By the time we’re together in Washington, it’ll have been three years since the last murmuration of global speechwriters.
So there’s little need to emphasize the importance of this reunion of the silent profession: We all feel it.
We flock together to learn new skills that the world demands of us now—and to remember the timeless value of good rhetoric.
To learn from colleagues who are making a great impact with their work.
To connect with colleagues, for safety and comfort, and to fly for a couple of days in formation—visual, visceral proof that in our lonely striving for a better world through better leadership communication, we have wing mates.
(All Times ET)
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 11
Preconference Workshops (Optional)
Workshop A (9:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.)
Crisis Communications: A Speechwriter’s Guide to Preparing Strategically and Acting Effectively
Used to be, a crisis demanding timely and effective top-level leadership communication came along once every few years. As such events are far more frequent now, responsible speechwriters must ready themselves as trusted advisors and helpful aides to calibrate leadership communication correctly.
“Between self-destructive blabbering and self-defeating silence,” says leadership crisis guru Helio Fred Garcia, “there’s a lot of room to maneuver.”
Garcia is here to help you find that space—before the crisis comes. In this workshop, you will learn:
- Constructive conversations to have with leaders, attorneys and other advisors ahead of a crisis, about a “decision criteria” on when and what to communicate.
- A template for a leader’s statement that can be drafted and delivered at the very outset of the crisis, when time is of the essence.
- All the elements that a corporate apology must have—and how to get it past the lawyers.
- A blow-by-blow guide to how speechwriters should talk with leaders during a crisis to get to a communication response that maintains trust in the organization while not increasing legal liability.
- How restore trust once it has been lost: The language of redemption, and the trust drivers it must address.
You’ll walk out of this session much more professionally prepared for what(ever) is coming next.
Workshop B: (1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.)
Humor Is Serious Business: How to Make Your Boring Boss Funny, Without Getting Anyone Fired
There’s a reason speechwriters and their leaders want to use humor in speeches. Humor can make a point more memorable, help diffuse a difficult situation, expose the flaw in an opposing idea. Most importantly, humor can help characterize a leader as someone people just might want to follow.
So why are so few speeches funny? Fear. Fear of silence. Fear of embarrassment. Fear that you just don’t know how to “write funny.”
At the end of this session, you will. Speechwriters and go-to Washington humorists Chandler Dean and Eric Schnure will show you how to bring humor to speeches and use wit to make messages more meaningful.
You will leave with the skills you need to get low-risk, high-reward laughs. In this workshop, you will:
- Learn the golden rule(s) of humor and why getting laughs means being liked.
- Use the “clustering technique” employed by late night comedians and writers.
- Apply the art of improv—especially when scripted.
- Realize how research—against all odds—is a humor writer’s best friend.
- Identify the “line,” and how to avoid crossing it.
- Learn how to be funnier than you ever thought you could be—and how to make your boss funnier than an executive should be.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 12
8:30 a.m.-9:00 a.m. • Breakfast and Conversation
9:00-9:15 • Opening remarks by PSA Executive Director David Murray and AARP Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff Kevin Donnellan
9:15-10:30 • Immortality, Achieved: An Audience with Brenda Jones, Longtime Speechwriter to Congressman John Lewis
Brenda Jones was dubbed “The Wordsmith and Whisperer to John Lewis,” in The Atlantic. But when she started working for the Congressman back 2003, it was her very first speechwriting job. And though he was a civil rights icon, Lewis wasn’t quite the national moral figure America would come to know over the next 16 years of her tenure. As Lewis’s speechwriter and communications director—and eventually his book collaborator—Jones came to sync so well with him that the two of them needed only a few words between them to understand what kind of words a speech needed. What they achieved together is a stunning and moving best-case scenario for a speechmaking team. Brenda Jones will share their secrets with her speechwriting sistren and brethren, in hopes they might apply them in service of other great leaders and other righteous causes.
10:30-11:00 • Candid Collegial Conversations. Let’s skip the small talk: Over the last three years, what did you learn about speechwriting and leadership communication—and your relationship to this work?
11:00-12:00 • Writing and Managing Virtual Presentations: How to Go from Good to Great, in a Format That Isn’t Going Anywhere
You’ve likely been supporting your leaders in remote presentations for a couple years now. But are you doing it as effectively as you can? You’ll find out in this session, with Patti Sanchez, chief strategy officer of the legendary Silicon Valley design firm Duarte, Inc. Sanchez will share insights she learned while researching and writing Duarte’s new guide, Presenting Virtually: Communicate and Connect with Online Audiences. You’ll learn to: choose the right presentation format for every communication situation; create content that engages hearts and minds even in this flat medium; design clear and effective slides that rivet eyeballs to the screen; step up your speaker’s tech setup; and teach your speaker the absolute must of making the absolute most of voice and gestures. And along the way: You’ll learn how to become a more effective online presenter and communicator yourself.
12:00 p.m.-12:45 p.m. • Lunch with Industry Colleagues. Scribe, find your tribe, at labeled tables full of colleagues from specific sectors in business, government, nonprofit, university and independent speechwriting.
