring and co-ordinate the assault on
Conference, 12 April 2011 climate change. And regionally
W hen I enter Broadcasting
House, my eyes are often
drawn to the BBC’s motto, inscribed
and nationally, they need to create
a clear and stable framework.
Only this framework can enable
beneath its coat of arms.
business to act and invest with a
clear understanding of the risks and
It reads, of course, “nation shall
parameters.
speak peace unto nation.”
But I firmly believe that it is
Our motto goes back to the
business which can most effectively
BBC’s formation, on 1 January 1927,
drive change, both through its
when it was adopted by the new
operations and its ability to inspire
Corporation to signify its purpose.
change in others.
(Incidentally, it’s said to be an
adaptation from the Book of Micah:
I ’ve seen many things cited as
the cause of the recession: the
sub-prime market, complex credit Speech by Jeremy Darroch, Chief
derivatives, even Alan Greenspan. But Executive, Sky ‘Silencing our inner
“nation shall not lift up a sword
the book Nudge named and shamed Homer’, 16 February 2011
against nation, neither shall they
learn war any more.” Not a message a somewhat surprising culprit. None
for today’s news agenda!) other than Homer Simpson.

I occasionally find myself Or, more precisely, the Homer


wondering about that motto at this in all of us. Especially the part that
difficult time for the BBC. If we were fixates on short term rewards rather
to try to write a new one for the BBC than long term consequences.
of today, could we do any better? Now of course, Homer’s an extreme
example of short-term thinking. In a
You all know the great Wilkins recent episode on Sky, he even tried
Micawber quote about money. He to sell one of his livers to pay off a
opined to David Copperfield: single debt.

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The Speechwriter June 2011 | Volume 06 4

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

Substance If we can get that same sense of


national pride and togetherness in all
We’ve had enough of the hype
and speeches filled with rhetoric that
our communities, we will all be safer soars – but takes us in the wrong
as a result. direction. This is about rolling up our
sleeves, plowing forward, standing
David Cameron, Speech to the tall, and getting the job done.
Community Security Trust, 3 March
2011 This is the United States of
America. We are the American
people. We have seen difficulties
Endings before, and we always overcome. We
can and we will do it again.

We will rise up, as our forefathers


did, with the assurance of our time-
tested conservative values, the
wisdom of the American people, and

T he Prophet Jeremiah wrote


to the Jewish community in
Babylonia saying: “Seek the welfare
the courage of our convictions.

Thank you. God bless you. And


of the City to which I have exiled you, God Bless the United States of
and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for America!
in its prosperity shall you prosper.”
Tim Pawlenty: Restore American
And the Talmudic rabbis declared Dream by Restoring American
it a religious principle that Jews Common Sense, Speech at the
should observe the law of the land as Conservative Political Action
binding.

The point is that it’s possible –


A nd, Mr. President, stop
apologising for our country.
Conference, Washington, 11
February 2011

and necessary - to have more than The bullies, terrorists and tyrants
one loyalty in life.

To be a proud Jew, a committed


of the world have lots to apologise
for. America does not. T ena koutou katoa.

Today I represent the Queen. I


Zionist and a loyal British citizen. My friends, none of this is going convey to you Her Majesty’s message
to be easy. If prosperity were easy, of deep sympathy and condolence.
And to realise there is no everybody around the world would
contradiction between them. be prosperous. If freedom were easy, My grandmother once said that
everybody around the world would grief is the price we pay for love. Here
You can love this country. Take be free. And, if security were easy, today, we love and we grieve.
pride in its history. Be moved by its everybody around the world would
values. be secure. We honour the lives and
memories of all those who did
Even cry with its football fans They’re not. It takes an not survive the earthquake. New
every four years, and still be a proud extraordinary effort. It takes Zealanders and those from many
Jew. extraordinary commitment. It takes countries around the world who
extraordinary strength to stand up to came to this city as visitors or to
Jewish people play the National those who oppose these principles. make it their home, our thoughts and
Anthem and the Hatikva, toast the our prayers are with their families,
Queen and the President of the State But we can do it. wherever they may be.
of Israel.
Valley Forge wasn’t easy. Settling I also bring a personal message.
We’ve done it here tonight. the West wasn’t easy. Winning World It arises from seeing this tragedy
War II wasn’t easy. unfold from afar. It is a message
Proud to be British; and proud to about strength, through kindness,
be Jewish. Going to the moon wasn’t easy. about fortitude.
This ain’t about easy.

