Standing Out from the Crowd: The Secrets of Interactive Meetings

The Saturday meeting of the Northern California Chapter of the National Speakers Association featured two interactive sessions that helped professional speakers stand out from the crowd.

Sarah Michel: How to be The Session Everyone is Talking About!

Sarah MichelSarah Michel, CSP is a meetings architect with over 15 years of experience designing one-of-a-kind meetings that matter. Sarah showed us you how to collaborate directly with audiences to generate deep meaning. She built on many of excellent suggestions in the report she helped author: Conference Connexity: Delivering on your Networking Promise.

From taking charge of the seating to allow conference attendees to interact freely, to chunking down content into shorter segments so that attendees have plenty of time for small group discussions, Sarah walked the audience through a number of ways to deliver on the promise of networking time (the main reason many people attend live events).

She used a model of how the brain learns and retains information. We start by receiving information (from the presenter) and then integrate it by reflecting and making connections. More powerful integration occurs when we make sense of the content and finally we gain maximum benefit if we test ideas by speaking or writing about it.

She had us discuss how we can encourage attendees to develop their own ideas about the content. I worked with my table mate Rick Gilbert who shared that middle managers at his executive presentation courses brainstorm and role play solutions to engage C-Level audiences.

Sarah shared a useful report that her consulting company has written for conference organizers on ways to improve the experience of attendees’ networking experience.

Sarah is a believer in really scaling back the amount of content in presentations to allow for a third- to two-thirds of the total time to allow for interaction between audience members to connect and discuss content instead of just listening and note taking.

Jim Carrillo: Innovative Video Skills

Jim CarrilloPast Chapter President Jim Carrillo led a hands-on workshop which demonstrated some basic, powerful and effective video skills. As speakers, we are all able to articulate our message. Video is the easiest way to amplify this message to the world: on social media, our own blog or website, as training aids for our presentations.

Jim forcefully made the point that we have reached the point in time when video captured on the smart phone is available to anyone. Gone are the days when formats had to be translated, cables hooked up from camera to projector or any of the other large or small barriers to getting video done. Now it is a simple matter of point, shoot and post.

He encouraged us to take simple, low-cost, steps to produce effective video. This includes:

  • Always hold the phone in landscape mode so that the video fills the screen on YouTube.
  • Lighting matters, but a simple lamp with paper clipped over it as a diffuser works.
  • Sound can be captured close up with a built-in mic. Fir distance, invest in something better.
  • A simple web-around backdrop or cloth held by willing assistants cuts the clutter in any room.

Jim demonstrated all this with a few volunteers and created a compelling video on the spot in minutes.

Jim Carrillo video

Jim has made resources available on his website. Check it out and you’ll see the results from his training session as well as find a host of useful tips and tricks. I recommend it!

Thanks to Sarah and Jim for one of the most useful Saturday mornings I’ve spent in a good while.

How Executives Can Keep Their Organization Informed via an Online Platform

INXPO LogoIn two weeks time I’ll be hosting an free webinar on How Executives Can Keep Their Organization Informed via an Online Platform on the INXPO Social Business TV network. I’ll be sharing tips on how executives can effectively inform and engage with their extended teams.

Based on my experience with Silicon Valley technology companies, I’ll suggest ways executives and executive communications managers can use video for everything from virtual Town Hall meetings to recorded customer testimonials. I’ll also review how to use the important Backchannel to engage with employees before, during and after an event.

The webinar happens on Tuesday February 12 from 9:00am – 10:00am (Pacific). Registration for the event is free. Click here to sign up.

Meanwhile, if you have any issues you’d like me to raise or questions you’d like answered during the event please leave a comment below.

Hope to see you online on the 12th!

Visionary Artist: Nam June Paik anticipated the internet

An astounding story on BBC America this evening about the Korean-born visual artist Nam June Paik, considered the father of video art, who coined the phrase “electronic superhighway” in 1974 while creating works that pushed the boundaries of television.

Cisco might like to claim Tomorrow starts here, but Nam June was building his version of tomorrow’s world a full 10 years before Cisco came on the scene and gradually built an internet backbone capable of handling video in ways that instantiate the artist’s vision.

