Pod Save America

Pod Save America

I’m impressed by the new podcast from the Obama speechwriting team (who suddenly have time on their hands).

Pod Save America is a lively, irreverent and highly partisan discussion hosted by hosted by Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor. In the latest episode they are joined by second-term chief speechwriter Cody Keenan in a discussion that gives some great advice on what makes a speechwriters’ life pleasurable or painful, why edits to a draft are to be welcomed, and makes the unequivocal point on the importance of direct access to the principal, not mediated by comms staff.

There’s wonderful inside baseball tales on which sections of Obama’s speeches were written by who, and where the President made killer edits.

I love it that their Twitter account has over 30,000 followers but they only follow one person, can you guess who?

Check it out on iTunes or your favorite podcast syndication venue.

Why consider a career in Marketing

My son recently graduated with a degree in International Business and Marketing and is looking for an entry-level position in this area. I met today with a group of marketing professionals who shared the many reasons young people should consider a career in this field.

To hear what they told me, click on the podcast icon below.

Oh, and if you know of any entry-level marketing jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area let me know! Neil’s Dad will thank you…

A Conversation with Matt Teper

Matt TeperOn Wednesday February 24, members of the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable hosted a conference call with Google speechwriter Matt Teper.

Matt is the Head of Editorial at Google, where he is the leader and founder of the Google Ink team. The team is responsible for defining the voice of Google in major speeches, executive presentations, op-ed’s, blog posts, social media, press statements, internal news, and all manner of creative and editorial work.

Matt is also Eric Schmidt’s speechwriter.

Matt came to Google in 2012, from the White House, where he served as Vice President Joe Biden’s chief speechwriter for the first three-plus years of the Obama administration.

During the call, Matt described what it was like to work for the Vice President, the contrast between the life of a speechwriter in DC and in Silicon Valley and shared his insights about the craft of speechwriting. He also confirms that Google is not, currently, working on a time machine!

To hear a recording of the call click on the link below. Since the call lasts over an hour you might prefer to choose the Download option and listen later.

Meeting Report: The wit and wisdom of speechwriter Hal Gordon

Hal GordonOn Thursday September 17, 2015 the Silicon Valley Speechwriters welcomed Hal Gordon as our guest on a conference call.

Hal was a speechwriter for the Reagan White House and later wrote for Gen. Colin Powell. Since 2005, Hal has provided executive speech writing for top executives of Shell Oil, Royal Dutch Shell, CenterPoint Energy, GE Aero Energy, UPS, Sim-Tex LP, cPanel and the Greater Houston Partnership. He’s also lectured on speechwriting for NASA, Texas A&M University, the National Association of Government Communicators, more than half a dozen national speechwriter conferences and the U.K. Speechwriter’s Guild.

Hal was a speechwriter in the Reagan White House, where he wrote for Counselor to the President Edwin Meese, OMB director James C. Miller, and other top domestic advisors to the President.

Hal has a web site—www.ringingwords.com—and blogs for www.punditwire.com. Follow him on Twitter @paidpen.

Shield of ParadeIn a wide-ranging conversation Hal discusses working at the White House and his views on the current crop of Republican Presidential candidates (including Donald Trump who he satirizes in this version of a Trump speech to Evangelicals). He comments on the debt Winston Churchill owes to Irish-American statesman William Bourke Cockran and the importance of Churchill’s essay on Scaffolding of Rhetoric.
Hal reminds speechwriters to always be on the look out for material, which he illustrates by telling how he used the Shield of Parade which he admired on a visit to the British Museum in a later speech.

To hear edited highlights of the call, click on the podcast icon below.

Jessica Pettitt: Be Yourself, Everyone Else Is Taken

Jessica PettittThe afternoon speaker at Saturday’s Northern California NSA Chapter meeting was our own chapter member from Eureka in the far north of California (and National NSA Board member) Jessica Pettitt, CSP.

Jessica’s program challenged us to consider what differentiates us from other speakers or trainers in our niche. After speaking for fifteen years and stirring up tough conversations for audiences on college campuses, Jessica has learned a lot about who she isn’t willing to be and who she accidentally is.

