Pre-Conference Workshops

March 13, 2019

9:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

The art and craft of speechwriting 2019: How to persuade, motivate, and inspire audiences – and get results

For all our social and electronic media, when leaders want to influence others, build their brand and get things done, they deliver a speech. In this interactive workshop, you’ll learn everything you need to know to write powerful speeches, including how to use the tools of persuasion to further your goals, get audiences on your side, motivate the troops, write with style and extend the impact of your speeches beyond the auditorium’s walls.

New learning feature! “The D.C. Blackboard.” The nation’s capital becomes your classroom as you and your peers use the Washington landscape to hone your speechwriting skills in a fun, unique learning activity.

Topics include:

  • Strategy and purpose: How to determine the ideas and topics best suited to further your organization’s—and speaker’s—goals
  • The tools of persuasion: How to make your case and support it with compelling evidence
  • Storytelling for results: How to find the stories that best fit your speaker, your audience and your goals—and how to tell them
  • Writing for the ear: The language that helps people understand and remember
  • How to open, close and structure your speech: Proven techniques for getting people’s attention, holding it and moving them to action
  • Beyond the four walls: How to work with speakers, publicize your speeches and measure your results
Rob Friedman
Affiliate consultant
Ragan Consulting Group
Read bio
Noon–1:00 p.m.

Lunch

1:00–4:00 p.m.

Boot camp for speechwriting pain: Get rid of rambling speakers by giving them a point

Many leaders make speeches, but too few make meaningful points. Why? Because most communicators don’t know their point. They don’t even know what a point is—often confusing it with a topic, a theme or a title. Not having a point renders speeches, well, pointless. Being pointless is by far the biggest cause of rambling, audience disconnection and epic communication failure—which means a whole lot of “speechwriting pain.” Alleviate the pain with this interactive workshop. Employing humor and customized coaching, Joel Schwartzberg will provide actionable tips and exercises to help you coach your executives—and yourself—to be strong champions of integral messages and ideas.

Using short presentations and both team and individual exercises, the boot camp will cover:

  • How to identify, hone and effectively “sell” a point
  • How to use "Power Periods," volume and pauses to enhance points
  • How to use storytelling that helps deliver your point, not distract from it
  • How to start and end a presentation with power and impact
  • How to convey points effectively in email and PowerPoint presentations
Senior director of strategic and executive communications
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
Read bio
Speechwriting Fundamentals

March 14, 2019

9–9:10 a.m.

Welcome remarks

Rob Friedman
Affiliate consultant
Ragan Consulting Group
Read bio
9:10–10 a.m.
Opening keynote

Find your executive’s voice to strengthen your leader’s messages

How do you write speeches for a leader… of the free world? Former presidential speechwriter Sarada Peri will share stories from her time writing for President Barack Obama and offer advice on how to help your executives find their best voice.

During this opening keynote you will learn how to:

  • Find—not create—an executive's voice
  • Understand and maintain authenticity
  • Use stories to move and motivate your audience
Senior speechwriter
Former President Barack Obama
Read bio
10:10–11:00 a.m.

The secrets of career success for speechwriters

Speechwriting is the apex of communications jobs. You interact with the top leaders of your organization—often intimately. You shape the thoughts and language that will move an organization and others. You’re paid well. Yet for all the glory, the speechwriter’s perch is precarious. It’s easy to be pigeonholed, with few on-ramps to other jobs. If you’re tight with a leader, what happens when that leader exits? And how do you keep speeches relevant in a 140-character world?

Rob Friedman has seen speechwriting from every angle for three decades and will share the secrets to a successful career, including: 

  • The most important key to getting promoted (which most people know) and the second most important (which most people don’t know)
  • How to work with diverse clients, regardless of their differences—or how different they are from you
  • The most important career skill (and why it may not be speechwriting)
  • The person most essential for your success (it’s not who you think)
  • How to add value beyond speechwriting
  • How to stay fresh—and avoid burnout
  • Career killers to avoid
Rob Friedman
Affiliate consultant
Ragan Consulting Group
Read bio
11:10 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Storytelling with a strategic purpose

Want to draw your audience into your CEO’s next speech about the company’s new business strategy? Have the boss do one thing: tell a story. In this session, learn how a well-crafted narrative can paint an inspiring picture that audiences will remember.

