Speechwriter: Come to Washington and meet the only other people in the world who understand.
The Professional Speechwriters Association is transforming our obscure and lonely occupation into a cohesive professional community. And the PSA's World Conference is where far-flung speechwriters turn into a warm roomful of colleagues and friends.
Hosted by the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, sponsored by Gotham Ghostwriters, convened by the PSA and emceed by Vital Speeches of the Day editor David Murray, the World Conference provides a place for speechwriters and executive communications professionals to hear exchange ideas, solve problems and build relationships.
The agenda of this third annual PSA World Conference features speechwriters to U.S. presidents and top government leaders around the world, Fortune 100 CEOs, and high-profile leaders of cultural, educational and philanthropic institutions.
And between the sessions and after hours, participants will teach and learn, compare and contrast, answer and probe—and laugh and cry—with the only other people in the world who do what they do and know what they know.
Speechwriters and leadership communicators, join your friends at Georgetown.
MONDAY, SEPT. 26
12:00-1:00 • Registration
1:00-5:00 • Pre-Conference Workshops: Choose from Two Workshops Offered in One Afternoon
A Half-Day Pre-Conference Seminar (Optional, Extra Fee.)
Pre-Conference Workshop A: Turn Your Speechwriting Shop Into a Thought Leadership Launchpad
Increasingly, executives are asking for “thought leadership” … even if they don’t know what that is. For speechwriters who dare to answer this call, it’s an opportunity to rise from scribe to strategist, creating a proactive program that raises your exec’s impact, and increasing your own value and job security.
Called "the thought leader on thought leadership” by Vital Speeches editor and PSA executive director David Murray, Pete Weissman will share with you the principles that make him the advisor that thought-leading CEOs want in their corner.
In this interactive session, Pete will share the What, Why, and – and most importantly – the How of thought leadership. With Pete’s methodology and coaching, you’ll work with your peers in the room to begin creating a thought leadership plan in real time.
You will learn:
- Pete’s “Three Pillars of Thought Leadership” methodology
- Where most corporate attempts fall short
- The mindsets required for effective thought leadership
- Why a big idea is not enough in the age of low trust
- A simple exercise to create a thought-leading point of view
- 5 requirements for your “MoonShot Vision”
- Examples of thought leadership to share in your organization
Walk in daunted by thought leadership. Walk out with a clear understanding of what it is, the foundation for a plan, and the confidence to sell it to the boss.
Pre-Conference Workshop B: How to Write Low-Risk, High Reward Humor, with America’s Leading Humor Speechwriters
There’s a reason speechwriters and their leaders want to use humor in speeches. Humor can make a point more memorable, help diffuse a difficult situation, expose the flaw in an opposing idea, individual or company. Most importantly, humor can help characterize a leader as someone people just might want to follow.
So why are so few speeches funny? Fear. Fear of silence. Fear of embarrassment. Fear that you just don’t know how to “write funny.”
At the end of this session, you will.
Humor speechwriters Eric Schnure and Brian Agler will show you how to bring humor to speeches and use wit to make messages more powerful and meaningful. You will leave with the skills you need to get low-risk, high-reward laughs … without getting fired.
You’ll learn by doing:
- The golden rule(s) of humor and why getting laughs means being liked.
- Use the “clustering technique” employed by late night comedians and writers.
- Apply the art of improv—especially when scripted.
Learn how to be funnier than you ever thought you could be—and how to make your boss funnier than an executive should be.
TUESDAY, SEPT. 27
8:00-8:45 • Registration and Welcome Breakfast
8:45-9:00 • Opening Remarks
9:00-10:00 • Keynote Address: How Are Speechwriters to Respond to an Era where Hand-Size Matters and Speech Scripts Don’t?