Paik’s work, which has been put on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC, envisioned a future where the transmission of piles of data could happen instantaneously.

Paik, who died in 2006, was the first artist to experiment with the platform of television, seeing it as an open canvas on which many more artists would one day construct their works.

Smithsonian American Art Museum director Betsy Broun says the futurist was “like an antennae that was pointed out into the world, absorbing ideas”.

Information_Superhighway

Smithsonian senior curator for media arts, John G. Hanhardt, speaks passionately about the impact of digital media on the global consciousness in a way that is beyond the boundaries of any one discipline:

You know, I really do feel that 20th century art history is going to be rewritten through the moving image: from film to video and television, to video games, interactive platforms, the Internet. All the arts—whether literature, poetry, dance, sculpture—have changed because of these media as art forms. The whole telling of stories has changed remarkably through the impact of cinema and television and all of these moving image discourses. And they’ve also become art forms themselves, not only as classical cinema but as avant garde film practice, documentary, narrative, video art, installation and performance all throughout the 20th century. The very exciting access to a global history of the moving image through the Internet as well as the mobility of the artist to work and create digitally in a variety of forms and through diverse media platforms. It is really the new paper, the new printing press. However you want to look at it! That changed how we saw information. I do think that artists give us new ways to see ourselves and see the world around us, it is at the center of art history. And Nam June certainly achieved that transformation of video through his art.

Were he alive today, I suspect Paik would be looking 50 years ahead to a future we cannot imagine, where technology that currently seems outlandish is commonplace.

Guest Posting: Executive Leaders Have Something in Common with Old Kings, Marianne Gobeil

Marianne Gobeil is the CEO and founder of Leading Communicators. A recognized expert in the area of strategic leadership communications, Marianne is a trusted adviser to executive leaders — so devoted to helping them advance their leadership goals and objectives that she formed a company around it.

Marianne GoebilI was watching the film “The King’s Speech” again the other day, and it struck me that executive leaders today have a lot in common with King George VI. Not because they both stutter – although some certainly do, at least strategically. But because each faced a cosmic shift when it comes to communication. And in both cases, the disruptor was technology.

For King George, it was the “wireless” that fundamentally changed how he engaged with the British people. Have a listen to the counsel his father gives him:

Suddenly, centuries of tradition were disrupted. The old ways of ruling – from a distance, seen and heard by few – had been supplanted by a device that forged an immediate, close connection between the King and his people. The radio meant he was now present in their homes, and created the perception that he was speaking to them personally. What he said, and how he said it, now mattered, as there was a direct and immediate connection to them.

And now the same is true of executive leaders. We’ve all been customized for many decades at having people speak to us in our homes through radio and television. It had already started to surface in a different level of expectation outside the home as well; people wanted to feel that same sense of connectedness whenever someone spoke to them, even across a podium.

But now it’s different. People not only expect a speaker to connect with them; they expect to be able to connect right back. Social media is the great disruptor of our age. It’s opened the channels, and made one-way communication insufficient and perhaps ultimately obsolete.

The impact on executive leaders is huge. The two-way nature of social media has changed the rules of engagement. Like old kings ruling from a far, executive leaders can no longer lead from on high; they need to engage. They must be seen and heard by their employees and other stakeholders. What they say, when they say it, and how they say it matters because it carries far and fast.

So here’s the new reality for executive leaders: Speak up. Engage well and often. And when you speak, whether at a podium or across a meeting room, be sure you speak to the actual people in the room. Show them that you are aware of their specific interests and concerns, use the language and level of detail that they understand, and give them an opportunity to respond. The old days of one-way communication are gone, and clinging to them will reflect badly on your leadership.

This post originally appeared in Marianne’s blog. It is re-posted here with her express permission.

Interview: Paul M. Wood – Transmedia Storyteller

Transmedia storytelling is a hot topic. It’s a form of storytelling where multiple platforms tie together to tell a common story. It has been heralded as “a new storytelling form that is native to networked digital content and communication channels.”

