Asia-Pacific is vast, and speechwriters are far-flung.
Not for long.
For the first time in history—and at an important juncture in history—leadership communication professionals throughout the region will gather for three days of best practices, candid conversations and useful connections.
In Sydney, 11-13 February, 2019.
Convened by the Professional Speechwriters Association, hosted at The University of Sydney and sponsored by the Asia-Pacific Association of Communication Directors, the Asia-Pacific Speechwriters Conference includes some of the most illustrious speechwriters from around the region and the world, in an intimate and convivial setting.
You’ll get insights on leadership communication in this strange and uncertain time, from speechwriters who have worked with the most eloquent presidents, prime ministers and CEOs in the world.
You’ll receive immediately practical writing techniques from a famed poet, language lessons from leading academics and critical rhetorical cautions from a top business journalist and the head of the global speechwriting community.
And you’ll share the hard-won wisdom of other speechwriters just like you.
Join us in Sydney, where we’ll begin to make this moment for leadership communication, into a movement of leadership communicators—across the region and around the world.
MONDAY, 11 FEBRUARY
Workshop A (9:00-12:00) • Speechwriting for Speechwriters: A Master Class. The former White House aide and dean of American speechwriting Robert Lehrman is coming to Sydney to teach advanced techniques that make good speechwriters better—and speechwriting more fun.
Workshop B (1:30-4:30) • From Speechwriter to Trusted Counselor: How to Expand the Relationship, for More Powerful Results. American corporate speechwriting superstar Dain Dunston has made himself more valuable to his clients by becoming their communication coach, as well. He’ll show you how to make the same transition, step by step.
TUESDAY, 12 FEBRUARY
8:00-8:45 • Registration and Tea and Coffee
8:45-9:00 • Opening Remarks by Conference Chair Lucinda Holdforth, Conference Host Frances Di Lauro and David Murray, Executive Director, Professional Speechwriters Association.
9:00-10:15 • Keynote Address: “The Act of Recognition”—What a Speech Can Do
Don Watson is the most famous speechwriter in Australia because he wrote some of Australia’s most famous speeches, including perhaps the most famous of all, the Redfern Park speech. Delivered by Prime Minister Paul Keating, this speech is credited for permanently putting reconciliation to Indigenous Australians on the nation’s political agenda. In a speech to set the key note for the first-ever Asia-Pacific Speechwriters Conference, Watson will discuss the unique power of speeches to set a society in a new direction.
10:15-10:45 • How One Speech Can Connect the Whole Asia-Pacific: A Case Study
When the head of a Maori trade mission to China stood to speak in front of the leaders of the world’s largest economy, he didn’t mention money, exports or profit margins. Instead he reached back into millennia and reminded his hosts of the links Maori New Zealanders had with China, bonds that were forged in blood, nature and history. And he became the first New Zealander invited into the inner sanctum of the Chinese Government, deep within the Forbidden City. His speechwriter Christine Ammunson shares insights for other speechwriters seeking to connect cultures.
10:45-11:00 • Break
11:00-12:00 • The Poetics of the Speech: How to Write Scripts So Your Speeches Sing.
Speechwriters often work in prosy cultures: stodgy government departments, stuffy corporations, solemn charities. But poetry is only “memorable speech,” according to Auden, and every speech will be made more memorable, even among those who think themselves immune, by some of the magic poetry performs. Writer, lawyer, teacher and celebrated poet Mark Tredinnick shares some lyric secrets guaranteed to animate your scripts and win even the hardest hearts.
12:00-12:45 • Lunch & Conversation with Your True Speechwriting Peers
Speechwriters are your tribe, but your truest colleagues are those who work in your sector or industry. You’ll make those crucial connections at this organized luncheon session.
12:45-1:30 • Speechwriter Crowdsource! Share Your Own Tips & Tactics with the Only Other People Who Can Use Them
In this fun, informal, fast-paced group brain-dump, you’ll have a chance to step up to the microphone and share your own hard-earned tricks of the speechwriting and leadership communication trade.
