As speechwriting has become more recognized and normalized, it has also grown more routinized and specialized.
And many speechwriters chafe at the tightening parameters of the job—wishing to bring their whole intellects, and not just their pencils, to bear on the increasingly complex problems their clients face.
This year’s PSA World Conference is focused on speechwriters teaching speechwriters how to get more, and give more—take more responsibility, make more contributions and reap more rewards from the difficult and dangerous work they do:
Speechwriters will converse candidly with power, during keynote conversations with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, with the former speechwriter to Tony Blair and with the CEO of The New York Times.
Speechwriters will learn how to become more complete partners to their clients—communication producers rather than mere speechwrights, leadership communication strategists as well as scribes—and yes, better scribes, too.
And speechwriters will learn how to become better negotiators—for access, for ideas and for their bread and butter. There’s even a “Leadership Communications Manifesto,” that one speechwriting team has created for their organization. We’ll read it—and perhaps adopt it, as a profession.
These will be three thrilling days of professional and personal exchanges with the best writers, most effective communicators and—yes—happiest warriors in the worlds of corporate, nonprofit, university and independent speechwriting.
Hosted by the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, sponsored by Gotham Ghostwriters and SKDKnickerbocker, convened by the PSA and emceed by Vital Speeches of the Day editor and publisher David Murray, the annual World Conference is the place where speechwriters and executive communication professionals gather annually to exchange ideas, solve problems and build relationships.
This year, speechwriters will gather to get more.
MONDAY, OCT. 22
8:30-5:00 • Pre-Conference Workshops: Choose One, Two, or All Three
Workshop A (8:30-11:00): How to Bend Their Minds: Move Audiences with “the Belonging Trope.” Rhetoric Scholar Jay Heinrichs teaches one little-known tool that exerts powerful influence on every audience.
Workshop B (11:30-2:00): Create Speeches That Powerfully Land a Small Number of Big Ideas—and Stick. Leadership communication guru, author and CEO of the communications firm Oratium, Tim Pollard teaches an advanced course in how to craft messages that will align with the way the brain works, and stick.
Workshop C (2:30-5:00) How to Write Speeches Your Speaker Will Enjoy Delivering and Audiences Will Love. Legendary (and unforgettable) speaking coach Patricia Fripp teaches you how to structure and script speeches that are easier to deliver and more conversational to hear.
TUESDAY, OCT. 23
8:00-9:00 • Registration and Welcome Breakfast
9:00-9:15 • Opening Remarks
9:15-10:30 • Keynote Address: Speechwriter, Don’t Stay in Your Lane (Democracy Depends on It)
Before speechwriters were called speechwriters, they took part in policy deliberation, in the Ciceronian understanding that rhetoric and democracy cannot be disconnected. Speechwriters must guard against “demotion from profession to trade, from statecraft to prettifying decisions made somewhere else,” argues Philip Collins, author of When They Go Low, We Go High: Speeches that Shape the World, and Why We Need Them. In this bracing keynote address, the former chief speechwriter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and speech analyst for the London Times, will remind speechwriters that democracy depends largely on their success as writers of great speeches, and persuaders of speakers to deliver them. “Too little of what is said in politics is memorable,” Collins says. “It needs to be. Politics is the best idea about government that anybody ever had, or ever will have. Words need to inspire because disenchantment with politics fosters the illusion that there is an alternative.”
10:30-11:15 • Candid Roundtable Conversation—Welcome to the World Conference
Previous World Conference participants make friends with first-timers, as speechwriters share with one another what brought them to this strange profession—and what they’re hoping to accomplish now that they’re here.
11:15-12:00 • How to Turn Your Speaker into a Corporate Rock Star (and Other Speech Coaching Secrets)
In her first-ever appearance at a PSA World Conference, legendary executive speech coach Patricia Fripp will confess: She has never sat down and written a complete speech script. Yet she has the ability to turn shy, brilliant engineers and reluctant speakers into exciting, effective presenters. And she knows how to help their speechwriters do the same. After Patricia’s entertaining and thought-provoking presentation, you will know how to get your speakers off script and sounding natural … prepare a script so that it’s easier to deliver … and mine the treasure trove of content from your speaker’s life. You’ll leave this session knowing how to help the audience see the person behind the position.
