The A.I. Speechwriter – Part 1

This is the first in the three-part series of posts examining how speechwriters can use generative A.I. tools like ChatGPT.

Source: MidJourney A.I.

There are concerns in the professional speech writing community about the impact of generative A.I. tools like ChatGPT on the profession. David Murray, the well-respected head of the Professional Speechwriters Association, writes, “For a real communicator, having a machine write a first draft is not a shortcut, it’s a short circuit.”

I disagree.

I believe that “You won’t lose your job to AI, you’ll lose your job to someone using AI.”

There are many ways to employ these tools. In this three-part series, I’ll look into different areas of speech writing and see where the savvy communicator can make use of generative A.I. — just as most have, over the last few decades, made use of the word processor over the typewriter, spell check over Merriam-Webster, and — dare I say it — Grammarly over Microsoft Word suggestions.

Let’s start with the lowest common denominator – the Best Man’s speech at a wedding.

There are plenty of “speech consultants” offering their services for $100 on up to script a best man speech. Faced with the challenge of writing a humorous, heartwarming, well-structured speech, many who have never addressed a room full of their best friends’ new relatives might turn to a pro to help them out.

Here’s where ChatGPT can help. At no cost.

The raw material

This wedding announcement is adapted from the New York Times. Names and locations have been changed. A best man will, of course, have all the background about the newlyweds he is to honor and can replace this text with relevant detail.

“When John Stuart Mill and Mary Andrea Wilson were first introduced in January 2011 at a dorm party in their junior year at Tufts, the sparks didn’t exactly fly.

A few weeks before the start of their senior year, the pair, who were casual acquaintances,  found themselves on an abandoned campus training together to be residential staff members for Tufts’s on-campus housing.

“We became very, very close friends our senior year because we were trapped on campus together,” said Ms. Wilson, as Mr. Mill laughed in the background.

While neither Mr. Mill, 31, nor Ms. Wilson, 30, can remember the moment their friendship blossomed into something more, they shared their first date on Valentine’s Day 2012.

“It was sort of a friendship that took us a while to figure out that it was more than that,” Mr. Mill said.

From Medford, Mass., they made their way to Boston for pizza at Luigi’s, an Italian restaurant. Mr. Mill gave Ms. Wilson roses, one of which she dried and still has.

“We were 21 years old, so we really did not go out much at that point,” she said. “It was a big deal.”

The relationship quickly turned serious. “After the first date, it was very clear,” he said. “I think the thing that was scary for us was that we knew we were graduating a few months after that.”

By this time, the couple had already accepted jobs on opposite coasts: Mr. Mill as a management consultant with the Boston Consulting Group in San Francisco, and Ms. Wilson as a White House intern for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s policy staff in Washington.

Each graduated with honors — Mr. Mill with a degree in economics and Ms. Wilson in history.

For about a year the couple made long distance work; both booked weekend flights to see each other.

In late 2014, Mr. Mill was offered a position in Manhattan, which Ms. Wilson saw as an opportunity to work on Hillary Clinton’s then-unannounced presidential campaign.

The couple moved in to their first apartment together in the West Village in February 2015. Shortly after, Ms. Wilson began working in Brooklyn as an aide on Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Their idyllic life in Manhattan was cut short on election night. Mrs. Clinton was expected to deliver her victory speech in the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Instead what conspired was a teary run-in with Cher backstage and a lamenting walk home along the Hudson River during sunrise.

As difficult as the loss was for her, the walk home after solidified how foundational her relationship with Mr. Mill was in her life. “I think it really forced us to clarify and crystallize what we both wanted because the path that I think we thought the country and us as a couple were on changed overnight,” she said.

Before the election night, Ms. Wilson applied to law school. Her father, John David Wilson, is a retired lawyer, and her mother, Gwendolyn Adshead, is a managing partner of Fox McElgun Griffin & Adshead.

Mr. Mill was also considering graduate school, but the most important factor was to avoid any long distance.

The couple moved back to Boston, and in September 2017 started their lives as graduate students at the place where it all began, Tufts.

Mr. Mill received an M.B.A. in 2019 from Tufts, and Ms. Wilson received a law degree this past June, also from Tufts.

In December 2018, Mr. Mill proposed to Ms. Wilson during a hike to a secluded beach while on vacation in Hawaii.

The couple had been planning a barn wedding in Sonoma, Calif. for June 2020, with 175 guests, but instead had a small ceremony with immediate family at Ms. Wilson’s father’s home on Oct. 24 (which was also where they spent the first five months of the pandemic). Dr. Alfus Mill, the groom’s father and a Universal Life minister, officiated. The groom’s mother, Dr. Sandra David, was also in attendance.

