I write some pretty facile marketing copy to promote Professional Speechwriters Association events like this seminar series we're putting on in New York (Sept. 22-23) and Atlanta (Dec. 1-2), Strategic Speechwriting: The Method and the Art.
I call the seminar a "two-day mind-blowing blast of ideas." I promise that you'll be "taken aback by the quantity of Mike's lessons, riveted by their quality and inspired by the warmth and humor of the teacher." And I predict, "You'll stagger out of this seminar with more ideas from two days than you've had in two years. And you'll storm back into the office on Monday, recharged and ready to go."
I ascribe to a theory that American audiences, anyway, appreciate what I call "the hint of the hustle"—a little of the old razzle-dazzle that tells 'em, Step right up and win the prize!
But of course when you're also the executive director of the Professional Speechwriters Association, you always hope the thing you're describing doesn't let 'em down.
I recently attended Long's Strategic Speechwriting course—his first one, here in Chicago.
What he actually said during what one participant called "terrific two days of invaluable instruction and spirited conversation" sells the seminar better than than any marketing copy I could have written. I hope anybody with any corporate writing experience at all will read some of Long's lines that I jotted down and be compelled to sign up for one of the remaining two courses. Why? Partly because you'll be able to tell he knows what he's talking about—and partly because you'll want to know what the hell he's talking about.
"Speechwriting is primarily collaborative," he said. "And I don't mean that in a good way."
"Writer's block is the fear that what you put on the page will not be as good as what is in your head."
"If you're [writing speeches] professionally, you're digging ditches."
"I'm tolerating you, I'm tolerating you, I'm tolerating you. I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!" (That's the audience's reaction precisely at the 20-minute mark of a speech, according to Long.)
"Don't show up with your invoice in your hand. Show up with your friendliness."
And last but not least, Long said of rhetoric: "You may not believe I love you, but you can't argue with what happened in the middle of the night."
And he wasn't talking about what you think he was talking about.
Donn't take it from me, take it from one of the speechwriters who attended the Chicago show: "I had no idea there was so much to learn about the discipline of speechwriting. Nor that such a wealth of information could be delivered with such an effective combination of rigor, passion, and humor. I found the course invaluable in challenging what little I thought I knew, and giving me much, much more to think about. I have no doubt that it will help me to be a better writer in all formats, from speeches and op-eds to news releases and ghost-written emails."
Or do take it from me: You'll be scribbling notes with one hand, and wiping tears of laughter out of your eyes with the other.