A few months ago, we worked with Jon Favreau, the former speech writer for President Obama, as part of a large event we did for the University at Albany. I read a recent article in which Jon gave three tips he learned from his White House experience on writing great speeches and presentations.
Start with the question: “What story am I trying to tell?” Create an outline that has a beginning, middle and end and then sum up the speech up in a few sentences before you begin any detailed writing.
2. HONESTY AND AUTHENTICITY ARE IMPORTANT.
Decisions on speech topics are too often based on fear (the fear of losing power, of public embarrassment). You don’t have to “play it safe”. Make anything your own with heartfelt, authentic and honest statements.
3. NEVER LOSE YOUR IDEALISM.
Since live in cynical times a writer’s job is to inspire and make audiences believe. Don’t fall into the trap of delivering cynical prose.
Favreau says his cynicism dissolved when he called 106-year-old Ann Nixon Cooper to ask permission for the President to tell her life story in his victory speech. His moving conversation with her, hearing of the pride of this formerly disenfranchised black woman who expressed such pride in the first African-American President, brought him to tears.
Jon became speechwriting star in his early 20s by following these principals and is still going strong today. When you’re putting a speech together, take advice from a master.
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