Ms. Wilson, who will hyphenate her last name, is a law clerk to Angus Fitch, an associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Mr. Mill is a founder of a money laundering and fraud prevention software company starting later this year.

“Being able to move forward and think about building a life with John was a really special moment,” Ms. Wilson said. “It’s cliché to say ‘you married your best friend,’ but I really did.”

The prompt

Act as a speech writer. Create a 600-word speech for the best man to deliver at a wedding reception. The content must be funny, with some appropriate jokes, and filled with heartwarming sentiments, flow smoothly, with a classy introduction and closing remarks. Base it on the wedding of these two people: [INSERT TEXT ABOVE.]

ChatGPT output

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, and of course, the stars of the evening, John and Mary! Good evening and thank you all for being here to celebrate this wonderful occasion. As the best man, I have the great honor of standing before you today to share some thoughts about this incredible couple.

When John and Mary first crossed paths at that dorm party in 2011, I’m pretty sure they didn’t imagine that they would end up standing here today. You see, the sparks didn’t exactly fly right away. But little did they know that fate had bigger plans for them.

It was during their senior year at Tufts that their friendship truly blossomed. As they found themselves trapped on campus together, they became very, very close friends. And let’s be honest, folks, what better way to bond than being stuck in the same place? I can only imagine the adventures and shenanigans they must have gotten into during that time.

Now, it took them a while to realize that their friendship was something more than just that. But on that fateful Valentine’s Day in 2012, they decided to take the plunge and go on their first date. And let me tell you, it was a big deal! They went to Luigi’s, an Italian restaurant in Boston, and John, being the romantic guy he is, gave Mary roses. And guess what? She actually dried one of those roses and still has it today. Now, that’s true love, folks.

Their relationship quickly became serious, even though they knew that graduation was just a few months away. But being the determined couple they are, they didn’t let distance get in their way. With John in San Francisco and Mary in Washington, they made it work with weekend flights and endless phone calls. And let’s not forget the honors they both achieved in their respective fields—John in economics and Mary in history. Talk about a power couple!

But their journey took an unexpected turn on that infamous election night. Instead of celebrating Mrs. Clinton’s victory, Mary found herself taking a walk home along the Hudson River, reflecting on the changes that occurred. It was a difficult time, but it also solidified the importance of their relationship. It made them realize that no matter what challenges they faced, their love and commitment to each other would always prevail.

And prevail it did! They moved back to Boston, where it all began, and embarked on their graduate studies at Tufts. John earned his M.B.A., while Mary recently graduated with a law degree. Talk about an intellectual power couple!

Then came that magical moment in December 2018, during a hike on a secluded beach in Hawaii, when John got down on one knee and proposed to Mary. And of course, she said yes! It was a testament to their deep love and commitment to each other.

Their wedding plans may have changed due to unforeseen circumstances, but nothing could diminish the joy and happiness that radiates on this special day when they’ve exchanged their vows. Surrounded by their loved ones, they’ve embarked on this new chapter of their lives.

Now, as they continue their journey together, Mary as a law clerk and John as a founder of a remarkable software company, I have no doubt that their bond will only grow stronger. They truly epitomize the saying, “You married your best friend.” And Mary, I must say, John is one lucky guy!

So, ladies and gentlemen, let’s raise our glasses to John and Mary, a couple who proves that love knows no bounds. May your life together be filled with laughter, joy, and endless adventures. Here’s to a future filled with love, success, and happiness! Cheers!

What would Jerry say?

You might not use the material, but what would Jerry Seinfeld say?

Prompt: Rewrite the speech in the manner of Jerry Seinfeld

Ladies and gentlemen, what’s the deal with weddings, am I right? I mean, here we are, celebrating the union of John and Mary. When they first met at that dorm party, let’s just say the sparks didn’t exactly light up the room. But hey, who needs fireworks when you’ve got an abandoned campus to train as residential staff members, right?

Now, John and Mary became close friends during their senior year because, well, they were trapped on campus together. I can only imagine the wild adventures and the crazy stories they must have from that time. It’s like a sitcom waiting to happen, trapped with your future spouse. I smell a potential spin-off!

But let’s fast forward to their first date. It took them a while to figure out that their friendship was something more. I mean, they were 21 years old, and going out for pizza at Luigi’s in Boston was a big deal! And hey, John, giving Mary roses on that date, smooth move! She even dried one of those roses and still keeps it today. That’s some real commitment, folks.

