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Guy Snodgrass' Speechwriting Chunks


From Guy Snodgrass on the Art of Writing, I find this speechwriting process chunks to be a great way to write a talk, too. Though, "outcome" and "message" are close to the same when giving a tech talk, they could be slightly different. I'd say I often have outcome = "I want you excited about this technology" and "message" = "You can do it." Unsure.

My thoughts were recently published in a book about the Pentagon. I was asked to write the chapter on speechwriting, and I broke the process down into four “chunks.”

First, “Know Your Boss.” Study them closely, focusing on their persona (learning their voice) as well as their preferences (how they like to communicate). You’ll never succeed if you’re fighting your boss.

Second, “Know Your Outcome.” Put simply, what are you trying to achieve? Knowing the desired outcome leads to a strategy, and a strategy will align all of your resources and efforts to achieving the desired outcome. If you know your destination, it’s hard to be driven off course by distractions.

Third, “Know Your Audience.” Who is your boss speaking to? What is their worldview, and what do they expect to hear? How can you shape the speech so that you can provide your message while doing so in a way that the audience can accept?

Finally, “Know the Message.” The remarks are the vehicle that will bridge the divide between your boss, the audience, and the desired outcome. This is where developing a compelling writing style becomes helpful. It also means understanding how to be repetitious in a good way. As the saying goes, “Tell the audience what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you’ve told them.” Along with the positives come the negative—be wary of any “third rails” that will immediately turn off your audience. An unreceptive audience is less likely to accept what you have to say, unless you are being provocative on purpose.

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