UK Speechwriters’ Guild inaugural conference video

Here’s a video of the UK Speechwriters’ Guild inaugural conference. It was filmed last month in Bournemouth by talented film maker and producer Tim Clague – who’s done a superb job in capturing the flavour, and excitement, of the event.

Martha and I were invited to show our ‘Busting the Mehrabian Myth’ video and give a presentation about it. It was exciting for us to share the platform with such luminaries of the speechwriting world as Philip Collins (Tony Blair’s Chief Speechwriter), Max Atkinson (Paddy Ashdown’s former speechwriter), and Susan Jones (former UK Cabinet Speechwriter), to name but three.

Here are some quotes from conference participants that give a clear idea of what those who took part in the conference stand for:

“I felt this was needed because I have worked as a speechwriter for about ten years in a very isolated way… that in America they analyse the way people write and the way you can be creative… and they take it extremely seriously. Whereas England is quite old-fashioned in that people are expected to acquire these skills effortlessly along the way… Speakers today have explained that speaking is different from writing – people confuse writing with speaking – and if you know these basic techniques, you’ll transform the way you communicate… I just want to sort of draw attention to the fact that was mentioned earlier today that words – the way words are used – is extremely important” Brian Jenner – founder of the UK Speechwriters’ Guild

“So the question is: why are there so few professional speechwriters?” Martin Shovel – CreativityWorks

“I agree with the premise given in the previous presentation that actually a lot of the focus is on presentational skills – body language, tone – you know you feel very self-conscious and all that sort of thing. Whereas what the focus today has been about is the power of words, and that I think is a bit of a forgotten art…” Paul Harrod – Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol North West

“All the emphasis in recent years has been all about presentation… actually, you know, the words are valuable, and that’s a good lesson to get out of today.” Roger Lakin – Speechwriter, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

“So there’s a demand for speechwriters. In industry I have estimated that the cost to British industry of people attending boring presentations is in excess of eight billion pounds a year… There is a demand for decent speeches – and that means there is a demand for speechwriters.” Max Atkinson – Communications consultant and Speech Coach

“In other countries I think speechwriting is a fairly well-establised profession, so there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be the case in Britain… Trust in politicians is very low. People want to hear what politicians have got to say. And they want to hear them say it in a credible way… There is a new need and a demand for a more elaborate art of speaking – for people to be actually trained in what to say and how to say it.” Dr Johan Siebers – Leader of a new one-year MA in Rhetoric at the University of Central Lancaster

“Well it’s the first of its kind – and I think it’s long overdue…There is a lot more to speechwriting and speech production than even I thought.” Phillip Khan-PanniPKP Communications

It can all be summed up by the final words of our ‘Busting the Mehrabian Myth’ video: “Words really matter – let’s give them the respect they deserve!”

Busting the Mehrabian Myth!

The story behind the video…

One Friday afternoon back in March we had an enquiry from a global company who wanted to get an important message about compliance out to their staff. They were thinking about using a short video animation for this, and they wondered if this was something we could do for them…

Maybe it was the spring air that did it, but we found ourselves agreeing to a further discussion, despite confessing to the client that we’d never made an animation before. Somehow the idea had taken root, so we spent the weekend researching how to go about it.

In the end, that project didn’t come off, but we had the bit between our teeth, and we wanted to try making an animation for ourselves. So we went ahead and put together a studio – camera, lights, tripods, sound-recording equipment, top quality whiteboard and pens. We installed Final Cut Express on our iMac, and we were ready to go.

Then, as is so often the way, we got sidetracked by other work, so we put the video project on ice. Strangely, though, it kept popping into conversations, and people kept asking us if we could make them a video. We told them we hadn’t made one yet, but it didn’t seem to put them off… so we set ourselves a deadline and a challenge: to see if we could communicate a fairly complex and abstract idea in a 3-minute animated cartoon.

We chose Martin’s article from 2007, ‘Mehrabian Nights: a tall tale about communication’ as a starting point. It’s been a hot topic in the presentation skills blogosphere in recent weeks, and we wanted to see if we could make a different kind of contribution to the debate.

We’d love to know what you think of it – and if you can see ways in which videos like this could help you, or any of your contacts, get messages across.

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