UCS professor Henry Jenkins coined the term transmedia storytelling, and defines it as representing:

“…a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience…”

There’s many examples of transmedia, with projects around novels, TV shows, videogames, music and movies as well as a few examples in the corporate and executive communications space.

The more elaborate of these can involve the expense of year-long “teaser” campaigns for movies, or mass-participation alternate reality games.

However, transmedia storytelling can be a low-cost re-purposing existing video and audio digital content for multiple distribution channels. This might put your video used at trade show presentation on a massive screen into a format suitable for a laptop or smart phone. But it’s not just changing the aspect ratio and being done. It’s thinking of savvy ways to fracture a coherent story into pieces while keeping a core theme alive in different media. It’s weaving the storytellers magic in the digital age.

I’m just starting to learn about transmedia storytelling, but the impression I’ve got is that it is evolving rapidly and, if it delivers on even a part of the promise, will be a VERY BIG DEAL.

Paul M. Wood: Transmedia Storyteller

AE35 MediaI recently met with one of the more savvy transmedia storytellers in Silicon Valley. Paul M. Wood is a principal in the boutique communications firm AE35 Media.

Paul is a commercial and independent film director who grew up in a creative family. His father was an artist and his mother a musician. He studied at NYU Film School and has knocked around the tech industry.

After a decade making niche-busting films for Fortune 500 companies such as Cisco Systems, Paul is now calling upon his diverse background as both visual artist and technologist to bring storytelling into the twenty-first century by producing tales which cross not only genres but platforms and delivery systems as well.

AE35 Media believe that the days of executive communications managers creating a message and pushing out to the world as a scripted speech for a corporate big-wig to deliver once with the hope that it was clever or engaging enough to be noticed are over.

Things have changed.

We’ve gone from being a world where information is pushed out to the masses, to become one where the information is now pulled in by individuals. The tech industry knows this applies to their products, not too many yet realize it might equally apply to their corporate spokespeople. While information itself is shared, the act of acquiring it is now solitary and intimate.

Appealing to ONE large mass of people is one thing. It’s an auditorium filled will people listening to your CEO deliver a keynote. It’s an event, managed by the event production team. However, appealing to MILLIONS of individuals and having them own your brand or message as much as you do? Well that’s no longer a mere event. That’s a universe and within it the possibilities are limitless — this is the promise of transmedia storytelling.

To hear Paul discuss the potential of transmedia storytelling and how he sees it as a natural extension of his video production skills, click on the podcast icon below.

Relevant Resources: Web resources for speakers

I help edit SPEAKER Magazine for the National Speakers Association (NSA). Each month I curate the Relevant Resources column – a list of time-saving tools and technologies.

The July / August 2012 edition listed web-based resources for professional speakers. This is the last column I will edit, as a new editorial team takes over in September.

Experienced speakers know that they need all the help they can get. It is a mistake to try and do everything yourself. However, most tasks that used to require a full-time person can now be completed with the help of web-based software or a virtual assistant. What’s more, today’s cloud-based apps give you access to projects and allow for easy collaboration with your staff from your desktop, laptop, or mobile device.

The Grass is Greener

Grashopper screenshotThe Grasshopper® Entrepreneur’s Phone System lets you run your business professionally using cell phones. With a local or toll free number, unlimited extensions, live call forwarding, on hold music, name directory, and more, your small business can function like a Fortune 500 company. With Grasshopper, you can be reached on your home, office, mobile or VoIP phone. Plans start at $24/ month.

Carbon Copy

Carbonite logoHard drives crash. Laptops get stolen. Files are accidentally deleted. Let’s face it; our lives are on our computers. Stay in the clear with Carbonite®, a software that backs up your files to the cloud automatically so you can access them any time. Carbonite also has a free mobile app, allowing users to access their files on the go. Free trial. Pricing starts at $59/year for unlimited backup space for one computer.

Happy Camper

Basecamp LogoTake the “work” out of teamwork with Basecamp, a web-based project management system that makes collaboration easy with integrated email and calendars. Basecamp lets you to organize all of your documents in one place and share them with colleagues and clients. It also integrates with third-party apps like Highrise® CRM, Backpack, and Campfire chat. Starts at $20/month for up to 10 projects.