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The Speechwriter June 2011 | Volume 06 5

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

It is to them that we pledge our


duty.

A duty to ensure together, that no


one is written off, no one is discarded
- no one is left behind.

That together, through our


reforms, this becomes the nation of
the second chance.

The 2011 Keith Joseph Memorial


For you who are so close to these Lecture Iain Duncan Smith. Welfare
events and have lost so much, it Reform the wider context, 15 March
must be hard to grasp the degree of
I once promised that whatever I 2011
admiration, indeed awe, with which
did in politics I would do it for
you are regarded by the rest of the
people suffering from worklessness
world.
and dependency in housing estates
Courage and understated all over Britain.
determination have always been
I am more passionate than ever to
the hallmark of New Zealanders. Of
fulfil that promise. Because this isn’t
Cantabrians.
really about our national finances.
These things the world has long That’s just the starting point. It’s not
known. But to see them so starkly the destination.
demonstrated over these terrible,
Yes we have to balance the
painful months has been humbling.
budget. But beyond that there’s
Put simply, you are an inspiration a higher purpose. The purpose of
to all people. changing lives. Of moving people
trapped in the tyranny of self doubt
I count myself enormously and dependency, To the freedom of
privileged to be here to tell you that. enterprise, endeavour and self belief.

This community, more than any Surely that is our duty, and
other in the world, can appreciate Conservatives have always been
the full horror of what is unfolding in good at duty.
Japan. Our thoughts and prayers are
with them. A duty to put our country
first; after all we are the party of
In the last two days I have heard the Nation, or we are nothing,
tales of great tragedy, but also of remember?
extraordinary bravery and selfless
courage. Throughout, one phrase But this Nation, for all its beauty
units them all. and majesty isn’t just a piece of land
or a geographical term, no; it is the
With the Queen’s heartfelt good home of a free people.
wishes and those of the Prince of
Wales and other members of my For this nation is its people, the
family, I say it to you now. British people, for it is they who
shaped it, gave form to it, lived in it,
Kia kaha, be strong. loved it and too often, died for it.

Prince William’s memorial speech A nation, where everyone’s value


to Christchurch, Hagley Park, New should be measured anew and
Zealand, 18 March 2011 parents’ hope for their children can
outreach their own span.

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The Speechwriter June 2011 | Volume 06 6

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

MEMBERS OF THE UK SPEECHWRITERS’ GUILD WIN CICERO AWARDS

T wo members of the UK
Speechwriters’ Guild –
Darragh Gray (for Stephen Green)
of Hope and Despair.

The nation most hopeful for 2011


stemming from love of humanity, a
state of being productive to humans”.

from HSBC and Roger Lakin (for was – wait for it – Nigeria. So the concept and act of human
Gerard Lemos) from the Consumer philanthropy has been around for a
Financial Education Body - have And the nation most despairing very long time indeed. But in many
won prestigious Cicero Awards for – France. Overwhelmingly, the most ways, the subject under discussion,
speeches they’ve written in the past prosperous nations in the survey corporate philanthropy, is still in its
12 months. were the gloomiest about the future infancy in relative terms.
Not for nothing is ennui a French
They won best-written speech word. Of course, there are several
by an organisation, banking and examples of philanthropy associated
financial and best-written speech on But in case I insult anyone in with business leaders in former
the environment. the audience, joie de vivre is also a times which still inspire us today,
French term – and it’s joie de vivre like the Victorian George Cadbury
Here are two short extracts from we’re concerned with tonight. who developed his model village
their winning speeches: at Bourneville for the benefit of his
In a speech in 1968 Robert staff to, and I quote, “alleviate the
Kennedy said that ‘GDP measures evils of modern more cramped living
Money: The Root of All everything except that which makes conditions”, for instance.
Happiness? life worth- while.’ It’s a bit more
complicated than that. Nevertheless, until the 1950s, US
Writer, Roger Lakin law largely prohibited companies
Delivered at the I suspect most of us here this from engaging on social issues
Royal Society of Arts, evening would find it pretty hard – without a very clear link to business
London, England, 9 without much money – to live a life purpose. And even today, there are
February 2011 that felt worthwhile. those who would vehemently argue
that philanthropy has no place in the
So the interesting question is corporate world.
T his year is the 400th
anniversary of the publication
of the King James Bible. So I intend
not whether money is important. Of
course it is. But why is it important? Milton Friedman, the arch
What difference does money really defender of free market principles,
to follow in a 400-year old tradition make? I think we pretty much know fiercely believed that, quote, “the
tonight – and misquote from the the answer to that. social responsibility of business is to
King James Bible. increase its profits.” In fact, in 1970, he
Writer, Darragh Gray wrote that the idea that businesses
The 1611 version didn’t actually Delivered as the should set out to engage in broader
say ‘money is the root of all evil.’ But Pears Partnership issues was “pure and unadulterated
everybody thinks it did. Lecture, London socialism”.
Business School,
It definitely did not say that London, England, 2 November 2010 This is still received wisdom
money is the root of all happiness.
among some business leaders

