For two years, I have blipped between my alter-ego (a gregarious, witty, charming born leader who loves a verbal stoush) and, well, me – verbally awkward, socially uncomfortable, to be honest, a bit of a wallflower.
More recently, I have enjoyed reconnecting with a long-time political acquaintance, coaxing to the surface his warmth, generous community spirit and subtle humour others don’t often see. I can’t deny it’s also been just a little fun helping him stick the proverbial boot into his foes under Parliamentary privilege too.
Most recently, I have begun to explore two new characters, similar in personality. My challenge is to convert their tinder dry sense of humour, almost imperceptible asides and one-liners into the written word. I don’t know either of them deeply and our paths do not cross frequently. The exciting thing is, we are embarking on this journey together.
Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:
1: It’s not about you
If you want the kudos and glory, become the boss yourself.
If not, leave your ego at home and accept that no one will know your name unless they want to complain, you will have to lug the pull-up banners to the conference and you will not be given a goodie bag.
2: Believe in the cause
To write convincingly for and as someone else you must believe in their cause, share their ideals and work towards a shared goal.
3: Get to know them
Whether you both enjoy Sudoko when travelling on the train or smashing a tiny ball against a wall with a racquet on Saturday morning to relieve stress, have kids the same age or collect stamps, guaranteed you will find something in common that will kick start your relationship.
A good relationship with your boss will give depth to your speechwriting.
4: Get to understand them
Learning what makes someone tick, why they think the way they do and their opinion on a wide range of topics will help you hear their “voice’’.
5: Get to like them
You must learn to like them. You must, after all, convince others of their message.
6: Hang off their every word
Rather than fiddling with your phone, gossiping with his PA at the back of the room or gazing at the spider inching closer to Madam Mayor’s stiletto, listen to your boss give his speech. Take note of how he speaks, what words he uses and how he uses them, where he pauses for effect and whether he thumps the lectern or points at the audience.
That will help make your speeches for him more theatrical, more alive and more believable.
7: Sweat the small stuff
It’s the details which can make a good speech a memorable one which resonates with an audience touched by the sincerity of the “voice’’.
A speaker who halts and stumbles over unfamiliar words will not come across as genuine.
So notice that your speaker uses “first’’ and “second’’ rather than “firstly’’ and “secondly’’, “each’’ rather than “every’’, “everyone’’ rather than “everybody’’; that she is a fan of alliteration; that he likes to pause and eyeball a few people in the front row after a particularly passionate line.
Notice that your charge always carefully chooses cufflinks or a tie appropriate to each function or engagement. Mentioning it in a speech might just win over that deciding voter or that crucial sponsorship deal one day.