1:30-2:15 • Talking in Pictures: Cross-Cultural Lessons from a Career in Global Leadership Communication
Legendary corporate and political speechwriter Ken Askew will answer a number of pertinent questions surrounding the art of persuasive cross-cultural communication, and the language of ideas and imagination that knows no boundaries. The former White House Senior Speechwriter and executive communicator for a host of Fortune 100 CEOs and multinational organizations will also share some valuable communication lessons learned from his unique perch inside the C-suite and the halls of the U.S. Senate and White House. The audience will gain invaluable insights into effective communication techniques that bridge greater understanding across cultures, geographies, political divides and social classes.
2:15-3:00 • “What Would You Know?” The Crisis of Trust, What it Means for Speechwriters, and What We Can Do About It
The collapse of trust in elites has major implications for modern speechwriting. Your client may be the CEO of a bank, or the head of a UN agency, or an elected prime minister, but that no longer guarantees that their factual claims—or even their expert assumptions—will be given much respect, let alone win broad support. Lucinda Holdforth, former Qantas speechwriter, argues that we need to get better at telling the truth—using facts and evidence with greater care—and offers techniques that give good arguments more power to win.
3:00-3:45 • Managerialism and the Threat to Democratic Speech—and What Speechwriters Can Do
Speechwriters have got to stop writing—and thinking—in the “managerialist” style, and adopt a more populist way of communicating. Based long observation of how audiences respond to speeches, the speechwriter, novelist and columnist Dennis Glover explains how (and why) to replace statistics, Ciceronian tropes and other speechwriting conventions with concrete words and idioms the average person can understand. Words that make people feel. Words that speak unashamedly to morality. Words that work.
3:45-4:15 • Break, and Let’s Stretch Our Legs
Walk across campus for the last session of the day, in the New Law Building.
4:15-5:15 • Speechwriters, in a Post-Rhetorical World: A Conversation
Joe Aston was a star political and corporate speechwriter. He’s now Australia’s most feared and admired business columnist at the Australian Financial Review—a master of exposing the yawning gaps between high corporate and political rhetoric and the often low reality. In a Sydney Ideas conversation with Professional Speechwriters Association executive director David Murray, Aston will explore the ways modern leaders sell their stories (or fail to) through speeches. They’ll consider the prospects for great speechmaking in the era of fake news, Trump, and the Kardashians. And they’ll examine the profound implications for speechwriters of this moment in which perceived personal authenticity overpowers intellectual integrity, and where, as Aston says, “words have never been valued less.”
6:00-7:30 • Drinks with Other Members of the Discretion Profession
WEDNESDAY, 13 FEBRUARY
8:30-9:00 • Gather for Tea and Coffee
9:00-10:00 • Speechwriting in the Age of Trump: Is This an Emergency, or Just a Wrinkle in Rhetoric?
Speechwriters used to learn on the job, by the seats of their pants. Then, star speechwriters began to teach the craft to aspiring scribes. And speeches got better. Will that continue in the Age of Trump? Hear the dean of the American speechwriting teachers, Bob Lehrman, talk of the dangers—and possibilities—posed not by Trumpian policies but his rhetoric. Long known as a champion of the value speechwriters can bring to public discourse, the legendary former chief speechwriter to Vice President Al Gore, creator of thousands of speeches for national politicians and others and author of the classic Political Speechwriter’s Companion, will inspire those of us who fear the future belongs only to those who twaddle and tweet.
10:00-10:45 • How to Build a Global Corporate Executive Communication Shop
In a profound and accelerating culture change, Nissan is transforming from a traditional Japanese company to a global and multicultural firm. To help drive this change, Tokyo-based speechwriters Traci Carpenter and Steve Silver have deployed a multicultural senior executive bench as messengers and storytellers for the company. In this session, they’ll present a universally illuminating case study from their experience working together during this communications transition.
