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Speech Writing In An Age of Anxiety

Speech Writing In An Age of Anxiety

A few weeks ago, a number of my speechwriting colleagues gathered for a phone chat about the Trump phenomena and how his election might affect our careers as speechwriters. We talked about the potential economic impact of his election, as well has how we approach our work both from a stylistic and content point of view.

We didn’t come to any grand conclusions, and our questions reflected a certain anxiety (some might say angst) about these unsettled times.

Will our clients embrace the President-elect’s preference for communicating via social media, eschewing scripts and formal speeches? Will they decide that the blowback from speaking on tricky issues like immigration, trade, taxes, and climate change is no longer worth the risk? And how will they approach the content of a speech now that we seem to inhabit a post-factual world?

Then there are the practical matters of how the economy will fare, which has a direct impact on speechwriters paid for out of potentially dwindling corporate and government budgets.

As I work with a significant number of clients who travel abroad to deliver keynotes at international conferences, I worry that these sort of trips will be cut, even more so if political feuding and instability bring with it a rise in violence. But the truth is, even the so-called pundits do a poor job of predicting the future, so I could be wrong.

But I do believe that the need will continue for the traditional speech—you know, with a script that has a beginning, middle, and end, along with conclusions the speaker is willing to stick by.

That means we should keep on doing what successful speechwriters have always done: keep informed about the changing state of our profession. Read speech blogs or hang out, virtually or in person, with others of your kind. Consider joining the Professional Speechwriters Association and attending their annual conference to talk and listen to some of the top people in our field.

And treat your speechwriting business like the business it is. Click To Tweet If you see a downturn in a client’s speech calendar, talk to his/her communications director to see if there has been a change in communications policy. Find out why. Then figure out if you can broaden the services you are offering.

Maybe a client has curtailed travel and is communicating with cross-country staff via webinar and Skype conversations. Offer to develop talking points or scripts for those, reminding clients that, like a speech, a webinar benefits from being well written (and ideally well rehearsed). It’s still the spoken word, something we speechwriters know a thing or two about.

In this era of change, with its attendant anxiety, keep your head down and your wits about you.

And remember our mantra: They need us more than we need them. Click To Tweet

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