Browse Tag: speechwriting

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.

speechwriting for a Prime Minister

Detained by the United States Secret Service while, um, speech writing

I have been busy helping wannabe candidates for Parliament polish their CVs over the last few days so missed posting this on Monday, the 10 year anniversary of my first flight to the United States.

Speech writing is usually tough, hard, lonely work. Many UK speech writing clients like to keep you as a secret resource. It’s often hard to get enough quality time with the client and the time pressure is usually huge. But sometimes you find a client who gives you the time, understands your job, has something important to say and is a bit different.

I flew from Heathrow with Air India and was upgraded to First Class and it was fantastic. I am normally an EasyJet kind of guy but the deliciously spicy food, the First Class Service and the choice of good Scotch made it a First that I could get used to.

I was picked up by a big black Embassy car and driven to the United Nations Plaza Hotel. It looks like it has been upgraded now but it was a bit tired at the time – especially compared to some of its shiny neighbours. It is a tall building on the eastern edge of Manhattan’s Midtown, directly across from the headquarters of the United Nations.

I was in New York to work with a client I had never met who was scheduled to give an important speech to important people 10 days later in the United Nations building. He was the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. I was excited. This was big stuff.

That night I met my client, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe M.P. at a reception at the Sri Lankan embassy. I also met his Political Secretary, Bradman Weekaron (a serious grown up with a big CV who, delightfully!, didn’t take himself seriously), members of his cabinet and the Sri Lankan Ambassadors to the United Nations and the United States. Everybody was bouncy and upbeat and there was an excited pre-match buzz in the air. The Prime Minister was gracious and smiling but taut and pent up. He was the performer. They were the fans.

When I found out what he wanted to say and achieve, I understood why. I got excited too. This was bigger than I had thought. Speech writing is too often about making dull stuff sound interesting. Writing a peace speech to the world does not come along every day.

Speech writing can’t be done in a vacuum – I need to understand the message and the messenger. I needed to understand the Prime Minister’s voice and his style and his vocabulary as well as his message. He was fantastic and gave me huge amounts of access  – many of his visitors were surprised to find me in the back of the huge room when they held their meetings with the Prime Minister and his advisors. I just sat, pen in hand, quietly absorbing it all and concentrating on him and his voice and vocabulary.

The Prime Minister and I worked together late at night high up in his corner suite after all his other meetings were over. Being a Prime Minister is tough –  18 hour days are standard. The Secret Service guards would relax after checking my United Nations pass. They had just come back from being on a security detail in Afghanistan and were happy to be back home.

It wasn’t all work though. There were loads of events during the ten days. I (glancingly) met German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who I had once chatted with in a small Kneipe in Wernigerode called the Carousel when he was campaigning to become Chancellor of Germany. I saw the scrum that surrounded Silvio Berlusconi when he arrived at the hotel. I also met and made friends with Henry Chimunthu Banda, who was the Malawian Deputy Foreign MInister, now the Speaker. I was born in Malawi, but he didn’t believe me until I pulled out my passport and showed him: Place of Birth – Blantyre, Malawi!

Then I went and got myself arrested.

The speech was over and the delegation had gone home and I had 3 hours free on my last day in New York. I had never been to the US so I went sight seeing. I wasn’t used to seeing such big buildings – in Bulawayo, where I was brought up,  there were probably only 2 or three buildings taller than 5 floors – and here I was in a city of shiny glass and metal skyscrapers. I slung my camcorder over my shoulder but under my jacket so it wouldn’t be stolen and wandered around, eyes up and mouth open, filming. I was in a different world, walking along streets decorated with green door canopies that I recognised from TV – I was hoping to find the Cheers pub and buy a souvenir drink.

Then I heard a pistol being cocked behind me to the left. A controlled voice told me to put my hands in the air. Slowly. The Controlled Voice politely said: “A moment please Sir.” – then a large hand clasped my right shoulder and arm. It wasn’t a request or a suggestion. These guys were tense.

They wanted to know why I was filming skyscrapers and buildings and they didn’t like my story much. To be fair, if you were them, would you believe a Brit who claimed to be working for the Sri Lankan Government, carried a United Nations pass and spoke with a southern African accent? And it was in the secure zone and “Bushlock” had reigned for days. (Random question: Do New Yorkers call gridlock Obamalock now?)