10:45-11:15 • Real vs Fake Inspiration: Help Your Speaker Find the Genuinely Inspiring Story in Their Life and Work
These days, every speaker wants to be a TED-like talker—and every audience looks for a personal connection between the message and the messenger. But inspiration is easy to get wrong—and when it’s wrong, the cringe factor is high. In this session, author and ghostwriter Lynda Delacey will arm you with a framework for finding the authentically inspiring elements in your speaker’s story. This includes methods for finding the idea worth getting excited about (hint: it starts with the audience), and techniques for shaping stories in a way that genuinely inspires.
11:15-11:45 • Write Yourself Out of the “Speechwriter Box”
“I’m just the speechwriter.” Wrong. You’re the person who puts words in the mouths of leaders and, because of that, you can have a profound impact on their thoughts, beliefs and actions if you know how to add more than just the words. At your best, you can help steer the course of history. But, as Abraham Maslow said, the history of the world is the story of men and women selling themselves short, and nowhere is that more true than with speechwriters. Dain Dunston wrote himself out of the “speechwriter box,” and he’ll show you how to do the same thing.
11:45-12:00 • Break
12:00-1:00 • Closing Conversation with Asia-Pacific Speechwriters—from Conference to Community, How Do We Get There, Together?
Over a light lunch, a freewheeling town hall-style meeting with PSA executive director David Murray and conference chair Lucinda Holdforth about the future of this conference, and this community. Now that we’ve formed this group, how do we use it to get the information, the recognition, the leverage. Bring your ideas and share them in this founding forum.
Former Chief Speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore, Bob Lehrman is an award-winning teacher and novelist, and speechwriter for dozens of national figures. Lehrman writes often on politics, teaches at American University, and wrote The Political Speechwriter’s Companion (CQPress2009), now, with the addition of collaborator Eric Schnure, under contract for a Second Edition.
As a communications strategist at New Zealand’s Human Rights Commission, Christine Ammunson spearheaded the “Give Nothing to Racism” campaign that won the Asia Pacific Communications Award 2017. The former political journalist and ministerial press secretary’s speeches have been delivered at the United Nations, in the New Zealand Parliament as part of truth and reconciliation settlements with Maori tribes, at the headquarters of the People’s Republic of China and down at her kids’ local rugby club in their small country town.
For 30 years, Dain Dunston has provided leadership communication coaching to leaders in many of the world’s high-tech, health care, retail, automotive and hospitality companies. Dain frequently writes and speaks on businesses that are radically disrupting their industries with new ideas and cultures. He is the author of The Downside of Up: A Comic Novel of Outrageous Fortune, which offers a business fable as a leadership case study. Dain lives in the hills outside of Austin, Texas, with his wife, writer and art dealer Jean Compton.
David Murray is editor and publisher of Vital Speeches of the Day, an 84-year-old collection of the best oral communication in the U.S. and the world. He’s the founder and executive director of the Professional Speechwriters Association.
Dennis Glover is an Australian writer and novelist. He has worked for two decades as an academic, newspaper columnist, policy adviser and speechwriter to Australia’s most senior political, business and community leaders. An outspoken political commentator, his books include An Economy is not a Society, The Art of Great Speeches and Orwell’s Australia. His debut novel The Last Man in Europe tells the dramatic story of how George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four. The son of factory workers, Dennis grew up in the working class Melbourne suburb of Doveton before studying at Monash University and King’s College Cambridge where he was awarded a PhD in history.
Don Watson was working as a political satirist when he began writing occasional speeches for the Premier of Victoria in the 1980s. When Paul Keating became Prime Minister in 1991 he took on the profession full-time. In his four and a half years as PM, Keating delivered several momentous speeches on Australia’s engagement with Asia, reconciliation with the indigenous people, economic and cultural reform, and the creation of an Australian republic. Watson’s best-selling book, Recollections of a Bleeding Heart, was an account of his years in the Keating office. He is the author of a dozen books on politics, culture, history, language and travel, two feature films, and regular essays and articles, particularly for the current affairs journal, The Monthly.
