Five speechwriters talk about the thorniest problems they face—and their solutions
We asked subcribers to Speechwriter’s Newsletter: What is the biggest problem in your role as speechwriter, and how are you solving it?
The responses we received run the gamut, from writing difficulties, to problems with speaker relationships, to organizational politics and back to writing again. Her boss talks so fast she loses his train of thought—and her own Christina McNeill, writer and editor at Penn State Outreach, is in her first speechwriting job, but she’s worked with high-level executives for many years and says she’s confident giving them feedback. “However, I am a reflective thinker and struggle to be articulate when I feel rushed,” she says. But in meetings with her, her university vice president “speaks quickly and often in a stream-of-consciousness manner. I spent my first several months trying to listen, interpret and keep up.” Swept up in his rambling rhythm and “trapped into his line of logic … leaves me unable to intelligently articulate my thoughts during our meetings.” Things are getting better, she says, thanks to a sympathetic supervisor and to the speaker, who does give her plenty of time. “I just need to make better use of it so I’m dusting off my voice recorder. Though I dread taking the time to revisit a meeting, I hope using the voice recorder will free me from the stress of writing everything down so I can practice becoming a more active participant. Maybe intelligently articulating my thoughts and not being distracted by multitasking comes with more experience? I’d love to know!” She’ll no doubt find out. But if anyone has any suggestions, write to her through us. His CEO doesn’t want to make speeches—to anyone! “This corporate speechwriter will be watching the 2008 ball drop on a new year preceded by 100 percent turnover and dramatic downsizing in the top executive suite since Halloween … losing two of my three biggest customers in the process,” says Richard Eisenberg dramatically. The veteran speechwriter at Ricoh America’s corporation explains: