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Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Words to be spoken are not the same as words to be read" Helpful tools for the novice scriptwriter.

Every Parliamentary intern or staffer's rite of passage comes when asked to craft a speech for the first time. Assume you have read "Lend me your ears" whilst "I have a dream", has been well thumbed. You know something about oratory and rhetoric. You know rules of three, contrasting and puzzle-solution devices. But how do you create something which is memorable for the audience, enhances your employer's reputation and builds your own professionalism? You want practical tips about how to approach the whole endeavour. Help is at hand!

  • Your aim is to create rhythm in the speech which accords with the delivery style of the speaker. Get that right and the audience gets moved along as well. Remember, words to be spoken are not the same as words to be read. Many budding speechwriters move to the keyboard and start banging out some prose. Not surprisingly, when it comes to delivery, these words come out as a reading - after all that is how they were created. Far better to think of words which you conjure up whilst driving, cutting the grass or having a shower. Create your script away from the pad. Phrases may have emerged in an anarchic manner, but when honed, they will maintain their vibrancy in the chamber or elsewhere. "Communication is what we do best and the best is what we communicate" sounds contrived - you would not use it at a dinner party. It has a ring and in the right place exudes energy and drives audience dynamics.
  • Talk and tape with your client, so as to gain a feel of his/her speech patterns. Obama is ace at delivering cryptic lists and his pace of delivery adds to the energy in the performance. Check out the rhetorical devices your client seems most happy with.
  • Let the speech have one key point culminating in the punchline or call to action. The audience may be hearing but not listening. A colloquial style and logical structure helps them along.
  • Least is best. Your speech may not become iconic but at least it deserves a chance. A memorable strap line allows easier recall to be picked up by the media. Keep sentences short, allow for the pause and place opportunities for co-ordinated gesture clusters.
  • We are not expecting the power of a Malcolm Gladwell. The recent election debates have told us that communication abilities can be a tipping point in harnessing opinion. Don't allow the speech to get bogged down in policies, personalities and process. Instead work on a passion about people and their predicaments - a key reason for entering the profession in the first place.
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