The privilege and paradox of political speechwriting

The privilege and paradox of political speechwriting

Speechwriting can be a lonely job. This is often a reflection of resources – not many organisations have the privilege of employing a team of writers to pen the spoken word of their top people. It’s also a reflection of the nature of the role. All speechwriters know that the surest way to kill creativity (and often logic) in the speechwriting flow is to ‘write by committee’. Having one person (ideally the speechwriter!) hold the pen in the speechwriting process is the optimum way to ensure continuity of flow and style.

However, while having sole charge of the process may produce the best results, it can also ensure a pretty lonely professional life. With a background in PR and communications, I know that a career in speechwriting is a far cry from the teamwork involved in organising an event or managing a project for instance. There’s nobody to bounce ideas off or just give a sense check to your string of metaphors.

That’s why events like the European Speechwriters’ Conference are a welcome relief for many of us. I had the privilege of attending the last conference, held in Paris on 26-27 September, as a speaker, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being on the ‘other’ side of the podium – getting to know how the people I write for feel when speaking before an audience.

However, even more enjoyable were all the interactions with other members of the Network from across Europe. I don’t think it matters how long one has been writing speeches – having the chance to share experiences with other writers is a form of mutual therapy. Whether we write for politicians, business people, bankers or academics, we often face the same kinds of challenges, and we can all learn from each other – whether it’s about dealing with over-sized egos, or translating technical jargon into compelling rhetoric.

As I mentioned in my talk, one of the paradoxes of being a speechwriter, is that while being prepared to work alone, one should also be a good networker. Thankfully, events like these, give us speechwriters the opportunity to flex both sets of our metaphorical muscles!

You can listen to my 14-minute talk here.

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