Booch News

In November 2018 I launched a new blog.

Booch News is the premier source for independent news about all aspects of the kombucha industry — the beverage that is taking the world by storm.

It offers an in-depth look into the kombucha industry,  discusses the latest trends, marketing techniques, news, profiles, and other topics related to kombucha.

I’ll still post occasional updates to Professionally Speaking, but most of my attention these days is on Booch News. Meanwhile, the 900+ posts and 100+ podcast interviews on this site will remain as an archive of useful information.

Speechwriting in the Zoom era

Jeff Nussbaum and Kate Childs Graham, the 2020 Democratic convention speechwriters, have written a fascinating article in the Washington Post detailing how the ‘Zoom era’ has radically transformed political speechwriting.

While this probably won’t cause Bob Lehrman to tear up the guidance in his excellent book The Political Speechwriter’s Companion, it shows how the future of political rhetoric has been affected by the pandemic that required the prerecorded speakers at the convention to deliver speeches without a stage, an arena, or a live audience.

More is less

Nussbaum and Graham list the speechwriting techniques they used to script remarks for maximum impact, including:

  • Speaking at 150-170 words per minute vs. the 125 typical when speakers in front of a live audience pause for laughter or applause.
  • Cutting extraneous content to fit in tight 2 1/2 minute timeframes (the average length of a speech at this virtual convention).
  • Dropping the rhetorical techniques of “call-and-response” or “litany” (eg. ending each section with a phrase like “Yes, we can.”)
  • Delivering the headline message upfront, not burying the message in a lengthy speech.
  • Dealing with the loss of the lectern — as TED talks have. Absent that visual crutch bestowing authority on the speaker, the venue supplemented the message: Kasich at the crossroads; Jill Biden in the classroom she once taught in.
  • Invoking feelings via storytelling “As neuroscientist Antonio Damasio once put it, humans are feeling machines that think, not thinking machines that feel.” Hence the more memorable remarks were delivered by everyday people — the young man who stuttered, the lady whose father had believed Trump’s message on COVID-19 and died for his beliefs.

Michelle

Ironically, the one speech the professional writers did not script was the one many consider among the most powerful — delivered by Michelle Obama. The authors note:

She didn’t speak to 20 million television viewers: she spoke to one viewer in an intimate conversation that happened to take place 20 million times.

Recommended: Korean Romantic Dramas

These are unusual times. A challenge we all face as the minimize the spread of the coronavirus is how to stay healthy and sane in the growing regions of the world where we’ve been asked to stay indoors.

An antidote to the ‘self-isolation blues’ is to lose yourself in a good TV series. Apologies to anyone who has already found the genre of ‘K-Dramas’ but there’s a vast number of ‘Korean Romantic Dramas’ available on Netflix.

My wife and I have just discovered Something in the Rain which is a classic ‘boy meets girl’ chick-flick wrapped in bizarre scenes of drunken office workers singing karaoke; Tiger Mom’s who put Felicity Huffman & Lori Loughlin to shame; drunken girlfriends out on the town who just wanna have fun; creepy salarymen who predate #MeToo by about 1,000 years behaving badly; and a parade of fashionably dressed young people wearing winter coats that would be at home on the Upper West Side in Manhattan.

It segues into an awesome soundtrack (check it out on Spotify) featuring (I kid you not) two versions of ‘Stand by Your Man’ sung by past-French-President Nicolas Sarkozy’s wife Carla Bruni and a second by Tammy Wynette; first The Cats and then Bruce Willis’s version of ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’ (but not the quintessential one by The Deighton Family of their glorious Rolling Home album–in itself an antidote to isolation); and Daydream Believer by Mary Beth Maziarz.

But wait, there’s more! it’s educational. In every scene filmed in a car, there’s a dashboard camera attached to the rear-view mirror. Apparently “South Korean cars have them as a deterrent for scammers who throw themselves onto the windscreens of slow-moving cars in a bid to claim insurance money. … The vast majority of South Korean car owners use them — primarily for insurance purposes.” Who knew?

Highly recommended — it’s sure to warm your Seoul (geddit?)

Reimagining Conferences

At a time when the COVD-19 novel coronavirus is causing conferences around the world to be canceled or postponed, it’s more important than ever to take a long hard look at the fundamental ways that large gatherings for professional purposes are structured.

For too long, organizers have tried to cram a full schedule of keynotes, panel discussions, and mixers onto schedules. While these may look good on paper, they leave everyone dazed, unable to absorb a tsunami of data or to remember much of what they’ve heard when they get back home.

Writing in Forbes, Lital Moram challenges conventional wisdom about the organization of typical conferences. Technology has long-promised audiences new access to content and a backchannel for peer-to-peer communication in the face of the person on the podium.

