My Ideal Speechwriting Client

Of all the writing I do, I find speechwriting to be some of the most challenging and rewarding. It’s a great privilege to help someone craft a clear and effective message for a unique audience.

In addition to enjoying speechwriting, I flatter myself that I’m fairly good at it. All told I’ve written over 200 executive-level speeches and presentations, and I’ve had two different full-time speechwriting gigs, first at Headquarters Air Force and then at NC State University.*

And (hint, hint) I’m always in the market for new speechwriting clients.

So how can you know if I’m the speechwriter for you, and you’re the client for me? Maybe by considering the second part of that question, it will help you answer the first part.

My ideal speechwriting client will:

  • Have Something Worth Saying. Presumably, if you’ve been asked to give a speech — especially a major speech to a sizeable audience — it’s because someone recognizes your experience or knowledge or enthusiasm and wants you to bring that to their event. My ideal client will start with a core message — a central idea around which to build the speech, or a single key item the audience can take from the speech that will help them in some way — that they are passionate about and excited to share.
  • Be Willing to Tailor That Message to the Audience. Every audience is unique, down to each individual in each seat. While it’s unrealistic to think that we can present any message so well that it’s equally powerful for each listener, we can make sure that the message touches on some common elements that unite that audience. My ideal client will want to find and rely on those common elements so the message reaches as much of the audience as possible.
  • Give the Audience Credit, But Not Take Them for Granted. Every audience represents a wide range of knowledge and experience. Some listeners will grasp the message immediately; others may need more time, or additional proof, or a different approach. Some listeners crave statistics and facts; some prefer stories and anecdotal examples. My ideal client will respect the audience’s intelligence and want to incorporate different ways of delivering and enhancing the message.
  • Not Try to Speak Like Someone Else. Think of any famous orator — it is unlikely you will think of yourself in that regard — and consider what my speechwriting teacher Joan Detz pointed out very early in my speechwriting career: your audience is not coming to hear that other person speak, they are coming to hear you. They are not expecting to hear you speak like another person or to watch you put on an act. My ideal client will know that they are the right person to speak to that audience, and will not try to present a false impression by speaking like someone else.
  • Practice. You would not perform a concert without practicing, or play a tournament without practicing, so why would you give a speech without practicing? My ideal client will put in the time to rehearse the speech, alone or with me and/or other trusted advisors in the room, to master the material and ensure that they can deliver the message clearly and confidently.

Lincoln, the Orator
Don’t try to sound like Lincoln. Be yourself. (Image: “Lincoln, the Orator,” by Ann Fisher, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

So, that’s what I’m looking for in speechwriting clients. If you need someone who can help you craft a keynote or other important speech, maybe I could be the speechwriter for you. I’m not cheap — speechwriting takes me away from my other gigs, after all — but I’m confident that I can help you whether your purpose is to educate the audience, motivate the audience, or advocate for a particular position or cause. I can help you make complex technical topics accessible to general audiences, and structure your message so it resonates with the particular audience who is coming to hear you.

Let me know if you’d like to talk about writing a speech together, or if you know someone else who might need some speechwriting assistance.

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*In the Air Force, I was part of the Secretary and Chief of Staff’s Executive Action Group and wrote primarily for two different Under Secretaries and one Acting Secretary of the Air Force; at the university, I was part of the Industrial Extension Service and wrote primarily for the Executive Director.

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