When Drew Westen wrote the groundbreaking and best-selling book The Political Brain a decade ago, he foresaw and explained much of what would transpire in the Age of Obama. But what (on earth) does the renowned professor of psychology and psychiatry at Emory University think is happening now? Actually, his theory that elections are decided in “the marketplace of emotions” has only been given an exclamation point by the current U.S. presidential election. As he prepares to launch the second edition of The Political Brain, which draws on the results of his testing of a million messages with 100,000 voters, Westen will share three principles of messaging and speechwriting that are true in any age—this one especially. He’ll teach us how to deal with the fact that politics isn’t about moving to the right or left, but about moving the electorate, by any means necessary.
10:00-10:30 • Candid Roundtable Conversation
Previous World Conference participants welcome first-timers into the fold as everyone shares their serendipitous path to this peculiar profession.
10:30-10:45 • Coffee Break
10:45-12:00 • Leadership Communication, on the Cutting Edge
They’re doing strange things at UPS—and they have been for the last several years. Who gave executive communication director Dean Foust permission to find the smartest people from every level of the organization and get them to contribute, first to a revolutionary blog called Longitudes, and then to TED@UPS, which has employees from across the organization sharing ideas that will blow your mind? (For instance, a transgender UPS pilot tells the story of her 40-year journey.) How and why did Foust and his team achieve this corporate cultural breakthrough? You’ll find out. And during a facilitated discussion after Foust’s presentation, you’ll hear from other colleagues about their most innovative executive communication practices.
12:00-12:45 • Lunch & Conversation with Your Industry Peers
Speechwriters are your tribe, but your truest colleagues—the ones who can help you the most—are those who work in your industry. You’ll make those crucial connections at this organized luncheon session.
12:45-1:15 • PSA Crowdsource!
In this fun, rapid-fire idea-jam, conference participants step up to the microphone and share tricks of the speechwriting and leadership communication trade.
1:15-1:30 • Break
1:30-3:45 • Breakout Sessions: Choose from Eight Sessions In Two Tracks
Hone your craft, refresh your approach or tend to your career: You can do both in these practical sessions.
Track I: Yes, leadership communicators should take better advantage of video. But how?
As speechwriters, we all want to humanize our clients. We work hard to find just the right words that will cut through the carapace and help them be seen not as impersonal figureheads, but authentic human beings. In this session, veteran corporate filmmaker Vern Oakley will show how to use video to do that. Drawing on his forthcoming book Leadership in Focus: Bring Out Your Best On Camera, he’ll also share tips on how to help our clients let down their guard, relax in front of the camera, and communicate their vision, human-to-human.
Track II: From pulpit to podium: How to inspire an audience to act (and maybe even pass the plate)
Given his fondness for salty talk and fine whiskey, people are sometimes surprised to learn that speechwriter Andrew Barlow spent seven years in full-time ministry at a mega church, honing his rhetorical skills every week. Having since applied them to persuasive speechwriting for nationally known politicians and CEOs, he’ll guide his listeners through a discussion of the rhythms and rhetoric of the pulpit, and their practical application in your earthly speechwriting life.
Track I: How to (literally) make your speeches sing
Speechwriter by day, cabaret singer by night, Karen Gross has found surprising and enlightening parallels between these two forms of communication. Like singing, speechwriting is about art as much as craft. An evocative line of a speech (think “I Have a Dream”) can resonate as poignantly and indelibly as a well-wrought lyric. In an interactive presentation, Karen will talk—and sing—about what speechwriters can learn from cabaret, which involves performing timeless songs and connecting with an audience in a fresh, authentic, and personal way.
Track II: How to make sure you’re making a strategic difference
For speechwriters, the ultimate measure of whether the speech was effective is, “The boss liked it.” Which is good enough, until the boss leaves for another organization, and you’re running a leadership communication operation that hasn’t demonstrated its strategic usefulness to the organization. Katie Paine is one of the world’s leading communication measurement experts, and she will show speechwriters how to prove their executive communications are making a substantive contribution to the organization’s success.