12:45-1:15 • Speechwriter, Spiel Thyself! A Crowdsourcing Idea Frenzy
One-minute work hacks, from the only other people in the world who do what you do. If you had one hard-earned tip to share with your speechwriting colleagues, what would it be? Think on it—and bring it to share.
1:15-1:30 • Break
1:30-4:00 • Breakout Sessions, for Your Craft & Career: Six Sessions in Two Tracks
Craft Track: What Every Speechwriter Should Know About Wikipedia
Everyone wants a Wikipedia page for themselves, their CEO, or their organization, yet few people know what it takes to create one. Wikipedia’s requirements are exacting, says writer Jonathan Rick, who helps clients navigate Wikipedia. You need to develop a case, using only sources that Wikipedia recognizes, explaining why your client warrants inclusion in a global encyclopedia. The same principle applies if you want to edit an existing page. In this session, you’ll learn the six rules of Wikipedia sourcing—and how to help your client meet the standard.
Career Track: The State of the Independent Speechwriting Market
What’s the going rate for a 20-minute speech? What kinds of speeches are clients farming out to freelancers these days, and why? What other kinds of work do they need? Can speechwriters get into the book-ghostwriting game? Is this a good time to go independent? Whatever your questions, you’ll learn what’s what from the two people who know more independent writers—and more clients—than anyone on the planet: Gotham Ghostwriters founder and president Dan Gerstein and Washington Writers Network founder and president Rob Noel.
Craft Track: Comfort, Respect, Honor and Inspire: The Art and Science of Writing Unforgettable Eulogies and Tributes
One of the most reliable aspects of a speechwriter’s work is finding words to deliver at funerals and memorial services. How do you find the right balance between acknowledging grief and the pain of loss, and bringing a sense of hope? How do you produce a speech that honors the deceased in an authentic way, while also enabling your client to show compassion, empathy and leadership? Speechwriter Graham Shelby has written many eulogies, primarily for Louisville Mayor (and former U.S. Conference of Mayors President) Greg Fischer—including the first public eulogy for Muhammad Ali, which was broadcast around the world. He will share what he has learned.
Career Track: The State of the Art of the Independent Speechwriting Game
Independent speechwriting—nobody has done it more successfully for longer than Teresa Zumwald. Nobody has done it more purposefully or happily than Rosemary King. And nobody has done it more fearlessly than Justine Adelizzi. These three role models will tell you their secrets to sustainable, independent speechwriting, and answer every question you have—how to find good clients, how to keep them—and how to do maximum-meaningful work that fills your soul and your coffers, both.
Craft Track: How to Spread the Wisdom of Your Institution, One Three-Minute Talk at a Time
At Ohio Wesleyan University, chief communications officer Will Kopp initiated i-Cubed, a program in which a lineup of 10 faculty members, selected by students, present three-minute lectures on topics of their choice. Since its inception in 2016, the annual i³ event has packed in standing-room crowds and has become one of the most popular happenings on campus. Videos of the presentations have been viewed more than 200,000 times. Kopp will share what he’s learned in helping these presenters with writing and rehearsing, and show you how you might do something similar in your own organization.
Career Track: Humble Servants with a Superiority Complex: How to Manage Your Own Ego, Too
A requirement for every good speechwriter is an ability to put one’s ego aside in service of a larger goal—namely, a content and confident speaker. But what does this look like in practice? Sociolinguist Gwynne Mapes shares insights from her three-year study on speechwriters and their work, demonstrating how it is possible (and even advisable) to claim expertise and creative skill/integrity while still serving the needs of the principal. Based on deep original research, Mapes will tell you how some of today’s top speechwriters not only manage speakers’ egos, but also their own.
3:50-4:00 • Reconvene in Brickfield
4:00-5:00 • “Smart brevity”: Is this the new speechwriter’s mantra? (Or not?)
Thirty years ago, speechwriters were grudgingly learning how to weave pithy “sound bites” into long speeches, so they’d be quoted on TV and in print. Now in the age of Twitter—and after the acceleration of Zoom—just how are speeches supposed to be constructed, and how short do they have to be? We’ll ask Roy Schwartz, the co-founder and president of Axios, a company that has made a place in the media landscape by providing “smart, efficient news worthy of your time, attention and trust.” Probably, most speechwriters—and speakers—would love to have their oral communication described that way, too. But at what cost to substance—and to the rhythm and mood and that also helps bond a speaker to an audience and audience members together? Speechwriter and leadership communication consultant Kristen Daly will interview Schwartz about his concept of “smart brevity”—and we’ll all discuss how it applies to us.