12:00-12:45 • Lunch & Conversation with Your True Speechwriting Colleagues
Speechwriters are your tribe, but your truest colleagues—the ones who can help you the most—are those who work in your industry or sector. You’ll make those crucial connections at this organized luncheon session.
12:45-1:15 • Speechwriter Crowdsource! Share Your Own Tips & Tactics
This session is one reason PSA conference-goers are not called “attendees,” but participants. In this fun, fast-paced idea-jam, 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.
1:15-1:30 • Break
1:30-3:30 • Breakout Sessions, for Your Craft & Career: Eight Sessions in Two Tracks
Career Track: No More One and Done! Three Keys to Retaining Clients for Years
Speechwriters seek to find the speaker who can transform their words and vision into a remarkable, and memorable performance. Then, like the highest caliber coach whose star sophomore bolts for the pros, they’re left searching for their next superstar. Not Kathleen Hessert, who has been writing for retired NFL quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning for 22 years. Join the Cicero Award-winning speechwriter as she shares her secrets to cultivating lasting relationships with in-demand speakers. (Here’s a clue: it’s not just your words that count.)
Craft Track: How to Make a Good Speech into a Multimedia Masterpiece
Faced with a fundraising challenge, Cleveland MetroHealth System’s executive communication manager Diane Suchetka was inspired by the beautiful and provocative documentary “I Am Not Your Negro.” She hired an award-winning news photographer and a documentary film director to put together a presentation that left its annual meeting audience in tears (the good kind) and convinced at least a few of them to support the nearly forgotten institution. See what she did, how she did it—and how you can, too.
Career Track: Internal Speechwriting: An Argument for Devoting Your Talents to Helping Leaders Communicate with Employees
Lots of speechwriters hate doing exec comms for employee audiences. Anne Swanson loves it—and she thinks you could love it too, if you specialized in it as she does, at Northrop Grumman. “I am privileged to be in a position to convey the CEO’s messages to his employees and convey employees’ needs and concerns (and feedback) to the CEO.” She’s forged a partnership with the director of internal communication and the CEO, and she thinks she adds a lot of value to the organization in her role. Hear her out, and maybe you’ll hear the same calling.
Craft Track: Open Your Eyes: Data Visualization for Speechwriters
As a speechwriter, you’ll agonize over a single word. Why take whatever pie chart or bar graph Excel spits out by default? Whether your speaker wants to be a multimedia rock star or just make an understated but powerful point, you can make effective choices about how to visualize data—even if you aren’t an artist. Dr. Vincent Rhodes, Chief Communication & Marketing Officer at Eastern Virginia Medical School, will open your eyes to innovative uses of data visualization and share simple tips for improving even the most mundane charts and graphs.
Career Track: The Lazarus Effect—On Your Speaker’s Relationship with the Audience, and Your Relationship with Your Speaker
The first draft has every point that your principal wanted to make and yet … it reads lifeless. You need to bring that speech to life, so that your principal feels the thrill and satisfaction of transforming, engaging, and feeding off audiences rather than simply talking at them. From Desson Thomson, former State Department speechwriter and now exec comms director for the Motion Picture Association of America, you’ll learn how to bring “the 6-D effect” to your speech—and change your approach to research and humor—to make every speech a blueprint for elevation, for your principal and the audience alike.
Craft Track: Commencement Speechwriting 101: Learn to Tackle the Toughest Type of Speech
Aaron Hoover has made lots of mistakes and lost even more sleep writing well over a dozen commencement speeches as a longtime university speechwriter. But his experience has also taught him how to make the job easier, and the product better. With nine Cicero Speechwriting Awards, including two for commencements, he knows what the best commencement speeches share in common—and he’ll teach you the speechwriting tricks that will help you bring those qualities to your own speech. And add “commencement speechwriter” to your professional skill set.
Career Track: Seven Steps to Building a Strategic, Impactful Executive Speaker Program
How do you secure featured speaking opportunities for your organization’s executives in order to raise brand visibility? This session will provide a seven-step speechwriter’s guide to creating an executive speaker program without spending all of your time on deadlines, dates and details. From veteran speaking platform expert Amy Scarlino, you’ll learn how to develop an appropriate target event list, pitch top conferences, evaluate speaking invitations, and manage speakers’ expectations. Whether you have yet to establish a speaker program or are struggling to make your current program run efficiently, you will walk away from this presentation with more confidence and control over the process.
