Tips on how companies can work with external speechwriters

Updated: Mar 1

My role in working with companies is when the CEO or president needs help putting together a speech. Usually it’s for an important event and the current staff members just don’t have the time to help put it together or want an outsider’s perspective on the speech.

Here are some ways to make the process easier when hiring an external writer to help the speaker prepare:

More information rather than less

Writing a speech for a first-time client is tough. It’s the beginning of a relationship and not knowing a speaker’s style or what they want to convey is incredibly challenging. Provide more information early on to the writer rather than less.

Connect with people who have specific research or expertise

Similarly, if the speech is technical in nature or complex, connect the writer with people in the organization who can speak to particular topics. There might a tricky financial arrangement or challenging science concept that needs to be accurately explained. Find the people in your organization who can answer the tough questions that the writer may have.

One voice on the speech and edits (input welcome)

It seems that as the importance of a speech grows, more people want input on the speech. I understand that concern but it’s hard when everyone wants a hand in crafting the individual lines and paragraphs. When everyone is allowed to edit a document, the resulting speech will have many voices rather than one. To fix this, allow the main speech writer to be the sole author and editor of the speech to ensure that the style and tone are consistent throughout.

Past speeches of the speaker are helpful

Sometimes the speaker is busy and cannot be on the phone much with the writer. That’s not a problem as long as past speeches, whether written or recorded, are available. The writer needs a source to help guide decisions on content, tone, and style. Some speakers like short and simple sentences when they speaker whereas others like longer ones. These small choices will affect the overall speech that the writer creates.

Face time/call time with the speaker

When possible, the speaker should be on the phone with the writer or at least be able to meet in person. This can be a tall order for those that are busy but it’s indispensable to hear how a speaker views a particular issue and how they want to express their thoughts. It’s equally hard for a writer to write a speech for someone they never get to talk to in the end.

A generous timeline for revisions and working through

I have been contacted on short deadlines for speeches and those are the toughest jobs. In the beginning of a speechwriting relationship there should be ample time to go through revisions and calibrate the writer’s style to the speaker’s expectations.

More communication rather than less

Running through all of this advice is the common thread that more communication rather than less is the ideal setup when working with an outside writer. The outside writer can provide a unique perspective but needs to know how your speaker and organization view the issue. A common dropbox or google drive folder can become wonderful resources that contain all of the materials needed for a speech.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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