Track I: How to get freelance work—and money (not to put too fine a point on it)
Over several decades of often thriving (and always surviving) in freelance speechwriting, Colin Moorhouse has become a kind of Pied Piper for freelancers. In this session, he’ll lead freelancers and would-be freelancers through the secrets to getting business. From establishing a presence in the marketplace to closing the deal on an assignment and ensuring repeat business, you’ll learn the easy way what Moorhouse has learned the hard way.
Track II: One happy warrior’s essential survival secrets for a successful, stable exec comms career
Mergers and acquisitions. CEO turnovers. Corporate politics. In a 20-year career at one energy company and a 10-year career at another, Spectra Energy’s executive communications boss Lucinda Trew has seen ‘em all, survived ‘em all, and not just lived to tell the tale—loves her job (most days) more than ever. She’ll share tools and techniques that will help you too play the long game in the uncertain world of corporate executive communications.
Track I: Freelancers and clients, clients and freelancers—matchmaking, and marriage counseling
Gotham Ghostwriting’s Dan Gerstein specializes in matching clients in need with freelance speechwriters who can help them. Colin Moorhouse mentors a network of freelance speechwriters. Whether you’re a client who seeks speechwriters or a speechwriter looking for sustainable work, Gerstein and Moorhouse will share their secrets for creating loving, lasting speechwriter-client relationships.
Track II: Speechwriting for a larger purpose—can we write speeches that have the power to change the world?
What if you, as a speechwriter, could contribute to changing the way humanity sees the world and life? That’s the question that leadership consultant Deborah Kennedy will ask and answer in this session. You’ll learn ways to use language that inspires people to take action—particularly, by altering the rhetorical paradigm from one of “survival and us vs. them,” to one of “workability and cooperation.” Through discussion and video examples, Kennedy will show us how to use language in speechwriting to create futures that invoke in the listener a vision for what is possible.
3:45-4:00 • Break
4:00-5:00 • Emergency Session! Veteran Speechwriters from Presidential Campaigns Tell Us What to Think About this Insane Campaign
Several of the of the leading presidential candidates this year rarely use a speechwriter, and no one seems to listen to the speeches of the candidates who do. Are speechwriters the real losers in the 2016 presidential campaign? Or is this going to be the election that made eloquent, classy communication cool again? Speechwriters who worked on Clinton, Bush, Kerry and McCain presidential campaigns have been screaming and shaking their heads at their TVs for months now, and they’re bursting to bounce their insights off their fellow speechwriters.
5:00-6:30 • Cone-of-Silence Cocktails, sponsored by the Cicero Speechwriting Awards
Members of the discretion profession will drink together, think together, sync together, and clink our glasses together as we toast the winners of the 2016 Cicero Speechwriting Awards.
WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 28
8:30-9:00 • Gather for Breakfast
9:00-10:00 • State of the Profession
We’ll discuss top-line results of the just-released PSA membership survey. Well-networked speechwriters from around the world report on trends in the business in their neck of the professional woods. We’ll officially launch the PSA’s new Speechwriter’s Code of Ethics. And we’ll open the floor to conference participants who want to discuss any aspect of the speechwriting business.
10:00-11:00 • PSA Issue Panel: A Conversation with the Man Who Introduced Diversity to Speechwriting
We know the benefits of diversity in every other aspect of business, so it stands to reason that a healthier speechwriting community would have a far broader range of colors and cultures. But why aren't there more culturally diverse leadership communicators? What might we as a profession do to solicit and encourage people of color and other nontraditional speechwriters to enter this business? Perhaps the best way to start this conversation is to have a conversation, with the first African American speechwriter to work in the White House, President Clinton’s chief speechwriter Terry Edmonds. Edmonds, who went on to enjoy top executive communication posts at Time Warner, AARP, NASA and currently IBM, will sit down with Larae Booker, an up-and-coming communication executive at the Society for Human Resource Management. Drawing on her own experience, Booker will ask Edmonds about his career as a speechwriter—how he found his way to it, how he survived the skepticism he faced as a true pioneer in the business, and how he navigated some of the more subtle but still profound issues, conflicts and professional tests that Booker and other speechwriters of color face today. The conversation is bound to generate insight and we hope clear advice for nontraditional speechwriters, and just as importantly for all speechwriters who hope to do their part in enriching the profession by welcoming the broadest spectrum of people who want to do this work.
