A Conversation with Barbara Seymour Giordano on Storytelling

Barbara Seymour Giordano HeadshotOn May 24, 2018 the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable Held a conference call with Barbara Seymour Giordano. Barbara is a Story Doctor, Speechwriter and Presentation Coach who specializes in helping speakers tell memorable stories that audiences yearn to hear and share. Her specialty is guiding speakers — from the page to the stage — through the often murky and intricate process of bringing a story idea to life. She turns complex subjects into moving stories that spark imagination across cultures.

Over her career Barbara has advised Fortune 500 executives, entrepreneurs, scientists and TED presenters on creating and sharing stories that unite, influence and inspire audiences worldwide. Her fascination with story began when she worked as an assignment editor with CNN and E! Entertainment Television. She then parlayed her news experience into producing and directing corporate videos, global sales meetings and events for Amgen, Cisco Systems, and Nike among others. In front of the lens she’s appeared as an on-camera national TV fashion and beauty spokesperson for Lands’ End, Neiman Marcus, and TJX Corp. she delivers keynote speeches on topics that include The Art of Business of Storytelling, The Startup Pitch: Telling Stories Investors Want to Hear, and Storytelling TED Style. Her 360-degree communication experience allows her to offer a unique approach to crafting the stories that make speeches come alive..

The call covered a wide range of topics including:

  • How she “backed into” speechwriting after helping coach executives in need of basic advice on presentation skills at large corporate events.
  • The lessons she learned crafting 90-second investor pitches and 8-12 minute TED talks.
  • Her appreciation of Toastmasters as the “learning gym” for presentation skills.
  • The value of a simple one-page approach to the “hero’s journey” as a speech outline.
  • How she helped PhD candidates in sociology, pharmacy other disciplines deliver content as a compelling story stripping out the techno-babble they were prone to use.
  • The value of shows like Billions and Silicon Valley as an alternate view into the world of speechwriting and presentations that stands in contrast to the oft-quoted scenes from The West Wing.
  • How to structure a speech around a story by starting from the desired outcome.
  • How freelance speechwriters can find more clients.

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

A Conversation with Felicity Barber

Felicity BarberOn April 26, 2018 the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable Held a conference call with Felicity Barber. Felicity is the Executive Speechwriter at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. She is a communications expert specializing in thought leadership, storytelling and speechwriting. Prior to joining the Fed she ran her own business, Thoughtful Speech for three years. She moved to San Francisco from London in 2014 where she was a speechwriter at the global insurer, Lloyd’s of London. She has also worked as a Policy Advisor to the Home Office in London and as a Parliamentary Assistant to the Labour Party member for Islington South and Finsbury, Emily Thornberry MP.

The call covered a wide range of topics including:

  • The focus of the book Felicity wrote that was presented to the Queen (and Her Majesty read).
  • The origin of the term ‘underwriter’ (as in the Insurance industry, not someone who is a junior speechwriter…)
  • How Felicity broke into the speechwriting business in London.
  • A comparison between the work of a speechwriter in the UK and USA.
  • Her observation that the publishers of anthologies of famous speeches rarely include those given by woman.
  • The impact of the young women such as Emma Gonzales who survived the shooting at their school and spoke out against American gun culture.
  • The advantage enjoyed by the younger generation of speakers who are social media natives.
  • Notable speeches by women such as those by Oprah Winfrey, actress Anne Hathaway and the secret speech of MzBhaver Raver.
  • The UN Women Instagram account as source of inspirational women speakers.
  • An appreciation of the work of Denise Graveline promoting women speakers.
  • The challenges faced by women who work in the “Brotopia” culture of Silicon Valley tech companies and the urgent need for that industry to recruit diverse talent.
  • The value of women mentoring women, for example by Women who Code and Anitab.org
  • The challenges faced by women in politics and lessons speechwriters can learn from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the views of communications director Jennifer Palmieri.
  • The value of building a long-term relationship between a speechwr1ter and speaker.
  • The rise and fall of women in tech (as a percentage of programmers).
  • The pervasive influence of Silicon Valley on our economy, culture and politics as revealed by Norm Cohen in The Know-It-Alls.
  • How to address the imbalance in the ratio between male and female speakers? What influence can speechwr1ters have?
  • The prominence of women in the National Speakers Association including Past-President Patricia Fripp.

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

The 2018 Cicero Speechwriting Awards – A conversation with David Murray

CiceroMore than 2,000 years ago, Cicero called rhetoric a “great art.” Since then, staggering advances in mass communication haven’t diminished the transformative power of a great speech.

And the Cicero Speechwriting Awards recognize the speechwriters and the speakers who make it great.

Presented by Vital Speeches of the Day, the prestigious monthly collection of speeches, the Cicero Speechwriting Awards recognize the work that makes the speeches that help leaders lead—in every sector of business, politics and society.

In this podcast I talk with VSOTD editor David Murray about what makes a speech Cicero Award material, and the changes he’s seen over the last dozen years that the Awards have been given. To hear what David said, simply click on the podcast icon below.

Click here to enter the 2018 Cicero Speechwriting Awards today.

Podcast: Shel Holtz on Social Media and Speechwriting

Shel HoltzOn Wednesday October 4th the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable hosted a conference call with Shel Holtz. We discussed the ways in which social and digital media — which have given rise to content marketing — offer a host of options to speechwriters to draw attention to the speech before, during, and after its delivery. Shel reviewed the rapid development of the many forms of social media available for speechwriters to use, from humble beginnings as blogs and chat rooms to the rich variety of streaming media solutions available today.

Among the tips Shel shared was the use of Poll Everywhere to engage audiences and the Mevo live event camera for streaming.

Click on the podcast icon below to listen to Shel discuss these topics and more, as well as answer questions from speechwriters who were on the call. (Apologies for the audio which suffered from occasional background noise, but nothing that should prevent you listening to whole 55 minute call.)

A Conversation with Tim Pollard on Fail-Proofing Your Communication

Tim PollardOn Thursday May 18 members of the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable were in conversation with Tim Pollard, author of The Compelling Communicator: Mastering the Art and Science of Exceptional Presentation Design.

In his new book, Tim Pollard has developed a systematic approach to the design and delivery of presentations and speeches that is applicable to everything from sales pitches to keynotes to TED Talks. The framework outlined in The Compelling Communicator is supported by research in how the brain processes information and how human beings learn; and it’s buttressed by Tim’s years of in-person experience communicating with, and coaching, leaders in business and non-profits worldwide.

Click on the podcast icon below to listen to Tim discuss some of the key concepts in his book, as well as answer questions from executive communications professionals at Cisco and Hewlett Packard.

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.