I had a great time talking to students in Derek Drager's speechwriting class at Grant MacEwan this afternoon. They were a great bunch of students with good questions, and it was a pleasure to enjoy a classroom environment again.
Derek asked me to give his students a picture of the everyday reality of a speechwriter, and that's what I tried to do.
I've never had the benefit of any formal training in speechwriting, so I had to learn all my techniques on the fly. I won't reproduce my entire talk here, but here are the two primary lessons I tried to impart:
- Develop your empathic skills. Listen to your client, not just with your ears, but with your heart; find out what's most important to them on a personal and professional level. And develop empathy for your client's audiences; his or her speeches will be most effective if the audience believes that the speaker understands and empathizes with their issues and priorities.
- Speechwriting is a huge responsibility. A speechwriter's words, when delivered by a person of influence, can have a tremendous affect on people. A speechwriter should always use his or her talents for good; he or she should seek and share truth.
Of course there's a whole lot more to speechwriting, but if you keep those two points at top of mind, you're off to a good start.
Today's experience, combined with yesterday's very motivational creativity workshop, have given me an interesting idea: speeches for superheroes! I have a concept in mind already, and I intend to turn this into a recurring feature here at My Name is Earl (J. Woods). The first speech will be delivered by Superman.