Done and Done

Do ScreenshotRecently acquired by Salesforce.com, Do is a social productivity app that works with Google Apps, Dropbox, and Salesforce (of course) to sync tasks and help you manage projects with your team no matter where you are. Do also includes a Gmail gadget that allows users to assign tasks via email. Simply send a short email to task@do.com and the app will automatically detect your address and add an entry. Free.

It’s in the Box

Dropbox logoGain remote access to your files from any web browser or mobile device when you create an account with Dropbox. The app lets you store documents, photos, music files, and videos securely, and access them later from any location – your home, office, or on the road. Works with Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad, iPhone, Android and Blackberry. Free for 2GB of storage; up to $200/year for 200GB of storage.

Google Plus

Google Apps ImageYou’re probably already familiar with Google’s Gmail, but have you utilized Google Calendar, Google Docs, and Google Drive? Explore the full suite of cloud-based apps from Google that let you create and share documents, sync calendars, send event reminders and attachments, and store files that can be accessed from anywhere. Google Drive is free for 5GB storage. $4/month for 20GB. See them all at Google.com.

Make Contact

Constant Contact LogoKnown as a popular email marketing tool, Constant Contact® recently added event marketing to its laundry list of services. Use this web-based tool to create and customize email campaigns from more than 400 template designs, add images and video links, blog content, surveys, and more to help your clients interact with and benefit from your newsletters. Starting at $15/month for 500 contacts.

Get Smart

Smartsheet logoLike a spreadsheet, but smarter, Smartsheet is a real-time collaboration tool that lets you manage projects, tasks, sales, marketing, human resources, and more. Smartsheet spreadsheets integrate with Google so you can update on the go, and they can be linked to Salesforce accounts, contacts, and opportunities for collaboration on project statuses, files, and discussions. $15.95/ month for up to 10 projects.

Speaker Solutions

espeakers logoOrganize, promote, and grow your business with simple, proven solutions that allow you to spend more time speaking and less time dealing with administrative chores. eSpeakers, founded by an NSA member, is the industry standard, offering user-friendly business development tools that make you look competent and polished behind the scenes, as well as on the stage. Starts at $39.95/month.

You can subscribe to SPEAKER magazine on the NSA website.

Relevant Resources: AV supplies for professional speakers

I help edit SPEAKER Magazine for the National Speakers Association (NSA). Each month I curate the Relevant Resources column – a list of time-saving tools and technologies.

The June 2012 edition listed AV supplies for professional speakers. Speakers for speakers, so to speak…

Professional speakers have a multitude of AV needs in their home offices as well as on the platform. Whether your goal is to make money in your jammies or reduce noise interruption when presenting to live audiences, you should consider investing in your own audio products. Get started with this assortment of quality microphones, recorders, speakers, software solutions, and accessories.

Pop screen

Pop filterYou know when you say the letter “p” into a microphone and you hear that annoying pop noise in the audio recording? It doesn’t have to be that way. Pop filters are screens that filter the popping sounds that occur when you speak into a microphone (not to be confused with the foam covers that function as windscreens). Using a pop filter can make a significant difference in your sound quality. Check out this filter for only $15 on amazon.com.

How to Record Skype Calls

CallBurner is an application that works with Skype to record your calls and convert them directly to mp3 or wav files for the best quality. Ideal for business meetings and podcasts, CallBurner creates crisp, clean, professional recordings, and is great for keeping a call archive. PC only. Free 30-day free trial, $49.95 after.

A Simple Audio File Editor

Audacity Audio EditorWhether you’re new to editing, or you’re a pro who just wants an easy, yet powerful, solution, Audacity® is the package deal. A free, open source, cross-platform software for recording and editing sounds, Audacity supports mp3, wav and aiff files; allows users to cut, copy, splice and mix sounds together; and you can also change the speed and pitch of recordings. This is the software I use to edit all my podcasts. Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

A Quality Digital Recorder

Olympus Digital RecorderA digital voice recorder, like the Olympus VN-8100PC Digital Voice Recorder 142600, allows you to record your own presentations and interview audience members for testimonials. This one features 2 GB memory, USB connection, support for mp3 or WMA formats, a large LCD screen, and a long battery life. $82. Use it with the Olympus ME-15 Microphone. $22.