I got “escalated”. I was taken around the corner to a long, white pantechnicon with shiny aluminium Jacobs brakes on the outside and space for at least 15 people inside. I knew what it was because on the side in 5 foot letters it said “US Secret Service Mobile Command Centre”. Apparently, New York is loaded with them again this week, as the UN convenes again at its traditional time. In Britain it would have been a Transit van with a BT logo. A senior officer questioned me while he half-sat on a desk and played back the video footage on my camcorder, an officer took notes and someone else phoned the United Nations pass office, the British Embassy and the Sri Lankan Embassy. Twenty minutes later, they started to relax and I was released after I was sternly told that New York is safer than London.

My work over the last 20 years has taken me to remote, dusty, non-tourist bits of China, glitzy Dubai, sweaty North Africa and over a hundred towns or cities in Europe.  But I have had few gigs as memorable as my trip to America. Watching the speech live from the front of the chamber was a once off. Watching it again on CNN from inside the tiny cramped CNN studio in the United Nations building was special – MY words on CNN! MY English teacher would have been proud.

So what happened then? When he returned to Sri Lanka, The Prime Minister took over 8 hours to complete the 30 km drive from Bandaranaike International Airport to the capital Colombo because of the crowds who had come out to greet him.

According to

“Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has returned to a hero’s welcome in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo. Tens of thousands lined the streets outside the airport to celebrate the return of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Swarmed by officials and supporters at the airport…

According to Wikipedia, The Sri Lankan President later sacked three ministers of the cabinet, took over the ministries using her constitutional powers and ended the uneasy coalition between her and the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe while he was out of the country.

I took this photo of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka from the Malawi desk right at the front of the inner chamber of the United Nations.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister speaking at the United Nations

How to give a compelling speech and not just make noise.

Compelling Speeches Make Points and Get Results. They compel.

  1. Prepare, Practice and then Practice the speech some more.

    Some “experts” say that you should spend 20, 30 or 40 times as much time preparing and practicing your speech, as you spend delivering it. Of course, the more important the speech is, the more time you will be able to budget/justify for the speech – but reading it out loud 7-8 times are an ABSOLUTE minimum. The most important bits of the speech are the beginning and the end – if your time is limited, focus more time on the beginning and the end, even learning them off by heart. This will also help you relax and calm the fear.

  2. Be You, Be Real and Be Authentic.

    Tell personal stories in your speech to underline what you are saying. Parables work – so do personal stories. Remember to only tell the part of the story that the audience needs to “get it” – don’t clutter your stories with unnecessary details, words and phrases. If they don’t have a job, get rid of them.

  3. Take your job seriously – not yourself.

    Self-deprecating humour is not just useful, it is almost mandatory. Ask Boris Johnson. Don’t mock members of the audience, forget jokes as a general rule and be careful of jokes against the opposition.

  4. Know Your Stuff

    If you don’t know why you are giving the speech, what you are talking about or why you are talking about it, why are you even thinking of talking? Know your stuff, know the issues, know the causes, the alternatives, the enemy, the victims and, above all, know the solution.  

  5. What do you want them to do?

    Know what you want. You must be speaking for a reason, either to persuade people or to move people to action. Be specific, make it easy for them and clear about how to do what you want them to do. Political speeches want to convince or activate votes, corporate speeches usually want money. Good political  speechwriters are used to asking for votes and money – as a Conservative speechwriter it is a basic requirement!!  Some call it “deliverables” or, even worse, “required outcomes” – whatever you want to call it, ask for it!

Everybody wants to give a passionate speech – why do so many people fail?

Everybody wants to give a passionate speech – why do so many people fail?

There is a problem with wanting to give passionate speeches. If you want to give a passionate speech, you have to follow the rule of giving passionate speeches. The rule says you have to be passionate about what you are speaking about. Most people are not.

Unless it matters to them personally. Which is why personal narratives and storytelling in speeches are so powerful. Real passion is genuine and cannot be faked. Watch this Labour politician, Australian PM Gillard, and compare her with the manufactured “passion” of Tony Blair.

My mother would have seen herself as small “c” Conservative. She could smell BS several miles away. She would have stood up and applauded this woman. She would have been downright rude about Tony Blair.

