Who Writes this Stuff?

“(President) Reagan was the most natural speaker in politics, but he was a natural because he practiced so hard. He’s the one who worked and reworked everything and practiced emphasis.”

Peggy Noonan,’ from On Speaking Well’

Considering the number of speeches that a politician or business executive delivers each year you expect them to employ a speech writer. Full-time, part-time, or one-time only. A single writer or a staff of speech writers. Nameless, famous or infamous, speech writers can be either a pen for hire or evolve into the role of trusted adviser. The very best are able to “channel” the ideas, sentences and phrases of their client. They speak and write as one.

Do you need a speech writer? That depends upon the importance of the speech, your time constraints and your audience. Do you need to write out every speech that you deliver? Yes, if if it is important for your speech to deliver an impact and if you want to show respect for the time that your audience has invested in listening to your speech.

Sen. Barack Obama appears to have a natural gift for delivering speeches that galvanize his audience to take action. He also knows how to engage his audience while he delivers the speech – a “call and response” technique popularized by pastors such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. Jesse Jackson. However, I suspect that just he employs a rigorous practice schedule much as Ronald Reagan did. He puts a great deal of emphasis on emphasizing his key words and phrases. He establishes a cadence in his speeches. The cadence propels the speech to a dramatic conclusion.

You might be surprised to learn who Sen. Obama employs as his chief speech writer. You may recognize the name – Jon Favreau – but it is not the actor / writer from the 1996 movie, Swingers. No, this Jon Favreau is a 26 year- old graduate of the College of Holly Cross. Click here to read an article on Mr. Favreau from the New York Times.

The best athletes employ personal coaches to help them to fine-tune their game. Perhaps that is why they are the best athletes – they recognize that need to employ a professional to see what they themselves can not see and to guide them to correct their swing – or their speeches. The greatest hitter in baseball history, Ted Williams, employed a batting coach. So does the top golfer of our time – Tiger Woods. So too, the best speakers – President John F. Kennedy employed the best speech writers and he learned to trust the advice of a select few. Likewise President Reagan – and the results speak for themselves!

Writing a speech is not easy. Even when you hire a top speech writer to craft the words for you, the results are not guaranteed. You must collaborate with your speech writer. They can’t write an effective speech for you unless they hear how you speak when you are not delivering a speech. They need to discover your “voice” and tap into your thoughts and beliefs. And that requires time – time for that level of trust to develop.

Time – we can never reclaim it once it has past. Your audience will give your the benefit of the doubt as long as you do not waste their time. Then they will turn on you! Don’t let this happen to you – take the time to write out your speech. And then take the time to practice how you deliver it. President Reagan invested the time, and he got the results that he wanted from most of his speeches. Shouldn’t you do the same?

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