T
But I’m going to argue that it can be. here are few words with a 40 years later. Only this May, the
richer and more inspiring Chairman of one multinational
Before I explore that idea, I’d like etymology than ‘philanthropy’. It can company said in an interview that
to thank everyone for coming. be traced back over two thousand corporate philanthropy is a “misuse”
years to the Greek tragedian of shareholder money and “you
Gallup and the Worldwide Aeschylus and comes from the Greek shouldn’t do good with money which
Independent Network of Market “philos”, meaning benefitting, and isn’t yours”.
Researchers published a survey “anthropos”, meaning humanity.
three days before Christmas. It was Philanthropy was then later defined
their annual survey of international by the Platonic Academy as being
economic prospects. Called – “a state of well-educated habits
magnificently – the Global Barometer

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The Speechwriter June 2011 | Volume 06 7

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

Use Your Creative freeze them. Otherwise they go to It’s the same with writing your
waste. speech. Do some work, and then
Freezer by Brian Jenner leave it and come back to it a few
It’s the same when I hear hours later .
something that would go well in a
speech. There are always dilemmas.

When I’m listening to the radio, When you defrost the freezer,
or reading a magazine, or just in you try and eat things up, but there’s
conversation, and I hear something always something like a large leg of
striking, funny or unusual, I write it lamb. You don’t want to eat it now
down. and you don’t want to throw it out,
but it’ll go out of date soon.
In my notebook, I have titles
like, ‘Birthdays’ and underneath I In the same way in speechwriting
put everything that is relevant to you always have ideas that are great,
birthdays. but they don’t quite fit.

T he most obvious analogy


between preparing a speech
and defrosting the freezer is that
It’s the equivalent of putting
things in freezer bags and labeling
You have to become decisive,
you have to be prepared to defrost
defrosting the freezer is a task that them. Labeling is important, because that expensive leg of lamb and not
it’s never a convenient time to start. you’ve got to be able to find them necessarily use it for the occasion it
again quickly. I’ve got over 250 pages was intended.
But what we resist, persists. It’s of the stuff.
going to take five hours, there’s a Maybe defrost it, turn it into lamb
whole load of stuff which should be Whenever an enquiry comes in curry and then refreeze it.
eaten up first, but, face it, you can’t for a birthday speech, I open up my
get the draw closed because the Word document with all my notes. Things can always be recycled for
shelves are encrusted with ice. a more appropriate time.
Because I’ve been doing this for
You can make another four years, I’ve usually got a brilliant Finally, my last speechwriting tip.
analogy between the freezer and line or story which I collected earlier.
consciousness. I can then ‘defrost’ it and put into the Whenever you write a speech, try
speech. to describe something in terms of
We wouldn’t normally expect something else.
someone to peer into our freezer and It is often a case of ‘defrosting’
judge us by the contents. What do all because I don’t just drop it in the Use metaphors and images,
my oven chips and pizzas say about speech, I may change it slightly or because that helps people visualize
me? adapt it to the context. and remember your speech.

