If you write speeches for others, to be delivered at major conferences, you will be asked, by conference organizers, to provide an abstract of the presentation – often months ahead of the actual event.
This makes sense from organizers’ perspectives, since they want to provide summary information for potential attendees in their publicity and program documents.
However, for the speechwriter, these requests can present some problems. Although it is often done, it always seems to me slightly absurd to write abstracts of documents of any kind that have yet to be written.
I often find myself in the position of writing speech abstracts long before I even start on the speech itself – before I have even finalized with the speaker messaging he/she may or may not want to include in the talk. Messaging by the way, that will inevitably change, as the speech goes through development and drafts.
The only way around this conundrum is to write an abstract so broad that “you can drive a truck through it.” That’s a bit of an art form in itself. Writing an abstract that is useful and interesting, without locking yourself into a specific direction or message, that your speaker may want to change later on, is no easy job. But that’s why you are paid the big bucks.
So, although I hate to offer advice that suggests writing generalizations is a good idea, it does apply to speech abstracts. Just make sure they are fascinating generalizations.
I said it wasn’t easy.