138 Top Tweets from the 2012 Ragan Speechwriters Conference

The annual Ragan Speechwriters Conference was held March 14 – 16, 2012 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC.

Over 200 professional speechwriters met for two days and attended a series of main stage keynotes and break out sessions.

Unlike other Ragan Conferences I’ve attended, where I had to select a small number of “top tweets” from thousands, this list represents pretty much everything that was said on Twitter about #raganspeech.

What does it say about speechwriters that, while over half of the audience claimed to have a Twitter account, only a small handful were active? Why is this? Are people who are paid to deliver content for others are inhibited about expressing their own opinions? Are they so used to writing long-winded speeches that they can’t express themselves in 140 characters? Was the audience just too darn OLD to be into Twitter? What do you think?

Whatever the reason, I believe the tweets that were posted are a great source of information to anyone who wants to know about the things speechwriters are interested in. We owe a special debt of gratitude to anyone who tweeted, and especially to the four most active people:

Here’s a fun picture that shows at a glance what topics attracted the most comments and, without a doubt, that Justina Chen was the star of the show!

Ragan Speechwriter Conference Tweets
Click to enlarge – Image by Wordle.

The list, like Twitter, is in reverse chronological order, with the most recent tweets at the top.

  1. @jayrobb Speakers who opened and closed #raganspeech conference were the best in class. Kudos to Mark Schumman and Justina Chen. Told great stories.
  2. @akowen I attended this keynote today #Raganspeech – great advice. 7 ways to become a masterful storyteller | Articles bit.ly/w9wp7s
  3. @TheGregoryBell The Speechwriters Conference just ended. @JustinaYChen was spectacular as a closing speaker.
  4. @howielb “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” @JustinaYChen
  5. @howielb “Our responsibility is to captivate you for as long as we asked for your attention.” – Aaron Sorkin quoted by @JustinaYChen
  6. @jayrobb Every speech should have 3 soundbites @JustinaYChen
  7. @jayrobb Get free range to find the story in your org. Get exec air cover. Start with your superstars. Ask for interview, not a meeting @JustinaYChen
  8. @howielb Lean into the messiness. @JustinaYChen
  9. @jayrobb @JustinaYChen sends 3 questions a week to her leaders (business and personal). Answers worked into speeches so leaders own it.
  10. @howielb when they own content, they can own the stage. @JustinaYChen
  11. @howielb Biggest compliment from your speaker is: this sounds like me. @JustinaYChen
  12. @jayrobb Your leader’s personal narrative needs to embody the story of your organization @JustinaYChen
  13. @howielb “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen, Anthem, quoted by @JustinaYChen
  14. @howielb True character is shown when we fail. @JustinaYChen on “yes, be out there” w ur org or leaders failures.
  15. @jayrobb @JustinaYChen asks what is your organization’s mythology? Your eternal truths, values? What do you stand for? That’s your story .
  16. @howielb Yes! @JustinaYChen has #harrypotter #StarWars #LoTR reference all in one.
  17. @howielb What can your words do? What did you do? Not me, it was will smith my kids n the story @JustinaYChen
  18. @jayrobb Right story told in the right way inspires change @JustinaYChen
  19. @jayrobb Our attention wanders after 8 mins so re-engage by telling a story @JustinaYChen
  20. @jayrobb Stories that evoke the biggest emotions are the stories we remember @JustinaYChen
  21. @howielb Channel your inner adolescent @JustinaYChen
  22. @howielb Modern storytellers descend from hags bards bums & crazy people @JustinaYChen
  23. @jayrobb Questions to ask about op-ed – is it of general interest, timely, saying something unique, said in 750 words, ends with an ask says John Barnes.
  24. @jayrobb Make your op-ed exclusive to one newspaper. Do not shop it around or send to anyone and everyone – John Barnes.
  25. @howielb Writing opeds means writing for two people. Your principal. And the oped editor. – John Barnes.
  26. @howielb This is the West, Sir. When the fact becomes legend, print the legend. #LibertyValance quoted by John Barnes.
  27. @jayrobb Bad op-es have too many points, no personal voice, passive voice, jargon, pt by pt rebuttals and ignore the other side says John Barnes.
  28. @howielb Ha! John Barnes on lawyers: it’s a newspaper article. It’s not going in front of judge n jury.
  29. @jayrobb Good op-eds have timeliness, opinion, new facts, trustworthiness, acknowledge opposition and have call to action says John Barnes.
  30. @howielb Humans are visual species. Show always beats tell. – John Barnes on #anecdotes
  31. @LBGunter One takeaway & must-read from Women of Words panel: What I Saw at the Revolution by Peggy Noonan (Reagan speechwriter)
  32. @howielb Tidbit: George Will reaches 50 million readers. Newspaper biz may be in trouble but opeds are doing fine. John Barnes.
  33. @jayrobb Mastering the art and craft of op-eds with John Barnes. Readership of op-eds is not broad but it’s deep with influential’s.
  34. @howielb Awesome! John Barnes begins #raganspeech session on opeds w Yes, #PrimeMinister video clip.
  35. @LBGunter Always have pen and hunt for interesting quotes, errant thoughts, neat observations. Great for color. @meganrooney
  36. @LBGunter @meganrooney says strive to figure out how speaker thinks — not talks — to craft effective speeches.
