Just Say It!

Speechwriting is great work, for many reasons that extend beyond the writing. If I’m being completely honest, writing the speech is (almost) secondary to what I consider to be most important about the entire process.

Speaking with clients, understanding who they are, and translating their stories and work into a core message is absolutely the best part. However, it’s not without its challenges. In all of my experience as a speechwriter - both for myself and for others - there seems to be a certain mindset that accompanies preparation. We all want to be brilliant and dynamic on stage, but that ambition is often what gets in the way of actually being brilliant and dynamic.

I was recently reminded of this phenomenon while re-watching a TED Talk that I watched earlier this summer. Heidi Grant, a social psychologist, champions asking for help directly and specifically, and points out that if people don’t know how to help you, they won’t. And not because they don’t want to help, but because they don’t know how.

The same thing is true when you’re trying to solidify your message in a speech: if you don’t come out and just say it, it cannot be worked or reworked or presented in different ways for different audiences. Confining it to how you believe a speaker should sound, or phrasing it in a way that you believe would be “safe”, doesn’t benefit anyone. The audience won’t know where you stand, and therefore, won’t know how to interpret it for their own purposes.

So, do yourself and/or your collaborators a favor: when you’re working on your speech, just say it! It can always be refined for public consumption, but not if you don’t really understand what you’re trying to say in the first place.