The Snowball Microphone

Snowball MicIf you’re looking for a simple plug n’ play mic that connects to your computer and is ideal for podcasting, check out the Snowball USB Microphone. Snowball is the world’s first professional USB microphone that sounds just as good on your desktop as it does in a recording studio. The retro design is attractive and its three-way switch can handle a variety of recording applications. Connects with PC, Mac, or iPad. $66.

Screencasting

Want to speak, train, and sell more? Camtasia® Studio makes it easy. With this software, you can record presentations, product demos, and sales presentations; create interactive “screencast” training videos; and add a boost to your blog without going over budget. Available for PC and Mac. $300.

An Invisible Mic

Tech-geek speakers who want the ultimate cool onstage presence will love the Countryman E6 Omni Earset Mic. Practically invisible to live audiences, this headset captures sources clearly with excellent rejection of ambient noise, and it is incredibly comfortable to wear. $325.

A Rechargeable Wireless Microphone System

VocoPro Wireless MicSave cash without compromising quality when you opt for the VHF-3300 2 Channel VHF Rechargeable Wireless Microphone System from VocoPro. While not in use, set microphones in the charging port on top of the receiver. The set features Squelch Circuitry to eliminate background noise, individual volume controls, LED indicators to monitor signal strength, and a range of up to 150 feet. $142.

Great Self-Contained Speaker System

Behringer Speaker SystemSay goodbye to those backbreaking floor wedges when you discover the 150-Watt Behringer EUROLIVE B205D Speaker System, an ultra-compact PA speaker with amazing sound quality. Featuring revolutionary amplifier technology, a 3-channel mixer, two mic preamps with phantom power, dedicated stereo input and more, Eurolive delivers high power and tremendous functionality at a great price. $150.

Shure Wireless Mics

Shure Wireless MicWhen onstage, a hands-free lavalier microphone provides freedom of mobility. The Shure SLX124/85/SM58 Dual System features a Shure SLX4 Diversity Receiver, a Shure SLX2/58 Handheld Transmitter with SM58 Microphone, a Shure WL185 Cardioid Lavalier Microphone, and a Shure SLX1 Bodypack Wireless Transmitter. In addition to serving as backup, the second (handheld) wireless mic is a great way to perform Q&A with your audience without the hassle of cables. $889.

Portable Presentation Speakers

GoSpeak Portable SpeakersLike the Behringer Eurolive, the GoSpeak! Pro Portable Presentation Speakers are extremely portable and pack an impressive list of features, but at a slightly higher price point. These 13 x 9 inch flat panel NXT® technology speakers slide into your laptop bag with ease and provide uniform volume throughout a room with up to 200 people. Plug them into a regular microphone, CD player, laptop, or other sound source. $290.

You can subscribe to SPEAKER magazine on the NSA website.

Conference Best Practices: The Tech Policy Summit

The recent Tech Policy Summit at the Silverado Country Club in the Napa Valley was a well organized and engaging event. Too many conferences are painful to attend; lengthy keynote speeches in windowless hotel rooms, rubber chicken and endless PowerPoint conspire to dull the senses. This event was an exception. Here’s a list of the best practices that made a difference:

Location, Location, Location

Tech Policy Summit 2012The Silverado is an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, just far enough away to encourage those who could afford to stay over to do so, but an easy drive for anyone who wanted to commute. This eliminated the temptation for people to leave early and swing by the office. The conference “room” was a deck overlooking the golf course and the Napa Valley hills. It might have been distracting, but the a/v system overcame ambient sound from the fairways and the temperature in the shade was just right. People stay awake out of doors; in darkened conference rooms they fall asleep.

An Active Backchannel

Over 900 tweets were generated on the first day of the event alone. The Agenda listed the #TPS2012 hashtag together with Twitter handles for all panel members. There was excellent WiFi and a majority of the audience engaged with the backchannel on their laptops and smartphones.