  37. @LBGunter Terry Edmonds: It took a lot of speechwriters to keep up with Pres. Clinton’s 8-yr love affair w/the microphone.
  38. @jayrobb Freelance speechwriters should charge flat fee not hourly rate of by word. High-stakes speeches run from $5,000 to $12,000.
  39. @howielb A story is life with the dull parts out. – Alfred Hitchcock quote.
  40. @jayrobb What headline do you want your speech to generate? What’s your audience’s biggest problem? What’s your unique point of view? @PeteWeissman
  41. @BethOliver13 Consider rebranding as its relevant to your client or audience.
  42. @BethOliver13 “shut up and listen”.
  43. @BethOliver13 “Be more than just the speechwriter… Be the content strategist” – Caryn Alagno.
  44. @jayrobb Michael Long says write for content 1st (what needs to be said and understood) then focus on style and voice (how to say it).
  45. @BethOliver13 “on your second day of unemployment…” go to a board of trade and say you’re a “speechwriter” It will strike up conversation says Colin Moorehouse.
  46. @howielb Focus on content. Style will take care of itself – Mike Long.
  47. @BethOliver13 “stop writing for voice and start writing for content” – Mike Long.
  48. @BethOliver13 Use technology to your advantage- have your computer read your speech to you so you can hear the errors @PeteWeissman
  49. @BethOliver13 “be known for something” be different than everyone else, do something to separate yourself from the pack.
  50. @BethOliver13 New Speechwriters: join like minded associations, volunteer for EVERYTHING and meet everyone you can says Colin Moorehouse.
  51. @BethOliver13 #raganspeech panel on a “speech writers survival guide” pic.twitter.com/Sfyq4mlt
  52. @jayrobb Greatest motivator for writing a speech is a deadline says Terry Edmonds. “Works every time.”
  53. @alaskaegan1 Language and leadership are inseparable. #terryedmonds #gerstner
  54. @cheshirelad Presidential Speechwriters call for more discipline by candidates at #raganspeech ow.ly/9GLoy
  55. @jayrobb Curiosity, mobility key traits for speechwriters. Should be heard not seen. Don’t expect your words to be carved in granite says Terry Edmonds.
  56. @jayrobb Great start to day two with Terry Edmonds, first African American presidential speechwriter .
  57. @BethOliver13 Getting set-up for the last day at the #raganspeech conference! (@ The Mayflower Renaissance Hotel) [pic]: 4sq.com/AqWomw
  58. @RonCulberson Panel of presidential speechwriters analyzing speeches of current candidates and Pres Obama. Amazing!
  59. @musicbaum Heard this twice today: “You can’t boil the ocean.” Is that an American thing or is it just me?”
  60. @williamloving Best speechwriters suggestion for Obama slogan for 2012: “bin Laden is dead, GM is alive.”
  61. @howielb Chriss Winston: President is great communicator. But I say this as speechwriter. Ideas…Content matters. It’s not all style.
  62. @howielb Jeff Shesol: the #Obama speech wasn’t #populist, but president firmly on #center ground.
  63. @howielb Not enough [for #GOP] to offer referendum. Need to offer alternative vision. – Chriss Winston.
  64. @howielb Giving a speech doesn’t mean ur inauthentic. It means u thought about ur message & respect your voters. – @JonathanDHorn
  65. @howielb Senators are least disciplined speakers in public office.
  66. @howielb Suggested Pres. GW Bush start speech 1 way. POTUS said “It was suggested…that’s not a good idea” @JonathanDHorn
  67. @LBGunter Simple but true: Spoken sentences should be shorter than written sentences. Write for the ear. @JonathanDHorn
  68. @LBGunter CEO = Chief Explaining Officer. President = Explainer in Chief. Need 2 B able 2 explain complex issues in & out of Oval Office.
  69. @jayrobb You can’t communicate big picture with Powerpoint. Wean your leaders off the slides to sound presidential.
  70. @jayrobb Use small words to communicate big ideas. Everyday words connect with everyone.
  71. @howielb @EdelmanPR says thought leadership not talking but changing world. @Walmart used trucks, logistics & grocery to fight hunger.
  72. @jayrobb Your CEO needs to become Chief Explainer Officer.
  73. @jayrobb When you control the narrative of the past, you can set the agenda for the future.
  74. @jayrobb Former Bush W speechwriter Jonathan Horn calls on CEOs to not hide behind the podium but to step up to it.
  75. @howielb What’s thought leadership? #GE on Green; @Starbucks on #fairtrade, @Walmart on womens issues says @EdelmanPR
  76. @LBGunter Michael Field shares lesson on public presentation: Pull from ‘power of the pulpit,’ aka speech writing strategies from sermons.
  77. @LBGunter Consume all news/info thru lens of “is this a good story for my org”? If yes, could be candidate for speech @benhawkins
  78. @jayrobb As a leader, think like a preacher and don’t shy away from power of your bully pulpit to persuasively advocate for your agenda.
  79. @jayrobb Sermon template is state, relate and substantiate.
  80. @jayrobb Good talk by Michael Field on harnessing the power of the pulpit. Bible stories deeply embedded in our cultural DNA.
  81. @howielb Movie ET has a #christ parable. Who knew! #raganspeech via Michael Field.
  82. @howielb At #raganspeech session “harnessing power of pulpit” I’m reminded of Rabbi Lookstein’s pt “there is no sermon like no sermon.”
  83. @howielb Little known fact. President James Garfield was a preacher.
  84. @marcelmont Mike Long says what audiences want are little puzzles to solve. A reason to be engaged. And satisfaction when they “get it.”
  85. @BethOliver13 What is the PURPOSE of the sermon- the 7 E’s of preaching… Use these in speech writing.
  86. @williamloving Country music lyrics imagery as speech writing technique. Who knew?