You’ll learn:

  • How storytelling can make your leaders better speakers
  • How to use storytelling to improve your audience’s understanding of and engagement in business initiatives
  • How storytelling can paint a powerful picture of why your company exists

Skills Quest: Develop interviewing techniques and exercises to elicit personal stories from leaders; Summarize a story in one minute; Write a six-word story

Senior public affairs specialist
Mayo Clinic
Read bio
Noon–1:10 p.m.

Networking lunch

1:10–2:00 p.m.

Sing like Cicero: Unleash the power of music to make your speeches sing

Cicero could sing as well as Callas or Caruso, but his genre wasn’t opera and his stage wasn’t La Scala. His oratory sang from the Roman Forum using musicians’ tools like tone, rhythm and dynamics. You can learn to make your speeches sing from the podium too—without ever reading a musical note.

Key takeaways:

  • How musical elements—which are already present within words delivered aloud—can enhance your audience’s comprehension of your message
  • How to use the universal language of music to “compose” a new layer for your speeches that is separate from the meaning of the words themselves

Skills Quest: Participate in a musical activity that will allow you to experiment with the power of song in crafting portions of a speech.

Senior leadership communications manager
American Dental Association
Read bio
2–2:30 p.m.

Networking break

2:30–3:20 p.m.

Escape the PowerPoint prison—Create stunning visual presentations that’ll set your messages free

When we think about speechwriting, we mostly think about putting together a script. For many reasons, however, a visual presentation may be necessary: your speaker likes it, the event organizer requires it or the subject matter compels it. But too often, audiences are treated to a hellish confluence of boring, confusing or distracting PowerPoint slides—diminishing your speaker’s credibility and imprisoning your key messages. We offer an escape route in this session, including:

  • How to take a page from Steve Jobs’ playbook to create stimulating visual presentations
  • Model best practices in presentation visuals that make your speaker stand out from the crowd
  • Criteria to decide when to use visual presentations
  • Explore the pros and cons of different presentation software platforms and discuss ways to minimize the risk of technical snafus

Skills Quest: Using various speechwriting scenarios, you and your peers will create visual slides to get the messages across. Plus, participate in the learning game—“PPT Prison Break.”

Professor of communication (retired)
Eastern Michigan University
Read bio
Speechwriter
Federal Aviation Administration
Read bio
3:30–4:30 p.m.
Special keynote

A speechwriters’ journey from communicator to catalyst

As the tools of transparency become instruments of invented logic, we face a growing crisis of trust and a desperate desire for truth. Speechwriters, who put words into the mouths of the world’s most powerful leaders, have the access, intimacy and insight to make those words speak truth to power.

In this special keynote, you'll learn how to:

  • Recognize and avoid the pitfalls of prophecy
  • Communicate to others the value in understanding what they don’t understand
  • Engage your singular position and perspective to become a change agent
Manager, executive communications
UPS
Read bio

March 15, 2019

9:00–9:50 a.m.

Leading the skilled, confident speechwriting team: What new managers need to know

We write for leaders all the time. It’s a skill we know we need, and we work hard honing it. Yet there’s a bit of a delicious irony here. We receive very little skills training—or none at all—on what it takes to be the leader of a speechwriting team. That comes to an end with this session as we share the traits you need to lead an effective and inspired team of speechwriters.

You’ll learn:

  • How to manage the flow and production of speechwriting projects—without losing your wits
  • How to edit your team’s prose effectively
  • How to turn feedback into a learning opportunity for your team members
  • How to inspire your team through the tough times—last-minute speeches, 11th hour rewrites from the boss and more

Skills Quest: See how effectively you can edit a speech from your junior speechwriter without breaking his or her confidence.

No Headshot
Senior speechwriter
Office of the Mayor, City of Chicago
Read bio
9:50–10:10 a.m.

Networking break

10:10 a.m.-11:00 a.m.

Crafting the unforgettable speech with powerful anecdotes

Want to make a memory out of your next speech? Then, remember this word: Anecdote. In this session, you’ll see how weaving in a short personal or historical story can create that emotional connection between the speaker and the listener—essential for making your next big speech stick in the memories of your audience.

You’ll learn:

  • Why the last place to find a powerful anecdote is always the best place to do so
  • Avoid the pitfalls of using the hyperbolic, inappropriate or sappy anecdote
  • A solid process for uncovering effective anecdotes

Skills Quest: Work with your small group in crafting an anecdote for a speech based on a particular theme. The group with the best anecdote wins a prize!

