Highlights from the Speechwriters Conference, Part 4

Here’s part 4 in my 6-part series of notes from the Speechwriters Conference I attended:

Highlights of Make them laugh, make them cry by Eric Schnure and Bob Lehrman

Schnure, a former writer for presidents and high-ranking elected officials, and Lehrman, former chief speech writer to Vice President Al Gore, spoke about bringing emotions to your speeches:

•    Self-deprecating humor and humor in general can be good, but it needs to be on the softer side and can’t be too harsh.

•    Research shows, compared to any other device to open a speech with, a story is going to grab an audience’s attention and is the most effective way to connect with them.

•    Get attention right away
•    Then give problem first – establish a need
i.    Then give them a solution and show that it’s practical and works
1.    Then give a call to action

•    Use foreshadowing and suspense in a speech prior to telling story/sharing anecdote that will draw in audience.

•    Use concrete detail – not just a fact or statistic, but information that proves the story is true, that you were there or experienced the situation.

•    The soundbite that gets remembered isn’t always the soundbite that gets the biggest audience reaction.
o    FDR’s famous inaugural line, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” was expected to get a huge audience reaction. It didn’t, even though the newspapers made it famous.
•    Biggest audience reaction came to FDR saying something about “reining in the bankers.”

•    People appreciate that you care enough about them to do some homework – bring up something local and personal. Kennedy’s going to the moon speech at Rice University included the line, “Why does Rice play Texas…” among his items he addresses with “We choose to do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard.” The audience loved the Rice comment. How did he know that? He (and his speechwriter) cared enough to learn about it.
o    Consider these the “how the hell?” moments and use them to your advantage. “How the hell” refers to the audience saying to themselves, “How the hell did he know that?” and being impressed by it and feeling appreciated.

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