Writing a speech? Don’t Listen to “The SpeechWriter”

GQ calls The Speechwriter, “the best political book ever” – high praise for a memoir that revolves around a sex scandal, but leaves out the sex.

Cover of "The Speechwriter"Barton Swaim was a speechwriter for South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford during the “hiking the Appalachian Trail” fiasco. But Swaim’s ire isn’t about the governor’s Argentine mistress or his lies to his staff. Swaim has a writer’s minor complaints: The governor says “Aahh,” over-relies on Rosa Parks anecdotes and insists on exactly three points per speech. (Swaim finds this baffling, quoting the governor as saying: “I’m not getting out there to talk about two stupid points.”)

It is a funny book, but please don’t use Swaim’s advice on speeches. At C2 we’ve written thousands of speeches for scores of leaders. Here are (ahem) three things we’ve learned:

  • Speeches aren’t about making the speechwriter look smart. In fact, speeches aren’t even about making the speaker look smart. A good speech is about connecting to the audience, which is basically the opposite of wowing them by your intelligence. Swaim mocks Sanford for talking about Parks – but Parks works well in speeches because people “get” her and understand her story.
  • Speechwriting is intensely personal. A speaker is immediately exposed to the crowd’s judgment. If a joke falls flat, or an analogy doesn’t work, the speaker is the one who has to keep going while audience members squirm in their seats and look at their phones. A successful speechwriter respects that. The right jokes and the right analogies are the ones the speaker feels comfortable with.
  • Check your ego. Swaim, it seems, wanted to come into the office and be the hero. He thought he would utterly transform the way Sanford spoke, wrote and thought. But that isn’t the role. As a speechwriter, your job is helping the people you work for sound like their best selves. That’s what success sounds like.

-Beverly Bartlett,

C2 Senior Strategist

Share This Article
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email
Share on pinterest
Pinterest

C2 Strategic wins multiple PRSA “Landmarks of Excellence” Awards

Multiple public relations and marketing communications projects by C2 Strategic Communications earned praise at the 2021 Landmarks of Excellence Awards by the Public Relations Society of America Bluegrass Chapter. Members of the C2 Strategic team attended the Oct. 14 event at the Kentucky Derby Museum to network, celebrate a successful year and receive their awards.

Read More »

Trailblazing journalist and author to join C2 Strategic as senior director

Thomas George, a distinguished trailblazing journalist and Kentucky native, will join C2 Strategic Communications as a senior director next month, focusing on attracting new clients and diverse talent to the regional public relations firm. George won the trust and respect of some of the biggest names in professional sports for his insight, compassion and compelling

Read More »

Louisville’s largest public relations firm continues to expand with addition of senior strategist Dominic Manecke

C2 Strategic Communications is excited to announce the latest addition to its all-star team of public relations professionals. Dominic Manecke, an award-winning communications expert with extensive experience working alongside a multitude of corporate leaders and government officials, joins C2 Strategic as senior strategist in its Louisville headquarters. Dominic comes to C2 Strategic after more than

Read More »
Scroll to Top