Now, after graduation, things got real. John landed a management consulting gig in San Francisco, while Mary became a White House intern in Washington. Talk about a long-distance relationship! But they made it work, with weekend flights and probably more Skype calls than they’d care to admit. I mean, they were basically running their own airline company with all those flights!

Then, destiny threw them a curveball on election night. Instead of celebrating, Mary found herself taking a walk home along the Hudson River. It was a tough time, but it made them realize what truly mattered. You know, I’ve always said that politics can change overnight, but love, that’s the real deal. It’s like a rock-solid foundation that keeps you grounded, even when Cher makes you cry backstage.

But let’s not forget their academic achievements. John acing economics and Mary acing history, they’re like a power couple of knowledge. It’s like having a walking encyclopedia for a husband and wife. I hope they never have to compete on Jeopardy, because they’d clean house!

And speaking of clean, let’s not forget that hike in Hawaii. John got down on one knee and popped the big question. I bet the view was amazing, but let’s be honest, it’s hard to compete with a Hawaiian sunset. Mary, you made the right choice. John is a catch, and I’m not talking about fish in Hawaii. He’s the real deal, and together, you guys are unstoppable.

So, here we are, celebrating their wedding, even if it didn’t go exactly as planned. But hey, that’s life. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, but you make the best of it. And from what I’ve seen, John and Mary know how to roll with the punches.

So, let’s raise our glasses and toast to John and Mary, a couple who proves that friendship can turn into something amazing. May your journey together be filled with laughter, love, and lots of funny stories to tell. Congratulations, you crazy kids!

Cherry picking

Play with other options and cherry pick quotes.

Prompt: Rewrite the speech in the manner of Martin Luther King

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Today, we bear witness to a love that triumphs over adversity, that transcends borders and barriers, that brings us closer to the dream of a world united in compassion and understanding.

So, let us raise our voices in celebration, rejoicing in the union of John and Mary. May their love inspire us all to be better, to embrace love as the guiding force in our lives. Together, let us create a world where love reigns supreme. Congratulations, dear John and Mary, on this momentous day.

Prompt: Rewrite the speech as a Shakespearean sonnet

Hearken, fair gentlefolk, to this tale I bring, 
Of John Stuart Mill and Mary Wilson true, 
Whose paths entwined, like birds on lofty wing, 
In Tufts' fair halls where fate did them pursue.

A friendship forged, their hearts began to soar, 
As seniors trapped on campus, close they grew, 
And on that eve, love's bloom did they explore, 
Unveiling secrets that their souls well knew.

From Medford's lands to Boston's vibrant streets, 
They ventured forth, their love to celebrate, 
In Luigi's realm, where passion's flame meets, 
And roses gifted sealed their destined fate.

Through trials, distance, hardships they did tread, 
Their love prevailed, and now they wed.

An alternative prompt

Perhaps you don’t want a verbatim script, or a corny Shakespearean sonnet. Ask for an outline and script your own remarks.

Act as a speechwriter. Develop an outline of speaking points for the best man to deliver at a wedding reception. The content must be funny, with some appropriate jokes, and filled with heartwarming sentiment, flow smoothly, with a classy introduction and closing remarks. Base it on the wedding of these two people: [INSERT TEXT ABOVE.]

ChatGPT output

  • I. Introduction
    • A. Greeting and acknowledgement of guests
    • B. Thanking the couple for the honor of being the best man
  • II. Humorous Opening
    • A. Joke or funny anecdote about the couple’s initial meeting at the dorm party
    • B. Highlight the amusing situation of being trapped on campus together and becoming close friends
  • III. Heartwarming Sentiment
    • A. Express admiration for the couple’s journey from friends to lovers
    • B. Emphasize the significance of their first date on Valentine’s Day and its impact on their relationship
    • C. Mention the challenges they faced with graduation and long-distance, but how they made it work
  • IV. Funny Story
    • A. Share a lighthearted anecdote about their time living together in Manhattan and the election night incident
    • B. Add a touch of humor by recounting her encounter with Cher and the walk home along the Hudson River
  • V. Classy Transition
    • A. Transition to the couple’s career and educational achievements
    • B. Highlight their dedication and commitment to their respective fields
  • VI. Heartfelt Proposal
    • A. Narrate the romantic proposal during the secluded beach hike in Hawaii
    • B. Express joy and happiness for the couple’s decision to spend their lives together
  • VII. Closing Remarks
    • A. Congratulate the couple on their beautiful wedding ceremony
    • B. Offer well wishes for their future as they build a life together
    • C. Raise a toast to the newlyweds and their enduring love and friendship
  • VIII. Final Humorous Note
    • A. End the speech with a light-hearted joke or witty remark about the couple’s future endeavors

Note: Remember to tailor the speech according to your relationship with the couple and the specific dynamics of the wedding reception. Personalize it with additional anecdotes and jokes if appropriate.

