UK Speechwriters’ guild draws 43 to first-annual conference

A report from Brian Jenner, organizer of the U.K. Speechwriters’s Guild, on the fledgling organization’s first annual conference, held Sept. 18 in Bournemouth, England:

This is a note to thank everyone who made a contribution to the first conference of UK Speechwriters’ Guild last Friday. It proved to be a seminal occasion.

Rising political star, Tobias Ellwood MP, gave a fascinating insight into the dynamics of speechmaking in the House of Commons, followed by the urbane Professor Max Atkinson, who gave a masterclass on figures of speech illustrated by some excellent clips.

Martha Leyton and Martin Shovel introduced us to their methodology, showed their brilliant animated film and advised us all to read Orwell’s “Politics and the English language” once a month.

Dutchman, Dr Johan Siebers, gave an introduction to how he aims to reintroduce the teaching of rhetoric and opined that the British don’t tend to think. A witty and warm Dr Susan Jones illuminated the dark corners that separate policy and public speaking and exhorted us to ‘love’ our audience.

Phil Collins, Britain’s answer to Ted Sorensen, gave a scintillating account of exactly why there is no British Obama. Finally the commanding Phillip Khan-Panni sent the delegates away with a polished inspirational message.

When we set out, I never thought we could match the standard of the Ragan Communications Conference I went to in Washington DC in 2008, but, on reflection, we did, at the first attempt. We may not have an Obama, but we’ve got our own style and our own outstanding communicators.

Thanks to all the speakers, who made such excellent contributions, and to all the delegates, who made the leap of faith. Thanks to those, too, who spread the word. It was also very pleasant to receive messages of support from those who could not attend. All being well, the conference will now become an annual event. If you have any ideas for speakers for next year, please get in touch. My first target will be Peggy Noonan.

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