She offers five suggestions for a timely reimagining of the way conferences are structured.

Less is More

Rather than larding the agenda with every minute filled, recognize people need time to discuss what they’ve heard. Downtime is valuable.

But wait, there’s more. Why not do away with an agenda altogether?

I was introduced to Open Space Technology 14 years ago at an NSA Northern California meeting. However, none of the major tech companies I worked for dared to embrace anything as radical.

Make your Speakers Accessible

Requesting that speakers schedule meeting time after they present gives audience members who feel uncomfortable asking questions in front of the whole audience a chance to discuss their issues one-on-one.

This is complemented by the social media backchannel, which has gone from a fringe activity to mainstream in many meetings. Moram provides an update in her next recommendation:

Don’t Shy Away from Technology

Beyond sharing tweets, there are a whole host of ways to engage audiences via their mobile phones. Savvy speakers are well aware of this, and can now employ a host of audience response software for instant polls.

Work Toward Relevance

Moram cautions against the threat of death by PowerPoint and the curse of the specialist:

Identify your keynote speaker’s expertise and then continue to build on their message by orchestrating workshops and breakout sessions that apply new insights they’ve shared as it relates to real-world pressing issues faced by your participants.

There are proven methods to help subject matter experts overcome the limits of their deep knowledge of one specific area.

Cultivate Learning by Doing

The most radical proposal in this excellent review is the acknowledgment that people learn by doing:

… the heart of the conference should focus on learning by doing — through moderated workshops, breakout sessions and interactive experiences where you get to apply new knowledge in action. Research shows that experiential learning is learning that sticks.

Problem-solving that involves your attendees personally is something they’ll remember 20 years later.

Taking it to the Next Step: Coach your Speakers

It’s refreshing to see that Forbes carries this article. While “Disrupting” meetings might have awkward historical connotations, her heart is in the right place.

Beyond the five suggestions listed, there’s no shortage of ideas conference organizers can review with each speaker, so that they are aligned to the goal if helping audience members remember what they say:

How to Get the most from your Next Conference

Sooner or later COVID-19 will cease to be the challenge to meetings that it is today. When you are once again able to attend your next conference, before you grab your name-badge and head over for nibbles and drinks, check out these useful tips for attendees. (Be sure to scroll down and read the resources listed in the comments section.)

Garbage Language

Obfuscation is alive and well in the corporate world. Molly Young writes in New York Magazine about the ways the Millenial generation of white-collar workers replicate the communication patterns of the organization man and woman.

Silicon Valley

She reviews Anna Weiners’ memoir Uncanny Valley about life in San Francisco during the current tech bubble:

…the scent of moneyed Bay Area in the mid-2010s: kombucha, office dog, freshly unwrapped USB cable…the lofty ambitions of her company, its cushy amenities, the casual misogyny that surrounds her like a cloud of gnats.

Wiener describes watching her peers attend silent-meditation retreats, take LSD, discuss Stoicism, and practice Reiki at parties. She tries ecstatic dance, gulps nootropics, and accepts a “cautious, fully-clothed back massage” from her company’s in-house masseuse. She encounters a man who self-identifies as a Japanese raccoon dog.

Only, as they say, in San Francisco. Or is it? Her description of the language employed is universal:

People used a sort of nonlanguage, which was neither beautiful nor especially efficient: a mash-up of business-speak with athletic and wartime metaphors, inflated with self-importance. Calls to action; front lines and trenches; blitzscaling. Companies didn’t fail, they died.

Weiner’s term for this is garbage language. More accurate than jargon or buzzwords since it is produced mindlessly and stinks. She notes how these terms warp and impede language, and permeate “the ways we think of our jobs and shapes our identities as workers.”

Etymology

Down the years, Weiner notes, garbage language has taken different forms:

  • In the 1980s it smelled of Wall Street: leverage, stakeholder, value-add.
  • The rise of high-tech introduced computing and gaming metaphors: bandwidth, hack, the concept of double-clicking on something, of talking off-line.
  • In the 1990s Clayton Christensen introduced the term disruptive.
  • By the turn of the century, New Age terms arrived: lean-in, conscious choices.
  • Then there are aviation terms: holding-pattern, discussing something at the 30,000-foot level.

Further characteristics include:

…verbs and adjectives shoved into nounhood (ask, win, fail, refresh, regroup, creative, sync, touchbase), nouns shoved into verbhood (whiteboard, bucket), and a heap of nonwords that, through force of repetition, became wordlike (complexify, co-execute, replatform, shareability, directionality).

WeWork

Young takes the WeWork SEC prospectus to task for it’s “fidelity to incoherence” — a 200,000-word tomb that overflows with windy passages such as:

We are a community company committed to maximum global impact. Our mission is to elevate the world’s consciousness. We have built a worldwide platform that supports growth, shared experiences and true success.

