Book Review: 10 Steps to Writing a Vital Speech, by Fletcher Dean

10 Steps to Writing a Vital Speech10 Steps to Writing a Vital Speech: The Definitive Guide to Professional Speechwriting, by Fletcher Dean

Fletcher Dean is a working speechwriter at the Dow Chemical Company where he is Director of Leadership Communications. He’s also a regular presenter at the Ragan Speechwriters Conference and delivered a half-day workshop at the 2012 event on How to make an audience listen: rewriting with the audience in mind. Dean mentions fellow Ragan presenters Mike Long and Pete Weissman in his book and the forward is by Vital Speeches of the Day editor David Murray, who is also the books’ publisher.

In this book, Dean shares his insight on how to be a successful speechwriter, quoting Ron Kirpatrick, a veteran executive communications pro at Toyota: “Most writers and PR people would rather do anything than write a speech. It frightens them.” If you are new to speechwriting, this book will go a long way to removing any fears you might have about the challenges involved.

It’s a quick read at just over 100 pages and is filled with nuggets of condensed wisdom, told in an unassuming, practical manner by a speechwriter who has been there and done that.

The 10 steps to writing a speech, according the Dean:

  1. Know the audience
  2. Target the words
  3. Find the right material
  4. Tell a story
  5. How to say it: show or tell?
  6. Structure the speech
  7. Write the material
  8. Rewrite for clarity
  9. Using PowerPoint
  10. Coaching the speaker

Some of the most enjoyable, and insightful, parts of the book are the analysis of icons of American rhetoric including General Douglas McArthur’s 1962 speech to West Point cadets and Robert Kennedy’s 1968 speech in Indianapolis on the night Martin Luther King was assassinated.

Each chapter lists “Insider Tips”. These are nuggets of wisdom such as:

Always write a second close to your talk, one that comes after any Question/Answer period if there is one. When the questions are over, hit the audience again with a second close of about one minute. It should include three items: a thank you for the opportunity to speak, a thank you for their interest, a quick summary of the key message.

An added bonus are the Last Word and the Appendix which list practical tips that are worth the price of the book.

Dean claims that

Speechwriters have to be so much more than just good tacticians and excellent writers. In fact, you might do best to avoid being called a speechwriter altogether.

He advises taking a more holistic view of the executive communications function, using your skills as a communicator to achieve the organizations’ goals.

This book is a good overall introduction to the craft of speechwriting. Recommended.

Fletcher DeanI caught up with Fletcher at the Speechwriters Conference and asked him about the background to the book and what future plans he has to author more books. As you can see from the picture, Fletcher makes sure he color-coordinates his tie with the cover of his book!

To hear what he said, click on the podcast icon below.

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Nice review by Cynthia.

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