5:00-7:00 • Drink Together, Think Together: Cocktails with Your Colleagues, sponsored by the Cicero Speechwriting Awards. On a glorious rooftop patio overlooking the Washington Mall, members of the Discretion Profession will swap stories, share laughs, drown sorrows and celebrate one another’s success as we toast the winners of the 2022 Cicero Speechwriting Awards. Perennially, one of the happiest moments of the speechwriting year.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13
8:30 a.m.-9:00 a.m. • Breakfast and Conversation
9:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m. • What Is Speechwriting Now? A PSA Town Hall
At the inaugural PSA World Conference, in 2014, there was an open debate about whether we had even given the fledgling organization the right name. Wasn’t “speechwriter” becoming an antiquated term? Wasn’t “speechwriting” too narrow a role? Shouldn’t we call it something like the Society of Leadership Communicators? And whatever the organization was named, what could it and its members do to make their work easier and more fulfilling and more effective?
It’s time to have that conversation again: With a panel of star speechwriters, we’ll discuss:
- “Career-pathing,” for speechwriters: How speechwriting can serve as a springboard to a more ambitious communication career.
- Alternatively, can speechwriting be a career-long specialty in this age of talking points and video presentations and panel chats?
- Ask not what the PSA can do for you—ask what you can do, for the PSA. At our ninth annual World Conference—and trembling on the eve of our 10th—what should this organization’s leaders and its members be doing for the next decade, to continue to make this professional house a better (and more modern) professional home.
Come with opinions, come with ideas—and come ready to express them.
MODERATOR: Eric Schnure, former speechwriter to Vice President Al Gore, former speechwriter to GE CEO Jeff Immelt, co-author, The Political Speechwriter’s Companion. PANELISTS: Jim Reische, chief communications officer, Williams College; Jackie Fearer, head of culture and engagement communications, Iron Mountain; former VP of executive communications at Fidelity Investments; Isabelle Gaudeul-Ehrhart, former speechwriter to the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and owner of the rhetoric website logospathosethos.eu; Michael Franklin, co-founder, Speechwriters of Color; and Julie Lasson, CEO communications associate, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
10:30-10:45 • Break
10:45-11:45 • Writers of the Lost Art: A Locknote Address, on the Future of Speechwriting
The pandemic has left us all wondering what the future will look like for speechwriters. How has the COVID experience changed our profession? Will we still have a role in a post-pandemic world, or is speechwriting indeed a lost art? Well, the legendary speechwriter and our conference host Boe Workman ought to know something about the staying power of speechwriting, for he has been CEO communications director at AARP for 30 years and four CEOs, including current CEO Jo Ann Jenkins, who will introduce him. Boe will draw upon his vast experience as a speechwriter and his deep knowledge of rhetoric to give us the long view, arguing that even though our profession continues to evolve, speechwriters provide an essential rhetorical perspective that leaders will continue to value, as long as civilization endures.
11:45-Noon • Closing Remarks, by PSA Executive Director David Murray
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and social connectedness. AARP also produces the nation’s largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.
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.
2022 CONFERENCE LOCATION
AARP’s National Office
601 E Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20049
The PSA has secured a limited room block at the Hampton Inn Convention Center, a short nine-minute walk to our conference space at AARP’s National Office. To reserve under the room block, please click here to book online or call 202-842-2500 and reference “Professional Speechwriters”. We cannot guarantee room availability after the cut-off date of Saturday, September 10, 2022, or once the discounted room block is sold out.
From Reagan National Airport, AARP’s National Office and the Hampton Inn Convention Center are conveniently reached by cab or car, and economically reached by taking the Metro.
(Red, Yellow & Green Lines)
630 H St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
The World Conference is in person this year, but is there a virtual version?
Yes, you may register for a virtual version of the conference, and access all conference sessions live online. You’ll be able to participate in Q&A sessions with speakers. And there will be Zoom networking groups, to have the same discussions with fellow virtual participants that in-person participants are having in the room.
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.
Will the virtual sessions be recorded, so that I can view them later?
Yes indeed. Links to all session recordings are available the week after the conference, and viewable anytime until the end of the calendar year, 2022.
What happens if there’s a COVID spike or a variant that makes an in-person event not viable?
In that event, the conference will be converted to virtual and held the same week. In-person registrants will be refunded the difference between the in-person registration fee and the (less expensive) fee for the virtual conference.
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.
Both IN-PERSON REGISTRATION and VIRTUAL PARTICIPATION rates are shown below.
(Registration for in-person participation closes on Tuesday, October 4. Registration for virtual participation may be processed through Friday, October 7.)
Members of the Professional Speechwriters Association receive a 25% discount on all registration products (discount is automatically applied to the cart when current members are logged in.)
Phone registrations please call 312-585-6383.
By attending this conference, all attendees must follow the COVID-19 Safety Protocols put in place by the host location, AARP, at the time of the conference. AARP’s current protocol, which is subject to change, is described below.
AARP is committed to providing a safe environment in all of their facilities. AARP currently requires all visitors to use CLEAR Health Pass to complete a daily health screening and provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or link a recent negative COVID-19 test result before entering any AARP location.
CLEAR Health Pass provides secure, digital proof of COVID-related health insights via a free mobile app. Any updated protocols and details on how to download and access the CLEAR app will be shared with registered attendees in advance of the conference.
*Please note, AARP does not view or collect your health information. CLEAR follows all HIPPA standards.
$375.00 – $2,495.00