Browse Category: Making speeches

Miliband’s attempt at Storytelling falls flat.

Miliband’s attempt at Storytelling falls flat.

I am a firm believer in the power of storytelling. In a political speech a real-world story from the heart or personal experience, when delivered well, can have a huge impact. Storytelling can change the image of a politician from a suited Westminster type to a more relatable individual. A good story in a speech can convince the public that the speaker understands them and their issues, can help them have faith in the proposed policies, and can make the speaker seem more electable.

Ed Miliband today failed to achieve these storytelling aims. He used stories which attempted to be comical, but fell flat. He tried to tell stories from the heart, but they felt made-up. He tried to use them to sell polices, but there were unclear connections.

The stories he told had the ability to develop into a deeper and more compelling idea, but it did not. There was the cleaner from Scotland who didn’t feel that she was being paid enough, but Miliband did not know how she voted in the referendum. There was the woman who worked in a pub who didn’t like politics, Miliband thought this problem needed to be solved. There was the couple he met in the park who told him the country was falling apart. There was the guy called Gareth who thought the system only benefitted a few.

But this was the problem with the speech, there were too many stories. They were all glanced over with a pathetic amount of detail. The stories lacked any sort of emotion or appeal. They felt stale, dull and possibly fictional. These stories of “real” people did not inspire anyone to vote for Labour or accept any of their proposed policies. The stories were a wasted opportunity.

There were some good parts of the speech as well. Miliband supposedly was doing the speech note-free and without auto cue, which is impressive – a skill only mastered by the top orators*. The speech was also not short of policy detail, after years of delivering empty speeches.

But the speech lacked drive, passion and emotion. This was not the speech of an opposition leader before an election.

*Update – it was later revealed that Miliband forgot significant parts of his speech, including the economy and the deficit – a good reminder that note-free is not always the best option


Video and image courtesy of the Labour Party

Gordon Brown's speech saves the Union.

I never thought I would write a blog post with this title. In fact I disagree with Gordon Brown on most things and when I heard that he was to be a part of the No campaign I groaned. However Gordon Brown’s speech changed all of this.

Yesterday, with passion reminiscent of William Wallace declaring the freedom of the Scottish people, Gordon Brown mustered up every ounce of passion to defend the union.

Brown has never been admired for his speeches. He has never been one for rabble rousing speeches, impassioned sermons or emotional pleads. The former PM has in the past given speeches with the same characteristics as a sex-less scarecrow. He had the habit of listing policy details in the most lack-lustre way possible. Brown’s speeches consistently lacked passion, drive and enthusiasm.

Finally, yesterday, the passion of Gordon Brown came out. The ideas and the energy that make up his political ideology, the drive that got him to the top of UK politics all came out. Yesterday Gordon Brown was a man on a mission. He had beliefs that he needed to say – he had ideas that he had to get out. He needed to do what he needed to do to save his country, not his career.

No longer was he a politician being wheeled out to give a speech one way or the other. Effectively side-lined from the campaign up until recently, Gordon Brown was back. In a way that I had never seen him before.

The passion and energy of the speech was there from the first sentence and it rose and rose as Brown continued. This was a man in a rush to say what he believed. Gordon Brown did not wait for applause – he seemed frankly irritated by it. He was there to give a message, to explain his ideas, to save the union, not to receive praise and a pat on the back. Which is what good politicians should be like.

I doubt Gordon Brown’s speech was written by a speech writer although it was certainly well crafted. It was natural, pure and from the heart. Gordon Brown spoke with the fluency of a man whose concrete ideas have built up and developed over decades – this was the moment when these ideas came out for all to see.

Social justice, the NHS, securing a future for the next generation, pride in your country, Scottish history, British history – Brown covered them all. The speech seeped with emotion – feelings dripped off of every word that came out of his mouth.

The speech took the crowd by surprise, expecting to see a droning, mono-toned ex-Prime Minister reeling off the over-used lines of the campaign so far. But instead they got this – a paper-free, eloquent speech.

When I  heard that Gordon Brown was to take a bigger role in the Better Together campaign I, as well as pretty much everyone else, thought that was the final nail in the coffin of the union. However, along with the Queen’s almost-intervention and some of the campaign ads,  Gordon Brown may have just done enough for the No vote to win.

This was not a state of the union address, it was the saving of the union address.




American Presidents – A Speechwriter Tour

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Yesterday I was up early. No credit to me. It was 9 in the UK and 4 in the US. But I still felt self righteous. I charged my camera, wrote a smug blog and chatted on Facebook with Sam – a brilliant and funny guy who is working for me during his university holiday. By 7am Denise and I were in her hired Jeep and off to do what she calls the Speechwriter Tour of Washington. She is threatening to blog about this but I am getting in first.

