Be yourself. This simple injunction is good advice for most kinds of writing, but when it comes to speechwriting, it overrides all other considerations.
I’ve spent the past two weeks running workshops on writing and giving speeches, and although we explored use of slides, preparation, structure and many other important issues, this is what lingered in my memory.
Three women went first, and all had prepared something to say on a particular topic. All three were excellent but the one who had chosen the most personal topic was the most engaging.
Then it was the turn of the men, and the same applied. When they were given a script to read, they were initially unconvincing, but as they practised and began to ad lib, they became better. Not surprising, perhaps, but utterly conclusive. In the end, all an audience really wants to hear is the authentic voice of whoever is in front of them.
Acquiring the confidence to be yourself is not always easy. But it is essential. We see the opposite at business conferences every day as yet another besuited figure gets up to work through a series of bullet-pointed slides – not being themselves but trying to represent what they think they ought to be, and utterly wasting that precious chance to connect with an audience.