Yesterday we gave you #5. Today’s tip came from freelance speechwriter and communications strategist Pete Weissman, as dutifully recorded by blogger and speechwriter Ian Griffin:
Respect your skills as a storyteller, [which], as Hitchcock noted, is “life with the dull parts left out.” Enjoy talking to the influential people who you meet and you have the freedom to ask them probing questions.
This piece of advice is two-fold. The first part is pretty straightforward, but it strikes at the core of good speechwriting. Audiences innately relate to good stories. They’re entertaining and provide built-in context for whatever message or moral they are meant to convey.
A good speechwriter will infuse any oration with storytelling that highlights and supports the speech’s philosophical and factual claims.
Consider Steve Jobs’ 2005 address to Stanford University’s graduating class. Arguably the most famous commencement speech of the last decade, it has over 14 million youtube hits. Almost the entire speech is given in narrative form, telling three separate stories from Jobs’ life. Each anecdote carries its own lessons and conclusions, illustrating them more strongly than any mere statement could.
The second piece of advice in this tip has more applications to life in general than merely the speechwriting profession. In the presence of well-known, influential people, it’s easy to stay silent out of respect, or even because you’re star-struck.
While it’s never appropriate to badger someone with unsolicited questions, it’s also a waste of time to let such encounters pass by without gleaning useful lessons or information from the person of interest. One common trait in nearly all successful people is curiosity. That comes in handy in situations like these.