While some attendees provided a valuable “live tweeting” service listing the main points being discussed, others offered reaction, opinion and responses. For those of us who were following (and this was not confined to those who were there in person) the tweet-stream augmented the event.

There was even the phenomena of greeting people in person who you’d previously exchanged tweets with:

@KatieS: New phrase coined at Tech Policy Summit for meeting people in person after twitter chats – TWIRL: #Twitter In Real Life.

Panels Not PowerPoint

Tech Policy Summit 2012 PanelThe agenda was exclusively comprised of panels. No keynotes, no PowerPoint, hence no need for a darkened room. The panelists often presented ‘point/counterpoint’ viewpoints that generated lively, sometimes heated, debates:

@kitode: Spirited debate on copyright between @mmasnick and @jttaplin of @USC @annenberg

@emilycastor: It’s getting heated! “You [@mmasnick] are not a neutral blogger, you are a shill for the technology industry.” – @JTTaplin

They checked most of the boxes in the Tips for panelists that I’ve listed in the past. Any exceptions were called out by the audience:

@pine_apple123: can we have a “Do Not Pitch” setting for @joshgalper?

Diversity

The event attracted a diverse audience: from Hollywood to Silicon Valley; the East and the West Coasts; Geeks and Legal Eagles. Tech Policy touches many areas: privacy; innovation; entrepreneurship; censorship; competitiveness; cybersecurity; a path for responsible online access; kids on Facebook; charges of incompetence and corruption in governments; complaints about the hubris of start-ups; and more, much more.

Diversity of viewpoints made for a vibrant event.

@redgraveK: love that there are 3 women (1 man) and a woman moderator on #tps2012 panel! @changetheratio #xxintech

Competent Moderators

As lively as the panels sometimes got, the humor and intelligence of the moderators was appreciated.

@whafro: You all know I appreciate a good panel moderator (99% of them suck), and @declanm is doing a mighty fine job with this one at #tps2012

Lesson Learned

Kudos to Natalie Fonseca, Co-founder and Executive Director for planning this event.

The lesson I took away was that, as the closing words from the first day stated: participants must learn to tell their stories to effect change in Tech Policy. People need to seize every opportunity to bring these issues to audiences in ways that everyday people can understand. And, as powerful as the panels at this event were, that might mean crafting an elevator speech or position statement that calls on the skills of a competent technology speechwriter.

I’m standing by … :-)

Guest Posting: The 5 Best Alternatives to Powerpoint by Joanne Westley

Joanne Westley is a senior manager in the supply chain of the UK’s Jansen Display. In her spare time Joanne likes to go mountain biking as well as hiking in the Lake District.

Presentations are stressful, and PowerPoint can make them even more so. Will the computer read your USB stick? Will the version of PowerPoint be different? Are your pictures and video going to show up right?

And, even if all that works out, will you hear a groan from the audience when they see the first slide from yet another cookie cutter slideshow?

Break the cycle and move beyond PowerPoint. There are new and exciting tools available that will let you add some spice to your talk, as well as open new avenues for collaboration.

Prezi

Prezi is the darling child of next-gen presentations. While the user interface can be daunting to a novice user, once mastered Prezi can produce murmurs of approval from your audience. While you can recreate the sterile slideshow feel within Prezi, it also has the ability to zoom in and out, rotate, and create visual experiences that are not possible from PowerPoint. Prezi can also integrate YouTube and other content seamlessly.

SlideRocket

Sliderocket will look much more familiar to PowerPoint users. It’s slide based, but offers a snazzier selection of tools and ingredients out of the box than PowerPoint. You can add charts, tables, video, and audio, and the interface is very intuitive. Be careful though, both SlideRocket and Prezi will have issues if running on a slow computer or an out of date browser.

Google Docs

The Presentations feature of Google Documents is a simple, no-nonsense slide creator. It offers the majority of the same features as PowerPoint, although it lacks the ability to insert audio and has less presentation customization. However, given the growing popularity of the Google Documents suite, this is a safe choice for group presentations since it’s likely they already have a Google account.

