Mike Long: Better Structure, Better Style

Mike Long delivered an impassioned plea for the importance of structure and style in the speechwriting craft.

Mike works as a freelance writer with the White House Writers Group and teaches speechwriting at Georgetown University.

Structure is the key to a good speech. It is key for the audiences’ understanding. A speech “washes over us, like wading into the ocean” and cannot be re-played or re-read like the printed word. It must be presented in a way that is clear and can be retained by the audience, reinforcing the things you want them to take home. If a speech is just a series of facts, you are not going to make an impact. It is also key for the speaker – structure allows them to focus on the delivery. It’s a map which prevents the speaker going off at a tangent.

Mike pissed some of the audience off when he claimed that speechwriters need to understand that, fundamentally, no-one really cares what you write. Most of the audience are not there voluntarily. While they may be moved emotionally by Obama-esque oratory, most business speeches are units of information that should be delivered, like a shot in arm at the doctor’s office, as quickly and painlessly as possible.

While the speech structure are the tracks on which you lay the information, the style is the rhetorical tools of persuasion. One structure can support many styles.

Mike’s best advice was to use a well-organized process with speechwriting. This begins with the spec sheet – the logistics of the event that the speechwriter is often the owner of.

To see Mike in action, take a look at edited highlights in the 8 minute video below.

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Well put; whether we like it or not, it’s true. Great point: “…the style is the rhetorical tools of persuasion. One structure can support many styles.” Thanks.

Thanks for posting this, Ian! I’m flattered that you found it interesting. Good to see you yesterday–ML

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