  87. @BethOliver13 I suppose my critics will call that preaching but to me I have a “bully pulpit”- Teddy Roosevelt.
  88. @BethOliver13 Imagine your speaker is a pastor preaching to a church (think: foundation, cultures, scriptures, traditions).
  89. @howielb I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But it doesn’t matter to me now. – MLK, the day before he’s shot.
  90. @BethOliver13 You don’t have to be religious to learn from the power of preaching.
  91. @BethOliver13 Preaching is an important and time honored tradition. There is a rich heritage of tips and techniques we can learn from.
  92. @howielb Feelings are mentionable & manageable. – Mr Rogers to #USSen. I’m host but I also do all the puppets, write the songs.
  93. @jayrobb Having lunch and watching President Carter’s Oval Office address where he badly lectured Americans’ crisis of confidence.
  94. @jayrobb 70 percent of us want videos under 5 mins. 18-34 year olds will give you 50 sec to make your point. 35 sec for 35-49 group.
  95. @KerryMalone AV trouble (rightly) scares people away from using video and audio in presentations. Terrifying. Not intended as key msg.
  96. @jayrobb Kelly Guenther says video is reshaping our world. Most spoken language in the world.
  97. @jayrobb Session on video underscores the risk of embedding in speeches — technical snafus will distract from content.
  98. @howielb Mankind developing universal language: video.
  99. @howielb Music is oft overlooked. Music is a storytelling device. @BenHawken
  100. @howielb at one pt,one #sears catalog was in every 1.21 households in America. – @BenHawken
  101. @KerryMalone Love that @BenHawken Glengarry Glen Ross reference: Always Be “Cataloging” (for material).
  102. @howielb humans are storytelling creatures; sitting around fires talking. – @BenHawken
  103. @jayrobb Speechwriters must find the courage to get personal stories from their senior execs. Will be most powerful part of the speech.
  104. @howielb Video is a really good story on steroids – @BenHawken
  105. @jayrobb 5 ways to add evidence to your speech and make it persuasive — blend of stats, quotes, analogies, examples and stories.
  106. @jayrobb Another good talk at #raganspeech by Rob Friedman on using evidence to make speeches more persuasive.
  107. @LBGunter Twitter advance search, HootSuite, TweetLevel, PollAnywhere, Screen.io = tools to harness social media 4 speeches @cheshirelad
  108. @LBGunter Twitter allows you to “eavesdrop” on current conversations — great tool for speechwriters. @cheshirelad
  109. @LBGunter Engage audience in conversation, don’t just conduct “ear test” #speeches @dmarkschumann
  110. @LBGunter @dmarkschumann says PPT has yielded a world where execs rehearse speeches less (to detriment of exec & audience).
  111. @howielb Don’t forget “low tech” social media: #transcripts of #speeches. @cheshirelad
  112. @howielb #podcasts & videos reach audience wider & beyond after #speech. @cheshirelad
  113. @marcelmont Will PollEverywhere.com put traditional audience response systems out of business? @AnnaByrd check it out.
  114. @alaskaegan1 Use polleverywhere.com to get audience to give instant feedback via text. @cheshirelad.
  115. @howielb #backchannel by Cliff Atkinson gets @cheshirelad shoutout @ #raganspeech to manage #socialmedia during event.
  116. @JoanneDwyer Difference between traditional media and social media is traditional media has a “control room” – great point @cheshirelad
  117. @alaskaegan1 Audience is checking your facts via the #backchannel
  118. @marcelmont Do research for speeches at search.twitter.com Nice tip @cheshirelad!
  119. @howielb Learned about new #twitter tool: TweetLevel. #raganspeech thanks @cheshirelad
  120. @RonCulberson Ian Griffin explaining the value of tweeting about an event at #raganspeech. So I am!
  121. @alaskaegan1 Try tweetlevel.com to find influentials.
  122. @KerryMalone Listening to @cheshirelad talk about soc media as adjunct to speeches/presentations. Viewed his pres early via FB.
  123. @RonCulberson At the #raganspeech speechwriters conference. Great info from talented speechwriters.
  124. @howielb 11% of worlds pop has a #facebook acct. @cheshirelad
  125. @howielb worldwideweb is “traditional media” in contrast to #socialmedia. it’s controlled/1 way comm – @cheshirelad
  126. @jayrobb People remember the tone and not the words from your speech, insight courtesy of @dmarkschumann.
  127. @marcelmont “US Politics. Best reality show every 4 years.” @dmarkschulman Great keynote!
  128. @howielb Don’t boil ocean. Less is more in @dmarkschumann
  129. @howielb Best way to rehearse is with your dog. B/C not about words you use, but how you say it matters @dmarkschumann
  130. @howielb Speech begins w/end: what listeners should hear, believe & do when it’s over – @dmarkschumann
  131. @howielb Speech is about having a conversation, not conducting @dmarkschumann
  132. @AnneliesBreedve Fletcher Dean: it’s all about the audience!
  133. @beachwordsmith Best wishes to #raganspeech from the UK Speechwriters’ Guild. Wish I was there. Hope Cameron pops in.
  134. @musicbaum Learned the difference between “utilize” and “use” today. Worth the price of admission.
  135. @cheshirelad If you call yourself a #speechwriter check out the proceedings from #raganspeech this week ow.ly/9EiOb
  136. @AnneliesBreedve One of the ultimate quotes… pic.twitter.com/Pn5XYkpq
  137. @AnneliesBreedve Just met the Pentagon Speechwriters! pic.twitter.com/InQaNns2
  138. @cheshirelad Warm and sunny 80 degrees in DC for #raganspeech – no danger of canceling due to snow as in 2010.

