Eloquence – A Treasury of Speechwriting Advice

EloquenceCover‘Punching your speaker should be a last resort’ – this is just one piece of advice you’ll find in my new book, Eloquence – A Treasury of Speechwriting Advice, published by the UK Speechwriters’ Guild.

To put it in a bit of further context, I talk about how being moderately abrasive as a speechwriter can be useful. When interviewing your speaker, they’re often vague about what they want to say. I don’t put it like this in the book, but piss them off and they’ll engage brain. You can always soothe them later.

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The Sad Story of the Eurosceptics


I’ve just finished compiling a new book, Eloquence – A Treasury of Speechwriting Advice.

We have the UK referendum on our continued membership of the European Union this year. I’m in favour of staying in. But it’s up to us ‘inners’ to make the case. So I’ve been mulling over Drew Westen’s Elements of Creating a Compelling Political Narrative which is summarised on p55.

‘it should be a story…that could be illustrated in a children’s book’

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Invitation to Oxford for a conference for speechwriters

It’s an important year for political wordsmiths – we’ll have the American Presidential elections and the British referendum on Europe.Lady-Margaret-Hall

You are invited to the 12th conference of the European Speechwriter Network at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford from 13 -15 April 2016.

Our conferences offer a unique way to understand the challenges of writing speeches by spending three days in the company of some of the top speechwriters in the world.

Pre-conference training will take place on the Wednesday. There are three options:

Rob Friedman, the former Senior Director of Executive Communications for the American-based pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly & Co will be running a workshop on Soup to nuts: craft speeches that persuade, motivate and inspire any audience – and get results.

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Your Own Electronic Speechwriting Coach

Good presentation of manuscripts is a vital part of being a speechwriter. An immaculate manuscript deters meddlers.

You want to impose upon your speaker that to make a change is like pulling a brick out of a delicate Jenga tower.

The whole performance could be put in jeopardy.

A few spelling mistakes and grammatical errors have the opposite effect. The speaker gets above himself and starts telling you how to do your job.

So when you’ve finished drafting your masterpiece, it helps to have a rest for ten minutes. And then go to ‘Tools’ in Word (assuming you use Microsoft Word) and click on the ‘Spelling & Grammar’ option.

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My Worst Speechwriting Experience

This was my after-dinner speech made at the European Speechwriter Network conference banquet at Westminster College, Cambridge on 16 April 2015

I’m afraid to say that my worst speechwriting experience happens on a regular basis.

I’m a member of Toastmasters International – I don’t know if you’re familiar with the organisation. It’s a programme where people can practise making speeches in front of a sympathetic audience – it started in America and now there are branches all over Europe.

We meet twice a month. It’s an organisation that promotes competition – every meeting they hand out awards for best speaker – and although I’m supposed to be the professional speechwriter – they’re all amateurs – every time I make a speech I always lose.

A few weeks ago I entered the international speech competition – winners go through to the final in America.

I wanted to win. My speech title was What I learnt in the Great Recession.

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Do they work?

As speechwriters we’re obsessed by our theories of communication, but in practice hardly anyone ever follows them.

Most politicians out campaigning just do the best they can in the time they’ve got.

Candidates write their own leaflets. They put in them what the party tells them to or what they think is attractive about themselves.

The party leaders use speechwriters, but their approach seems to be to repeat words and phrases until they stick. Since they’re in charge, that’s the way it is.

I’ve been a member of the Liberal Democrats for two-and-a-half years now. In Bournemouth, nobody wanted to stand in my ward for the council elections. So I volunteered.

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Speechwriting Tips for the Oscars

The 87th Academy Awards will be taking place in Los Angeles tomorrow. The star of Crocodile Dundee, Paul Hogan, summed up the purpose of an Oscar speech in a succinct three part list: ‘Be gracious, be grateful, get off.’

The ceremony offers examples of grotesque over-acting, but also some classy insights into what makes a great speech.

1) Gratitude

The most reliable source of inspiration for a speech is the impulse to express gratitude. If a best man realises it’s his duty to appreciate, rather than scorn the groom in his speech, he’ll be fine. The challenge of the Oscars is: how do I express thanks for this award and to the people who’ve helped me win in under 45 seconds?

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White House speechwriter to run workshop during the British Election


Eric Schnure, a former speechwriter for Al Gore, is coming to Westminster College, Cambridge in April to run a workshop titled: ‘Wisdom from the White House’.

The Washington-based executive communications consultant is also a founder of ‘The Humor Cabinet’.

The firm advises high-profile public officials, political candidates and CEOs on their toasts, speeches and soundbites, as well as any other occasions where humour is called for.

Schnure’s workshop will be part of the 10th Conference of the UK Speechwriters’ Guild.

For more details go to http://cambridgespeechwriters.eventbrite.co.uk

UK Speechwriters’ Guild Spring Conference 2015


The tenth European Speechwriter Network conference, in conjunction with the UK Speechwriters’ Guild, will be taking place at Westminster College, Cambridge from April 15-17 2015 – in the middle of the UK General Election campaign.

The conference offers a unique way to understand the challenges of writing speeches by spending three days in the company of some of the top speechwriters in the world.

Pre-conference training will take place on the Wednesday.

Erich Schnure, who wrote for Al Gore, will be delivering a workshop on Wisdom from the White House.

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My time at Brasenose College (with the Prime Minister)

It’s December, which reminds me of the time 27 years ago, I did interviews for getting into Oxford and sat waiting to find out if I got in. I wrote this article some time ago and I submitted it to my old college magazine, (but they didn’t publish). It might be worth reading if you do, don’t or did get into Oxford.

Oxford_Brasenose_CollegeI recently met a young woman who had won a place to go to Balliol College to study PPE at a salsa dancing class. To my chagrin, I worked out that she would have been born after I graduated. She asked me what I did and I told her I was a speechwriter. I met her a few times, and I felt moved to offer some advice: “Read the reading list”, I said, “And don’t, whatever you do, get a Third.”

Having given the advice, it bothered me for a while. It forced me to ponder. Had my time at Brasenose College been a success or a failure? Should I be proud of my Third? Or like the Ancient Mariner do I have a duty to warn others?

We now have a pretext to remember our BNC experiences. About teatime in the spring, I get a call from an undergraduate studying my degree asking how I’m getting on. Eager for vocational counsel, these young fundraisers are more formidable than the telesales calls I normally have to brush off working in my home office.

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