In fact it’s perhaps is a good That pretty much sums up the By comparing writing with
symbol of our unconscious and the difference between an amateur and defrosting the freezer, I think about it
unconscious can be the source of a professional speechwriter. The in a different way.
creativity. amateur relies on his memory, the
professional is preparing every day. I have a fresh perspective on the
The first speechwriting tip I want problem. The invention of the freezer
to give you is that stocking up your The next tip I want to give you is meant that human beings enjoyed a
storehouse of creative ideas is like that speechwriting, like defrosting, vastly more varied diet and improved
freezing food. isn’t something that can be done in health resulting from improved
a hurry. nutrition.
You know when you go to the
supermarket, and there are three-for- You get started with a pan of Speechwriters who use the
one deals. Well, you can’t really eat boiling water or a hairdryer. But you technique described in this article
three steaks in three days, you have have to go away and do something can provide a similar service to
to take them out of the packaging else while it is defrosting. audiences.
and put them into plastic bags and

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The Speechwriter June 2011 | Volume 06 8

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

Third: Always have a contingency


plan; always be prepared for the
possibility that you may find yourself
suddenly unemployed.

That means belonging to


professional societies that have
job banks; that means cultivating
recruiters before you need them; that
means scouting potential employers.

It also means learning how


to market yourself. Here again, I
recommend seeking opportunities to
speak and to publish outside of your
regular job. I know that freelance
speechwriting on the side can be a
dicey proposition, but you can still
write an article, review a book, and
add otherwise add writings samples
SPEECHWRITER SURVIVAL SKILLS to your portfolio.

By Hal Gordon I’ve always liked General George


Patton’s definition of success. Patton
said that success is how high you
bounce when you hit bottom. And
he was right.

S peechwriting can be a
satisfying and lucrative career.
But our jobs hang by a thread, and
your portfolio; something to show
potential employers that you’re good
at different kinds of writing.
Everybody falls at one time or
other, sometimes through no fault of
we can never afford to forget that. our own. But how high you bounce
Second, Be visible. One reason depends on you.
There are two ways of dealing why speechwriters are so vulnerable
with this insecurity. One is by is that we’re often faceless, Hal Gordon is a former White House
using speechwriting as a stepping- anonymous beings. Some of us speechwriter.
stone to an editorial or managerial think that being invisible makes us
position. The other is by cultivating secure. Wrong. Don’t assume that if
speechwriter survival skills. you keep you’re head down and do a
good job, you’re safe, because you’re
Here are some tips I’ve picked up not.
over the course of my own career:
Be visible. Be visible within
First: Always remember that you the organization. Volunteer for
have two clients: the person you projects that will help you grow
write for - and yourself. And you are professionally, win you friends and
just as important as the client. allies, and add to your portfolio.
Offer to write an article for the
There’s no conflict of interest company magazine, for instance.
here. If you’re working to make your
client look good, you’re also making Be visible outside the
yourself look good. For example: organisation as well. Look for
You’re hired to write speeches? Offer opportunities to speak and write
to ghost an article or op/ed for your outside of your job. Build a network,
client. If it gets published, the client because some day it may be your
looks good and you’ve got another lifeline.
choice writing sample to add to

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The Speechwriter June 2011 | Volume 06 9

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

15 TOP TIPS FOR PUBLIC SPEAKING BY AN ALTERNATIVE


PHILLIP KHAN-PANNI VIEW

Tip 6: What’s your reason for


speaking? Money? Influence? Ego?
Passion? When you are clear about it
you’ll be more focused.

Tip 7: When you have credible


answers to tips 1-6, write your Core
Message (the ‘carry away’) in a single
sentence. That’s the message you
should drive home when you speak.

Tip 8: Develop your message in 3


streams of argument or thought, e.g.
Problem / Consequence / Solution.

Tip 9: Decide on your call to


action. What do you want people to P atricia Ryan Madson is a
member of the drama faculty
at Stanford University. She has
do when you have finished speaking?