11:00-11:45 • Candid Mentoring Session Among Veteran Speechwriters, Young Pros and Aspiring Scribes
There are no naive questions when members of the undergraduate Georgetown Speechwriting Advisory Group—and speechwriters new to the business—mingle with veteran speechwriters, who get a rare chance to share what they wish they'd known from the start.
11:45-12:00 • Break
12:00-1:00 • Do You Know How Lucky You Are? What a Star Speechwriter Learned About Herself by Taking a Leadership Role
Every speechwriter has wondered if he or she has what it takes to be the leader of the organization, instead of the person who helps the leader communicate. One speechwriter can tell you the answer—and the answer is surprising. Annelies Breedveld misses the “incredibly simple and fulfilling” work she did as a Cicero Award-winning speechwriter for the Defense Minister of the Netherlands, before she took on a management role at the Ministry of Defense. She misses her “cool identity,” the tangible results she had to show for her work and the “safe feeling” she had when she was a speechwriter. Her work life now is infinitely more intellectually and emotionally difficult than it was—and in some ways more fulfilling as well. Breedveld comes to Washington to rejoin her old colleagues and share her story with us—and the insights she has gained about how speechwriters might serve their leaders better—and what speechwriters should, and should not, expect from their leaders.
1:00 • Closing Remarks
Andie Tucher was a campaign speechwriter for Clinton-Gore '92. For many years she worked in documentary television, first for Bill Moyers’s independent production company and then for a special unit at ABC News, and is now professor and director of the Communications Ph.D. program at the Columbia Journalism School.
Andrew Barlow has spent his career quietly helping leaders sound their best. During his career, he served as an officer in the U.S. Navy (including a wartime Tomahawk-firing deployment), a PR practitioner, an associate pastor at a startup church that he helped grow from 150 to 3,000 in Sunday attendance, speechwriter to the Texas Governor, Lieutenant Governor and other elected officials and founder of his own communications firm, Overflow Communications. A proud graduate of the University of Notre Dame, he lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and son while his daughters attend Notre Dame and Auburn University.
Annelies Breedveld is head of Strategy & Innovation in the Communications section at the Ministry of Defense of The Netherlands. In her previous role as senior speechwriter, Breedveld won the Grand Prize in the 2011 Cicero Speechwriting Awards for a widely acclaimed and much-shared TEDx Amsterdam that she rote for then-Defense Minister General Peter van Uhm.
Brian Agler is a speechwriter and humorist at West Wing Writers. His humor writing has been featured in the New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Splitsider, and Funny or Die. He served on the writing staff for the District of Comedy Roast of James Carville, and has contributed material to the Alfalfa Club, Gridiron Club, and Al Smith dinners. When he’s not crafting (or cracking) jokes, Brian writes for Fortune 50 CEOs, foundation presidents, and some of the country’s most influential thought leaders on a range of topics including global trade, mobile technology, and the evolution of media. Recently, he was part of the on-site speechwriting operation at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Caroline Neuenfeld works as a speechwriter in Corporate Communications of Bonn-based Deutsche Telekom, Germany. Before corporate life, she was working as speechwriter and executive communicator in political institutions in Bonn and Brussels, Belgium.
For over two decades Colin Moorhouse has provided freelance speech writing services to senior public, international NGO and private sector clients for delivery at venues the world over. Topics have included a broad range of social and economic concerns including: environmental policy, labor and industrial relations law, housing, science and innovation, occupational health and safety, veterans programs, health care, auto insurance, banking and accounting practices, and library and information services. He conducts daylong workshops for corporate clients and provides online classes. His website – www.weneedaspeech.com - contains his various and sundry views on speech craft.
