Adventures in Speech Writing

I have a sexy job. It isn’t really, but that’s the impression some people have. They’ve watched too many movies romanticize my type of work. In the course of conversation, someone might say, “So, what do you do?” There’s a range of reasons people ask such a thing — maybe they want to guess my income level, find a common place that we can relate, or they want to sort out the social hierarchy. My professional life isn’t without adventures. I have loads, but so do you.

Sometimes, I tell people I’m in marketing. My goal is to have a healthy, balanced conversation. The novelty of what I do can make a conversation all about me or my job.

This happened just this week as I was leaving the library. Someone wanted to use the table where I had been working several hours. Brief small talk about the wonders of being an entrepreneur was followed by the “usual conversation.” I do my best to explore their questions because I love curious people, but steer it elsewhere as quickly as I can. Their curiosity isn’t always convenient or conducive to a new relationship.

The Reality

My reality is hidden by a green screen. My office space is at home. Functional. An L-shaped desk with two tables behind me. Some of my dad’s paintings. A too-small print of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat which makes me think of my mom. A bunch of books — some professional, some fiction. I spend a lot of my time reading to relax and to stay verbally sharp.

An empty coffee cup. An empty espresso cup. A few cough drops.

I have all the toys of the trade, mind you. Several high-end mics, a webcam camera, a ring light, two large monitors, desk speakers (I gotta have my jams while I work). Next to me, there’s a small fridge, a bathroom, and large bean bags when I need to do a long read. Or take an unexpected nap.

My speakers are atop an old high school biology textbook and an advance copy of The Nixon Tapes. Sundry electronic equipment is scattered on my desk: An external hard drive, some cords, a USB 2-USB 3 adapter (quite handy), and a thing to play DVDs (I never use it). A glass of water. A printer I use every couple of months. Two unused monitors are on the table behind me. I really should find a home for those.

What I lack in style I make up for in efficient use of space.

Joro SpiderIf I walk out the adjacent door to my patio, I head into a bunch of thick spider webs (Joro Spiders, now a thing in northeast Georgia), a massive (and dead) bee on the lawn furniture, and enough mosquitoes to suck Dracula’s blood. I’m often up so late meeting a deadline that, like today, I fall asleep on a cheap futon for an hour. Lunches are leftovers.

I do all of my own marketing, design my own website, and pay self-employed taxes. Social media is all me. So, to both of my followers, thank you (see my social media accounts at the bottom of the page).

Not so sexy.

Not All Crusts and Dirt

Because I work from home, I work in casual dress unless I’ve a meeting. I keep a couple jackets next to my work area just in case. I listen to whatever music I like, but unlike at an office, I don’t need headphones. My schedule is my own. I drink great coffee. That’s pretty good.

Lines of Questioning

There are a few lines of questioning these things go. It isn’t all bad, mind you, but the other conversant’s curiosity can stifle my ability to learn about them, or they put me on a pedestal (as if I can speak like President Obama or Tony Robbins — which, no, I’m not even close).

  • “Do you write for politics?”
  • “Do you know any famous people?”
  • “Oh, I’m so bad at public speaking.”
  • “Do you get to fly on their jet?”

(answer key: yes [but not like you might think], yes, oh, no. More answers below.)

Who is Interesting?

I understand there’s intrigue to what I do. Doctors and lawyers face a version of it. So does my friend who is an extra in several Avengers movies (you’ve seen him — he gets killed gloriously at the end of Black Panther). Pastors do as well. They’ll sit on a plane and rather than watch an in-flight movie, they’ll carefully tread through two hours of theology, confession, or soapboxing.

Who else? You name it — everyone does something interesting: the military, police, the fire department, the mailman, the NSA people at the airport, bar owners, electricians, bakers… You see, this list could go on forever. Everyone is fascinating. Everyone has adventures. Listen to anyone long enough and you’ll realize they have so much life.

Life is tricky. Be graceful when people want to know more and be wise as you navigate conversations.

  • Do I write for politics? Yes, but I don’t approach it as a partisan fight.
  • Do I know famous people? Quite a few, but non-disclosures won’t let me get into all of that. Athletes, philanthropists, high profile business leaders, and some just famous for being famous. They are real people too, some of whom are secretly doing wonderful things to improve our world.
  • You are not skilled at public speaking? Most of us still have more to learn. I certainly do. I can help you speak more effectively.
  • What about the company jet? No, not yet. I have invitations to stay at client’s estates. I have enjoyed meals in some exclusive restaurants. Not nearly often enough!

So, today, if you are dining at a nice place for lunch, enjoying a filet mignon with a small glass of Pinot Noir, think of me. I probably will have a chicken drumstick or two from last night or a baloney sandwich.

Your speech should challenge and build others forward and better. It isn’t for you to brag about your accomplishments, to sell your book, or to push your consulting services. Let your authority be your authority, not your persona. The title of your speech isn’t, “Let’s Talk About Me.”

In other words, your speech is not an infomercial about how wonderful you or your services are. It’s to take your audience to a new place. It’s to help them understand why they want to donate to a particular cause, to make changes in their life so they will be healthier, or to take an action they are not presently taking. Or, if they are doing all of those things, to continue or add to those things.

Avoid the temptation of giving yourself a big hug on stage. Narcissism serves no one.

If you’ve accomplished some things which helped justify your presence at the podium, have the emcee or host provide a quick biography. That’s it. Avoid being self-indulgent, and focus on that which is salient for moving your message forward.

There’s nothing wrong with being proud of what you’ve accomplished, but there’s a lot wrong with making you the story. Even when you are delivering an inspirational speech with your story as the prime example, remember that even then, it’s not about you.

We’re happy to help you stay audience-focused. Contact us.

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