4 Comments so far
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A sip from a firehose! Thanks Ian for capturing these great nuggets since I wasn’t there! You can just feel the energy oozing from the twitter stream!
BTW, I run hot and cold when it comes to tweeting at conferences. Sometimes it’s technology (a broadband issue, battery issue…) or I am distracted by a great presentation or the company sitting beside me (unless that happens to be Ron Culberson who sneaked a tweet in there somewhere!).
Participation comes in many forms, with social media being ONE form. But, I must admit, it is an interesting data point.
Thanks again for sharing your wisdom of the crowds!

Kristin: Interesting you mention Ron. He and David Glickman were at this event. Great to see a couple of fellow NSA’ers in the room!

Shelia Allee shares 5 tips she took away from the conference.

Hi Ian,

For my own part, I must say that there was a major reason that I have not tweeted the conference! There was no wi-fi!

Approximately 10% of conference participants came from Denmark. If we are roaming on our phones the bills will explode, when we get home, and we are therefore totally dependent on wi-fi. I called Ragan, but was told that it was not selected to keep costs down. It’s pretty annoying, because I tweet a lot and have more than 400 followers in Denmark, and many are journalists and politicians, who probably would think that tweets from the conference in Washington could be interesting.

Let us therefore hope that there is wi-fi next year, then, I think, the tweets will increase : o)

Regards from Trine/Denmark.



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