Speechwriters speak out in Cambridge

The European Speechwriter Network held their 16th annual conference at King’s College, Cambridge on 12 & 13 April. This 13 minute video features three top speechwriters: Stephen Krupin (speechwriter to Barack Obama), Jessica Cunniffe (speechwriter to David Cameron) and Lindsay Hayes (speechwriter to Sarah Palin). They describe the aptitudes and skills they needed to work at the highest levels. The video includes clips from the conference and is worth viewing in its entirety, if only for the splendid scenes of Cambridge!

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Announcing: A Conversation with Cicero Award Winner Matt Kivel

Matt KivelOn Thursday, July 19th the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable will host Matt Kivel in a free conference call.

Matt is the overall 2018 Cicero Speechwriting Award Winner for his speech The Power of a Story delivered by Gregory L. Fenves, President, the University of Texas at Austin.

Watch the speech being delivered by President Fenves:

The WhoMatt has been writing professionally since 2007. He started as a freelance music critic, and soon became an editor and writer for the entertainment industry bible/trade publication/newspaper Variety, where he interviewed prominent members of the entertainment industry including Warren Beatty, David Lynch, and George Stevens Jr. (Check out his 2013 review of The Who’s Quadrophenia tour!)

Later on, he took a job at The Aerospace Corporation and wrote speeches for the company’s President and CEO, Dr. Wanda Austin. He is now the speechwriter to Gregory Fenves, President of The University of Texas. He enjoys the mosaic-like process of developing strong written material that can strengthen and intensify the bond between speaker and audience. Matt holds a BA in Economics from the University of Michigan.

In this call we’ll discuss the process Matt used to create his award-winning speech and the lessons for all speechwriters as they write the speeches that will be candidates for the 2019 Cicero Awards.

Click here to RSVP for this free conference call.

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A Conversation with Bob Sands on Sermons and Speechwriting

Bob Sands On June 19, 2018 the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable held a conference call with Bob Sands.

Bob is a speaker and speechwriter who has helped people and businesses tailor and tell their stories for the last 25 years. He has also been a Pastor, Entrepreneur, Coach and Radio Broadcaster.

Currently, he is focusing his time on helping individuals, businesses and organizations clarify and communicate their message. As the President of Sands Communications, Inc., he has given over 5000 presentations himself to every kind of group from Funeral directors to firefighters to CEO’s. He has coached and written keynote speeches for executives, helped salespeople hone their speaking skills and developed communication strategies for both political candidates and elected officials.

The call covered a wide range of topics including:

  • Bob’s techniques for crafting a sermon, most often delivered to a familiar audience.
  • The challenge of preaching to congregations where the common themes of the Bible known to earlier generations have been lost.
  • His segue intro speechwriting, and where he finds most of his freelance clients.
  • The relevance of the study of homiletics to speechwriting, especially the books of Alyce McKenzie.
  • Bob’s use of social media to magnify the impact of his message.
  • What impressed him about David Murray’s recent PSA White Paper titled A Provocation from the Pulpit: Dead Preachers Challenge Living Speechwriters.
  • Breaking News: David Murray announcing the creation of a companion to the well-known Vital Speeches of the Day — Vital Sermons of the Day which David and Bob are launching. Find out more on their Facebook page.

To hear these and other topics discussed click on the podcast icon below.

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Book Review: The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America, by Robert Love

The Great Oom - CoverLong before Lululemon, Bikram Hot Yoga and the ubiquitous downward facing dog, yoga was being taught in small studios in San Francisco, New York and the Hudson River Valley. Just as Lululemon struggled to contain the reputational damage of the ‘sheer pants’ scandal and Bikram Choudhury became embroiled in lawsuits, the man who opened the first yoga studios in the nation back in the early 1900’s was a lightening rod for controversy.

The story of how yoga as we know it came to America is told in a fascinating and very readable book, The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America by Robert Love.

