I’d Like to Teach Europe to Speak in Public
One of my earliest TV memories is of the Coke ad, ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony’.
I can’t sing myself, but I like hippy optimism.
They say you should cut goals down to size.
Teaching the world to sing is too much, but how about teaching Europeans to speak in public?
When I first started organising conferences for speechwriters, I got chatting with a former ambassador, Charles Crawford, and he said, teaching Europeans to speak in public would be a noble goal.
Why is it such a problem? It seem there are lots of different cultural styles.
The Polish are excessively deferential. The French are too high brow. The Dutch too afraid to put their heads above the parapet.
On a separate track, when I went to the Ragan Communications conference in Washington DC for speechwriters in 2008, they were talking about hosting an event in Brussels.
In 2008, I that struck me as ambitious, because our political culture is very different to America.
I didn’t even know if you could find a quorum of specialist speechwriters in Britain. I’d never heard of anyone organising anything.
Since we launched a conference in the UK in 2009, we’ve been surprised to find that further conferences attracted delegates from Holland, Germany, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Denmark and Sweden.
So after the experience of organising six conferences in the UK, we have built up a list of outstanding speakers, we’ve experimented with formats and worked out where the speechwriters are based.
The time has come to unveil an event in Brussels, the intergovernmental capital of Europe.
Bill Bernbach (who started out writing speeches for an American businessman) revolutionised the world of advertising by suggesting that once you’ve worked out what you wanted to say, it was just as important to work out how you should say it. That revolution in thought has still to arrive in European politics.
Huge amounts of energy goes into policy making: very little thought is given to persuasion.
So a vision for a UK Speechwriters’ Guild has over four years evolved into a European Speechwriter Network.
On Thursday 19 and Friday 20 September 2013, we’ve gathered together top expertise from across Europe to talk about how we can improve our speechwriting.
You can find details of the conference here: http://europeanspeechwriters.eventbrite.co.uk/
Writers – Come Out From Behind Your Screen
So what are the benefits of meeting other writers? Once I would have found it difficult to make a very long list. That was until I was invited to the Ragan Executive Communications conference in Washington DC in 2008.
As a freelance speechwriter in the UK I considered myself a rare breed, permanently on the brink of extinction.
I paid my own fare and turned up in Washington DC. I found myself in a hotel with over 200 speechwriters. Chatting to them, I discovered they were all struggling with the same problems.
How do you get access to the person you’re writing for? How do you stop CEOs hiding behind dry corporate nonsense? How do you keep your self respect, when every Tom, Dick and Harry in an organisation feels qualified to tamper with your work?
Up to then my quest had been to wrestle with these problems on my own, Brian contra mundum. The Ragan conference felt like going to heaven and discovering I was right all along, and all the saved were just like me.
It really shakes you up to be around your own kind.
My trip to Washington not only banished stale middle-aged work-related resentments, it changed the way I did my job.
I picked up expertise – distinctive American perspectives from experts like Drew Westen, who wrote The Political Brain.
I made friends – I’m still in touch with half-a-dozen of the delegates who I met there and several of them have come to the UK.
Taking a leaf from many of the best British entrepreneurs, I decided to transplant an idea that was ahead of its time in the US, and bring it to the UK.
As Rory Sutherland said, in a recent column in The Spectator, ’Nothing fully replaces face-to-face contact. And many of the most important interactions between employees are serendipitous. Electronic contact needs to be interspersed with personal contact.‘
I found a European tribe of speechwriters, and, since 2009, we’ve been hosting UK Speechwriters’ Guild conferences.
Last year we also decided to extend the franchise and create a conference for copywriters, too.
The conference, which took place at Bournemouth University Media School, worked along the same lines.
We got a selection of the country’s best speakers and we divide the day up with keynotes and breakouts. We do some social stuff before and after. And we built bridges, which we maintain afterwards.
We’re planning a second more ambitious conference on the theme Who Needs Copywriters? on Friday 19 April 2013 at Bournemouth University Media School.
The conference will be hosted by Andy Maslen, who wrote the book Write to Sell: the Ultimate Guide to Great Copywriting. He is also the Managing Director of Sunfish Ltd, a copywriting agency.
We’ve recruited a full-time professional tweet writer to speak called David Levin. He’s previously spoken at ’Powered by Tweets’, Twitter’s official UK creative conference.
Ben Locker will bring his wit to the conference. He’s an Essex-based copywriter and co-founder (with Tom Albrighton) of the Professional Copywriters’ Network, the association for all agency and freelance copywriters in the UK.
Carol Bentley is a direct response copywriter. She’s written four books giving advice on how to write compelling sales letters and use direct marketing strategies. In her keynote, Carol will share insights from her new book: I Want To Buy Your Product… Have You Sent Me A Sales Message Yet?
Roger Horberry has written on writing itself in titles such as: Brilliant Copywriting. He also runs copy workshops and lectures at the University of Lincoln.
Andy York is a verbal identity consultant and writer, helping brands define and express themselves through tone of voice. These include Dell, Nissan, Aviva, the iconic Deloitte rebrand, the Centre for World Culture and the groundbreaking Ericsson storytelling project.
BAFTA-nominee and Jerwood Film Prize-winner, Tim Clague, has scripted over 100 corporate videos as well as films and documentaries. He will be speaking on Writing for Video.
Ros Sinclair, winner of a Cannes Gold, One Show Silver and rare D&AD silver for copy, will be running a breakout session: How To Break Creative Deadlock.
Claire Falcon set up her own writing agency, Falcon Windsor, in 2004. Her breakout session will is titled: Why Bother If No One’s Going To Read It?’ - The truth behind annual reports, why they really are worth the money you spend on them.
If you’re really keen, you can also do an intensive workshop the day before, and spend two days in Bournemouth in May.
Please tell us now if you’re going to join us at http://copywritersconference.eventbrite.co.uk/
Political Business Entrepreneurs
Last Sunday I saw a very strange thing: two business speakers who were really inspirational politicians.
I attended the Design Your Career conference in Bournemouth on Sunday 3 February and I heard the stories of two creative entrepreneurs: Kresse Wesling and Wayne Hemingway.
Kresse Wesling turned up casual. She wore jeans and a jacket and had one of her handbags by her side. She stood up and explained how, from when she had been a small girl, she loved going to the dump. This had grown into an obsession. While most tourists visit the cafés and museums on a foreign holiday, Kresse would visit the landfill sites and root in the dustbins. She saw opportunity.
She developed a business recyling discarded fire brigade hoses into luxury goods. She makes belts, wallets and handbags out of them – the kind worn by Cameron Diaz and featured in Vogue. She added that she wasn’t a handbag type of gal.
The most important thing for her was a commitment to changing society. She studied politics at university. She thought the way we waste things was a disgrace. In India they don’t throw stuff away. They put it outside the front door and it’s taken away by someone who will use it for something else. Kresse made an initial investment of £40 to create one of her products and she turned that investment into a thriving international business.
Kresse was followed by Wayne Hemingway, who together with his wife founded the fashion label, Red or Dead.
Wayne described his Northern working class roots. He told the story of how he came to London seeking to be in a band. He spent so much on hiring rooms for his band, he and his girlfriend couldn’t afford to pay the rent. So they decided to sell all their clothes, many of which they had made for themselves, on a market stall in Camden market. Their rent was £6. They made £200 on the stall on their first weekend.
Wayne explained how he came from a thrifty family. They recycled everything. He persuaded the manufacturers of Doctor Martens boots to sell faulty stock to him for pennies. He had an idea. His father had repaired a pair with a split sole using a soldering iron, which gave them a ‘used’ look which people wanted. He did the same thing by getting his friends to help him solder dozens of boots which he resold on the market stall for £20 in the 1980s.
They had clear visions. Wayne conquered the fashion world with a strong political agenda. He wanted to make designer clothes affordable to all.
Kresse wanted to save the planet and she’s created a global fashion brand by recycling rubbish.
What was fascinating was that these are very political entrepreneurs. They weren’t telling you how to start up in business, they were inspiring you by explaining how their businesses had emerged when their own upbringing, curiosity and values met with opportunity.
What distinguished them from our real politicians was that they managed to use their creed to create social change, earn a living and offer inspirational leadership to the rest of us.
Photographs by Louis Jolley
Politicians and broadcasters: collaboration or capitulation?
Should politicians be making more speeches and taking part in fewer interviews?
Public speaking expert, Dr Max Atkinson, will explain why making speeches is a much more effective way to communicate messages than taking part in interviews, because broadcast interviews seldom deliver anything but bad news for politicians.
He will expound the ‘snakes and ladders theory of political communication’ when he delivers the UK Speechwriters’ Guild Christmas lecture on Thursday 8 December at the School of Life, 70 Marchmont Streeet, in Bloomsbury.
Dr Max Atkinson came to national prominence when, for the TV documentary World in Action, he trained a woman who had never spoken before to appear at the SDP conference, where she won a standing ovation. He went on to work for the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Lord Ashdown.
He is the author of three books on the subject of communication, Our Masters’ Voices, Lend Me Your Ears and Speechmaking and Presentation Made Easy. The public speaking organisation, Toastmasters International, appointed him Communicator of the Year 2011. He runs a popular blog http://maxatkinson.blogspot.com
Doors will be open at 8am for a light breakfast. Max will begin his lecture at 8.45am. Places are limited to 40.
For tickets go to http://uksgchristmaslecture.eventbrite.com/
For details of the UK Speechwriters’ Guild, go to http://www.ukspeechwritersguild.co.uk or call 01202 551257