We drove down through Rock Creek Park past the Watergate and then we parked next to the Potomac. First we went to the Abraham Lincoln Memorial. There was a small unit of the Honour Guard there performing a ceremony and me and Denise and a few runners. That was it. It is August and we were early. No tourists. Apart from me….

Then I stood on the spot where MLK delivered THAT speech and looked at the magnificent view.

Then we walked along the Reflecting Pool and past the trees which both had been full of people during Martin Luther King’s speech. I took a great pic of a Parkway Policeman and his horse. He told me the horse was 18 hands – that is a seriously big horse. Stunning.

We inspected the ironically incredibly Germanic WW2 memorial and then went up to the Washington monument.

Then it was off to the Martin Luther King memorial via the DC WW1 memorial. I will blog about and publish photos of this monument separately, but briefly: it has his quotes surrounding it. They are good. I took pics of most of them.

Then we went to the FDR Memorial – it is an interesting walk-through kind of memorial. Not grand, but very cool. Probably my favourite. It had a section dedicated to Eleanor Roosevelt to. I am a fan.

Then we were off to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Denise told me the story of JFK inviting all the US Nobel prize winners to a White House dinner. She said that in his speech he said: “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” The quote was probably written by a speechwriter – but JFK added the bit in italics.

I have uploaded some of the pictures here. I have to go and get ready now. I am going on a private tour of the White House. #SmugBot

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American Politics

white houseI am writing this post from Washington. Home of American Politics. Named after George Washington. President of the United States Number One. #1POTUS. This place reeks of politics – and that was just the drive here. Up until a few
months ago, when I was doing a speaking gig in Aix-en-Provence and I met someone who lived there, Watergate meant to me Nixon and impeachment. Period. But it is actually a posh apartment building where Condoleeza Rice lives. We drove past that. We drove past the Kennedy Centre. Today I am visiting the Abraham Lincoln and the FDR memorial and tomorrow I  am on a private tour of the White House. On Friday, I am Best Man to Matthew Elliott on George Washington’s Estate in Mount Vernon. I am a political geek – West Wing, House of Cards US, House of Cards UK, Newsroom and Yes Minister are all on my “favourite” lists. For me this is like a film fan going to Hollywood – except the sets are real and the people really exist. Except for Freddy’s BBQ rib “joint” which doesn’t! #SadFace

The places are iconic but the people are what matter. We don’t love House of Cards because of the scenery or the film-making although that is wonderful. We watch because of Frank Underwood. We don’t watch the West Wing because of Sorkin’s brilliant dialogue. We watch because of Josh and Donna and Toby.

We also watch them both because we suspect the reality is often far too similar to aspects of House of Cards and because we wish our elected representatives were grown-ups like Leo and Jed Bartlett advised by people like Fitz and Babish. Because as private citizens we wish the former one wasn’t real and the latter was. But as politicos we also love them because in our own little political lives we wish we were like the roles we see on screen.

I am meeting some wonderful people including a friend, John Shosky, who wrote speeches for 3 White House administrations. I am staying with Denise Graveline who worked in the Clinton administration. I have insider tour guides to Washington who give texture and anecdotes and colour to this wonderful set. I am a lucky guy.

Others. like Dan Hamilton, have taught me what little, and how little, I know about US politics including the false comparisons between “Conservatives” in the UK and in the US. And between Democrats and UK Labour. Last night Denise and I discussed, between drinks of course, the differences between Liberal Conservatives (UK) and Libertarians (US).

To be honest, I don’t know much about US politics. At all. I love the fact that I am here. I am lapping it all up. There will be annoying amounts of photos on my Facebook page very soon. Sign up here if you want to see them.


Image courtesy of Damian Brandon /

Best Man Speech

Best Man Speech

Normally I craft words that other people speak or print. Recently, I have started speaking more frequently myself and a long time ago I was in the National Public Speaking Senior School finals and I have years of experience as a public speaking coach training other people to communicate, present and speak.  But it is very seldom MY gig.Best Man Speech

But this week I am on the spot. I have an unmissable deadline. I have a speech to write and finish. And I have to deliver it. And it needs to be good. At the very least.

For some strange reason Matthew Elliott of TPA, No2AV and Business for Britain fame asked me to be his Best Man. So here I am in The United Club Lounge in Heathrow Terminal 2, en route to Washington, thinking I had better focus on the plane and get this thing done.  After all, as Matthew’s brother John unhelpfully pointed out: “If you were a carpenter and gave a crap speech it would be ok. But you aren’t!” This hasn’t been helped by “friends” like John O’Connell who is a Director at the TPA and one of the few totally likeable people in Westminster, until now, that is. Who said: “Congratulations on being Best Man. Speech better be good!”

