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Speechwriting: It's a process

Veteran Spectra Energy exec comms chief Lucinda Trew recently had to update all the company’s communications “processes.” Before getting serious about the speechwriting process, she got funny about the speechwriting process. —ed.

Executive Speech Writing Process

Once an opportunity has been identified and approved, the following process applies:

  1. Interview executive to determine goal of speech, key themes and timeline. Executives are very busy people, so he/she may not have time to meet with you … will have to cancel the meeting at the last minute … or may have to curb the discussion to three minutes before rushing to the airport. If this occurs, no worries. Just channel your inner-exec and tap your mind-reading skills.  Better yet, have an imaginary conversation, as that will help you in assuming the ‘voice’ of your speaker.
  2. Find a block of quiet, contemplative time conducive to creative inspiration. Such time is rare during normal working hours, so plan on working late in the evening, preferably after a glass of wine or two.
  3. Start researching – stack up piles and piles of data, anecdotes, quotes and other really cool stuff. See how high you can make the stack. You won’t use half of it, but it makes you feel really smart and on-the-ball. Woo-hoo!
  4. Stare at your blank screen for a while. Type a few lines to get started. Delete all and repeat.
  5. Take time to stretch. Getting up to refill your wine glass provides a good little cardio workout to clear the mind.
  6. Return to desk. Admire your stacks of fodder material.
  7. Decide that you really need a good opening JOKE – because everyone knows that executives love, love, love humor and their business acumen is matched only by their stand-up comedic talents.
  8. Laugh your ass off at all the great jokes you’re finding.
  9. Panic that you’re visiting ‘inappropriate’ sites that may get you into hot water with the IT department. Un-Google and un-giggle.
  10. Repeat step 4 – several times.
  11. Eureka – a masterful lead! Only 3,500 words left to go. You got this. Toast yourself generously.
  12. Do a quick scrub for jargon and business buzzwords like ‘synergy,’ ‘win-win’ and ‘paradigm shift.’ Oops – 4,000 words left to go.
  13. Look at the clock and sob. Let it all out. The best literary talents suffer for their craft, after all.
  14. Salvage your tear- and wine-soaked stacks.
  15. Write some more stuff. Yada yada yada. Damn, you’re good!
  16. Over a fresh glass of wine, pause to read what you’ve written and bask in the eloquence.
  17. What happened?? It’s crap! Sob some more.
  18. Take a break to watch some old ‘West Wing’ re-runs. Start to feel better: If pretty-boy Rob Lowe can pen an inaugural address, you sure as heck can master the riveting nuances of hydraulic fracturing. A toast to Aaron Sorkin!
  19. Head back to the computer, refreshed and ready to reboot, recommit and rewrite.
  20. Yada yada yada – yawn …

Take two aspirin, go to bed and wait to be visited by a benevolent ghost (writer).

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