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.
I researched some good statistics illustrating the major historical event we all lived through.
For example in the third quarter of 2007 Volvo trucks had 141,970 orders on their books.
A year later – in the third quarter of 2008 that had fallen to 115. A collapse of 99.7%.
I then told a story I heard from a rabbi on YouTube which showed how treasure lies within, not without.
I was quite pleased with it.
But then a chap stood up and he told us a story about an ‘ambitious potato’ called Annabel. Annabel had a dream.
Her dream was to become a mashed potato. Every night she dreamt this dream.
And then one night she had an encounter with a peeler – and the speaker showed how the peeler took off her rough skin and left her naked.
She was then cut in two by a knife. And the speaker cut the potato in half.
Then she was dropped in a pan of boiling water for 20 minutes.
She was then crushed into little pieces and covered in butter.
And then she realised she had fulfilled her dream.
She had been through all this adversity and become a mashed potato.
And soon after that she attracted some broccoli, carrots and a lamb chop and she inhabited a magical new world.
– I have to say it was a brilliant speech, I could never have written: the imagination, the simplicity and the drama.
But this insight was now my my experience – so I could tell the story.
I consoled myself that I can use it in my next speechwriting workshop.