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Speechwriters gather to meet the moment.

Successful speechwriters have always been more than speech writers. 

In the moment we’re living in now, all speechwriters know they need to become better counselors, closer collaborators, more innovative leadership communicators and more creative, inspired souls.

They need to build new skills fast, not only to survive in a profoundly changing profession, but to help their leaders survive in a world transformed.

At one last virtual version of the beloved PSA World Conference, speechwriters from around the world will connect in an intimate, interactive online environment, and enjoy what one participant described last year as, “this wonderful, inspiring feeling of breathing the same air and tuning in to the same pulse.”

Join us.

AGENDA

(All Times ET)

MONDAY preconference workshop (optional)

2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.

Advanced Speechwriting: New Techniques for Experienced Pros

For midcareer speechwriters, beloved speechwriting teacher Mike Long’s Advanced Speechwriting adds innovative extras to your core abilities in persuasion, language, story, and clarity.

  • Making the “Same Old Thing” a Lot More Interesting. Among the most draining things speechwriters must do is present the same facts over and over again—often to the same people. The fix is to go outside the standard playbook. Here’s how.
  • Reconsidering the “special occasions” speeches. Commencements, keynotes and TED-style talks are often wasted by elevating style over substance. Here are ways to move hearts by engaging the mind.
  • Six Tricks with Language. Whether it’s a memorable soundbite or a social media post that has to stick, use these techniques to write phrases people will pay attention to.
  • Creativity: The Deep Dive. The co-author of The Molecule of More illuminates the source of creativity and provides practical tools to make your principal really stand out.
  • Numbers for Word People. Uncomfortable with numbers? It doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s how to get real power out of using numbers—so you can do more than just copy what the experts tell you.

This session is for veteran speech writers who still want to get better at what they do, and have more fun doing it.

Mike Long teaches writing at Georgetown University and in seminars around the world. Trained as a physicist, he is an award-winning speechwriter and playwright, co-author of the international bestseller The Molecule of More, and two-time winner of the Neil LaBute New Theater Festival.

TUESDAY—Become a Better Counselor

11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Keynote Panel: Because It Can’t Go on Like This—Sustainable Speechwriting and Strategic Leadership Communication in the Age of Employee Activists, “Woke CEOs” and a Fractured Society

It’s the socially gnarliest, most politically fraught, most strategically complicated leadership communication issue of our time—and we’re going to tackle it with candor and courage and humility and humor, as PSA executive director David Murray leads a diverse panel of star speechwriters and exec comms experts from the PSA and the Executive Communication Council. They’ll be under strict instructions to ground all of their philosophy and counsel in the most practical terms, groping toward a strategic approach that’s possible, responsible and sustainable—for leaders and the communicators who serve them.

Back-to-“Normal” Benchmark Study: How to Navigate the First Year of the Rest of Your Career in Speechwriting and Executive Communication

Where are speechwriters working, where are leaders speaking, how is everyone collaborating, what’s forever changed, and what is going to stay the same? PSA executive director David Murray shares exclusive results and fresh insights from original PSA research on the leadership communication landscape now, and going forward—so you know where you stand, and whether you’re faced in the right direction.

1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.

Among Friends: Networking, with Industry or Regional Colleagues. In a roomful of virtual roundtables in an onscreen environment that looks very much like the sunny room where speechwriters usually convene at Georgetown University, you’ll sit face to face with speechwriters in your speechwriting sector—whether you’re corporate, government, university, nonprofit or independent—or people in your region of the U.S. or the world—and share your specific experiences and concerns, your needs and your plans for the future.

WEDNESDAY—Become a More Effective Collaborator

11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

How to Become a Trusted Advisor: A Step-By-Step Guide, for Speechwriters

Since COVID, communicators have enjoyed more frequent and direct contact with their executives. Use this window to build a much stronger relationship as a trusted advisor. Whether you’re supporting a new leader—or needing to reset an existing relationship, exec comms guru Pete Weissman explains how to turn gains in facetime quantity into relationship quality. You will learn: A formula for providing critical feedback that will strengthen your relationship. How to talk the boss out of a bad idea. How to get busy leaders to give more time to communication events. How to overcome the gaps in age and experience when supporting senior leaders. And how to avoid the “Speechwriter’s Spiral of Death.”