The man the tabloid press of the day branded ‘Oom the Omnipotent’ was born Perry Baker in small town Iowa in 1876. Before he was 20 he’d changed his name to Pierre Bernard, met an Indian mystic named Sylvais Hamati, and attained notoriety by subjecting himself to tongue and lip piercings (allowing his lip and nose to be sewn together!) while apparently feeling no pain in a self-induced trance.

Bernard became a serious student of Hatha yoga derived from Vedic and Sanskrit teachings at a time when most Americans were even more ignorant of religions other than bedrock Christianity than they are today. This was even more remarkable since British India regarded Hatha yoga, with its well-known asanas or postures, as declasse.

Bernard fully embraced the Tantrick (or Tantric) forms of practice that included sacramental sexual union: a massive reputational risk in the Puritanical climate of the 1900’s (or even the more tolerant 1970s, as other teachers were to discover). Despite, or perhaps because of, the success of his teaching in helping society ladies and the idle rich find purpose in life, he was pursued in court and hounded in the press.

Nyack YogaHe moved from San Francisco to Seattle, and eventually settled on the East Coast, first in Manhattan then in the rural Hudson River Valley village of Nyack, where he became a landowner and opened a country club offering members everything from daily yoga to enemas, circuses and all-night parties.

He counted several members of the Vanderbilt family among his patrons. Among his detractors were blue blood families convinced their daughters were being seduced by a charlatan. Charges ranged from indecency (holding classes where female students shed girdles and garters for something more free form, although a world away from Lululemon tights) through to running a white slavery operation (one of the pet fears of that age).

The man who Alan Watts — perhaps recognizing a kindred spirit — described as a “phenomenal rascal master” influenced the next generation of yoga teachers. These included Ida Rolf, the founder of ‘Rolfing’, and Bernard’s wife Blanche DeVris, who taught yoga to Anthony Quinn and Henry Fonda among others.

Bernard died in solitude in 1955, having made and lost multiple fortunes, created a private zoo, sponsored baseball teams, built the finest library of esoteric literature of the time, championed the study of Sanskrit, and much more.

Robert Love has written a fascinating, exceptionally well researched book. He notes:

…what intrigued Americans about Bernard was not merely the Oom notoriety and the flamboyant weirdness. It was the question of whether these trappings of wealth, his fantastic life — elephants, tigers, circuses, Vanderbilt heiresses, and everywhere the scent of sex — might actually be the result of an intense and authentic spiritual pursuit.”

It was, and is.

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Toastmasters International Announces Keith Ferrazzi as its 2018 Golden Gavel Recipient

Keith Ferrazzi HeadshotToastmasters International announced today that world-renowned world-renowned author and entrepreneur Keith Ferrazzi is the recipient of the organization’s 2018 Golden Gavel award. The award, presented annually to an individual who exemplifies excellence in the fields of communication and leadership, will be presented to Ferrazzi during the Toastmasters International Convention, Friday August 24, 2018, in Chicago.

“Keith Ferrazzi is an author, leader and pioneer in the field of networking and relationship-building,” says Toastmasters International President Balraj Arunasalam. “Creating human connections and building trusting relationships are foundational in both Keith’s work guiding companies and the Toastmasters experience, which emphasizes peer support, evaluation and feedback. We look forward to presenting him with this year’s Golden Gavel award.”

As chairman and founder of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a research institute focusing on behavioral science and its effects on business, Ferrazzi works to determine how companies can eliminate behaviors that hinder progress and instead adopt those that foster growth. His research on relationships, along with decades of experience as an entrepreneur and chief marketing officer for multinational corporations, helped him develop his influential leadership techniques for “leading without authority.” Ferrazzi says commitment between people is the foundation for candor and accountability that is critical for innovation and agility in today’s transformational business world.

As the author of the NY Times #1 bestseller Who’s Got Your Back and Never Eat Alone, a regular contributor to publications such as Harvard Business Review, Fortune Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, a much sought-after expert guest of television, podcasts and radio, Ferrazzi has established himself as the premier thought leader for unlocking powerful networks for productivity and growth — both professional and personal.