Whiteboards

One thing these digital formats lack is the ability to make adjustments to your presentation on the fly. Instead of PowerPoint or another online show, consider using a simple whiteboard for your presentation. This allows you to more closely tie your visual content to your talk by creating it as you go, as well as making your presentation more interactive by having the ability to answer questions on the whiteboard. Just make sure you and your audience will be comfortable with your handwriting and diagramming.

Zoho Show

Another online alternative, Zoho Show is as close to an online clone of PowerPoint as it gets. The menus and options have the same look and feel as the traditional Microsoft product, and so Zoho would be a good choice for a less technically savvy group who still wants to use an online digital platform for their presentation.

No matter which tool you choose, take the time to learn it and your material well, and your presentation will be a success. Based on my research, Prezi has the most potential for creating a Wow! experience, while Google Presentations is number one for ease of use. If you have an artistic streak, though, go for the whiteboard. Good luck!

16 Tips from Top Speechwriters

The final day of the 2012 Ragan Speechwriters Conference ended with a Speechwriter’s Survival Guide Panel session:

Caryn Alagno (CA), SVP, Corporate Issues at Edleman
Mike Long (ML), Freelance Speechwriter
Colin Moorehouse (CM), Freelance Speechwriter
David Murray (DM), editor of Vital Speeches of the Day
Pete Weissman (PW), Freelance Communications Strategist and Speechwriter

Fletcher Dean, Director of Leadership Communications at The Dow Chemical Company was the moderator.

  1. If you are an unemployed speechwriter, or a freelancer between assignments, join an Association of communicators like IABC or NSA, volunteer to meet everyone. Then join an Association, such as for biotechnologists, where there are no other speechwriters, pass your business card around to make contacts. (CM)
  2. Be known for something, develop your expertize in a specialized niche. “People need to believe you are good at something before they’ll believe you are good at everything.” (CA)
  3. Use technology to be productive: Evernote to file ideas; Dragon Naturally Speaking for transcriptions; Scrivener to organize facts; voice replay on PC or Mac to have computer read speech back for proofing; Carbonite and thumb drives for backups. (PW)
  4. Stop writing for the “speakers voice”, write for content. (ML)
  5. Don’t follow in footsteps of old school, cynical writers who would hammer out a speech for anyone with the bucks to hire them. Connect with what you are passionate about. Connect with your industry, connect with other speechwriters. (DM)
  6. Be more than a speechwriter, become a content strategist by injecting facts and statistics into speeches. Repurpose content into Op-Ed’s, Employee newsletters and more. (CA)
  7. Learn the ask the right questions: What headline do you want the speech to generate? What news can the company announce? Are there any landmines or sensitive issues to avoid? What is the audience’s biggest problem? What unique point of view does the speaker bring to the issue? (PW)
  8. Freelancer’s must know what their monthly “nut” is – how much do you need to earn to pay the bills? (ML)
  9. Don’t charge by the hour, or word, charge by the project. You’ll work fast and make more and the client will have the comfort of knowing the total cost up front. (ML)
  10. Develop a sense of humor, all speechwriters who survive learn not to take things too seriously. (DM)
  11. Once you have made contact with potential clients at the level of exchanging business cards, call for a follow-up lunch, listen to their issues, ask about their life. At the end of the meeting ask for permission to keep in touch and, finally, ask if they know anyone else you can talk to. Do this with each contact and it will lead to paying clients very quickly. (CM)
  12. Term what you write as “CEO remarks”, not just a speech. Consider rebranding your role to make yourself more relevant to each client. (CA)
  13. Respect your skills as a storyteller who, as Hitchcock noted, is “life with the dull parts left out”. Enjoy talking to the influential people who you meet and you have the freedom to ask them probing questions. (PW)
  14. Juice your creativity with a simple, practical writing exercises. Example: Describe everything you can about a chalkboard, now list the ways these qualities are like love (both are easily erased, never quite clean, leaves some dust in the air). (ML)
  15. Find other outlets for your creativity beyond speeches. If the CEO won’t take your counsel, volunteer on the board of a non-profit. Write magazine articles at the weekend. (DM)
  16. Expect to charge between $5,000 – $12,000 for a high-stakes speech and if you write fast and limit the re-writes you can earn $600/hr. (ML)