Speechwriting: Writing slogans

A family friend of mine is always intrigued by the range of things I do – from my day job to the writing to the dancing and random (and confident) babbling in Bangla.

So he’s enlisted my help to write a slogan (and a jingle! HA!) for a product of his (he’s an entrepreneur). I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement so can’t say much more but have agreed in return for a testimonial (at least!).

I’ve always imagined slogans to be the work of marketing folk – I chose NOT to do a marketing module at undergrad because I thought it wasn’t challenging enough. Little did I know…

So I’ll be updating you on my progress with this!

Random.

Speeches: My first speechwriting gig

After attending the UK Speechwriters Guild Conference 2012 at the Institute for Government, not only did I set up this blog but decided to promote my new skills in the office.

This has resulted in my first speechwriting gig for our Director of Environment and Regeneration.  He will be speaking at the DEFRA-supported Inside Government event Securing the Future of Our Natural Environment” on 15 March 2012 at the Strand Palace Hotel.

I’ll use this post to update you on my progress and thoughts as I work on my very first speech.

Stay posted!

Update

There was a quick turnaround with this speech.   I spoke to the client on a Thursday agreeing to meet for 1/2 an hour the following Tuesday afternoon, the only slot left in his diary before he was due to deliver his speech.

Given ongoing work commitments, we were both short on time so I devised a quick questionnaire in lieu of an initial consultation.  This seemed to work:

Why are YOU speaking?

WHO are you speaking to?

How LONG are you expected to speak for?

WHAT is your “proposition”? – (special thanks to CreativityWorks for highlighting the importance of this to me)

WHY does what you want to say matter?

This helped him hone in on exactly the message he wanted to deliver and, simply, encouraged him to think about why he is spending his time writing and delivering a speech.  Simple enough to focus on his message!

He sent through his initial draft, which was a combination of his ideas and some comments he’d gathered from colleagues across his department.  My job was to structure it in a coherent way and, in particular, write a strong close to the speech.

A weekend of work led to our meeting on the Tuesday where I talked through my suggestions.  In particular, focusing on 3 key areas of work in protecting the natural environment (the ‘3’ being a standard speechwriting tool) and limiting the number of examples in each.  The closing was focused on reminding the audience exactly what he’d told them and, in particular, the ‘take home message’ (recognise what you’re doing and encourage others to do the same).  He seemed grateful for these suggestions.

The speech was delivered and, seemingly, well received as judged by this email:

Eshaan,

Speech went very well – bookings at the comedy club have already been accepted!

Thanks for the advice.

How’s this for testimonial ?

“Eshaan has a sharp mind and knows what works well in a speech taking into account the audience and the message.  He helped me ensure that I got my points across in a clear and humorous way.”

Speechwriting gig 1 a success I’d say!

 

Speeches: Making It Stick

If you asked someone to deliver a 3-minute speech to explain the pentatonic scale with no instruments, you might be tempted to write about its history, the various types of pentatonic scale such as hemitonic and anhemitonic or its relevance to multiple musical genres.

All well and good but, given the technicality of it, how would you make the message stick? Especially if you use no more than 34 words in 3 minutes?

Like this.

The audience aren’t necessarily musically inclined and neither does Bobby McFerrin have any instruments available to him.  But you and everyone else in that audience will forever remember the pentatonic scale.  The audience don’t really care about its history or the types of scales there are.

When writing a speech, it’s obviously important to ensure the audience are given the information they need and nothing more.  If this was being presented to the Royal College of Music, perhaps it might be done differently.

Similarly, there is absolutely no substitute for audience involvement, especially en masse, when attempting to make a message stick.  This has to be practical of course, but a speech which gets the audience actively doing or thinking about something is infinitely more memorable than one which doesn’t.

And finally, this shows that words are well and truly sacred.  With no more than 34 words spoken by McFerrin, and none to the audience (though I don’t recommend this for people actually delivering speeches!), it highlights that the quality of the words you choose to write matter considerably more than the quantity.  A 20-minute speech does not need 130 words spoken in each minute (2,600 words or so…).