Why CEOs speak like idiots

In a passage worth quoting at length, Young zeros in on the dilemma those in the C-Suite face:

Edith Wharton[wrote a] story where a character observes the constraints of speaking a foreign tongue: “Don’t you know how, in talking a foreign language, even fluently, one says half the time, not what one wants to, but what one can?” To put it another way: Do CEOs act like jerks because they are jerks, or because the language of management will create a jerk of anyone eventually? If garbage language is a form of self-marketing, then a CEO must find it especially tempting to conceal the unpleasant parts of his or her job — the necessary whip-cracking — in a pile of verbal fluff.

Author Jessica Helfand lists commonly abused words and phrases, which she claims younger workers cling to because they give the illusion of authority. She classifies them as:

  • Hyphenated Mash-ups (omni-channel, level-setting, business-critical),
  • Compound Phrases (email blast, integrated deck, pain point, deep dive), and
  • Conceptual Hybrids (“shooting” someone an email, “looping” someone in).

Delusion as an Asset

Young concludes by quoting Nietzsche’s On Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense:

A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms — in short, a sum of human relations which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.

The German philosopher made the ironic suggestion that we drop all pretense at ‘functional’ speak and resort to poetry. Something, Young concludes, that would be less of a threat than the garbage spoken in the corporate world today, where:

The meaningful threat of garbage language — the reason it is not just annoying but malevolent — is that it confirms delusion as an asset in the workplace.

National Speakers Association, Northern California, January Chapter Meeting

People try to put us d-down (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we get around (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (talkin’ ’bout my generation)

The Who, 1965

Over 50 members and guests of the Northern California Chapter of the National Speakers Association gathered in Lafayette on Saturday to hear NSA National President Anna Liotta, CSP, deliver a program titled What’s Stopping Millennials/GenXers/Boomers from Hiring You, And What to Do About It.

She previewed her talk with a custom video addressed to the chapter:

Talkin’ ’bout my generation

For those Baby Boomers who didn’t die before they got old–and learned the value of trusting anyone over 30 a few decades back–Anna’s talk had particular poignancy. She explained how the recent OK Boomer meme is the equivalent of the advice not to trust anyone over 30. What goes around comes around. Here’s why…

Generational Codes

Anna Liotta has studied generational dynamics for over 25 years. Indeed, she wrote the book on generational CODES™.

What’s more, she’s lived the research. As one of 19 (!) children, her entire life has been a Ph.D. in generational dynamics. Her presentation addressed the question: What makes this age-old conflict of generational collisions and biases so important to us in business today?

Her concept of generational codes helps explain:

  • What defines each generation, including pivotal events and experiences that shaped it.
  • The truths and lies behind generational stereotypes.
  • How various generations define their work ethic.
  • How technology can bridge or break down generational communication.
  • The secrets of selling products and services to different generations.
  • What you need to know as a manager to find and retain new talent.

Anna demonstrated how, as speakers, we should develop savvy messages that appeal to the different generations.

This task is often confusing, as each generation has unique needs and motivators. Each brings its own set of attitudes, values, and beliefs to the workplace, and the way they do business. They make choices of who to buy from and who to work for, based on these values and beliefs. Understanding what shapes and forms each generation is vital.

Interestingly, each generation is sure that their values, attitudes, and beliefs are the right ones.

Her insight is that each generation is significantly influenced by what was happening in the world around them during their formative years. The ages of eight to 18 are when each generation is making decisions about how the world works and what’s possible. The events, icons, and leaders they see, experience, adore, and dislike are shaping their world. These influences set the paradigm for decision making, purchasing choices, and job selection for years to come.

Anyone doubting this can see the trajectory of individual lives play out in director Michael Apted’s films about a cohort of British Boomer children, the most recent of which–63 Up–opened in the US last month.

OK, Boomer!

My own rather self-satisfied response to the generational divide was to tweak the noses of the younger members of the audience who were strangely absent from the social media channel the chapter had promoted.

In her own words

I caught up with Anna after the event, and she shared her message with me, as well as an update on the changes that are occurring at the NSA. To hear what she said, click on the podcast below.

A Working Life IV: Sun Microsystems, 1990 – 2004

After attending a recent Sun Microsystems Alumni Reunion I’ve been inspired to continue the series on My Working Life that I last updated in May 2018 with Part III: My Early Career. As mentioned at the end of the last installment, I attended an interview in Milpitas for a position in tech support with Sun. I clearly remember the day of the offer. The recruiter brought me a cup of tea, and for the first time in my life I joined a company with more than 100 employees.