How Vital Speeches Get Made: One Principal/Speechwriter’s Winning Process

Dr. Fawaz Bitar is a senior VP at BP, based in London. Sebastian Chrispin is his speechwriter. The two have combined on several speeches imaginative and persuasive enough to be published in Vital Speeches of the Day magazine. They will join us to describe their tried-and-true “three-week process, several hours a week” for creating a speech from scratch.

From Insanely Shrill … to Authentically Phil! The Salvation of the Worst Speaker of All Time

“My name is Phil Davison, and I am seeking our party’s nomination for the position of Stark County Treasurer!” began a 2010 campaign speech that went around the world as a viral video. But long after the world moved on to other laughing stocks, the speechwriting community played the speech over and over at our conferences and seminars, as an entertaining cautionary tell of what can happen when there’s a violent disagreement between speaker and message and moment and mood. Meanwhile, one presentation coach thought to reach out to Davison, to see if he could help. At this session, you’ll meet Pinnacle Performance Company co-founder G. Riley Mills, in conversation with his star protégé, the one and only Phil Davison.

1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.

Among Friends: The only other people in the world who understand the speechwriter-principal relationship are your fellow speechwriters. To these small-group virtual roundtables, bring your stubbornest frustration in your collaboration with your principal—and share the biggest breakthrough you ever had, with your current principal or any other.

THURSDAY—Become an Innovative Leadership Communicator

11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

The Essentials of Executive Presence: What You Need to Know to Coach and Influence Your Clients

“Executive presence.” It’s a notion that’s been tossed around by exec comms advisers for years, with increasing frequency and urgency. But what is it, exactly? And what is it not? How do speechwriters coach their clients in it, and how do they cultivate it in themselves? Rebecca Goldsmith has devoted her career to helping leaders be more effective, and elevating their presence is a big part of that. In this session, she’ll give participants a common definition and share practical techniques for helping leaders (and themselves) embrace their presence to increase their influence and effectiveness.

The Jacinda Ardern Method for Social Leadership: How to Bring Out Your Leader’s Max Dynamism

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is one of the very few widely beloved and respected and effective national leaders in the world today. How does she do it? Not, primarily, through statements and speeches, but by bringing the public along on her leadership journey, every intimate step of the way! Executive Communication Council and PSA executive director David Murray shows how Ardern does it—and how you can help your leader use the very same techniques.

The Culturally Competent Speechwriter: How to Know the Words You Write Aren’t Doing More Harm Than Good

Leaders of firms and organizations of every size and stripe across the nation are working hard to communicate their commitment to equity, inclusion and social justice. And that’s a good thing, right? Yes, if it’s done right. But Robert Wood Johnson exec comms director Tanya Barrientos warns that without acute cultural awareness, there’s a danger leaders who sincerely want to stand as advocates and allies will instead be seen as being phony and performative. How can you know if the words you write are doing more harm than good?  How can you help your principals become more culturally competent? And what questions should you be asking yourself to expand your understanding? Tanya leads a panel that includes successful independent speechwriter Cheril Clarke and Mintaro Oba, speechwriter to the managing director at the International Monetary Fund, and co-founder of Speechwriters of Color.

1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.

Among Friends: Best Practices, Self-Taught

Bring the best, most practical, most immediately applicable idea you’ve discovered for making your speechwriting better, easier, more rewarding or less painful. Share it with your colleagues—and get their best ideas, too.

FRIDAY—Find Your Inspiration

1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.