Craft Track: How to Win the Big Frame, and Rename the Game
Every speechwriter knows that to win on an issue, you need to win the frame. Whether it’s a political cause (pro-life/pro-choice? anti-environment/pro-job) or the economy (crash/correction) or, heck, sports (loser season/rebuilding year)—the frame puts you on the higher ground. As a persuasion consultant whose clients Kaiser Permanente, NASA, and the nation’s leading universities, Jay Heinrichs will show you how to use framing in your key speeches, while guiding clients into greater persuadability. What’s more, you’ll leave with a personal bonus: how to use framing to reverse your own age. Seriously.
3:45-4:00 • Break
4:00-5:15 • From the Beginning: The Making of One Very Fruitful Friendship Between a Writer and a Client
Speechwriter Trey Brown didn’t quite know what he was getting into when he came on as a speechwriter to Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper. Clapper didn’t know what he was getting into, either. Over the next several years, Brown and Clapper pushed and dared one another to say things that had never been said on subjects that had never been publicly addressed by an intelligence official. Their collaboration led to Clapper-delivered speeches with unlikely titles like the “Why Black Lives Matter to U.S. Intelligence,” which won a Cicero Speechwriting Award last year. The two grew so close that when Clapper retired, he lured his speechwriter to leave his relatively cushy government job to partner on his memoir, Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life of Intelligence. What they both learned from the time they met to the time they finished their memoir, they’ll share with us, in a candid conversation moderated by Stephen Krupin, director of the Executive Communications practice at SKDKnickerbocker.
5:30-7:00 • Cone-of-Silence Cocktails … sponsored by the Cicero Speechwriting Awards
In wine there is truth—and when speechwriters get together, there is trust. Members of the Discretion Profession will tell one another stories, and celebrate one another’s success—as we toast the winners of the 2018 Cicero Speechwriting Awards.
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 24
8:30-9:00 • Gather for Breakfast
9:00-10:30 • State of the Profession and Issue Panel: Speechwriters Seeking More
PSA Executive Director David Murray reveals results of a new PSA membership survey, on what speechwriters want—responsibility, influence, access, trust, or money—and what they’re willing to do to get it.
Gotham Ghostwriters boss Dan Gerstein offers a research-based rant on why speechwriters must stop under-charging for their services—not only for their own interests, but for the sake of their speechwriting colleagues and good of the profession.
UPS exec comms manager Janet Stovall tells how she builds “a real relationship with my speakers” through combination of corporate diplomacy, intellectual firmness and personal service. And she’ll talk about how those relationships fit into a remarkable exec comms climate at UPS.
Speechwriters are on the make all over the world, as we’ll learn from a panel of speechwriters from outside North America.
And the speechwriters at the American Medical Association share a “Leadership Communications Manifesto,” that they wrote, designed to explain to AMA execs how speechwriting is supposed to work—what they can expect from speechwriters, and what speechwriters have every right to expect from them. We’ll discuss the Manifesto’s merits …
… and open this up to a freewheeling all-conference conversation about where speechwriting is headed—and what speechwriters can do to steer it.
10:30-11:15 • Mentorship Mixer: Seasoned Speechwriters Advise Aspiring Scribes
There are no naive questions when the would-be speechwriters who comprise the undergraduate Georgetown Speechwriting Advisory Group mingle with professional speechwriters, who get a rare and happy chance to share what they wish they'd known from the start.
11:15-11:30 • Break
11:30-12:15 • Back to the Big Picture: The State of Global Rhetoric, and What Speechwriters Can Do About It
New York Times CEO Mark Thompson wrote Enough Said: What’s Gone Wrong With the Language of Politics? And James Fallows reviewed it. Fallows, the former Carter White House speechwriter and longtime Atlantic contributor, will sit down with Thompson. From the ancient Greeks to the modern-day messaging geeks, they’ll discuss the implications of Thompson’s central lament, “The art of persuasion, once the grandest of the humanities and accessible at its highest level only to those of genius—a Demosthenes or a Cicero, a Lincoln or a Churchill—is acquiring many of the attributes of a computational science. Rhetoric not as art but as algorithm.” We’ll discuss how a speechwriter—indeed, the whole speechwriting profession—should respond.