Joe Aston is the famed and feared “Rear Window” columnist for the Australian Financial Review. He previously worked as a speechwriter in both Australian government in corporate, at Qantas and Etihad Airways.
Ken Askew is head of executive communication at MUFG Bank in the Americas, serving both head office executives in Tokyo and the hemispheric CEO. Askew is a former White House Senior Speechwriter and an executive communicator for a host of Fortune 100 CEOs and multinational organizations.
Lucinda Holdforth is an Australian speechwriter, speechwriting coach, and author. She works on speeches and high-level communications for an A-list of Australian business and government leaders. Lucinda also teaches speechwriting, communications and rhetoric at the University of Sydney and runs workshops for major corporate and government clients. She is the author of two non-fiction works: True Pleasures: A Memoir of Women in Paris (2004) and Why Manners Matter: The Case for Civilised Behaviour in a Barbarous World (2007).
Lynda Delacey is an author and speechwriter based in Sydney. She has helped some of Australia’s brightest stars in philanthropy, business, politics and STEM shape their messages and inspire global conversations. She draws on two decades of experience honing storytelling skills in fields as diverse as advertising, STEM, fiction, and corporate communications.
Mark Tredinnick—the author of The Little Red Writing Book, The Little Black Book of Business Writing, Almost Everything I Know, Fire Diary, The Blue Plateau, and a dozen other works of poetry and prose—is a celebrated poet, essayist, and writing teacher. His bestselling books on the writing craft are used in schools and university writing programs and have inspired a generation of writers. His many honours include the Montreal and Cardiff Poetry Prizes, The Blake and Newcastle Poetry Prizes, two Premiers’ Literature Awards, and the Calibre Essay Prize. The Blue Plateau, his landscape memoir, shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Prize; Judy Beveridge has called him “one of our great poets of place.” He travels and teaches widely, in schools and at festivals, and he works with the corporate sector as a mentor, speaker and copywriter. The father of five, he lives and writes along the Wollondilly River, southwest of Sydney. He teaches poetry and rhetoric at the University of Sydney and the University of Technology, Sydney.
Steve Silver has spent more than 15 years as a speechwriter. Prior to joining Nissan, he served as Senior Speechwriter for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a speechwriter for former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He also served as a visiting speechwriter for Andre Haermeyer, former Minister for Police and Emergency Services in the Victoria Legislative Assembly in Melbourne, Australia.
Traci Carpenter has more than a decade of speechwriting and executive communications experience, including senior speechwriting roles for former President Bill Clinton and then-Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin. She came to Nissan—and Japan—to write for then-CEO Carlos Ghosn in 2016.
As language evolves in the new century, The University of Sydney is adapting its approach to writing for a new generation of media-literate, globally networked students. The Department of Writing Studies contributes to this important task by helping students, staff and businesses cultivate the digital literacies necessary to turn their writing into action, both in the university and beyond. We join with leading universities in North America and Europe in teaching rhetoric as a way to improve critical literacy in both print and digital communication.
The Asia-Pacific Association of Communication Directors (APACD) provides a peer network for mid- to senior-level communication professionals from all fields and industries across the Asia-Pacific region to discuss and formulate solutions to current communication challenges. It aims to foster diversity, overcome cultural barriers and to formulate communicative norms and expectations, resulting in the declaration of a pan-Asia-Pacific communication culture as a strong voice in an ever globalising world.
The Professional Speechwriters Association offers training, information, recognition, connection and purchasing power for speechwriters and leadership communication professionals. The PSA's annual World Conference in Washington D.C. is the premier global speechwriting event, and each year, the PSA’s Speechwriting School and Speechwriting School Online transform professional writers into professional speechwriters.
The University of Sydney, Department of Writing Studies
Meetings will take place in the Old Teachers College Building
Sydney, NSW 2006
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