She delivered a highly interactive, high energy, humorous afternoon session where no question was off limits.

This culminated in an exercise to help us know what makes us unique as speakers by embracing our points of distinction.

Embrace Your Points of Distinction

Jessica distributed index cards and asked us to write down points that differentiate us as professional speakers. She then read out these statements (anonymously) asking if the audience could guess, based on the text, who it described. There were precious few of us who could be easily identified. Many in the room claimed their uniqueness lay in such commonplace features as:

  • “I’m entertaining” (isn’t everyone?)
  • “I don’t tell a story, I make it come alive” (not a marked point of distinction if you are presenting at a storytellers conference, maybe in the corporate world)
  • “High energy speaker!” (table stakes)
  • “Background in journalism” (all too common, given the job market in that profession)
  • “Combines speaking with hands on professional services” (much laughter)
  • “Free and easy smile” (you don’t say)
  • “Integrate humor with my speeches” (even those who are not trying to be funny can be hysterical to some)
  • “Compassionate” (too low a bar)

It was only a few who were instantly recognizable to fellow chapter members. The lesson is obvious. As Karen Jacobsen directed in her morning session, we need to be able to describe the outcomes to our clients in one sentence. Jessica highlighted the importance of making sure that sentence contained something unique that would cause a meeting planner to want to book us.

To hear a brief extract from Jessica’s presentation, where she talks about the importance of working on what makes us truly unique, click on the podcast icon below.

Karen Jacobsen: The GPS Girl

Karen JacobsenNo member of the National Speakers Association speaks to as many people on a daily basis as does Karen Jacobsen. Her voice is one of the options on over 100 million GPS systems and 300 million smartphones. She’s the one we hear when lose our way and the GPS tells us it is ‘recalculating’.

On Saturday she spoke to members of the NSA Northern California Chapter.

Oh Say Can You See?

Karen, a professional singer-songwriter raised in Australia and now a native of New York, began her presentation with a stunning rendition of the American national anthem — she’s sung The Star Spangled Banner in baseball stadiums across the country. She then gave the motivational speech she delivers to corporate clients, listing five ‘GPS Girl’ life-lessons, interspersed with her own songs:

  • Is your inner GPS telling you that you are off your route?
  • Are you willing to change direction?
  • Have you clarified your destination?
  • Are you ready to embrace the steering wheel?
  • Accelerate!

Her speaker demo reel shows some of what we enjoyed:

Directions for Speaker Success

Following this showcase presentation, Karen shifted gears (so to speak) and shared her insights into success in the speaking business. She helped us navigate a list of 44 directions for speaker success in business, well-being, speech delivery and quality of life. They included recommendations on everything from being sure to stay hydrated (crucial for all speakers, not just singers), eating a diet of living foods, avoiding toxins, daily meditation practice and exercise to keeping an uncluttered office, participating in a mastermind group and working with a business coach. She emphasized these are a destination to aim for, not something we achieve immediately.

Taking Care of Business

Here’s the GPS Girl’s list of business goals:

  1. I can describe the outcomes for my clients in one sentence.
  2. I have a three minute Speaker Video I am proud of.
  3. My website is updated regularly and clearly represents my brand.
  4. I am using professional photographs taken in the past 12 months.
  5. My business cards are on excellent high quality stock.
  6. My social media strategy works for me and my online and offline presence are consistent.
  7. I use Quickbooks (or an equivalent), my accounting is up-to-date and taxes are paid.
  8. I know I look well-groomed and feel confident walking into any room.
  9. I make daily phone calls as part of my marketing strategy.
  10. I save at least 10% of my income.
  11. I am earning my target revenue.

These are valuable goals for any freelancer, entrepreneur or small business owner, not just those in the speaking profession.

To hear a short extract from Karen’s presentation, discussing the first two of these business goals, click on the podcast icon below.

The Professional Speechwriters Association

PSA LogoMembers of the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable joined David Murray on a conference call earlier this week. This is the third and final edited highlight of the call. In part one David talked about the way the profession has changed. In part two he reviewed highlights from the 2015 Ragan Speechwriters Conference.