12:15 • Closing Remarks
Aaron Hoover is an award-winning speechwriter and the director of executive communications at the University of Florida President’s Office, where he writes speeches and produces presentations, videos, social media content and other communications.
As President and Chief Executive Officer, Amy Scarlino is responsible for the strategic direction and management of Scarlino Speaker Strategies, LLC. Prior to forming the agency, Ms. Scarlino was President and CEO of The Catchpole Corporation. She held several positions within Catchpole during her more than 13 years with the company, including Chief Operating Officer, Director of Client Services, and Senior Account Executive. Ms. Scarlino has managed the corporate speaker programs and executive visibility initiatives for companies such as VMware, PBS, BASF, Trend Micro, Microsoft, Verizon and The Weather Channel.
Anne Swanson is manager, executive and international communication for Northrop Grumman. After beginning her career as a TV news reporter, producer and anchor, she later worked in the Press Office of former Texas Gov. George W. Bush, where she advanced events, traveled as press aide, served as spokesperson, and wrote talking points for the governor in the year prior to his formal run for the White House. Anne joined the 2000 Bush for President campaign as press secretary for Laura Bush, a job that included writing speeches, correspondence and editorials, as well as traveling with the first lady of Texas on the campaign trail. She later worked as speechwriter for Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander and as director of communication for the March of Dimes before joining Northrop Grumman in 2003.
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 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. Murray co-wrote the New York Times-bestselling memoir Tell My Sons (Random House, 2013), and also a memoir about his advertising copywriter parents, Raised By Mad Men. His journalism has appeared in publications and media outlets including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, Advertising Age, and Chicago Public Radio. He blogs daily at writingboots.typepad.com, where he offers “unprofessional commentary on professional communication and professional commentary on unprofessional communication.”
Desson Thomson worked for 25 years at The Washington Post, one of the paper’s longest serving movie critics. After leaving the Post in 2008, he reinvented himself as a speechwriter. In 2010, he became a speechwriter in the administration of President Barack Obama. His jobs as a speechwriter have included writing for the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom; working in the Policy Planning Office of the U.S. Department of State as a speechwriter for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and working for the Secretary of Commerce, an Undersecretary and Assistant Secretary of State. He is currently, Director of Executive Communications for the Motion Picture Association of America, writing speeches for Chairman and CEO Charles H. Rivkin. A communicator on many levels, Desson is also a longtime singer and musician, a screenwriter, and a music promoter.
Diane Suchetka has been writing speeches for the CEO of The MetroHealth System, the public health system in Cleveland, since 2014. Before that, she wrote for the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina and The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. Her storytelling won the inaugural MOLLY National Journalism Prize and landed her on the finalists list for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing. When she’s not working, she dabbles in documentary filmmaking.
James Clapper served as the fourth United States Director of National Intelligence—the United States' top intelligence officer and President Obama's senior intelligence advisor—from 2010 until 2017. Beginning his career as an enlisted Marine Corps reservist in 1961, Clapper eventually became a three-star Air Force lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, retiring from uniformed service in 1995. In 2007 he was appointed the Pentagon's top intelligence official, serving under both the Bush and Obama administrations. In 2010, President Obama appointed Clapper to lead the US intelligence community as DNI.
James Fallows served as Chief Speechwriter to President Carter. He is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States. His latest book is China Airborne.
Janet Stovall is Manager, Executive Communications at UPS, where she serves as speechwriter for the CEO and top leadership. Prior to joining UPS, she founded and ran for more than 20 years an independent writing consultancy, The Point Communications. She is a multiple Cicero-award winner, and an upcoming TED speaker. Janet is committed to furthering open, culturally competent – and courageous – executive communications.
Jay Heinrichs is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion. The book has been published in 11 languages and used in more than 3,000 colleges. It’s one of the top ten books assigned to students at Harvard. He is a professor of the practice of Rhetoric and Oratory at Middlebury College. A consultant specializing in persuasive engagement, he has led persuasion strategies for clients including Southwest Airlines, Kaiser Permanente, Walmart, and NASA. He has led workshops for the European Speechwriters Association, Ogilvy UK, and numerous others. His latest book, How to Argue with a Cat, will be published by Hearst this June.