Ferrazzi now shares these insights with companies and organizations as a consultant and speaker. Most recently, Ferrazzi has worked with the World Bank to bring the Ferrazzi Greenlight methodology and training of lasting cultural change to World Bank leaders’ mindsets and behaviors in service of creating a global movement and delivering faster and easier business results; and to role model the required culture change throughout the World Bank. Open communication is a pillar of his culture change work. “Great relationships are borne from generosity and authenticity,” he says. “It’s not what you can get out of somebody, but what you can give.”

Ferrazzi joins an illustrious list of Golden Gavel honorees, including Walter Cronkite, Stephen Covey, Anthony Robbins, Muhammad Yunus and Zig Ziglar.

“I am honored to be presented with the prestigious Golden Gavel award,” says Ferrazzi. “Toastmasters is a wonderful organization that has helped millions of people develop and improve their communication skills. Joining the group of past Golden Gavel recipients is humbling.”

Click here to learn more about the 2018 International Convention, Aug. 22 – 25. The public is invited to attend.

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The Atomic Hobo Thinks the Unthinkable

Nuke posterFiona Sturges has a great weekly column in the Financial Times reviewing podcasts. This week she highlights The Atomic Hobo by British journalist, cold war specialist and self-confessed “nuke geek” Julie McDowall.

Julie has an engaging Scottish accent, which adds a degree of surrealism to the subject of her regular podcasts: the ways in which Britain and the US prepared for nuclear attack during the cold war. So far, themes have included the disposal of the dead (in Britain, councils stockpiled shrouds); how to keep survivors calm in the bunker (pills, mostly); food distribution; and the fate of family pets.

Certain speechwriters are employed to draft ‘red file’ talks that will be delivered in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Thankfully, those statements have, so far, remained filed away.

To hear how the threat of nuclear war has influenced people to date, check out Julie’s great podcast.

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Announcing: A Conversation with Bob Sands on Sermons

Bob SandsOn Tuesday, June 19th the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable will host Bob Sands in a free conference call.

Bob is an ordained minister and “preaching man”. David Murray’s recent PSA White Paper titled A Provocation from the Pulpit: Dead Preachers Challenge Living Speechwriters states that the lessons in a 1971 book on writing sermons “helped me clarify and articulate my ideas on good speechwriting. And to my occasional consternation, what I learned contradicts some of what I’ve taught speechwriters over the years, and what many of us have come to accept as true about our business.”

Bob will discuss his insights about crafting sermons and how it intersects with his work as a freelance speechwriter. He’ll also share what he’s learned from talking with the bereaved and share his advice for speechwriters who must deal with challenging topics based on his first-hand experience of difficult conversations.

Bob Sands is a speaker and speechwriter who has helped people and businesses tailor and tell their stories for the last 25 years. He has also been a Pastor, Entrepreneur, Coach and Radio Broadcaster.

Currently, he is focusing his time on helping individuals, businesses and organizations clarify and communicate their message. As the President of Sands Communications, Inc., he has given over 5000 presentations himself to every kind of group from Funeral directors to firefighters to CEO’s. He has coached and written keynote speeches for executives, helped salespeople hone their speaking skills and developed communication strategies for both political candidates and elected officials.

Bob is offering all who attend this conference call a TTI Talent Insights assessment at no charge (a $295 value). This is tool he uses with his speechwriting and public speaking clients to improve their communication skills.

Click here to RSVP for this free conference call.

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Fundraising Raffle

Silicon ValleyTo offset the costs of running the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable I’m holding a raffle for three great prizes of interest to speechwriters. Tickets are just $10 each for members who would like to try their luck and support the Roundtable by buying tickets in this virtual raffle. There’s no charge to join the Roundtable, and anyone with an interest in speechwriting and tech is encouraged to join us — no matter where in the world you live. All Roundtable conference calls are free. To support the raffle click here.

The Prizes

Counselor CoverCounselor, by Ted Sorensen. In my review I noted that there’s over 500 pages of compelling narrative in his striking honest autobiography. It covers his Unitarian origins in the soil of Nebraska, to Washington DC and the Kennedy years, to the recent past … The book contains a fascinating number of insights into speechwriting and the role of the speechwriter.