SalesDesk Support

Sun Logo

I was hired as the 14,672nd employee at Sun (badge numbers were sequential) and joined a small support team tasked with implementing the home-grown SalesDesk system in Sun offices worldwide. This is software that did the same tasks as Salesforce software would fill for companies today: lead tracking, quoting and configuration checking. The configurator was known as SPOC (the Sun Product Order Checker).

I enjoyed my daily commute from our home in Richmond which combined exercise and alone time. I would leave home at 6:30am; spend an hour on BART followed by a 25-minute bike ride (at a furious pace) to the Dixon Landing Road facility.

We worked out of a corner of the manufacturing facility in Milpitas, answering installation and user questions and traveling across the US visiting sales offices to train the salespeople and systems engineers. I was delighted when the quick reference card I developed was awarded a Carol Bartz ‘Ease of Doing Business’ $5,000 bonus. I enjoyed visiting sales offices in Albuquerque, Denver, Portland and other cities

It didn’t take me long to realize that the sales offices were far more dynamic and exciting than the back office and after 18 months I applied for a job as a Systems Engineer (SE) in the sales office in Pleasanton, California.

Systems Engineer: Pleasanton

I had to leave the bike at home and commute to Pleasanton by car. I worked with the sales team in the Reseller Area and called on systems integrators and third party Sun Resellers in the East Bay. I began to enjoy summarizing the latest product announcements and delivering lunch-time presentations to clients. I somehow managed to avoid having to actually install systems myself, which was way beyond my limited technical abilities.

Systems Engineer: Minnesota

Minnesota Winter

After our son was born I persuaded my wife that we could not possibly afford a three-bedroom home in the Bay Area and when an opportunity came to transfer to the Bloomington, MN office in the same role I took it.

We visited the region on a warm Fall day when the leaves were golden and the weather warm. That Thanksgiving we drove out in a truck filled with our belongings and arrived to frost, followed by snow, followed by the “bitter cold sun” the local weather forecasters described with glee every January and February.

My first sales call was to a mail-order operation called the Sportsman’s Paradise. The IT Manager took one look at the Limey across the table and said “Son, we sell everything needed to still a beating heart…”.

A highlight of the four years (three months and twelve days, as my wife would say) in the State was helping promote the Sun-sponsored NetDay event. I came to know the irrepressible John Gage who invited me to Washington DC for a national NetDay event where I spoke from the same podium as Vice-President Al Gore. We helped volunteers across the state wire schools for internet access in classrooms.

I was lucky to attend two SunRise sales award conferences, in Rome and Sydney, where the company spent umpteen millions feting the top sales teams.

Six Weeks at IBM

After six years as an SE I was interested in getting a shot at the commissions salespeople enjoyed. Sun did not make it easy for SEs to transition to sales. IBM did. So I applied for an SE position with IBM, was accepted, and before taking the job took a trip back to California with the family.

My wife saw the Bay, burst into tears, and said we had to move back.

I gave my months’ notice at IBM a couple of weeks after starting. They were not happy.

Meanwhile, I was hired to return to Sun’s Menlo Park HQ working in Field Product Training.

Field Product Training

The next few years were spent rolling out interactive training to field salespeople around the world. I used “McNealy Bucks” to motivate salespeople in Sao Paulo and Singapore; produced multi-media CDs and DVDs; and hosted an “SE TV” program from a small studio in Palo Alto.

I also volunteered to deliver the Company overview in the customer briefing center. My first presentation was to executives from Pfizer, the makers of Viagra. Luckily they were amused by my opening comment that our companies had a lot in common as Sun servers were noted for “continuous uptime”.

Australasia Liaison

My time in the Briefing Center brought me in contact with the Asia Pacific customer liaison team. I was hired to work alongside native Korean, Japanese and Chinese speakers to support Australia and New Zealand (perhaps on the assumption I would understand the rules of cricket when talk turned to sport?).

I flew business-class to Sydney once a quarter, visited every Australian city at least once, and learned to appreciate the rather more robust, and politically incorrect, Aussie sense of humor in business.

Following a weirdly unfair performance evaluation I took a look at the team who produced the company overview presentation I could by now deliver in my sleep. It turned out to be a small team of executive speechwriters. They needed someone with a love of communications, presentation skills and technical understanding. After a decade at the company I fit the bill and was hired.

Executive speechwriter

For someone who was hired to work out of a warehouse and take support calls, sitting in the executive suite listening to SVPs and the CEO develop strategy that would then be rolled into speeches was heady, vertigo-inducing, stuff.

I certainly felt moments when I experienced the imposter syndrome in full force. I was often the only person around the table who did not have a few thousand people reporting to them and a multi-billion-dollar goal.

It was exciting, exhausting, terrifying and the most fun at work I’d ever had.

