Announcing: A Conversation with Jeff Davenport

Jeff DavenportOn Thursday, August 30th the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable will host Jeff Davenport in a free conference call.

Jeff serves as an executive speaker coach and senior content developer at Duarte, the well-known communication design and consulting firm based in Santa Clara, founded by Nancy Duarte.

Using his background as a screenwriter and professional public speaker, Jeff helps clients communicate powerfully and persuasively by infusing story, dynamism, and empathy into their presentations. Whether he’s coaching high-level executives or thought leaders taking the stage for conference keynotes or commencement addresses, Jeff brings a thoughtful, personal touch to his roles, tapping into speakers’ personal passions and helping them create lasting connections with their audiences.

Jeff is a 2017 Cicero Award winner in the Public Policy category for his speech ‘Someday is Today’ delivered by Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor at CADE in Lima, Peru.

In this call we’ll discuss the background to the Cicero Award-winning speech and the “Duarte Method” Jeff employs with his clients. Jeff is also an accomplished screenwriter and a firm believer in the use of the story structure in speeches. Finally, we’ll touch on why he believes speechwriters must write with delivery in mind, and share his secret for pitching a completed speech to the client to ensure successful delivery from the podium.

Click here to RSVP for this free conference call.

Hey! Hey! LBJ! How many speechwriters did you kill today?

LBJThanks to David Murray for pointing to a piece from DelanceyPlace.com about President Lyndon Johnson’s relentless work schedule that exhausted most of those who worked for him in the West Wing. This from the book Organizing the Presidency by Stephen Hess

He worked a two-shift day, 7:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. and 4:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. Between 2:00 P.M. and 4:00 P.M. he took a walk, swam, ate lunch, napped, showered, and changed clothes. Then, returning to his office, he was known to say, “It’s like starting a new day.” Top assistants were expected to be available at all times, for both shifts.

This relentless determination to do more of everything for as long as he would be in office inevitably took its toll on those around him. For example, in 1964, an election year, when he made 424 speeches, almost everyone on the staff was pressed into service as a presidential scribe, and everyone joined the constant talent search for speechwriters. The length of the day, the intensity of the work, and Johnson’s reputation for verbally abusing those close to him also meant a ceaseless turnover of presidential assistants, which gave the executive mansion “the appearance of a well-slept rooming house.”

The challenge of working as a speechwriter in the Johnson White House are highlighted by Robert Schlesinger in his excellent book White House Ghosts. Writers had

…a struggle to find the right balance in Johnson’s rhetoric…His insecurities and moods, skills as an extemporaneous speaker and deficiencies with a text, and his inability to adapt to television had push-pull effects on the speechwriting process.

JumboThese difficulties were exacerbated by the President’s eccentricities, such as his habit of intimidating other men by showing off “Jumbo”– his masculine appendage, of which he was inordinately proud. Schlesinger reports that he interviewed speechwriter Douglas Carter by forcing him to join in a skinny dipping session in the White House pool.

The speechwriters serving Johnson lived life on the edge

The pressure was crushing. Waking in the middle of the night, Hardesty would realize that he had been editing a speech in his dreams.

and

A ceaseless week of drafting drove Goodwin to his physical and mental limit in the predawn hours of January 12, the day of delivery. At the end of a thrity-six hour jag, Goodwin could neither focus on his typewriter keys nor order his thoughts in complete sentences.

The root of these difficulties was a simple of case of Presidential envy

Kinter later said that Johnson was “Always angry” about the drafts he was getting. “He always felt they were inferior to Kennedy’s,” he said. “I’ve never known him to be satisfied with a speech, either before, after, or at any point.”

Alas, even Jumbo was no help.

A Conversation with Matt Kivel, Cicero Speechwriting Award Winner

Matt KivelOn Thursday, July 19th the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable hosted Matt Kivel in a free conference call.

Matt is the overall 2018 Cicero Speechwriting Award Winner for his speech The Power of a Story delivered by Gregory L. Fenves, President, the University of Texas at Austin. This is a searing personal story about the experiences of the President’s father as a Holocaust survivor.

