Back to the Future, in Speechwriting

A new PSA whitepaper offers an annotated version of a speech by a speechwriter on speechwriting—delivered 40 years ago this year.

Editor’s note:

At the Professional Speechwriters Association, we naturally focus on new developments and burgeoning trends. It’s our job to stay current on the changing leadership communication landscape—and to help you stay current, too.
 
But change-watchers like us can benefit from an occasional look back, for a grounding reminder that, especially in an ancient craft like speechwriting, some things really do remain the same. (And probably always will.)
 
We found a perfect chance to do that, with the discovery in our own vault, of a speech on speechwriting, delivered by a speechwriter, 40 years ago this year. And not a White House hotshot, either. John R. Bonee was a workaday scribe, a corporate communications manager at a telephone utility, speaking to a group of PR students in Chicago, in 1981.
 
The speech was published in Vital Speeches of the Day back then. We reprint it in our latest PSA whitepaper, along with some observations by me, on what seems to have changed in speechwriting in the last four decades, and what—thankfully, and also annoyingly—has not.
 
Pre-PowerPoint, Bonee laments over-use of visual aids. He argues fiercely about the fundamental need for access to the speaker. He teaches the importance of giving a speech a compelling title, like his own speech, “The Care and Feeding of the Executive Speaker: A Few Age Old Principles of Effective Oratory.” And the speech he gives is itself an instructive example of the form.
 
Download, and enjoy.

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