The Speech…tips for the ‘glossophobic’ lurking in us all.

“According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” — Jerry Seinfield

So I’m no Toby Ziegler from The West Wing, but I do love to write a speech. I love gathering inspiration, anecdotes and interesting data and weaving it into a format that flows. I love finding the speaker’s “voice” and injecting their personality into their words. And I love doing this seated at my keyboard.

But for the person tasked with delivering the speech, it can be an entirely different experience. I know that just the thought of having to get up in a public forum to speak can send a person into a spiral of anxiety and cold sweats. I also know that many people would rather not win an award for fear of having to deliver an acceptance speech. But sometimes, it’s just unavoidable.

So what do you do when you’d rather not, but you have to deliver a speech?

Well, I’m inclined to defer to the wise men and women of yesteryear to give a little something extra to my thoughts…

 

Preparation is the key

“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” — Mark Twain

Whether you work with a speechwriter or you do the groundwork yourself, the key to sounding natural and feeling in control, is to prepare well in advance. You don’t necessarily have to read from a prepared speech if that’s not your style, but if you’ve thought through what you want to say, you’ve spent some time developing the language and you’ve rehearsed, it will come more naturally when it’s time to stand and deliver. 

 

Be Yourself

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” — Dr. Seuss 

If you just try to be yourself, you’ll be credible and genuine…and hopefully likeable! And when you’re trying to connect with, persuade or motivate an audience, that is critical.

 

Stick to the time limit

"Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening." — Dorothy Sarnoff
  • If your audience is standing, stick to the time limit. 
  • If they’re waiting for you to finish before they can have a drink or start the food service, stick to the time limit.
  • If you are one of many speakers and the timetabling is critical, stick to the time limit.
  • If your audience is outdoors in the elements, stick to the time limit.  
  • If the audience begins to fidget, wrap it up because you may have already lost them.

Get a sense for how many words per minute you deliver and then prepare the required number of words. Stick to the time limit and the audience and organisers will appreciate it. Or in the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Be sincere; be brief; be seated.”

 

Use language that suits your audience

“Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.” — William Butler Yeats

The written and spoken word is so very different. For speeches, choose language that’s lively and engaging. A speech should sound natural and accessible—you can still communicate intelligent ideas, without using staid academic language. Create an interesting rhythm throughout the speech by varying sentence length, building the story, and using pauses to create tension and anticipation.

 

And just remember…

“There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars” — Mark Twain

Prepare your thoughts, write your speech out in full, and rehearse, rehearse and rehearse—the more you can look up and out and engage with your audience, the more fun everyone will have. It’s okay to feel nervous, but just take a deep breath and try to relax because the audience wants you to do well. Just don’t go imagining them in their underwear…it’s weird and will totally distract you!

 

And as they say in Show Biz...Chookas!

 

A few of my favourite things

I really do love to write. And I love this quote that sits above my desk, because it reminds me that it’s important to love what you do:  

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Of course, some writing projects can be more joyful than others. Some are technical and a little on the dry side, because that’s what’s required of the document. 

But when there’s some creative scope, like if you’re writing web copy, correspondence to clients or staff, marketing materials or speeches, there are a few simple things that can really help you produce more enjoyable copy—and ultimately, make for better reading. 

How to make copy more enjoyable for the writer & the reader 

 

Contractions

Certainly not the ones that come at two-minute intervals, but the ones that combine two words to create a natural, conversational flavour to copy (e.g. don’t, isn’t, wasn’t etc.).

Time

It’s so important to give your copy time and space before it’s finalised. I find that drafting and leaving something for even an hour, but ideally overnight, can give you better perspective, particularly if you’re struggling with certain phrasing. 

Red pen

Every piece of writing I do is printed and edited with a red pen. I edit on screen, but I always take it off screen too. You notice different things when you’re reading offline. Embrace your red pen!

Storytelling

I love when I’m given a real life story to tell as part of the copywriting process. It adds so much reality and personality to the copy and really helps the reader get to know you and your organisation—rather than a straight corporate blurb. 

And

I love starting sentences with ‘and’—it makes sense, it’s natural, and it helps your copy flow. And I love that the Chicago Manual of Style gives me permission to do so: 

“There is a widespread belief—one with no historical or grammatical foundation—that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as 'and', 'but', or 'so'. In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 per cent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions. It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice.” 