Mighty Voice_CoverEach a Mighty Voice: A Century of Speeches from the Commonwealth Club of California. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you have likely heard of The Commonwealth Club of California from its radio broadcasts. This book is a centennial collection of speeches delivered at the Club. Rich with ideas, sweeping in scope, Each a Mighty Voice immerses you in the anguish, excitement, and fears of the last century: not as history, but as present tense.

West Wing Season 5The West Wing: Season 5. Experience the inner workings of the White House in this innovative, multi-award-winning drama series created by Emmy winner Aaron Sorkin. Martin Sheen, as President Bartlet, continues to leads an acclaimed ensemble cast.Entering its fifth season, The West Wing begins as the President — and the nation — faces the traumatic kidnapping of his youngest daughter, and that it may be the result of his controversial political actions. Watch this season and enjoy the vicarious thrill of speechwriting in the pressure cooker that is the White House.

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Guest Posting: 7 tips for pitching investors, by Marianne Fleischer

Marianne Fleischer is a speechwriter and presentations executive coach. As a Corporate Communications consultant, her San Francisco firm, Fleischer Communications, helps clients think on their feet. She coaches others to pitch ideas, handle Q&A, and stand out on panels, corporate presentations or digital media. Clients include Schwab, Apple, Salesforce, Genentech, DLA Piper Law Firm and Charles Schulz Museum.

Want to understand VCs, angel investors, bankers and your rich uncle? First, make peace with the fact that investors are predisposed against you. 99% of pitches they hear sound like recipes for losing their money. After all, many great companies – Pandora, Salesforce, Pinterest — were all turned down many times before they got funding. Here are 7 tips for pitching investors:
 

  1. REVERE BREVITY: Pitch your business in the first thirty seconds. Many entrepreneurs waste critical time avalanching background data, while investors impatiently think, “But what do they do?” Speak the “What” and “Why” first. Also, have pitches of varying length (1 min. 3 min. 5 min. 30 min.) ready to go.
  2. UNDERSTAND INVESTORS: Start with a vivid picture of why potential customers would give you their hard-earned money. Investors want a founder who gets them. They want a maker who is almost ready for market because they like finding a diamond in the rough and saving the day.
  3. BE UNDAUNTED BY RIVALS: Show insider knowledge of your competitors. Then be undaunted by rivals or history, if you truly have invented a better mousetrap.
  4. BE A HUMBLE PIED PIPER: Explain why you are the ONE to make this happen–now. Investors want a maker-talker who can convince the world – not just them. Show daring and humility, but also show that you seek the wisdom of strategic partners, not just moneymen.
  5. LEARN THE LINGO: Learn investors’ lingo. Master your industry’s patois. Speak the language of finance, marketing and, of course, your industry segment. Money people have heard it all. So don’t stop refining your pitch until you can WOW them. They want to be in the presence of genius, especially if you can keep the “jerk factor” low.
  6. RESPECT THE MONEY GUYS: Even if—especially if—you see yourself as a creative type, show some respect for the money guys. Ask for a specific amount of money. Then break out how you will specifically spend other people’s money.
  7. LEARN FROM EACH PITCH: Make each pitch presentation a focus group for your next one. When an investors ask questions, write it all down. Then deeply weave those answers in your next pitch.
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The Power of Storytelling

I’ve written many blog posts about the relevance of storytelling for speechwriters and public speakers.

Jo Ellision pays homage to Philip Roth, one of America’s great storytellers, in the Weekend Financial Times. The opening paragraph captures the power of story to sway us:

From the villagers tuning in to the troubadour of yore, to the Kindle-reader of today, the best storytelling has a physical power: the swell of awe you feel when a sentence unwinds as beautifully in structure as in sentiment; the emotional tension you feel in the gut. Then there’s the rapture of being so involved with a plot you come to dread the ending — and the mourning that follows. The greatest stories should leave you feeling fundamentally altered. Shattered. Exhilarated. Changed.

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