Dan Gerstein directs the Gotham Ghostwriters, which connects leaders with writers to create communications that connect with audiences. Gerstein draws on the experience he gained during a decade-long career as a speechwriter and communications strategist in the U.S. Senate and for two presidential campaigns.
David Kusnet was chief speechwriter for the Clinton presidential campaign in 1992, and chief speechwriter for President Clinton, 1993-1994. He’s author of Speaking American, which is considered the rhetorical handbook for Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign. He has written speeches for presidential candidates, US cabinet secretaries, US senators and representatives, corporate CEOs, labor union presidents, education leaders and leaders of nonprofit and advocacy organizations. He’s a principal at the Podesta Group.
Dean Foust is diretctor of executive communications at UPS, where he uses storytelling tools gathered in a 23-year journalism career at BusinessWeek to run a leadership-based content marketing program that burnish UPS’s image as a thought leader. The initiative is designed to not only reach consumers, policymakers and other influencers, but to bring prospective customers into the sales funnel.
For over a decade, Deborah Kennedy has been facilitating, training and coaching executives, leaders, business teams and management professionals to be high performing and to achieve new levels of success. Deborah uncovers what is missing in ordinary communication to have work environments thrive with purpose, focus, passion and a sense of accomplishment and appreciation. Organizations as well as teams and executives, establish new levels of integrity, collaboration and workability resulting in high-return results that they would otherwise never produce. Competitive advantage soars and people and profits prosper.
Drew Westen is professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and the author of the groundbreaking book on how voters choose candidates, The Political Brain. He’s the founder of Westen Strategies, LLC, a strategic messaging consulting firm to nonprofits and political organizations and a co-founder of Implicit Strategies, a market research firm that measures consumers' unconscious responses to advertising and brands.
Eric Schnure is an independent leadership communication strategist who most recently served as Director of Executive Communications at GE. A sought-after humor writer in Washington, Schnure began his communications career in the White House in 1993 as a speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore and later served in senior communications roles at the United States Department of Housing and at NASA. He teaches speechwriting at Johns Hopkins University.
John McConnell was senior speechwriter for President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, serving as part of a three-person team responsible for all of the 43rd President’s major addresses, including the speech to the Joint Session of Congress after September 11, 2001 and four State of the Union Messages.
An independent speechwriter and copywriter/editor, Karen Gross works with some of the nation's most highly regarded organizations in various industries. In her previous post at the National Constitution Center, she collaborated with ABC television as the NCC’s lead speechwriter and script consultant for the 2014 Liberty Medal ceremony honoring Malala Yousafzai and the 2013 Liberty Medal honoring Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton. As a cabaret singer, Karen has performed at Lincoln Center, in Frank Sinatra’s former penthouse as part of the HGTV show “Selling New York,” and at premier venues in New York City and her hometown of Philadelphia.
Katie Delahaye Paine is founder and CEO of Paine Publishing, LLC and publisher of The Measurement Advisor, a newsletter devoted entirely to measurement topics. She has spent three decades helping companies define success and design measurement programs for their PR, social media, and communications programs. She is one of the leading forces behind The Conclave on Social Media Measurement Standards as well as The Barcelona Principles. She founded two research companies and has written three books. Paine is also a founding member of IPR’s Measurement Commission, a member of the PRNews Measurement Hall of Fame and a board member of the Society for New Communications Research.
Larae Booker is director of organizational communications at the Society for Human Resource Management. She was previously SHRM’s manager of executive communication, where she arrived in 2013 after speechwriting stints at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Lucinda Trew is an award-winning corporate speechwriter and communications strategist. She’s also a bit of a gigawatt geek, having spent 30 years working in the energy industry. During that time she has helped dozens of executives advance business and reputational goals through strong narrative and compelling content. She currently leads Spectra Energy’s executive communications function.