In this third edited highlight, he discusses the importance of the Professional Speechwriters Association and shares some of his experiences as editor of Vital Speeches of the Day.

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

Highlights of the 2015 Ragan Speechwriters Conference

Capitol BuildingSilicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable joined David Murray on a conference call earlier this week. This is the second of two edited highlights of the call. In part one David talked about the way the profession has changed.

In this second edited highlight, he reviews the highlights from the 2015 Ragan Speechwriters Conference which took place in Washington DC last week.

David shares how impressed he was with the keynote by Rod Thorn, a Communication Executive at PepsiCo. In his talk Rod, who came from the humblest of origins, tells how he comes to understand his ultimate worth: “I am the people I’ve been flying over.”

David also comments on the initiative that Mark Buchanan shared about the ways they are changing the way people at Cisco write and speak. His team is helping people use language in simpler, more distinctive ways.

Finally, he touches on the presentation by Monique Visintainer, an Executive Communications Manager at Microsoft, who discussed how best to organize executive communications plans and set goals in the corporate setting.

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

The changing world of speechwriting

Speechwriting TodayMembers of the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable joined Vital Speeches of the Day Editor David Murray on a conference call earlier this week. This is the first of three edited highlights of the call.

David is executive director of the Professional Speechwriters Association and was the MC of the recent Ragan Speechwriters Conference. He’s been a fixture on the speechwriting scene since the early 1990’s.

In this part of the conference call, David reflects on the changes in the profession of speechwriting since the days of the “pipe smoking, erudite and slightly eccentric” gentlemen speechwriters of the old school.

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

Changing the Corporate Conversation

Change the Corporate ConversationThere are over 11 million corporate meetings every day in the United States, yet how often do we walk into a corporate meeting wondering why we are there? Or walk out angry that we’ve wasted another precious hour and accomplished nothing?

What makes for a good conversation, or a meaningful meeting? Why are good conversations so elusive? How can we use our communications and leadership skills to ensure that more conversations at work excite participants, enable them to connect deeply with each other, and enhance organizational productivity?

These were some of the questions raised in an NSA/NC Salon held last Sunday, hosted by Wendy Hanson, featuring Chapter President-Elect Jim Ware.

Jim is the author of Changing the Corporate Conversation (forthcoming) and a former Harvard Business School professor who has spent his entire career teaching clients how to invent their own futures. He is the founder and Executive Director of The Future of Work…unlimited, Global Research Director for Occupiers Journal Limited, and a Partner with the FutureWork Forum. He is also a co-founder of the new Great Work Cultures movement.

Jim believes that as leaders in organizations and communications specialists we all have an opportunity — and responsibility — to focus our energy of drawing out the unique insights and experiences that each of us brings to the workplace. Teams that understand the power of collaboration, rooted in authentic conversation, make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

The Social Construction of Reality

My own interest in conversation pre-dates my life in the corporate world. Reading C Wright Mills in my Leicester University Sociology class left an indelible impression. His 1940 paper on Situated Actions and Vocabularies of Motive explains the social, rather than the psychological, reasons people say what they do in conversation with others. Certain statements will be acceptable in some contexts, not in others. Indeed, as I’ve written here before, the ‘technology of interaction’ in meetings points to a whole raft of unstated assumptions, social norms, cultural influences and power relations underpinning conversations.

Want to see these social forces in action? They’re not difficult to spot. It’s as simple as watching when an idea voiced by a woman in a meeting is ignored, while the same from a man is applauded. Or listening to how much more loudly people laugh at the boss’s jokes than yours.

Talk Talk

Following Mills, sociologists such as Garfinkle and Goffman developed the sociology of conversation analysis. In formal meetings, as well as informal interactions, responses which agree with the position advocated tend to be offered sooner than statements that disagree with those positions. One consequence of this is that agreement and acceptance are easier alternatives and a natural outcome of many meetings.

Fair Warning

So, next time you’re in a meeting where they call for ‘honest feedback’ just remember the warning of the French philosopher:

Voltaire quote

But I digress.

To hear some of what Jim shared at the meeting, click on the podcast icon below.