Permission to speak freely

David Petraeus will tell attendees of the World Conference of the Professional Speechwriters Association what a leader expects from them, and what a leader owes them.

Remember a couple of weeks ago, when I wrote here that leaders don’t spend time on speeches because they don’t believe speeches will make a strategic difference? Well I’m going to be partly rebuked on that point, in a public conversation, at the World Conference of the Professional Speechwriters Association in New York, May 22-23—by no less an authority on leadership than David Petraeus.

Petraeus won’t be addressing speechwriters only from a client’s point of view. He was once a speechwriter too. Civilians do not realize how many whole disciplines that military officers are handed, usually with minimal training. And speechwriting was one assignment that Petraeus handled on his long path to becoming commander of Coalition Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and eventually director of the CIA.

So he can speak from both sides. And he’ll speak straight, engaging us in a conversation about what inspires a leader to engage heavily in the creation of a speech—he says he’ll sometimes go through 30 drafts getting an important one right—and what he needs from his speechwriters, no matter the strategic importance of the occasion.

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