→ Ella Blogg
I’ve been interested in speechwriting since I started listening to political podcasts produced by Crooked Media, a media company founded by former Obama aides and staffers. Two of the company’s founders were speechwriters by trade – Jon Favreau served as Obama’s head speechwriter from 2005–2014, while Jon Lovett was a speechwriter for both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. They offer a perspective on US politics which is as informed and intelligent as it is funny, and piqued my interest in speechwriting as a profession.
There’s nothing better than listening to a good lecture, delivered by someone who really knows their stuff. Luckily for me, the guest lectures delivered at the BSP (or the classes that run in conjunction with the BSP) feature a roster of professionals across the publishing industry, all of who clearly know their stuff.
Joel Deane, a poet, novelist and speechwriter, was one of our wonderful guests last year. His talk focused on his work as a speechwriter, but he looked like a poet (with long curly hair and a patterned button-down shirt) and when he spoke it was evident that poetry was his reason for writing, the thing that he loved. Speechwriting was his day job and one that he credited poetry with helping him to find, as having a portfolio of written work and a writer’s understanding of how language works is what led him into his first speechwriting job.
My greatest take-away from the guest lecture and time engaging with speeches is that in speechwriting the stage is always greater than the page. Five minutes of a delivered speech is roughly equivalent to 500 written words but the success of speechwriting is more dependent on the delivery of the words than the words on the page.
Speechwriting is essentially writing for an audience through an indirect conduit; what is heard by the audience is more important than what is written for the audience. In speechwriting, you are writing for someone else’s voice and that includes taking into account the tempo of their speech and the vocabulary that they use.
The particulars of speechwriting could easily be applied to all forms of writing, which was evident in Deane’s speech and his work. So whether you want to craft speeches that will change the world, or just need some extra guidance in your writing, here’s a list of the top 10 things you should keep in mind.