Speechwriter
J.B. Pritzker’s 2018 Illinois gubernatorial campaign & transition
Read bio
11:10 a.m.-noon
Closing keynote

Advanced speechwriting and executive communications

March 14, 2019

9–9:10 a.m.

Welcome remarks

Rob Friedman
Affiliate consultant
Ragan Consulting Group
Read bio
9:10–10 a.m.
Opening keynote

Find your executive’s voice to strengthen your leader’s messages

How do you write speeches for a leader… of the free world? Former presidential speechwriter Sarada Peri will share stories from her time writing for President Barack Obama and offer advice on how to help your executives find their best voice.

During this opening keynote you will learn how to:

  • Find—not create—an executive's voice
  • Understand and maintain authenticity
  • Use stories to move and motivate your audience
Senior speechwriter
Former President Barack Obama
Read bio
10:10–11 a.m.

How to use videos for leadership communications in times of change

Authenticity can be captured quickly and beautifully when using key strengths from video. Video can bring leaders and employees together and help you execute a strategy to create a resilient culture. With good writing, storytelling strategies, and editing—as well as the proper distribution techniques—you can make viewers laugh or fill them with empathy. In this compelling talk, Kim Clark, most recently director of culture and communications at GoDaddy, a former documentary film producer and currently a Ragan Consulting Group affiliate, will show you how to create leadership videos with heart, humor and a human touch.

You’ll learn:

  • How to find unique and interesting stories from executives that build relationships and trust
  • Documentary filmmaking techniques to perfect a video on any topics
  • Crucial elements of compelling videos that move people to watch
  • How to distribute your videos across channels to effectively reach your target audiences
Affiliate consultant
Ragan Consulting Group
Read bio
11:10 a.m.–noon

Before you write a word: Managing the details that make your speech a hit—with your speaker and your audience

Many speechwriters are also responsible for the logistical legwork behind each speaking opportunity. Skilled communicators shape those details to match their speakers’ preferences, playing to their strengths and avoiding headaches down the line. Negotiating with event organizers to advocate for the best possible format will set your principal up for success and dramatically improve the quality of the engagement.

You'll learn how to:

  • Steer engagements toward formats that put your speaker in the best possible light
  • Develop creative presentation elements that help your message stand out from the rest
  • Influence content decisions early in the process to make the writing process a breeze
  • Avoid common pitfalls to keep your principal happy with the whole experience
  • Maximize your work and the materials you have on hand to enhance your speaking engagement strategy
Senior speechwriter
Boeing
Read bio
Noon–1:10 p.m.

Networking lunch

1:10–2 p.m.

2–2:30 p.m.

Networking break

2:30–3:20 p.m.

Getting creative mileage out of your content

Every organization has great ideas to share with the world—thought leadership, quotes from a great media interview or public event, powerful data or market insight and research. Problem is, too often those great details get shared just once and never again. Getting more from your hard creative work doesn’t happen by chance—it follows from a process that isolates where your ideas come alive, how your story takes wing and why your audiences follow. Understanding how to build a longer runway for your content is a process that requires choice, focus and a sense for what will sell. We’ll help you do that.

In this session, you'll learn how to:

  • Recognize the kernel of irresistibility within all your content and how to recycle it
  • Work within the confines of traditional communications deliverables—speeches, press releases, media campaigns—to create extra lift for social media
  • Create the kind of statements of work that good creative partners need before they can help you activate your vision without a lot of drama
Art director
30 Point Strategies
Read bio
Partner and principal
30 Point Strategies
Read bio
3:30–4:30 p.m.
Special keynote

A speechwriters’ journey from communicator to catalyst

As the tools of transparency become instruments of invented logic, we face a growing crisis of trust and a desperate desire for truth. Speechwriters, who put words into the mouths of the world’s most powerful leaders, have the access, intimacy and insight to make those words speak truth to power.

In this special keynote, you'll learn how to:

  • Recognize and avoid the pitfalls of prophecy
  • Communicate to others the value in understanding what they don’t understand
  • Engage your singular position and perspective to become a change agent
Manager, executive communications
UPS
Read bio

Friday, March 15

9–9:50 a.m.