Scott McNealy on stage

I started out supporting the global head of sales (a fellow Brit, so my appreciation of irony helped), then worked for the head of the software group until I landed a role as one of the team supporting Scott McNealy, the CEO and co-founder. The main deliverables were a set of OpenOffice slides and a summary of the script on a set of 5×8 blue cards that he carried onstage each time he gave a presentation.

I traveled on the company jet to the east coast and Europe (a chance to meet my parents for the night in Ayr after the jet landed at Prestwick). I sat in the office of the head of the UK Civil Service (the very same used in the TV show Yes Minister, overlooking Horseguards Parade), ate pizza and banquet food, and worked around the clock when needed.

Then, in 2004, the company laid off 3,000 people, including the speechwriters. So I started this blog and looked around for another job.

Sun was, without a doubt, the best company I have ever worked for. I helped deliver network computing to the world, propagating TCP/IP and bring the Internet into existence.

The network really is the people.

Guest Posting: 102 Common English Idioms

Michelle Tran is an ESL English teacher. Her Basic English Speaking website lists common English phrases, expressions, basic grammar and more. This list of 102 common English idioms with meaning and examples is reprinted here with her express permission.

102 Common English Idioms with Meaning and Examples, by Michelle Tran

Say you’re in a conversation with your native American friends. Sometimes, during the conversation, you ask yourself, “What the heck is going on?” Even though you are translating every single word to your mother tongue, you have no idea what your friends are talking about.

Well, you know what?

The reason you find it hard to understand native speakers is because they usually use idioms in their daily communication.

What is an idiom?

It’s “a group of words whose meaning is different from the meaning of every single word.” For example, “a piece of cake” doesn’t literally mean a sweet; instead, it means “easy.” How interesting!

Why idioms?

The fact that you know 3,000 English words doesn’t mean you can understand every single idiom. That’s to say knowing single words will not help you interpret the meaning of the entire phrase. What you can do is put serious effort into it.

What’s more, if you master English idioms, you will sound like a native speaker. Idiomatic expressions which make conversations sound more natural are commonly used by native speakers every day.

In this lesson series, we will introduce you to 102 common English idioms. Each is written with an idiom definition, 3 idiom examples, and audio recordings. That way, you will know what the idiom means and how to use it in a conversation.

It’s time to say goodbye to boring textbooks and start learning something really useful for your English communication.

Idioms about Money and Finance

A Penny Saved Is A Penny Earned
Beyond One’s Means
Someone’s Bread And Butter
Cut One’s Losses
Down-And-Out
Dutch Treat/ Go Dutch
Money Talks
Bring Home The Bacon
At All Costs
To Earn A Living
Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees
Pour Money Down The Drain
Born With A Silver Spoon In Your Mouth

>>View All Lessons

Idioms about Love

Love At First Sight
Match Made In Heaven
To Have A Crush On Someone
To Love With All Your Heart And Soul
To Wear Your Heart On Your Sleeve
To Fall Head Over Heels In Love
To Tie The Knot
To Be The Apple Of My Eye

>>View All Lessons

Idioms about Happiness and Sadness

On Cloud Nine
To Make Your Day
Not The End Of The World
Feeling Blue/To Have The Blues
Face Like A Wet Weekend
Get A (Real) Kick Out Of Something
On Top Of The World
In Seventh Heaven
Over The Moon
Having A Whale Of A Time
Let One’s Hair Down

>>View All Lessons

Idioms about Health

Ill At Ease
Breathe One’s Last
Catch A Cold
Fall Ill
At Death’s Door
Nothing But Skin And Bones
Safe And Sound
Get A Black Eye
Recharge One’s Batteries
Under The Weather
You Are What You Eat.
As Pale As A Ghost

>>View All Lessons

Idioms about Travel

Off The Beaten Track
To Make Your Way Back
Hustle And Bustle
To Live Out Of A Suitcase
Travel Broadens The Mind
Hit The Road
Break The Journey
Have/ Get/ Give Someone Itchy Feet
A Thirst For Adventure

>>View All Lessons

Idioms about Work

Get Your Feet Under The Table
Go The Extra Mile
Put Your Feet Up
Be In Someone’s Good (Or Bad) Books
Give Someone The Sack
To Call It A Day
Work Like A Dog
All In A Day’s Work
Work Your Fingers To The Bone

>>View All Lessons

Idioms about Friendship

Lend Your Money. Lose Your Friend
A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed
To See Eye To Eye With Someone
To Get On Like A House On Fire
To Know Someone Inside Out
To Speak The Same Language

>>View All Lessons

Idioms about Dreams

Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
Daydream About Someone Or Something
In (One’s) Dreams
A Dream Come True
To Keep Someone’s Feet On The Ground
To Bring Someone Back Down To Earth
Broken Dreams