Passion

When a client is passionate about their business, their products, their services or why they do what they do, it really shows. I love bringing this passion to life through words. One of my favourite recent examples of this was when I worked with Polkadot Photography. Not only is Hayley incredibly talented (and has photographed the likes of Hilary Clinton & Mark Zuckerberg), but her passion for her work is palpable. When it comes to writing about your business, you have to tap into your passion—your readers will sense it and they’ll want to find out more. 

What about you?

Do you love writing? Or would you rather be doing the thing that you love instead? If it’s the latter, contact me today! 

Words, don't come easy?

Well F.R. David is probably still thanking his lucky stars that the words didn’t come easy. With 8 million copies of his 1982 hit song sold, it seems he may have struck a chord. 

But putting the troublesome language of love aside, when it comes to writing about your business and communicating directly with customers or staff, do the words come easy to you, or is it all a bit hard? Do you struggle to strike the right tone and get to the heart of what you’re really trying to say?

Developing your key messages can help  

Don’t get me wrong. Writing your key messages will also take time, but once they’re formulated, they’ll make every writing task thereafter, that little bit easier.

First, you’ll need to think carefully about your business and work out what you really want to say about it. Your key messages should complement your business strategy and succinctly encapsulate your most important ideas in a sentence or two, per idea.

Different strokes for different folks

You’ll have different key messages to communicate internally to staff, and to external audiences and stakeholder groups. You may even tailor key messages about the products, services or programs you offer to help sharpen your communication focus.

Benefits abound

Having your key messages defined will give you clarity and consistency across all communication—whether it’s web copy, a media release, a speech or a conversation. It will remind you of what’s important and why, and will help you shape your communication to reflect it.

And I assure you, with your key messages developed, it will also be a lot easier to write copy about your business in a pinch, and will help your staff talk about the business naturally and consistently.

Contact me to talk more about developing key messages for your business, or pop across to F.R. David who'll remind you that you're not alone… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTsSk0r_Tq8

 

The Blog: What’s the plan?

For a copywriter, writing a blog should be like taking candy from a baby. Easy, right? Well, the crafting part naturally comes a little easier. But the challenges that any business owner faces when it comes to writing a blog still apply. Namely:

  • It’s on my ‘to do’ list but I struggle to get round to doing it
  • I’ve got too much ‘actual’ work on 

And for many people the big one is:

  • I’m not sure what to write about 

All legitimate roadblocks—but definitely not insurmountable!

Here are my tips for getting started with your blog:   

Think about your audience

First up, think long and hard about your readers. They matter most.

  • What are they interested in? Topics, themes, information, introductions? Brainstorm a list. 
  • How often do they want to hear from you? There’s no harm in asking a couple of potential readers to take away the guesswork. 
  • What are you offering and why should they care? Can your readers expect to have a laugh, learn something, or get connected in some way?

Make a plan

  • Map out your year, month by month, and think about how often you’d like to post. Be realistic. You don’t want your last post to be dated last year. 
  • Think about big events in your company and industry or seasonal activities and how you can match blog content to keep your posts relevant and timely.
  • Brainstorm a list of articles you’d like to write. 
  • Then, revisit the list of topics your audience is interested in. Refine your list.  
  • Put together a calendar with each story idea scheduled so you have a clear plan for the year. This may change as new ideas emerge, and that’s okay, but it’s great to have a full program to work towards at the beginning.

Write your post

Schedule a reminder in your diary each month and schedule time to actually do the writing. Once you’re in the habit, the process will become quicker and easier. So often tasks seem harder when we’re thinking about doing them—but once we’ve begun, they’re not so bad after all.   

If you need a hand to get the ball rolling, to nut out your story ideas or to write your blog posts, contact me and I’ll gladly take that job off your hands so you can cross it off your list.

Thanks for stopping by…

Welcome to my blog on my brand new website!

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This is the place where I’ll post my thoughts on the business of copy, content, working with a copywriter, and all things PR & communication.

There’s a world wide web full of advice, tips and tricks out there. But just like my approach to writing for clients, I’ll try to cut through the noise and give you practical, relevant guidance.

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November is the new January

I thought about waiting until the new year to launch—you know, fresh starts, new beginnings and all.

But I was like a kid in a candy store and there was no way I could resist sharing it the moment it was finished. I love it and I hope you do too.

Of course, excellent content was only ever going to get me so far. I had the great pleasure of collaborating with the very talented Roundhouse Creative who beautifully designed my site. Thanks team!   

For now, thank you for stopping by...I do hope you’ll visit again.  

Sonia