I gauge the success of the speeches I ghostwrite based on the number of people who pull out their cell phones during the remarks.
The most: a dozen or so in an audience of about eighty. The least: two, and one of them left, so I tell myself his house was on fire or his first grandchild had just arrived.
Here’s what I have learned:
Think Abraham Lincoln, not Edward Everett. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is not just masterful writing, it is blessedly short, about two minutes. We forget how revolutionary that was. Edward Everett, who was considered the finest orator in the country and also spoke that day, talked for two hours. Be as concise as possible. If people glance at their watches or start to chat, wrap it up.
Think about your audience, not yourself. Ask yourself why your audience is there—what answers have they come to hear? How will your remarks make their lives better, easier, more informed? Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about them. They determine the success of your presentation. Develop a message based on those answers, and break down your message into three parts.
Think about every second you’re on stage. Jump in at the beginning, then close strong. There is no need to warm up the audience with a joke or anecdote. Don’t repeat your name or biographical information when you have just been introduced—especially when your audience has your bio in their printed program. And end with a bang. Repeat your main message and stop. Don’t dilute your message by thanking the audience or otherwise getting them off track.
--Ann Kellett, Ghostwriter