>>View All Lessons

Idioms about Time

Nine-To-Five Job
At The Eleventh Hour
Like Clockwork
Time Flies
Better Late Than Never
In The Long Run
Beat The Clock
Make Up For Lost Time

>>View All Lessons

Idioms about Decisions

Take It Or Leave It
Sit On The Fence
To Take A Back Seat
A Bird In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush
My Way Or The Highway
Weigh The Pros And Cons

>>View All Lessons

Other idioms

To Sleep On It
Know Someone Like The Back Of Your Hand
As Easy As Pie/ A Piece Of Cake
Take It Easy
To Get The Ball Rolling
Twenty-Four/Seven (24/7)
Once And For All
To Make The Best Of
Day In And Day Out (Day After Day, For Longer Periods Of Time, Year In And Year Out, Year After Year)
To Keep One’s Word
To Give (Someone) A Hand
To Be In (Someone’s) Shoes
None Of Your Business

>>View All Lessons

Book Review: Speechwriting In Theory and Practice

Speechwriting In Theory and Practice, by Jens E. Kjeldsen, Amos Kiewe, Marie Lund and Jette Barnholdt Hansen

Reviewed by Neil Hrab, Rhetoric Editor, Vital Speeches of the Day

A Book We’ve Long Awaited

Book CoverSpeechwriters have hoped for a long time to see a book like this appear in print. Speechwriting in Theory and Practice’s 13 chapters are grounded in a combination of academic perspectives on the evolution of rhetoric and persuasive speech, alongside a close study of how speechwriters and speakers collaborate, in the real world, to prepare remarks for delivery. In addition to the usual White House anecdotes, we are also treated to superb insights from the lived experience of European speechwriters.

Similar books have tried hard to strike the same balance, with well-intentioned, if somewhat uneven results. Clearly, the authors of this book have studied these earlier works, and charted a different course. Their joint introduction modestly proclaims on page 2 that “[o]urs is not a handbook [on speechwriting]. There are plenty of these.” Don’t take this declaration at face value, however – the book unites both theory and practice in such a way that any newcomers to the speechwriting field will find it of great practical value (particularly Chapters 6 to 13).

The great strength of Speechwriting is that it flips the typical approach for an academic study of speechwriting on its head. That more conventional structure might focus on topics such as how various rhetorical devices identified 2000+ years ago in ancient Greece and Rome continue to appear in 21st century speeches, or tout various still-relevant insights from Aristotle’s writings on rhetoric. (Aristotle makes periodic appearances throughout this book, more as a bystander, however, rather than as inescapable off-stage narrator.)

Speechwriting in Theory and Practice fully acknowledges this fascinating continuity in rhetorical practice over the centuries, but then takes the reasonable position that, since that continuity is already very clear—why not explore aspects of contemporary speechwriting that are less well known, at least outside of professional circles?

By opening its pages to consideration of contemporary speechwriting practice, the book raises questions pointing to promising areas for future research. These include: Why is corporate speechwriting so “astonishingly under-researched” compared to political speechwriting? (See Chapter 6) How does the need for a government speechwriter to get the approval of “higher levels in the system” shape the drafting of official speeches? (See Chapter 7.) Why, exactly, can PowerPoint be so deadly when it comes to trying to hold an audience’s attention? (See Chapter 10, especially the observation that the real problem posed by digital presentation tools like PowerPoint is that they invite “the speechwriter to present statements, not to reflect, make arguments, and tell stories.”) The discussion in of the potential ethical challenges faced by speechwriters in Chapter 11 is stimulating as well.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the authors of Speechwriting in Theory and Practice have blazed a new trail. With that path now open, let us hope others will follow in their steps, and open up this exciting new territory further.

This review first appeared in Vital Speeches of the Day and is reprinted here by express permission.

Hay Festival : 15 Speeches That Changed the World

The second Festival Foundation Gala event at the 2019 Hay Festival celebrated the power of persuasion and words. From calls to arms to demands for peace, this performance captured the voices of prophets and politicians, rebels and tyrants, soldiers and statesman.

The selection of speeches was inspired by Simon Sebag Montefiore’s “new book” [sic] – presumably a revision of his 2007 book, which will be “published in October”. And by the two Penguin speeches anthologies edited by Brian MacArthur: Modern Speeches and Historic Speeches.

As with any selection, there are some speeches that might have changed the world, others, maybe not so much. For anyone who would like to see the speeches read by top-notch actors from the stage at Hay, I recommend the £10.00 annual subscription to the Hay Player.

Queen Elizabeth I: Addressing the Troops

Elizabeth IWhen Queen Elizabeth I visited her troops on the eve of the attack of the Spanish Armada, her authority emanated from the fact that she was Queen.