Speeches That Never Were, and Why Not: Lessons from History for Speechwriters Today

On Election Night 2000, speechwriter Jeff Nussbaum was left holding three iterations of a speech Al Gore didn’t give. Thus began a fascination with the “speech not given” and the first draft of an alternate history it can provide. In this session, Nussbaum will share some examples of, and perspective on, speeches that were never given because events intervened, or a leader had a change of heart, or history took a sudden turn. From Hillary Clinton’s undelivered 2016 victory speech, to John F. Kennedy’s announcement of airstrikes on Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, to Dwight Eisenhower’s apology had D-Day failed, to Emperor Hirohito’s undelivered apology for World War II, and several others, Nussbaum reconstructs the moment in history these speeches would have addressed, the fraught environment around their creation, and some of the speech itself. In excavating these words from the dustbin of history, Nussbaum has found that each speech has something to say not only about the time in which it was written, but ours as well.

Logos, Pathos, Ethos: How One Speech Can Advance a Movement, and Launch a Leader

On no issue has American culture moved as quickly than same-sex marriage. Ten years ago this year, the state of Iowa was preparing to vote to end same-sex marriage between gay and lesbian couples. Along the vast distance the nation has traveled on this issue in that decade, no single rhetorical expression pushed us further, faster than a three-minute speech by a 19-year-old son of a lesbian couple whose marriage was under threat. Today you’ll meet now 30-year-old Zach Wahls. We’ll look back on the great speech, and its making. We’ll talk about how it changed the trajectory of Wahls’ life. And we’ll talk about how he uses rhetoric to advance the urgent causes of today, as a member of the Iowa State Senate.

3:00 p.m.-???

Among Friends—Cicero Celebration, Speechwriters’ Toasts and Closing Cocktail Party

We’ll recognize the Cicero Speechwriting Award winners as we traditionally do. And Isabelle Gaudeul-Ehrhart and several other members of the PSA Advisory Council will eloquently toast a profession that has truly helped carry a global society through the darkest period most of us have ever known. And then we’ll send you on a virtual Washington pub crawl, to find old friends or make new acquaintances, in happy palavers at virtual versions of The Tombs, The Bulldog Tavern, Clyde’s, Martin’s Tavern or the Old Ebbitt Grill.

SPEAKERS

Tanya Maria Barrientos

Tanya Maria Barrientos

Tanya Maria Barrientos is Director of Executive Communications for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Before becoming a speechwriter, she worked as a journalist for the Philadelphia Inquirer for two decades. She also has authored two novels—Frontera Street and Family Resemblance—published by Putnam/Penguin’s New American Library. Through her fiction she was awarded the Pew Fellowship in the Arts for literature. She’s been a member of PSA from the very start and is honored to have a received several Cicero Awards.

Dr. Fawaz Bitar

Dr. Fawaz Bitar

Fawaz (Fuzzy) Bitar has been with bp for over 30 years and worked in the UK, US, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Egypt and Indonesia. More recently he led bp’s global operations organisation and was appointed Senior Vice President for Health, Safety, Environment and Carbon in March 2020. Fuzzy has a Doctor of Engineering degree from the University of Aberdeen and a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Newcastle University. He is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Chairman of the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP).

Cheril Clarke

Cheril Clarke

Cheril Clarke has designed presentations and written speeches for C-Suite executives at Fortune 500 companies worldwide. She has also taught corporate workshops and coached leaders on presentation skills one-on-one. With a background deeply rooted in creative writing, from children’s books to award-winning stage plays, Cheril has the unique ability to easily connect with audiences of all types. She has been noted by numerous publications, including The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Atlanta Business Chronicle. She is the founder of Phenomenal Writing and its subsidiaries: Phenomenal Speeches as well as Phenomenal Voices. Her goal is to improve the substance AND style of corporate and executive communications.

Sebastian Chrispin

Sebastian Chrispin

Sebastian Chrispin is a speechwriter at bp, writing for several senior executives. He received an Honorable Mention in the 2020 Cicero Awards for the speech “Climate Change, My Daughter and Me.” He was previously a broadcast journalist at the BBC.

