Speech, Speech

Giving a speech for many can feel like being a deer in the headlights

Giving a speech is a hard thing to do. It requires careful planning, rehearsing, exact timing and a thorough knowledge of the audience. All these elements have equal importance, even if the speaker is simply offering a toast (particularly if a few drinks have preceded the moment).

For several years I wrote the speeches for Joe Baum, the legendary former CEO of The Rainbow Room and Windows on the World.  The procedure was always the same. He hated giving speeches and invariably canceled at least five of our first scheduled meetings.

The next step required his secretary to retrieve copies of every speech he had ever given since the beginning of time.

Then I showed up and he began by insisting certain paragraphs from his previous talks be included included in the forthcoming speech (regardless of the occasion or the assigned topic).

After dozens of drafts, false starts, whining on my part, whining on his part, my refusal to speak to him, he glowering at me…we traveled together to the meeting.

Introduction over, he’d look over at me — and wink.

Then he’d shove all my neatly typed triple-spaced pages in his pocket and say whatever came into his head.

It was always a huge success.

It took me years to understand my part in this equation was simply to help him summon the courage to accept the notion that he was loved.

The lesson I so painfully learned is that all writers are not great speakers, and speakers succeed only when they accept the original premise that a speech requires “careful planning, rehearsing, exact timing and a thorough knowledge of the audience.” These rigid rules only apply to some people though…

I love this quote from Walt Disney. He said, “I’d rather entertain and hope that people learn, than teach and hope that people are entertained.”