Spinning straw into gold: How to make your life pay off for you as a speechwriter

In 2009, Desson Thomson knew only one thing: He wanted to become a speechwriter. But he had zero experience, and lacked few, if any, of the traditional skills and contacts that most people told him would be necessary to get the job. After taking stock of his own individual skills and experiences, he repurposed himself into a speechwriter. He has worked for two cabinet secretaries in the executive branch, one ambassador to London, an undersecretary of state, an assistant secretary of state and currently the chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America. Thomson will share the journey and the process that led him from a clueless but aspiring speechwriter to an accomplished and successful one. In listening to his experiences, you will discover how to:

  • Take stock of the assets and experiences in your personal and professional life that can serve you as a speechwriter
  • Understand how to become successful in the shape-shifting era we live in
  • Learn some nuts and bolts methods to train yourself as a successful speechwriter for any occasion
  • Learn the relationship-building attributes that will make you indispensable to any client as a speechwriter
Director, executive communications
Motion Picture Association
Read bio
9:50–10:10 a.m.

Networking break

10:10–11 a.m.
Panel

Turn boring topics into great speeches

New job? New client? New corporate strategy or policy issue? Chances are you’ll be expected to write brilliantly about topics that are unfamiliar, complicated and sometimes just boring. You’ll likely be asked to wade through facts and research without a clear indication of exactly what your speaker wants to say. That’s where you dig in and prove your value.

Join a panel of expert speechwriters and executive communicators to learn how to:

  • Get smart: Read, think and question until you understand
  • Practice the three D’s: Draft, dissect and defend—and repeat
  • Punch it up: Use analogies, descriptions and examples
  • Write like real people talk: Avoid fancy words, jargon, gibberish and acronyms

Moderator: Rob Friedman

Executive speechwriter & CEO communicator
Caterpillar Inc.
Read bio
Content and communications
Bloomberg Philanthropies
Read bio
Rob Friedman
Affiliate consultant
Ragan Consulting Group
Read bio
11:10 a.m.–noon
Closing keynote

Webcast Agenda

March 14, 2019

9–9:10 a.m. Eastern time

Welcome remarks

Rob Friedman
Affiliate consultant
Ragan Consulting Group
Read bio
9:10–10 a.m. Eastern time
Opening keynote

Find your executive’s voice to strengthen your leader’s messages

How do you write speeches for a leader… of the free world? Former presidential speechwriter Sarada Peri will share stories from her time writing for President Barack Obama and offer advice on how to help your executives find their best voice.

During this opening keynote you will learn how to:

  • Find—not create—an executive's voice
  • Understand and maintain authenticity
  • Use stories to move and motivate your audience
Senior speechwriter
Former President Barack Obama
Read bio
10:10–11:00 a.m. Eastern time

The secrets of career success for speechwriters

Speechwriting is the apex of communications jobs. You interact with the top leaders of your organization—often intimately. You shape the thoughts and language that will move an organization and others. You’re paid well. Yet for all the glory, the speechwriter’s perch is precarious. It’s easy to be pigeonholed, with few on-ramps to other jobs. If you’re tight with a leader, what happens when that leader exits? And how do you keep speeches relevant in a 140-character world?

Rob Friedman has seen speechwriting from every angle for three decades and will share the secrets to a successful career, including: 

  • The most important key to getting promoted (which most people know) and the second most important (which most people don’t know)
  • How to work with diverse clients, regardless of their differences—or how different they are from you
  • The most important career skill (and why it may not be speechwriting)
  • The person most essential for your success (it’s not who you think)
  • How to add value beyond speechwriting
  • How to stay fresh—and avoid burnout
  • Career killers to avoid
Rob Friedman
Affiliate consultant
Ragan Consulting Group
Read bio
11:10 a.m.–12:00 p.m. Eastern time

Storytelling with a strategic purpose

Want to draw your audience into your CEO’s next speech about the company’s new business strategy? Have the boss do one thing: tell a story. In this session, learn how a well-crafted narrative can paint an inspiring picture that audiences will remember.