Michael Cornfield, a political scientist, is an Associate Professor of Political Management at The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. He directs the PEORIA (Public Echoes Of Rhetoric in America) Project, an examination of patterns of public mentions of 2016 presidential candidates and their key words in mainstream and social media. Cornfield is the author of two books: Politics Moves Online: Campaigning and the Internet and The Civic Web: Online Politics and Democratic Values, co-edited with David M. Anderson.
Pete Weissman creates thought leadership programs for executives in the spotlight. Pete has worked in the West Wing, the U.S. Senate and for Fortune 100 CEOs. His work has taken him from Davos to Timbuktu. He is the founder of Thought Leader Communications. Based in Atlanta, the firm provides strategy, speechwriting, presentation coaching and training. Follow Pete @PeteWeissman
Stephen Krupin is a senior presidential speechwriter at The White House. He served previously as the chief speechwriter to the U.S. Secretary of State and Senate Majority Leader. On the trail, Stephen served as the director of speechwriting on President Obama's re-election campaign, in the writers' room at two Democratic National Conventions, and as a Florida press secretary on President Obama's 2008 run. Stephen also led the executive communications practice at the public affairs firm SKDKnickerbocker, helping CEOs, politicians, and advocates tell their stories through speeches, presentations, and media interviews, and taught the graduate-level speechwriting courses at Georgetown, George Washington, and American universities.
Terry Edmonds is strategic communications leader for the Systems unit of IBM. Edmonds was director of speechwriting for President Clinton—the first African American speechwriter in the White House. He went on to serve in leadership communication roles at AARP, Time Warner, the Corporation for National and Community Service. He served in the Obama administration as speechwriter to for the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, and as senior advisor and speechwriter for NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
As the Founder, CEO, and Creative Director of Tribe Pictures, Vern Oakley has interviewed hundreds of CEOs and leaders. For nearly 30 years, he has produced and directed short and long form films for global corporations and institutions that have won more than 400 international awards, many best in show. These films have helped launch the world’s largest IPO, reposition “Fortune 10” brands, and raise over $7 billion dollars for academic and charitable institutions. Oakley is the author of Leadership in Focus: Bring Out Your Best On Camera, which will be published in early 2017.
Located at the intersection of business, government, and international relations, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business develops principled leaders with a global mindset to be in service to business and society. Guided by that purpose, we are a business school that produces knowledge and educates leaders to address the most significant challenges and opportunities facing business and society today.
Since its founding five years ago, Gotham Ghostwriters has been a unifying force in speechwriting and leadership communications. Through its important work in helping organizations in need of speechwriting and ghostwriting find the most capable professional rhetoricians in the world, GG and its founder Dan Gerstein have become essential connectors of a once-ephemeral business.
Convened by Vital Speeches of the Day magazine, the Professional Speechwriters Association offers training, information, recognition, connection and purchasing power for speechwriters and leadership communication professionals
Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business
Rafik B. Hariri Building
37th and O St., N.W.
The Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center is adjacent to the conference. To register under the room block, please call 1-888-902-1606 or 202-687-3200 and reference the Professional Speechwriters Association World Conference. We cannot guarantee room availability after the cut-off date of August 25, 2016, or once the discounted room block is sold out.*8/26/15 UPDATE* The PSA room block at The Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center has now expired. Please call Front Desk Reservations at 1-888-902-1606 or 202-687-3200 to inquire about available rooms at the hotel. Alternatively, the PSA recommends The Georgetown Inn, a short walk from the Georgetown University campus. For room rates and to make a reservation, please call 866-344-8750. If you find the hotels listed above can no longer accommodate the nights you need, Georgetown University recommends several other options near campus: http://www.georgetown.edu/area-hotels-and-visitor-housing
From Reagan National Airport, Georgetown’s campus is conveniently reached by taxicab, and economically reached by taking the Blue Line (towards Largo Town Center) to the Rosslyn Metro Station and taking the free Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle to campus.
For local attendees, parking is located on campus in the Leavey Center garage. Parking is $25.00/per day.
For more detailed information on public transportation, taxi service, driving directions and on-campus parking, please click here.