Plus the the venue is Mount Vernon. George Washington’s family estate. No pressure.

It is a huge honour to be chosen as Best Man. The speech is officially to the whole crowd but actually the only audience I care about is Sarah and Matthew.

But I would be lying if I wasn’t viewing this speech with some trepidation. The prospect of giving this speech has hung over me for months.  I guess that’s because it’s important to me. I can stand up and give an unimportant speech now.  I can give speeches about things I know and believe in with a few minutes notice. But a Best Man’s speech is expected to be funny, personal and emotional. Authentic and all that. Plus the audience is full of people who speak far more often than I do.

But the speech is not about me. Not about impressing anyone. Not about anything or anyone except Matthew and Sarah. Saying the things he secretly would like me to say and avoiding ALL the things she has forbidden me from saying. There is a balancing act for you, if ever there was one!

Luckily, I am staying in Washington with my friend and colleague, speaker coach Denise Graveline, who will be critiquing my content and delivery. Once I finish writing the damn thing! I would love to say that if my speech bombs, it is her fault. But the truth is, when you stand up and give a speech you are alone. Your credit or your shame.  These things can’t be delegated. I am glad I have a speaker coach though! 🙂

Fancy a Job as a Nato Speechwriter?

If you have to be a speechwriter, why not be a NATO speechwriter?

I was contacted today by the NATO HQ Recruitment Service about a job vacancy for a Senior Speechwriter, a key post at NATO HQ.

Information on the vacancy can be found here.

I have copied and pasted bits the advert for those interested… but too lazy to click! 😉

Senior Speechwriter-140291

Primary Location Belgium-Brussels
Schedule Full-time
Salary (Pay Basis) : 8,143.46Euro (EUR) Monthly
Grade A.5




LOCATION: NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium


TITLE: Senior Speechwriter



Please note that the competition for this post is provisionally scheduled as follows (exact dates to be confirmed):
– Pre-selection screening during the week of 13 October 2014;
– Final selection during the weeks of 3 or 10 November 2014 in Brussels, Belgium.

This competition may also lead to the creation of a reserve list for future grade A5 and A.4 vacancies within the speechwriting team.


NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division (PDD) plays a key role in explaining the Alliance’s strategic and political messages to opinion formers and to the public in general. As NATO’s main public interface, PDD works to raise the Alliance’s profile with audiences world-wide. PDD also works to promote security cooperation through a variety of programmes in NATO and partner countries and contributes to a continuous process of international security debate and policy creation. Last but not least, the Division also acts as coordinator for most public diplomacy activities undertaken by other Divisions at NATO Headquarters (HQ), as well as by other entities belonging to the NATO structure.

The Press and Media Section is the principal point of contact for all media-related issues at NATO HQ, including engagement with the media, media policy, and media analysis and monitoring. The NATO Spokesperson has overall responsibility for all speeches and public remarks for the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General.

The Senior Speechwriter reports to the NATO Spokesperson and the Deputy Spokesperson/Head of Press & Media. He/she oversees the team of speechwriters which is an integral part of the Press & Media Section. He/she conducts background research and drafts speeches, articles, key press conferences, public remarks and other material as appropriate, as part of the overall communications strategy for the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General.

In carrying out these responsibilities, the Senior Speechwriter keeps abreast of the wide range of political and politico-military issues on NATO’s agenda. He/she follows the guidance of the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General, directly, and through the NATO Spokesperson, and contributes to the overall output of the Press and Media Section.

He/she also maintains close relationships with the staff of the Private Office, the Public Diplomacy Division, and with other Divisions within the International Staff (IS) and International Military Staff (IMS), as well as with the NATO Military Authorities and Allied missions.

Applicants are requested to attach to their application one speech that they have written recently and that, in their view, is representative of their work. This piece should have been prepared by the applicant alone and should be in English. The speech may, but need not, treat a topic or area of direct interest to the Organization. Applicants are requested to indicate the following elements in relation to the speech: date of the speech, speaker, three quotable quotes, venue and audience.


The incumbent must:
possess a university degree from an institute of recognised standing, preferably in political science, history, journalism and/or the study of contemporary international relations;
have at least 10 years’ experience of drafting speeches, articles, key media messages and other written material to deadline and in the appropriate style;
have substantial experience in contributing to policy development, political research, and analysis and reporting, preferably in a research institute, think-tank or in the Foreign or Defence ministry of a NATO member Nation;
have extensive knowledge of the whole range of political and military issues of concern to the Alliance;
possess a mature understanding of the complex interrelationships of political and defence developments as they affect Allied security;
be an effective public speaker;
possess the following minimum levels of NATO’s official languages (English and French): VI (“Proficient”) in one and I (“Beginner”) in the other;
be available to travel and to work long and unsocial hours as required.


