Just back from Bournemouth, England, where I spoke at the third annual conference of the U.K. Speechwriters' Guild.
What did I learn there?
Mainly, as I explain in my full conference coverage over at Vital Speeches: Human beings heroically resist efforts to homogenize human culture.
Repeatedly I was told that the "American" rhetorical technique I most frequently flog—namely, the use of personal anecdotes to inject emotional candor into a speech—would be laughed out of the lecture hall in the U.K. and Europe as hopelessly smarmy, glib and narcissistic.
“Yes, people like to be entertained,” said veteran U.K. political and corporate speechwriter Stuart Mole. “But there is nothing as exciting as ideas.”
Agreed, one hundred percent. But just how often do our speakers step to the lectern with a heaping helping of spine-tingling new ideas? So often, compelling speeches are old, worn, friendly ideas made freshly powerful by a speaker's personal connection and expressed devotion to them.
After my "speechwriting jam session," the speechwriters volunteered that they themselves—these hard-bitten British and European speechwriters—were moved emotionally by the gooey American speech examples I showed.
But that didn't mean they were about to persuade their reserved speechwriting clients to try that authenticity rubbish out on their skeptical local audiences.
I think they expected me to try to convince them. I had no interest in doing so. If they want to write dry speeches for insecure speakers to be delivered to audiences who expect to be bored, that's perfectly all right with me.
In fact, it's fascinating!
WATCH: Here's a glimpse of a speechwriting conference across the pond.