I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too; and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realms: to which, rather than any dishonor should grow by me, I myself will take up arms; I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.

Greta Thunberg: Our Lives are in Your Hands

Greta ThunbergThe 16-year-old Swedish activist was the clear favorite at Hay. Her speeches are collected in No One is Too Small to Make a Difference. She is known for having initiated the school strike for climate movement that formed in November 2018. In March 2019, three members of the Norwegian parliament nominated Thunberg for the Nobel Peace Prize. In May 2019, she featured on the cover of Time magazine.

Her speech given at a protest outside Swedish Parliament was the first of three featured from the stage at Hay.

If people knew this they wouldn’t need to ask me why I’m so “passionate about climate change.” If people knew that the scientists say that we have a five percent chance of meeting the Paris target, and if people knew what a nightmare scenario we will face if we don’t keep global warming below 2 °C, they wouldn’t need to ask me why I’m on school strike outside parliament. Because if everyone knew how serious the situation is and how little is actually being done, everyone would come and sit down beside us.

Colonel Tim Collins: Addressing the Troops

Col Tim CollinsColonel Tim Collins, OBE, is a retired Northern Irish military officer in the British Army. He is best known for his role in the Iraq War in 2003, and his inspirational eve-of-battle speech, a copy of which apparently hung in the White House’s Oval Office.

We go to Iraq to liberate not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country. We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own. Show respect for them. There are some who are alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly. Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send. As for the others I expect you to rock their world. Wipe them out if that is what they choose. But if you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory.

Dolores Ibárruri: They Shall Not Pass!

Dolores IbárruriThis Republican heroine of the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 and a communist politician of Basque origin is known for her famous slogan ¡No Pasarán! (“They shall not pass”). This was a battle cry appeal for the defense of the Second Spanish Republic.

The Communist Party calls you to arms. We especially call upon you, workers, farmers, intellectuals to assume your positions in the fight to finally smash the enemies of the Republic and of the popular liberties. Long live the Popular Front! Long live the union of all anti-fascists! Long live the Republic of the people! The Fascists shall not pass! THEY SHALL NOT PASS!

Nelson Mandala: Inaugural Speech

Nelson MandalaNelson Mandela was South Africa’s first black chief executive. His inauguration took place in Pretoria on 10 May 1994, televised to a billion viewers globally. The event was attended by four thousand guests, including world leaders from a wide range of geographic and ideological backgrounds.

We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom. We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world. Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves. Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. Let freedom reign.

Malala Yousafzai: Address to the United Nations

Malala YousafzaiThis Pakistani activist for female education is the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate. Her address to the United Nations was given as part of her campaign to ensure free compulsory education for every child. She marked her 16th birthday by delivering the speech at the UN headquarters in New York.

So here I stand…one girl among many. I speak – not for myself, but for all girls and boys. I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights: Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated.

Oliver Cromwell: In the Name of God, Go!

Oliver CromwellCromwell delivered this speech when he dismissed the “Rump Parliament” on 20 April 1653. It was noticeable that, on 1 June 2019, the Hay audience reacted with wry amusement to a speech introduced as “seeming to say so much of what we all feel”. Ironic that a country embroiled in a divisive Brexit debate broke into laughter time and again as the dictator’s words echoed down the centuries.

The relevance of the speech was thrown into stark relief when, within the month, two candidates for the job as Prime Minister, Dominic Raab and Esther McVey, proposed proroguing (i.e. dismissing) parliament so that MPs are unable to block a no-deal Brexit. Were a new Cromwell to take the stage in modern Britain one can only hope the outcome is less bloody than the last time.

Or the audience members might not find it so amusing.

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. You were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance. Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God’s help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do. I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place. Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.

Aneurin Bevan: Resignation speech

Aneurin BevanNye Bevan, was a Welsh Labour Party politician who was the Minister for Health in the UK from 1945 to 1951. He was one of the chief spokesmen for the Labour Party’s left wing, and of left-wing British thought generally. His most famous accomplishment came when, as Minister of Health, he spearheaded the establishment of the National Health Service (NHS), which was to provide medical care free at point-of-need to all Britons, regardless of wealth. On 23 April 1951 he delivered a rousing resignation speech over planned cuts to the NHS budget.

After all, the National Health Service was something of which we were all very proud, and even the Opposition were beginning to be proud of it. It only had to last a few more years to become a part of our traditions, and then the traditionalists would have claimed the credit for all of it. Why should we throw it away? In the Chancellor’s Speech there was not one word of commendation for the Health Service—not one word. What is responsible for that?

