About 60 speechwriters gathered at New York University last Thursday and Friday for the first-ever World Conference of the Professional Speechwriters Association.
A better man than I would have a summary by now. But as I told the Silicon Valley Speechwriters Roundtable on a podcast during the conference, “I’m nearly brain dead. I just don’t even feel quite sane at the moment.” I’m only just pulling myself together a week later. What I could comment on then and now is “the good mood of this event,” strictly for people who think of themselves as career speechwriters. “There’s enough of us that it’s really fun and there’s this really happy energy. We’re really with our people here.”
As for details—alas, it is impossible to run an event and cover it both. U.K. Speechwriters Guild and European Speechwriter Network founder Brian Jenner is writing a piece for an upcoming issue of The Toastmaster magazine, and I intend to write and publish a recap of our symposium, “What can the Professional Speechwriters Association do for you? And what can you do, for the Professional Speechwriters Association?”
And I’ve done this wee photo essay with pictures taken by Washington Speechwriters Roundtable chief Randy Lee. But ultimately, to know what happened at the conference, you gotta go to the conference. If we missed you this year, we’ll hope to see you next year.
Washington Speechwriters Roundtable boss Randy Lee (left) connected me with the late Lt. Col. Mark Weber, who I helped to write Tell My Sons, which became a New York Times bestselling memoir thanks in no small part to the promotional help of Weber's old boss David Petraeus. The General's generosity to Weber and those who loved him extended to appearing at this conference. His presence on the program helped a first-time event immensely, and his appearance was thoughtful, charming, lighthearted and fun.
Impressive speakers might draw speechwriters to the conference. But once they're together, they're together. Check out the intensity of these conversations at the dinner party Thursday night.
Still, a conference organizer has a lot to worry about, even in the midst of a wonderful event. The photo below was taken in McSorley's Wonderful Saloon (the unofficial conference headquarters), only minutes after the conference ended. My face is partially obscured by a beer mug.
Former Reagan White House and Colin Powell speechwriter Hal Gordon, who has been a fixture at speechwriting conferences since I attended my first in my early twenties (I worked the "cloak room" at a Ragan Speechwriters Conference in 1992), held this button aloft during a conference caucus on "How can the Professional Speechwriters Association help you? How can you help the Professional Speechwriters Association?"
As we discussed what activities might, could and should be undertaken by the PSA, Gordon accused us of missing the obvious, and said the button itself—which I confessed to laughter and applaise that my art teacher wife made on her button-making machine—and would improve his lot at networking receptions, where he often feels marginalized and alone. No longer!
I hope, as we all do, that the button, and the logo, and the PSA and its annual World Conference—give all speechwriters more confidence, visibility and legitimacy, wherever they find themselves. —DM