I t seems to me that the main


reason why people get anxious
about speaking in public is that
Tip 10: Create an opening ‘Hook’
- something unexpected or dramatic
written a book Improv Wisdom –
Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up. She says
you don’t need to write a script when
they are not sure what is expected that grabs attention right at the start. you’re public speaking.
of them. If you have a speech or
presentation to deliver, here are 15 Tip 11: Write out and learn your ‘Instead of writing out your notes
tips to help dispel that anxiety by opening and closing paragraphs. Just in precise language, try writing
making sure you are well prepared. use prompts for the rest, to sound questions to yourself. Then, answer
more natural. the question using natural speech
These tips will help you feel patterns.’
confident that you know your stuff, Tip 12: Decide on the ‘point of
and also that you know why and how arrival’ or climax of your speech or Using the question method,
it will be relevant to your audience. presentation and build up the energy she says that she is free to add and
to that point. Your second ‘climax’ develop details that fit the moment.
Tip 1: Imagine you are speaking should be at the end. She points out that with scripted text
just to me and answer this question: it becomes difficult to add anything.
What do you want me to know? Tip 13: Practise in front of a mirror
or camcorder. Watch your gestures She said that she once did classes
Tip 2: Tell me why should I care and body language. in oral interpretation. Each class
about what you want me to know. focused on a subject area, the oral
Tip 14: When you are confident interpretation of prose, poetry, the
Tip 3: Why do I need to hear of your text, answer (aloud) the Bible and Shakespeare.
it from YOU? What’s your special questions in Tips 1-3.
connection with the message? Class after class the professor
Tip 15: Unless you are in a speech gave one instruction. ‘Talk to me’.
Tip 4: Would you pay to hear YOU contest, don’t try to give a world class ‘Talk to me with that poem’, Talk to
speak? If not, why not? performance. Just be sincere and me with that passage from Isaiah’,
passionate. ‘Talk to me with that sonnet.’ It
Tip 5: Record your voice and ask helped the students to develop a
yourself and some close friends if For more detailed help, go to natural communicative style. ‘Speak
your voice is attractive. If not, make www.pkpcommunicators.com or off the cuff. Trust your mind.’
changes. call 0845 165 9240.

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The Speechwriter June 2011 | Volume 06 10

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

RONALD REAGAN AT 100 by Clark S Judge, Managing Director of White House Writers Group

Analyse the audience Preparation

F ormer Reagan aide and speechwriter, now California


congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, tells of a campaign
stop involving a grade school class of blind children. After
R eagan had numerous devices for controlling risk.
These included the famous staff-prepared talking
points for even trivial events and the tape on each stage
reporters had left for their bus, Reagan stayed behind floor telling him where to stand. He expected staff to think
and asked the teacher if the children would like to feel his through every detail of an appearance.
face. The teacher said they would be thrilled. So for a few
minutes, without publicity, the children got to “see” him in It was widely known that the formal White House
the only way they could. staffing system put the president last in line to see most
speech drafts. Few knew that he put himself first for
But in addition to Reagan’s measuring the individuals reviewing the most sensitive addresses, especially ones
who made up his audience, I first glimpsed in that dealing with the Soviet Union. This was true of at least one
Newark moment a second quality—a pervasive, almost of the Soviet-specific speeches I drafted. It was true of Peter
preternatural self-discipline. As I realized later, like Robinson’s 1987 “Tear Down This Wall” draft.
Eisenhower—indeed like Washington and Lincoln—Reagan
had disciplined himself to turn his public face into a tool at Only after the president had seen them were the texts
the service of those private calibrations. distributed, when, for Soviet speeches in particular, furious
fights often developed. With others carrying the battle, the
Storytelling president would remain politically untouched. But he had
already set the boundaries for an acceptable outcome. In
Reagan’s storytelling was part of his public persona. In the case of “Tear Down This Wall,” the chief and deputy chief
speeches, he used humour and anecdotes to make points. of staff, communications director, and speechwriters knew
But in small gatherings, what might be called an economy he had marked as untouchable the call for dismantling the
of the story (that is, an exchange of value) was often at Berlin Wall—but only they knew.
play. White House aides would become exasperated in
meetings with outsiders as the president told tales they had This is an extract of an article published in the the Winter
sat through frequently before. They never considered the 2010-Spring 2011 issue of Claremont Review of Books.
dynamics of those meetings. The president heard whatever Search the internet for the full version.
the visitors had come to say. He absorbed their information,
opinions, or requests (the value he derived from the
meeting). Meanwhile, his stories left his guests feeling
responded to and confided in (the value they derived). He
did this without saying anything that might surprise or
embarrass him if it appeared in the press, or that committed
him to policies he might think better of later. Both sides
gained. He risked nothing.