Phil Davison

Phil Davison

On September 8th, 2010, Phil Davison broke the internet by giving one of the most infamous speeches in modern history. From that speech, he was ordained “The Worst Speaker of All Time” as evidenced by Google search results. Now, he works to inspire others to become better communicators. Phil has made appearances on Comedy Central’s Tosh.O, Good Morning America and a Super Bowl commercial for Volkswagen.

Rebecca Goldsmith

Rebecca Goldsmith

Rebecca Goldsmith is a strategic adviser to CEOs, leadership teams and their organizations. Affectionately dubbed “The Exec Whisperer” by some of her clients, she has been coaching leaders on how to come across to their stakeholders as more human, conversational and inspiring since 2007. Before founding her firm, C-Level Stories, in 2012, she held executive and internal communications roles at Google and Bristol Myers Squibb. Previously, as an award-winning journalist, she gained an appreciation for asking incisive questions, sharing motivational narratives and upholding the values of openness and transparency.

Mike Long

Mike Long

Mike Long is a speechwriter and award-winning playwright and screenwriter based in Washington, D.C. He is a former director of the White House Writers Group and a lecturer at Georgetown University, where he served most recently as the director of writing for the graduate program in PR. Mike is also the co-author of the new book, The Molecule of More.

G. Riley Mills

G. Riley Mills

G. Riley Mills is the Co-Founder and COO of Pinnacle Performance Company and co-author of The Bullseye Principle. He was recently included in the list of “Top Leadership Speakers” by Inc. Magazine and has taught effective communication to executives and CEOs on six continents. He presented his TEDx session “Are We Killing Communication?” at the Shanghai American School, Shanghai, China and consulted on the MSNBC program “All In America: Chicago” which won a 2018 Emmy for Outstanding News Discussion and Analysis. Mills has taught effective communication skills to the The Royal Household at Buckingham Palace and has written for both Forbes and Fast Company.

David Murray

David Murray

David Murray is founder and executive director of the Professional Speechwriters Association and the Executive Communication Council. He is an award-winning journalist and is editor and publisher of Vital Speeches of the Day, one of the world’s longest continuously published magazines. Murray is author of several books, including this year’s communication blockbuster, An Effort to Understand: Hearing One Another (and Ourselves) in a Nation Cracked in Half (Disruption Books, 2021). He lives with his wife Cristie Bosch and daughter Scout Murray, in Chicago.

Jeff Nussbaum

Jeff Nussbaum

Jeff Nussbaum is the author of the forthcoming book, Undelivered: The Never Heard Speeches that Would Have Rewritten History (Flatiron Books, May 2022). He currently serves currently serves as a special assistant and senior speechwriter to President Joe Biden. Most recently, Nussbaum served as a partner at the speechwriting and strategy firm West Wing Writers. He previously wrote for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Vice President Al Gore. Nussbaum also helped oversee speechwriting operations for the 2020 Democratic National Convention and was involved in the past six Democratic conventions. He has co-authored books with James Carville and former Senator Bob Graham and has served as a creative consultant for the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Mintaro Oba

Mintaro Oba

Mintaro Oba is speechwriter and communications advisor to International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, a former State Department official, and expert on foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific region. He has shaped foreign policy messaging at the highest levels and written speeches and op-eds for leading politicians, Fortune 50 CEOs, non-profit leaders, and more on topics from artificial intelligence to climate change. In 2020, he co-founded Speechwriters of Color, an organization that has successfully supported writers of color and advocated for greater diversity and inclusion in the speechwriting field. Under his own name, he has been quoted or interviewed in The New York Times, The Washington Post, BBC, CNN, and more.