Watch the speech being delivered by President Fenves:

Matt has been writing professionally since 2007. He started as a freelance music critic, and soon became an editor and writer for the entertainment industry bible/trade publication/newspaper Variety, where he interviewed prominent members of the entertainment industry including Warren Beatty, David Lynch, and George Stevens Jr. Later on, he took a job at The Aerospace Corporation and wrote speeches for the company’s President and CEO, Dr. Wanda Austin. He is now the speechwriter to Gregory Fenves, President of The University of Texas.

The call covered a wide range of topics including:

  • His hour-long conversation with Warren Beatty.
  • His career transition from rock n’ roll critic to speechwriter.
  • The process of developing a speech on an intensely personal topic.
  • The audience reaction when the speech was delivered.
  • His favorite Peggy Noonan quote.
  • The upcoming webinar with David Murray on how to win a Cicero Award.
  • And much more…

To hear the full discussion click on the podcast icon below.

Speechwriters speak out in Cambridge

The European Speechwriter Network held their 16th annual conference at King’s College, Cambridge on 12 & 13 April. This 13 minute video features three top speechwriters: Stephen Krupin (speechwriter to Barack Obama), Jessica Cunniffe (speechwriter to David Cameron) and Lindsay Hayes (speechwriter to Sarah Palin). They describe the aptitudes and skills they needed to work at the highest levels. The video includes clips from the conference and is worth viewing in its entirety, if only for the splendid scenes of Cambridge!

Announcing: A Conversation with Cicero Award Winner Matt Kivel

Matt KivelOn Thursday, July 19th the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable will host Matt Kivel in a free conference call.

Matt is the overall 2018 Cicero Speechwriting Award Winner for his speech The Power of a Story delivered by Gregory L. Fenves, President, the University of Texas at Austin.

Watch the speech being delivered by President Fenves:

The WhoMatt has been writing professionally since 2007. He started as a freelance music critic, and soon became an editor and writer for the entertainment industry bible/trade publication/newspaper Variety, where he interviewed prominent members of the entertainment industry including Warren Beatty, David Lynch, and George Stevens Jr. (Check out his 2013 review of The Who’s Quadrophenia tour!)

Later on, he took a job at The Aerospace Corporation and wrote speeches for the company’s President and CEO, Dr. Wanda Austin. He is now the speechwriter to Gregory Fenves, President of The University of Texas. He enjoys the mosaic-like process of developing strong written material that can strengthen and intensify the bond between speaker and audience. Matt holds a BA in Economics from the University of Michigan.

In this call we’ll discuss the process Matt used to create his award-winning speech and the lessons for all speechwriters as they write the speeches that will be candidates for the 2019 Cicero Awards.

Click here to RSVP for this free conference call.

A Conversation with Bob Sands on Sermons and Speechwriting

Bob Sands On June 19, 2018 the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable held a conference call with Bob Sands.

Bob is a speaker and speechwriter who has helped people and businesses tailor and tell their stories for the last 25 years. He has also been a Pastor, Entrepreneur, Coach and Radio Broadcaster.

Currently, he is focusing his time on helping individuals, businesses and organizations clarify and communicate their message. As the President of Sands Communications, Inc., he has given over 5000 presentations himself to every kind of group from Funeral directors to firefighters to CEO’s. He has coached and written keynote speeches for executives, helped salespeople hone their speaking skills and developed communication strategies for both political candidates and elected officials.

The call covered a wide range of topics including:

  • Bob’s techniques for crafting a sermon, most often delivered to a familiar audience.
  • The challenge of preaching to congregations where the common themes of the Bible known to earlier generations have been lost.
  • His segue intro speechwriting, and where he finds most of his freelance clients.
  • The relevance of the study of homiletics to speechwriting, especially the books of Alyce McKenzie.
  • Bob’s use of social media to magnify the impact of his message.
  • What impressed him about David Murray’s recent PSA White Paper titled A Provocation from the Pulpit: Dead Preachers Challenge Living Speechwriters.
  • Breaking News: David Murray announcing the creation of a companion to the well-known Vital Speeches of the Day — Vital Sermons of the Day which David and Bob are launching. Find out more on their Facebook page.

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

Announcing: A Conversation with Bob Sands on Sermons

Bob SandsOn Tuesday, June 19th the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable will host Bob Sands in a free conference call.

Bob is an ordained minister and “preaching man”. David Murray’s recent PSA White Paper titled A Provocation from the Pulpit: Dead Preachers Challenge Living Speechwriters states that the lessons in a 1971 book on writing sermons “helped me clarify and articulate my ideas on good speechwriting. And to my occasional consternation, what I learned contradicts some of what I’ve taught speechwriters over the years, and what many of us have come to accept as true about our business.”