Prompt engineering

These examples of speeches generated by ChatGPT offer an introduction to the tool. More sophisticated results can be achieved by using more elaborate prompts. Some term this ‘prompt engineering’.

Here are some examples (try them to see the results)

  • Act as a speechwriter. Create an outline for a speech honoring a teacher who is retiring after many years of service using the structure of the Hero’s Journey.
  • Act as a speechwriter. Create an outline in terms of the problems and solutions to help convince the audience of the need to change.
  • Act as a speechwriter. Outline a eulogy for a young person who was killed in a tragic accident.
  • Act as a speechwriter. Outline a eulogy for an elderly man who lived to be 102 years old and passed away peacefully.

Final word

It’s only fair to give ChatGPT the final word.

Prompt: List 10 ways in which ChatGPT can assist a professional speechwriter.

  1. Generating Speech Outlines: ChatGPT can help a professional speechwriter by providing structured outlines for speeches on various topics, saving time and offering a solid foundation to build upon.
  2. Brainstorming Ideas: ChatGPT can engage in creative conversations, suggesting unique angles, themes, or anecdotes that can enhance the speech and make it more engaging for the audience.
  3. Providing Statistical Data and Facts: ChatGPT can retrieve relevant statistical data, facts, and figures to support the arguments or claims made in a speech, ensuring that the information presented is accurate and reliable.
  4. Offering Language and Style Suggestions: ChatGPT can provide assistance in refining the language and style of the speech, suggesting alternative phrases, improving sentence structure, or enhancing the overall flow and coherence of the content.
  5. Fact-Checking and Research: ChatGPT can help verify information and conduct research on specific topics to ensure the accuracy and credibility of the content included in the speech.
  6. Crafting Compelling Introductions and Conclusions: ChatGPT can help in formulating attention-grabbing openings and impactful closing statements that leave a lasting impression on the audience.
  7. Providing Quotes and Inspirational Messages: ChatGPT can offer a selection of quotes, inspirational messages, or anecdotes to include in the speech, adding depth and emotional resonance to the content.
  8. Offering Cultural References and Examples: ChatGPT can provide cultural references, historical events, or contemporary examples that can be integrated into the speech to resonate with the audience and make it more relatable.
  9. Tailoring Speeches for Specific Audiences: ChatGPT can assist in customizing speeches for different target audiences, considering their demographics, interests, or specific knowledge gaps, ensuring the content is relevant and engaging.
  10. Reviewing and Editing: ChatGPT can proofread and suggest edits to refine the speech, checking for grammatical errors, clarity, and consistency, ultimately enhancing the overall quality of the final product.

Next: How generative A.I. can help the corporate speechwriter.

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Here’s an interesting experiment by a professional speaker who gave ChatGPT a very simple prompt to see how good AI is at storytelling.

No surprise when he saw that the text that was generated can be improved.

He concludes “though it’s impressive that an artificial intelligence algorithm can aggregate content into a cohesive narrative that dovetails with human intentions, it’s a story written by a robot and it sounds like one.” Suggesting “…it’s worth it for all of us to embark on the writer’s journey, master the art of the message, and discover our power to express ourselves.”

Perhaps it’s time to master the art of prompting? Better prompts will generate better content.

David Murray talked to the Dutch founders of the speechwriting app, Verble, reporting that:

All the objections that I threw at them to AI speech composition, they had thought of before.

They do not disrespect professional speechwriters, or the essential usefulness of having a speechwriter to “spar with,” as van den Berg put it. They just want to make an AI version of a solid speech composition process available to many more people than can afford the help of a communication coach.

Nor do they think their program spits out speeches that are anything like perfect. They think the questions their program forces the speaker to answer, about the purpose, message the audience for the speech, are as important as the output. And they agree that the output needs to be heavily edited by the speaker to truly sound of the speaker and for the audience. (Though I pointed out that this caveat might be made more explicit by the interface.)

Perhaps most compelling was Straatman’s personal testimony, about facing big presentations and staring at a blank screen, not knowing where to begin. He knew that as soon as he got something on that blank screen after an interminable period of staring at it, the thing started flowing. He believes Verble will help people like him get off that blank screen, and get their own thoughts flowing. Again, such humility isn’t shown on the site, which claims Verble is nothing short of “your professional speechwriter and public speaking coach, all in one.”

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>