Help me become a speechwriter!
November 6, 2021 4:20 AM   Subscribe

It looks like one of my future responsibilities at work will be writing speeches for C-suite executives. Help me learn how to write compelling speeches for them!

I'm a good writer, and quite familiar with writing for print, web, and broadcast... but speeches are a longer and different format than I'm used to. I will be writing speeches for C-suite executives, given to audiences of people who run small to mid-sized technology businesses. Some people in the audience may not speak English as their first language.

Can you recommend any good books or resources for me to get up to speed? It's a business audience I'd be writing for, but I'm also open to reviewing political speechwriting books or other. Thanks in advance.
posted by catburger to Education (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Expose yourself to poetry, for the cadences. Maybe even read it out loud, or go to poetry slams.
posted by NotLost at 5:58 AM on November 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I used to work with a professional DC speechwriter and there’s a whole world of trade publications that will publish things like annual round-ups of best of the year speeches.

Also, if your speaker will be using a teleprompter there’s some considerations about how to write and format for that.

A group like the Professional Speechwriters Association will probably have a ton of great resources.
posted by forkisbetter at 7:15 AM on November 6, 2021 [3 favorites]

Study classic oratory. There's a master class in speechwriting in every sentence of the Gettysburg Address.
posted by potrzebie at 8:46 AM on November 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Just a thought: As a member of the press, I pick over these now and then for quotes to use in articles. I'm limited by word count and don't want to include various turns of phrase — no one wants to read an extended passage with folksy interjections when they're trying to get the gist. And if it sounds like a statement from a press release, I'll just summarize.

Not that you need to write for the press, but you might read some news articles reporting on this kind of thing and see what they latched onto. It shouldn't surprised you if the only thing quoted is the only controversial or wink-wink item, for instance. Thinking about what might be "newsworthy" may help you keep the speech even and natural and control when and how a message is conveyed.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:05 AM on November 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Study classic oratory. There's a master class in speechwriting in every sentence of the Gettysburg Address.

Counterpoint for negative example
posted by lalochezia at 4:51 PM on November 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Resonate is pretty solid advice about presentations, but the advice works for speeches.
posted by storybored at 7:04 PM on November 6, 2021

Read anything and everything you can by Cicero, the OG Ancient Roman lawyer/orator. His speeches are masterclasses in how it's done, and his books on rhetoric (e.g. De Inventione, De Oratore) include instructional guidance.

Plato and Aristotle have also written pretty well on rhetoric and oratory, but I would skip the Greeks and go straight to Cicero if I wanted a crash course.
posted by guessthis at 3:53 AM on November 8, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks to all who have offered responses so far. I'll start with the trade publications as forkisbetter suggested - seems like some good stuff out there!
posted by catburger at 8:30 PM on November 8, 2021

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