Bob will discuss his insights about crafting sermons and how it intersects with his work as a freelance speechwriter. He’ll also share what he’s learned from talking with the bereaved and share his advice for speechwriters who must deal with challenging topics based on his first-hand experience of difficult conversations.

Bob Sands is a speaker and speechwriter who has helped people and businesses tailor and tell their stories for the last 25 years. He has also been a Pastor, Entrepreneur, Coach and Radio Broadcaster.

Currently, he is focusing his time on helping individuals, businesses and organizations clarify and communicate their message. As the President of Sands Communications, Inc., he has given over 5000 presentations himself to every kind of group from Funeral directors to firefighters to CEO’s. He has coached and written keynote speeches for executives, helped salespeople hone their speaking skills and developed communication strategies for both political candidates and elected officials.

Bob is offering all who attend this conference call a TTI Talent Insights assessment at no charge (a $295 value). This is tool he uses with his speechwriting and public speaking clients to improve their communication skills.

Click here to RSVP for this free conference call.

Fundraising Raffle

Silicon ValleyTo offset the costs of running the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable I’m holding a raffle for three great prizes of interest to speechwriters. Tickets are just $10 each for members who would like to try their luck and support the Roundtable by buying tickets in this virtual raffle. There’s no charge to join the Roundtable, and anyone with an interest in speechwriting and tech is encouraged to join us — no matter where in the world you live. All Roundtable conference calls are free. To support the raffle click here.

The Prizes

Counselor CoverCounselor, by Ted Sorensen. In my review I noted that there’s over 500 pages of compelling narrative in his striking honest autobiography. It covers his Unitarian origins in the soil of Nebraska, to Washington DC and the Kennedy years, to the recent past … The book contains a fascinating number of insights into speechwriting and the role of the speechwriter.

Mighty Voice_CoverEach a Mighty Voice: A Century of Speeches from the Commonwealth Club of California. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you have likely heard of The Commonwealth Club of California from its radio broadcasts. This book is a centennial collection of speeches delivered at the Club. Rich with ideas, sweeping in scope, Each a Mighty Voice immerses you in the anguish, excitement, and fears of the last century: not as history, but as present tense.

West Wing Season 5The West Wing: Season 5. Experience the inner workings of the White House in this innovative, multi-award-winning drama series created by Emmy winner Aaron Sorkin. Martin Sheen, as President Bartlet, continues to leads an acclaimed ensemble cast.Entering its fifth season, The West Wing begins as the President — and the nation — faces the traumatic kidnapping of his youngest daughter, and that it may be the result of his controversial political actions. Watch this season and enjoy the vicarious thrill of speechwriting in the pressure cooker that is the White House.

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.

Announcing: A Conversation with Barbara Seymour Giordano on Storytelling

Barbara Seymour Giordano HeadshotOn Thursday May 24th the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable will host Barbara Seymour Giordano in a free conference call.

Barbara is a speechwriter with an edge. In fact, she has three distinct edges that set her apart from the run-of-the-mill wordsmiths who clients hire to craft their speech.

She is a writer who is also comfortable on the podium. Very few writers are. I remember a Ragan Speechwriters Conference where in a room of 60 only three people raised their hands when asked if they are also comfortable presenting.

She is a speech coach. Many of us draw the line at delivery coaching. I always found it impossible in the corporate setting to advise an executive many levels above me on the ways they’d need to change as a speaker to be more effective onstage. This often involves dealing with unconscious mannerisms and deeply ingrained habits that are better addressed by a professional coach. Barbara is such a coach.

She is an accomplished storyteller. Many writers claim to understand the value of the story to move an audience to action. Many fail to deliver. Barbara 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.

Barbara is a two-time Cicero Speechwriting Award Winner:

2015 for ‘Rap on Trial’ delivered as a TedX speech by Charis Kubrin, Professor of Criminology. Law and Society at UC Irvine;

2017 for ‘Preserving History in 3D ‘ delivered by Andrew Jones, Senior Research Associate, Vision and Graphics Lab at the Institute for Creative Technologies.

To register for the event (no charge) visit the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable site. We start at 11:45am (Pacific) on Thursday May 24.