I Only Need A Few Words…

Whenever I hear those words from clients, I know I might be in for a long interview. It usually means they don’t know what they want to say. And, they think I can make up a three minute speech on the spot and deliver it to them on a silver platter in an hour or two. Right.

I write a lot of these short speeches. A lot. Be warned – they can be very
time-consuming. A lot of the research time you expend for short speeches is
geared to determining what you won’t actually need to use. But, you
have to go there if only to find out that you don’t have to go there.

Let’s say your speaker is called on to give a one-minute ribbon-cutting
speech. Sounds easy enough. Or, is it? What’s the event? Is it a new building
on an old site or a refurbished building on an existing site? Who will be there? What’s the history of the enterprise? What’s the connection between your speaker and the event? How many people do you have to acknowledge in a one-minute speech? Do you have time to acknowledge any? And so the
questions go on and on, and you can see why it is not quite so simple as
“I only need a few words … ” implies.

In a counter-intuitive sort of way, the shorter the speech, the longer it takes
to write. Unless you are an in-house speechwriter, or you otherwise know
your client and his needs very well, don’t fool yourself into thinking you can
spit out a three-minute speech on a moment’s notice. You can’t.

The moral? Just because it’s short doesn’t mean it’s easy. Or cheap. Trust me on this.