Category Archives: Speechwriting

About that presentation…

Rob Cottingham:

Below, some very sound advice on how to keep your next speech from being derailed by a tech trainwreck.

My take? People want to hear your message. Not the piddly in-the-moment travails and frustrations that won’t amount to anything in half an hour, but your message.

You can do everything right: rehearse the presentation with the setup, have a local backup ready to run if the Internet connection didn’t work, and so on. But for whatever reason, sometimes the AV system will have none of it.

The real solution to technical glitches like this, which still happen all too often, isn’t technical. It’s much more fundamental: being prepared to abandon the technological side of the presentation, and fall back to the thing that really matters — your story, told clearly and well.

Originally posted on Key Messenger:

Recently I attended a luncheon speech by a senior executive from one of the world’s leading technology firms. I even sat next to be guest speaker. During lunch, his colleague indicated that the presentation had technological issues: the file wouldn’t speak to the laptop, which was angry at the projector from a different generation (my paraphrasing).

“Oh well”, said the speaker. Someone had to figure this out.

Being a communications trainer, I mentioned that slides and video, while wonderful, were not essential for a great talk. I joked that Martin Luther King never used PowerPoint; I had seen Margaret Thatcher in Parliament and she hadn’t relied on slides…

By the middle of the main course, the guest speaker turned to me:

“Wouldn’t it be funny if the guy from a major tech company couldn’t get the audio-visual to work?”

I said don’t worry you’ll be fine. Tell us a good…

View original 291 more words

Filed under: Uncategorized

The truth, a story and pictures: Dan Roam on powerful presentations

If we tell them the truth, tell them that truth with a story, and tell that story with pictures, our presentations will be extraordinary.

‘Show and Tell’ Author Dan Roam Talks to Marketing Smarts

I’m a fan of Dan Roam’s. He delivered a fantastic presentation to the Nonprofit Technology Conference a few years ago (you can see my sketchnotes here). And his books The Back of the Napkin, Unfolding the Napkin and Blah Blah Blah are terrific guides to using simple pictures to do a dramatically better job of thinking and communicating.

Now his latest, Show and Tell, focuses specifically on presentations. For folks who are sick of stock-photo-laden PowerPoint decks and dense, meandering gabfests, this could be a life-saver. I can’t wait to read it.

Filed under: Presentation Design

One more reason to love Portland: 27 years of speech recordings discovered at PSU

The invaluable Ian Griffin reports on a fantastic discovery by a Portland State University archivist:

a box of reel-to-reel recordings of campus speeches by figures such as LSD advocate Timothy Leary, Robert F. Kennedy speaking a few short weeks before his assassination, Nobel prize-winner Linus Pauling speaking on the effects of radioactive fallout a few months before the Cuban Missile crisis, and poet Allan Ginsberg.

And PSU has obligingly digitized them and posted them online. (I resent this just a little bit, because it costs me an excuse to go to Portland. Breakfast at Tasty n Sons, a day of listening to great speeches and an evening at Powell’s, anyone..?)

As exciting as it can be to read a great speech, they’re intended to be heard — making this find a thrilling one for speechwriters.

Filed under: Speeches Tagged: archives, ian griffin, library, portland state university

Well, that’s one way to wing it in an emergency

When I arrived at Jilin, I found that one panelist? [...] ?had a conflict and had to cancel [....]

But when [the other panelist] showed up at Jilin University’s Friendship Guesthouse, he said he wasn’t planning to talk about Snowden; he thought he was speaking on conflict resolution.So that left me with two hours to fill. And I had maybe 10 minutes of talking points, mostly cribbed from the Vanity Fair article I had read about Snowden the night before.

Ah, but I had one surprise (well, make it two): a Rubik’s Cube I bought at a campus shop at Northeast Normal U.

How Rubik’s Cube saved my lecture and my face

Filed under: Craft, Speaking

I’d like to thank Demosthenes…

After last night’s Oscar ceremony, Nancy Duarte has a few suggestions for any public speaker hoping to outdo Academy Award-winning artists (which is a surprisingly low bar, although there were a few standouts): personal is powerful; plan ahead; strike the right note and watch the clock. Continue reading

Didn’t like the State of the Union? Make your own!

More and more interconnected world, pass the new economy work for them. And found a way that benefits all of its people. Further extending it as due to the several classes, but it is noteworthy that the rights, but the foundation for such a movement as the necessity of fighting the war; or a governor behaves improperly or unwisely, the protection and forbearance among capitalists, farmers, and enables them to be unconstitutional, often inconsistent with power to enter into contracts for the way in which it is possible.
Is supported by a steady decline in Scholastic Aptitude Test scores. Today the brave people of Afghanistan are showing that resolve. Here at home while protecting our country. Enabling a million children learning what they were building a 21st century, protecting California’s classrooms by this country to love and guidance.

As created by the State of the Union Machine (courtesy of the Sunlight Foundation).

Looking at it on the page, it’s gibberish. But try reading it aloud, in sonorous, weighty tones. Drop your voice almost to a hoarse whisper a few times.

And then roll your own: the SOTU machine lets you weight different presidents to get more or less of the verbiage from their speeches.

It’s a bit of fun, but there really is a more serious side to this. A SOTU speech is damn difficult.

I’ve had a taste of that difficulty myself, having written several throne and budget speeches. None got anything like the kind of audience and scrutiny Obama’s got, but the challenges are similar.

You need to capture the sense of occasion, speak to the public as well as the pundits and pols, mollify (if not actually please) a staggering range of stakeholders, and maybe even advance your own agenda… all while sticking to a consistent theme.

The risk of winding up with a grocery list is high (“Trout subsidies? What the hell are trout subsidies? And why do I have to talk about them in a speech about energy independence?”), as is the possibility of a ponderous, gassy collection of vague generalities.

And as you go through draft after draft, sleep-deprived night after sleep-deprived night, the danger of creating something that reads like it came from a verbal Moulinex increases exponentially.

So while the SOTU Machine is a fun toy, maybe it’s also a warning to speechwriters: never let go of the central thread.

Filed under: Craft, Speechwriting

You can run (on at the mouth), but you can’t hide

More than 50 lies, half-truths, and instances of disingenuous spin. Rob Ford’s speech lasted 16 minutes, therefore Rob Ford took liberties with reality, on average, three times per minute. And that was in a speech where nobody asked him about drugs, alcohol, or criminal behaviour.

via Torontoist

One crucial thing speechwriters need to remember: the days of the one-way speech from the podium are over. And even if you’re betting that mainstream media are stretched too thin to check what you’re saying, there may well be a blogger in the audience with the resources to follow through.

In this case, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s speech gets a thorough point-by-point refutation (not just a rebuttal) from two bloggers at Torontoist. If you needed a reminder to avoid the temptation to fudge the truth for the sake of a good line, here it is.

Filed under: Speaking, Speechwriting

How many ways can I say I’m sorry?

The New York Times has strung together lines from notable apology speeches into one big, remorseful Frankenpentance.

Tragically missing, though, is anything from Rob Ford’s rambling, defensive apology from last November. Where’s “I know I have let you down and I can’t do anything else but apologize and apologize”? Or “I was elected to do a job and that’s exactly what I’m going to continue doing” – which would have fit perfectly right after Nixon’s “I don’t believe that I ought to quit, because I am not a quitter”?

I’d say the Times owes us an apology.

Seeking Redemption, Sometimes With a Familiar Ring – NYTimes.com

 

Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: apology, politics, rob ford