For 30 years, Kathleen Hessert has stood out as a thought leader. She was the first woman to solo anchor a primetime news program in New York State; first woman pit reporter on ESPN, and introduced media training to college sports with the iconic Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football team. An early adopter of social media, in 2007 Kathleen launched NBA great Shaquille O’Neal on Twitter. In 2015, she orchestrated the social media campaign on behalf of the Vatican and Pope Francis’ trip to the U.S. and introduced the first ever Pope Emoji. But one of her most cherished accomplishments is being able to sustain a 22-year speechwriting relationship with prolific public speaker and NFL great, Peyton Manning.
Mark Thompson is President & Chief Executive Officer of The New York Times Company. He’s author of Enough Said: What’s Gone Wrong with the Language of Politics?, based on lectures he gave as a visiting professor of Rhetoric and the Art of Public Persuasion at the University of Oxford.
Executives who want their message to be memorable and their presentations powerful call Patricia Fripp. For over 30 years she has helped executives, engineers, scientists, speechwriters, and ambitious professionals gain a competitive edge through their powerful, persuasive presentation skills. Meetings and Conventions magazine named her “One of the 10 most electrifying speakers in North America.” The National Speakers Association elected Patricia their first female president, and she has won the Cavett, NSA’s highest honor and considered the Oscar of the speaking world. Her clients include Genentech, Nutanix, Concur, First American, Cisco, Visa, Microsoft, SAP, American Payroll Association, and the Wounded Warrior Project. Patricia Fripp is now virtually everywhere with her online presentation-skills training at www.FrippVT.com.
Philip Collins is a columnist on The Times, Associate Editor of Prospect magazine and Professor of Rhetoric at Middlesex University in London. He was, until 2007, Chief Speech Writer to the Prime Minister Tony Blair in 10 Downing Street and since then he has been Chief Executive of the speech writing agency High Windows which has a set of distinguished corporate and charitable clients. Mr. Collins is the author of two books on speeches. The Art of Speeches and Presentations is a manual for speaking well. His most recent book When They Go Low, We Go High is a defense of liberal democracy written through some of the greatest speeches ever given.
Stephen Krupin helps leaders tell the authentic stories they need to tell in order to sell the ideas they want to sell. He served as a senior speechwriter to President Obama in the White House and as chief speechwriter to Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He leads the executive communications practice at SKDKnickerbocker and teaches speechwriting at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Tim Pollard is the founder and CEO of Oratium, the author of The Compelling Communicator: Mastering the Art and Science of Exceptional Presentation Design, and a regular columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, and other publications. Having designed and delivered thousands of complex presentations to boards, national conferences, and executive committees, Tim has always sought to understand and capture the underlying “science” of extraordinary communication. The result of this journey has been the development of the unique set of tools and processes employed by Oratium and provided in The Compelling Communicator.
Trey Brown served as Speechwriter for the Director of National Intelligence and Principal Deputy DNI from 2010 until 2017. He wrote Cicero Speechwriting Award-winning speeches for Director James Clapper, and co-authored Clapper's memoir, Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life of Intelligence. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and St. John's College, Annapolis, Md., Trey was a Navy helicopter pilot and then a Naval Academy English instructor before embarking on a communications career.
Vincent Rhodes helps senior leaders distill compelling stories and deliver them (when needed) with evocative presentations. As an educator and national speaker, Rhodes speaks passionately about marrying carefully crafted words with powerful visuals. As Chief Communication & Marketing Officer for Eastern Virginia Medical School, Rhodes oversees executive and corporate communications, public and media relations, digital media, marketing and creative services. He works with a talented team to find innovative solutions to communication challenges and produce award-winning results. Previously, Rhodes served as Communications Manager and Clerk of the School Board for Norfolk Public Schools, the largest urban school system in Virginia and one of the 150 largest school systems nationwide.
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 seven 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.
SKDK brings unparalleled strategic communications experience to companies, campaigns, and causes. Through speechwriting, media training, and message development, the strategists and writers in our executive communications practice have helped high-profile thinkers shape and share their ideas on the biggest stages and best-read pages—from the White House and World Economic Forum to “The Daily Show” and “60 Minutes” and in cover stories and opinion pieces seen around the globe.
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 click here to book online or 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 September 20, 2018, or once the discounted room block is sold out.If you find the hotel 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.