Expertise Development
Within in the Press & Media Section, supervise the team of speechwriters in close coordination with the Deputy Spokesperson/Head of Press and Media. Draft speeches, opinion articles and key press conferences for the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General. Keep abreast of NATO’s broad political and military agenda. Keep up-do-date on all NATO-related media and communications issues. Draft opening statements for the Secretary General’s public remarks at ministerial and summit meetings, as well as remarks for internal use as required.

Policy Development
Contribute to the shaping of NATO policy by providing recommendations for the Secretary General’s major speeches, articles and key press conferences.

Knowledge Management
Conduct the appropriate research and analysis to draft speeches, articles and key press conferences for the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General.

Project Management
Plan and ensure the preparation of all output by the team of speechwriters to deadline and in the appropriate style.

Information Management
Supervise the effective flow of all work produced by the team of speechwriters, ensuring that appropriate products are distributed to deadline and in the appropriate style.

Stakeholder Management
Maintain close relationships with the Press and Media Section, staff of the Private Office, PDD, and with other Divisions within the IS and IMS, as well as with the NATO Military Authorities and Allied missions.

Perform any other related duty as assigned.


In carrying out the above responsibilities, the Senior Speechwriter reports directly to the Spokesperson and to the Deputy Spokesperson/Head of Press and Media. He/she is an integral part of the Press & Media Section, and maintains and develops close working relationships with the members of the team, in particular with press officers. He/she follows the guidance of the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General, directly and through the NATO Spokesperson. He/she maintains close relationships with the staff of the Private Office, Divisions within the International Staff and International Military Staff, and the NATO Military Authorities and Allied missions. In addition, he/she will be expected to build strong links with security and communication experts outside of NATO.

Direct reports: 2
Indirect reports: N/a.


The incumbent must demonstrate:
Analytical Thinking;
Clarity and Accuracy;
Conceptual Thinking;
Customer Service Orientation;
Impact and Influence;
Organisational Awareness;


Contract to be offered to the successful applicant (if non-seconded):
Definite duration contract of three years; possibility of renewal for up to three years, during which the incumbent may apply for conversion to an indefinite duration contract.

Contract clause applicable:

In accordance with the contract policy, this is a post in which turnover is desirable for political reasons in order to be able to accommodate the Organisation’s need to carry out its tasks as mandated by the Nations in a changing environment, for example by maintaining the flexibility necessary to shape the Organisation’s skills profile, and to ensure appropriate international diversity.

The maximum period of service foreseen in this post is 6 years. The successful applicant will be offered a 3-year definite duration contract, which may be renewed for a further 3-year period. However, according to the procedure described in the contract policy the incumbent may apply for conversion to an indefinite contract during the period of renewal and no later than one year before the end of contract.

If the successful applicant is seconded from the national administration of one of NATO’s member States, a 3-year definite duration contract will be offered, which may be renewed for a further period of up to 3 years subject also to the agreement of the national authority concerned. The maximum period of service in the post as a seconded staff member is six years.

Serving staff will be offered a contract in accordance with the NATO Civilian Personnel Regulations.


Applications must be submitted using one of the following links, as applicable:
For NATO civilian staff members only: please apply via the internal recruitment portal (for more information, please contact your local Civilian HR Manager);
For all other applications:


Due to the broad interest in NATO and the large number of potential candidates, telephone or e-mail enquiries cannot be dealt with.

Appointment will be subject to receipt of a security clearance (provided by the national Authorities of the selected candidate) and approval of the candidate’s medical file by the NATO Medical Adviser.

Applicants who are not successful in this competition may be offered an appointment to another post of a similar nature, albeit at the same or a lower grade, provided they meet the necessary requirements.

Please note that we can only accept applications from nationals of NATO member countries.

NATO is an equal opportunities employer, and does not discriminate on the grounds of gender, race or ethnic origin, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age (restrictions to age may apply for first appointment only, according to the NATO Civilian Personnel Regulations. This is a prerogative as approved by the NATO Council).

Please note that the International Staff at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium is a non-smoking environment.

Articles published in City A.M. this week

CityAM Screenshot

I am delighted to be writing for City A.M. again. Here are the first three articles I have done for them this year.

The top 10 interview questions you really should know the answer to

Interviewers like consistency, they enjoy being able to judge each candidate by a set benchmark. This is why the same interview questions come up time and time again.


The rules of successfully asking for a pay rise

Ok. You want a raise. Who doesn’t? But you are different. Obviously. You deserve it. Your friends and family have told you that you do for all the hours and effort you have been putting in.


How to handle “Do you have any questions?” in a job interview 

This is your chance to demonstrate that you have thought and processed what has been discussed, to show that you have done your research and to demonstrate your determination and interest in the position.


See all the articles published on the blog this week 


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