It’s notable that the extract read at Hay ended before Bevan’s conclusion:

I say this, in conclusion. There is only one hope for mankind—and that is democratic Socialism. There is only one party in Great Britain which can do it—and that is the Labour Party. But I ask them carefully to consider how far they are polluting the stream. We have gone a long way—a very long way—against great difficulties. Do not let us change direction now. Let us make it clear, quite clear, to the rest of the world that we stand where we stood, that we are not going to allow ourselves to be diverted from our path by the exigencies of the immediate situation. We shall do what is necessary to defend ourselves—defend ourselves by arms, and not only with arms but with the spiritual resources of our people.

Perhaps, unlike in the case of Cromwell, these words are too partisan in British politics today. Safer to laugh at the rants of a dictator speaking 300 years before Bevan.

Bobby Kennedy: Measuring America

Bobby KennedyIn a speech delivered at the University of Kansas on 18 March 1968, Bobby Kennedy took aim at materialist America. Twelve short weeks later a gunman took aim at him.

Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product – if we judge the United States of America by that – that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

Greta Thunberg: Whatever it Takes

The second of the three speeches chosen is also available on YouTube, delivered by Greta on a cold day in Sweden:

As Billy Bragg remarked on the previous day at Hay “We erect statues to suffragettes, some day we’ll erect statues to climate change activists.”

Aung San Suu Kyi: The Causes of Fear

Aung San Suu KyiThe controversial Burmese leader has drawn criticism over her alleged inaction to the persecution of the Rohingya people in Rakhine State and refusal to accept that Myanmar’s military has committed massacres. This speech (delivered in absentia) on the occasion of being awarded the Sakharov Prize For Freedom of Thought in 1990 — a time when her reputation was still intact.

Just as chanda-gati, when not the result of sheer avarice, can be caused by fear of want or fear of losing the goodwill of those one loves, so fear of being surpassed, humiliated or injured in some way can provide the impetus for ill will. And it would be difficult to dispel ignorance unless there is freedom to pursue the truth unfettered by fear. With so close a relationship between fear and corruption it is little wonder that in any society where fear is rife corruption in all forms becomes deeply entrenched.

John Ball: Cast off the Yoke of Bondage

John BallThis a radical priest took a prominent part in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 against the 14-year-old King Richard II. Needless to say, it did not end well for the peasants. As historian Barbara Tuchman has noted, the conflicts of that distant mirror of the calamitous 14th century usually ended with peasants “swinging from trees”.

It’s curious that the extract read at Hay omitted the most famous quote from the speech: When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman?

From the beginning all men by nature were created alike, and our bondage or servitude came in by the unjust oppression of naughty men. For if God would have had any bondsmen from the beginning, he would have appointed who would have had any bond and who free.

Greta Thumberg: Speaking to the British Parliament

A third and final speech by the young activist was delivered to Parliament in April of this year:

You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to. And the saddest thing is that most children are not even aware of the fate that awaits us. We will not understand it until it’s too late. And yet we are the lucky ones. Those who will be affected the hardest are already suffering the consequences. But their voices are not heard.

Harvey Milk: The Hope Speech

Harvey MilkThe first openly gay elected official in California gave a rousing speech at the June 1978 California Gay Freedom Day in San Francisco. Before the year was over his life was ended by an embittered Dan White, who shot him and Mayor George Moscone in City Hall with his police-issued revolver. Ah, those Second Amendment rights…

And the young gay people in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias and the Richmond, Minnesotas who are coming out and hear Anita Bryant on television and her story. The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up. And if you help elect to the central committee and other offices, more gay people, that gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward. It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone.

Earl Spencer: Princess Diana Eulogy

Charles SpencerDiana’s brother delivered a controversial eulogy that was reported to have caused a rift in the royal family. In paying tribute to his sister, the 9th Earl Spencer reportedly angered the Queen with lines like “Someone with a natural nobility who was classless and who proved in the last year that she needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic” and “I pledge that we, your blood family, will do all we can to continue the imaginative and loving way in which you were steering these two exceptional young men so that their souls are not simply immersed by duty and tradition, but can sing openly as you planned.”

OK, fair enough. But is this really a speech that “changed the world”? Apparently so, according to the organizers of this event at Hay.

There is no doubt that she was looking for a new direction in her life at this time. She talked endlessly of getting away from England, mainly because of the treatment that she received at the hands of the newspapers. I don’t think she ever understood why her genuinely good intentions were sneered at by the media, why there appeared to be a permanent quest on their behalf to bring her down. It is baffling. My own and only explanation is that genuine goodness is threatening to those at the opposite end of the moral spectrum. It is a point to remember that of all the ironies about Diana, perhaps the greatest was this — a girl given the name of the ancient goddess of hunting was, in the end, the most hunted person of the modern age.