Zach Wahls

Zach Wahls

Zach Wahls is the Iowa Senate Democratic Leader and represents Senate District 37, which includes Cedar, Johnson, and Muscatine counties. He is also the Vice President of Community Investment and Development at GreenState Credit Union, Iowa’s largest financial cooperative. He is the author of the nationally bestselling memoir My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes a Family. Zach is a proud Eagle Scout, and he co-founded and served as Executive Director of Scouts for Equality, which successfully led the national campaign to end LGBTQ discrimination in the Boy Scouts of America. His testimony before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee about growing up with lesbian parents was YouTube’s most-watched political video of 2011. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and his master’s degree from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs. He lives with his fiancée in Coralville, Iowa.

Pete Weissman

Pete Weissman

Pete Weissman helps CEOs and their teams build greater visibility, influence and results through creative communications. From his work in the West Wing, U.S. Senate and with Fortune 500 companies, he’s developed unique methodologies in speechwriting, media training and presentation coaching. His firm, Thought Leader Communications, helps executives shape the future of their fields.

SPONSORS

Gotham stands alone as the first and last word in ghostwriting—a one-stop solution for any author or speaker looking for help telling and selling a story. Whether they’re working on a big-think book, speech, article, memoir, corporate or family history, cookbook, or screenplay, our clients all have one thing in common—they’ve found the right partner for their project.

Pinnacle is a global, award-winning communication skills training company. The Pinnacle experience is energetic, exercise-driven and built to transform. Pinnacle arms individuals with innovative, time-tested acting techniques—without requiring anyone to “act.” Pinnacle empowers people to land their messages, influence their audiences and stand confidently in their expertise.

FAQ—How Does a Virtual Conference Work, Exactly?

What is a virtual conference?

The Professional Speechwriters Association seeks to make this remote-learning conference as interactive and convivial as its beloved in-person event held annually at Georgetown University in D.C. Through innovative tech and the most thoughtful planning, World Conference participants will come away from this event with the professional knowledge they need and the feeling of belonging that the conference has become known for.

How do the “Among Friends” networking sessions work, exactly?

Pretty much the way networking goes at the in-person conference. You walk into a virtual “room,” you see who’s sitting at virtual “tables,” you ascertain what the people at the tables are talking about, and you decide where to “sit.”

Can several people from my company login to the virtual conference at the same time?

No. This event is restricted to only one login, so only one computer can be connected to the webcast at any time. You can have multiple people in a room viewing the virtual conference, but not multiple people watching from their individual computers.

What if I miss a part of the conference?

Links to all sessions are available a day or two after the session, and viewable anytime between the conference and the end of the calendar year, 2021.

How good can a virtual World Conference actually be?

Here are a few comments we received last year from World Conference participants. “I was skeptical about this online meeting. It’s working perfectly.” … “If the objective was that we would feel (as much as possible) like being on Georgetown campus you have it. … We had really good, useful, trusted conversations. Towards the end, one person asked for advice, got several ideas to help moving ahead, and concluded by thanking us and saying ‘I can feel love at this table.’” … “This wonderful, inspiring feeling of breathing the same air and tuning in to the same pulse–well that feeling is just as strong, and perhaps even higher valued this year.” … “It has been engaging, inspiring, exciting, and intermittently infuriating—which is exactly what I want and expect from a convening of this kind. From the first day, I have come away bubbling with ideas for how to apply the insights and examples of your presenters to my own work. And here on the eve of our final session, I am close to overflowing.” … “At one point I was actually clapping at my screen.” … “HOLY $#!=….. This is the best conference ever.”

REGISTER

Cancellations Policy
No refunds on cancellations less than 30 days before the event. Within 30 days, your payment will be credited toward a future Professional Speechwriters Association event.

Book before the early bird deadline and save! (Early bird rate expires July 31, 2021.)

 

$795 PSA World Conference, October 18-22, 2021

($596.25 for members of the Professional Speechwriters Association. Discount is automatically applied to cart when current members are logged in.)

 

$395 Preconference Workshop on October 18, 2021

($296.25 for members of the Professional Speechwriters Association. Discount is automatically applied to cart when current members are logged in.)

 

Phone registrations please call 312-585-6383.

Credentials to access the event will be sent the week of October 11.

$395.00$795.00

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