You’ll learn:

  • How storytelling can make your leaders better speakers
  • How to use storytelling to improve your audience’s understanding of and engagement in business initiatives
  • How storytelling can paint a powerful picture of why your company exists

Skills Quest: Develop interviewing techniques and exercises to elicit personal stories from leaders; Summarize a story in one minute; Write a six-word story

Senior public affairs specialist
Mayo Clinic
Read bio
1:10–2:00 p.m. Eastern time

Sing like Cicero: Unleash the power of music to make your speeches sing

Cicero could sing as well as Callas or Caruso, but his genre wasn’t opera and his stage wasn’t La Scala. His oratory sang from the Roman Forum using musicians’ tools like tone, rhythm and dynamics. You can learn to make your speeches sing from the podium too—without ever reading a musical note.

Key takeaways:

  • How musical elements—which are already present within words delivered aloud—can enhance your audience’s comprehension of your message
  • How to use the universal language of music to “compose” a new layer for your speeches that is separate from the meaning of the words themselves

Skills Quest: Participate in a musical activity that will allow you to experiment with the power of song in crafting portions of a speech.

Senior leadership communications manager
American Dental Association
Read bio
2:30–3:20 p.m. Eastern time

Escape the PowerPoint prison—Create stunning visual presentations that’ll set your messages free

When we think about speechwriting, we mostly think about putting together a script. For many reasons, however, a visual presentation may be necessary: your speaker likes it, the event organizer requires it or the subject matter compels it. But too often, audiences are treated to a hellish confluence of boring, confusing or distracting PowerPoint slides—diminishing your speaker’s credibility and imprisoning your key messages. We offer an escape route in this session, including:

  • How to take a page from Steve Jobs’ playbook to create stimulating visual presentations
  • Model best practices in presentation visuals that make your speaker stand out from the crowd
  • Criteria to decide when to use visual presentations
  • Explore the pros and cons of different presentation software platforms and discuss ways to minimize the risk of technical snafus

Skills Quest: Using various speechwriting scenarios, you and your peers will create visual slides to get the messages across. Plus, participate in the learning game—“PPT Prison Break.”

Professor of communication (retired)
Eastern Michigan University
Read bio
Speechwriter
Federal Aviation Administration
Read bio
3:30–4:30 p.m. Eastern time
Special keynote

A speechwriters’ journey from communicator to catalyst

As the tools of transparency become instruments of invented logic, we face a growing crisis of trust and a desperate desire for truth. Speechwriters, who put words into the mouths of the world’s most powerful leaders, have the access, intimacy and insight to make those words speak truth to power.

In this special keynote, you'll learn how to:

  • Recognize and avoid the pitfalls of prophecy
  • Communicate to others the value in understanding what they don’t understand
  • Engage your singular position and perspective to become a change agent
Manager, executive communications
UPS
Read bio

March 15, 2019

9:00–9:50 a.m. Eastern time

Leading the skilled, confident speechwriting team: What new managers need to know

We write for leaders all the time. It’s a skill we know we need, and we work hard honing it. Yet there’s a bit of a delicious irony here. We receive very little skills training—or none at all—on what it takes to be the leader of a speechwriting team. That comes to an end with this session as we share the traits you need to lead an effective and inspired team of speechwriters.

You’ll learn:

  • How to manage the flow and production of speechwriting projects—without losing your wits
  • How to edit your team’s prose effectively
  • How to turn feedback into a learning opportunity for your team members
  • How to inspire your team through the tough times—last-minute speeches, 11th hour rewrites from the boss and more

Skills Quest: See how effectively you can edit a speech from your junior speechwriter without breaking his or her confidence.

No Headshot
Senior speechwriter
Office of the Mayor, City of Chicago
Read bio
10:10 a.m.-11:00 a.m. Eastern time

Crafting the unforgettable speech with powerful anecdotes

Want to make a memory out of your next speech? Then, remember this word: Anecdote. In this session, you’ll see how weaving in a short personal or historical story can create that emotional connection between the speaker and the listener—essential for making your next big speech stick in the memories of your audience.

You’ll learn:

  • Why the last place to find a powerful anecdote is always the best place to do so
  • Avoid the pitfalls of using the hyperbolic, inappropriate or sappy anecdote
  • A solid process for uncovering effective anecdotes

Skills Quest: Work with your small group in crafting an anecdote for a speech based on a particular theme. The group with the best anecdote wins a prize!

Speechwriter
J.B. Pritzker’s 2018 Illinois gubernatorial campaign & transition
Read bio
11:10 a.m.-noon Eastern time
Closing keynote