1) We don’t let speakers sit down
If a speaker is telling us something important, we prefer them to stand up. We don’t do sofa interviews and we don’t do panels – because you can appear on those without proper preparation.
2) We don’t need ‘stars’
Stardust helps, if you’re selling conference tickets. But politicians, for example, not only cancel if they get a better offer, they turn up ten minutes before they speak and leave ten minutes afterwards.
3) We’re in awe of the Dutch
These days, if you’re an English band and you want a catchy, emotional, chart-topping hit, you get a Norwegian to write it for you. (If you don’t know about this, read The Song Machine by John Seabrook). If you want a witty and moving speech in impeccable English, get a Dutch person on your conference programme.
4) We go to quirky venues
We never meet in corporate hotels, we meet in Oxford colleges, Trades Union buildings, Royal palaces and former monasteries.
5) We have long breaks
First speaker at 8.30am in the morning. Allow one 15 minute mid-morning break, then 15 minutes to get your lunch, before the next speaker starts haranguing you over your sandwich. Followed by three hour-long breakout sessions in the afternoon. Followed by a closing keynote.
This is not the regime at Guantanamo Bay, it’s a typical American corporate communications conference.
We Europeans spend as much time talking to each other over meals and drinks as we do listening to our speakers.
6) There’s only one rule
At the podium, you can burp, you can be bore, you can bellydance. But you can’t go overtime. If you go overtime, you’ll never be invited back.
7) We grow our own talent
Belong. Learn. Contribute. This is the initiation process. 50% of delegates for each conference have attended before. Speakers emerge. This always works best.
8) Vicars, voice-coaches and humorists welcome
What’s the French for witty? Spirituel. Creativity, humour, storytelling – these arts require a mixture of the mundane with the mystical. What better way to pour light into the dark corners of business and politics?
The next European Speechwriter Network conference will be on 26 & 27 October 2017 at the Irish College in Leuven. Get your ticket here.