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The Speechwriter June 2011 | Volume 06 11

Newsletter of The UK Speechwriters’ Guild

INTERVIEW themes and messages and build


personal profile and reputation. It
Stuart Mole is a freelance speechwriter and consultant. He is a is short-sighted for an organisation
former Director-General of the Royal Commonwealth Society to invest in advertising, hospitality,
and a former Director of the Secretary-General’s Office in the public relations, websites and the
Commonwealth Secretariat. rest.. and neglect the pinnacle of the
organisation’s communications. It
should be an integral and key part
What was the first speech you accent, with impeccable timing. I of the media strategy. It requires
wrote for somebody else? have listened to him for hours and thought, preparation and expertise.
been enthralled – even when I knew
My guess it was when I was the content! For those who think otherwise,
appointed the Parliamentary Press they should recall the devastating
Officer of the Liberal Party back in What’s your most useful impact of Gerald Ratner’s infamous
1975. My first draft was for Clement reference book? ‘crap’ speech. In fact, the reach of any
Freud, then MP for the Isle of Ely. He speech – for good or ill - is even more
did the jokes and I inserted the party I admit to a weakness for the extensive today, given YouTube and
policy. I am not sure it was the ideal Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, other social media. The days of ‘off-
way to write speeches. or similar reference books. Properly the-record and off-the-cuff’ are gone.
used, quotations can give substance
How do you manage the to a text – but I use them sparingly, What was it like to write the
speechwriter-speaker relationship? and only where they are wholly Queen’s Christmas Broadcast?
Any tips? relevant and where they illuminate
the speech. I have been involved in the past
I aim to produce the speech the with some of the Queen’s speeches
speaker thinks he or she would have Are you good at writing jokes for and annual messages, and the
written, had there been the time. speakers? process was much the same. In
That requires a personal relationship this case, I provided a first draft in
with the person – appreciating their I enjoy humour and it is a great November, in the full knowledge
use of language and their speech way for a speaker to connect with his that the script would be pulled
rhythms; understanding their sense or her audience from the outset. about by others before the Queen
of humour; and articulating clear and herself put her personal stamp on
appealing messages on the basis of I used to write speeches for Tasos the text in December. The Duke of
their known opinions and values. All Panayides, then High Commissioner Edinburgh is also influential at that
of that suggests a continuing contact for Cyprus and Doyen of the London stage, I gather. As with any major
with the speaker – before, during and Diplomatic Corps. He had a very speech draft involving a team of
after the event. I remember writing slow and deliberate delivery which people, the satisfaction I derived
for Sir Edwin Nixon when he was made his jokes excruciatingly funny came from seeing what proportion
Chairman and CEO of IBM UK, and – the anticipation of the punch- of my writing survived the process,
fortunately this thorough approach line was almost unbearable. I am a over three or four weeks. Fortunately,
worked very well in his case. This is great believer in light and shade – some did. It was also gratifying to see
the ideal, though I realise that this is relaxing an audience with a joke and a key phrase I had suggested being
sometimes not practical. then providing contrast by quickly picked up and quoted more widely,
building drama and emotion. including by the Foreign Secretary.
Who is your favourite public
speaker? How do we persuade big Stuart Mole will be speaking at the
organisations to invest in writers? UK Speechwriters’ Guild Conference
I was the Special Assistant to on Friday 16 September 2011. Buy
Sir Shridath ‘Sonny’ Ramphal when The importance of the spoken your tickets now.
he was Commonwealth Secretary- word to the leaders of organisations,
General. He is an inspirational whether senior civil servants,
speaker who has a special gift as an captains of industry or diplomats,
orator. He uses the English language cannot be underestimated. The Speechwriter is edited by Brian
in a rich and uninhibited way, in Their speeches provide a crucial Jenner.
pursuit of great causes. It is all opportunity to showcase the
europa|studio
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delivered in a compelling Caribbean organisation, develop important Design by

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