Plastic rants and tirades are tactics and lies. Real politicians are those who give a damn about what they are saying and what they are doing. They are real and authentic and coherent. They are compelling and credible because they are so close to the edge. Think about this – this YouTube video has been viewed over 1.29 million times in 4 days. That is what happens when speeches are authentic and they resonate with people.

A friend, who I like and respect, called this speech unstatemanslike. I wish there more speeches like this – more fire in the belly of our politicians of all sides. More fiery speeches about things that matter to people. And balancing that – more compromise and cross-party cooperation and non-politicking and no or less cheap-political-point-scoring when there is broad consensus.

Some may say that this speech is political point scoring. I urge you to watch it and make up your own mind. I have seem loads of point scoring in my life – don’t think this is it.

The 8 Point Cheats Check List to Improving or Crafting Your Speech in 5 minutes.

The 8 Point Cheats Check List to Improving or Crafting Your Speech in 5 minutes.

Giving a speech is important – otherwise why do it? So of course you should take the time to write it, book in more time to practice it and give your speech time to bake in your head. Then reality intervenes and messes it all up! So for all those speechwriters and speechmakers who are put on the spot at short notice and the others (very stern look in your direction because I have obviously never been in your shoes!) too lazy to prepare.

  1. Do you want to inform or persuade? What must you achieve? What defines success?
  2. If you want to persuade, compare the current with your vision of the future. Use “we”.
  3. Use fresh examples and metaphors. Avoid those with lost meaning. Speak as you would to a friend.
  4. Use short sentences and words. Max 15 words per sentence and 2 syllables per word.
  5. Narrow your message to 3 key themes. They won’t remember more anyway.
  6. Identify and repeat the words that summarise your message.
  7. Never speak for more than 20 minutes. 5 is better. 3 even better.
  8. Speak slowly and confidently. Breathe slowly and deeply from your belt buckle. Stand up straight and smile.

Speechwriters’ advice: Do British politicians give too many speeches?

Speechwriters’ advice: Do British politicians give too many speeches? Does anybody listen anymore?

Speechwriters slave away writing speeches every day in Parliament. Are they wasting their time? When was the last time you organised your day around a politicians speech? Maybe out political leaders should make speeches a little less and be heard a little more

Imagine that there are some normal, non-political, non-geeky people who actually take the time out of their busy day to listen to our politicians seemingly daily speeches.

Then, let us push the bounds of credibility even further and imagine that they listen to a whole speech from beginning to end. How much do they remember about what was said?

People’s memories and perceptions of a speech are largely based on how a speech and the speaker made them feel, rather than the words they said, which is surely another argument for giving fewer speeches.

What was the last memorable speech given by any of the Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and UKIP leaders? What was the last speech the readers of this political magazine listened to in its entirety?


I remember four of Cameron’s speeches. His pre-leadership speech to conference, his speech at the beginning of the coalition – the one in the garden, his speech when he came out for NO2AV and his apology speech for the Bloody Sunday killings.


I can’t remember a Clegg speech. At all. Seriously, I am not being mean, I just can’t.


My only memory of a Miliband speech was the most recent one at the Durham Miners’ Gala where the backdrop and the visual image of the speech was stronger than the content of the speech. I only remember one line from his speech and that was three days ago! Oh, this is unfair, I remember him speaking at the Labour leadership elections.


Farage does his angry, ranty anti-EU speeches which are quite entertaining and jump up and down delivered. But even they are all the same aren’t they?

It is probably safe to assume that these four party leaders have all been talking and giving speeches incessantly before and ever since they became leaders of their parties.

Poor hard working speechwriters write these armies of words every day. Speeches to the party faithful and to their parliamentarians are important. But what about the people who don’t frame their party membership cards and put them on the wall? Never mind the floating voter, what about the normal voter?

I am a weird political geek by most standards – but if I can hardly remember any of their speeches, what chances do the normal real people have?

When doing business in China, the main negotiator talks all the time. But the older guy who says nothing but listens in the background, he is the dude – not the talker. Prime Ministers and Leaders of parties and indeed Ministers are important people, or at least they hold important jobs. Maybe they should talk less. Maybe if they talked less they would be listened to more.

Americans gather around televisions in homes and bars to watch their president give the State of the Union address. Most Brits know exactly who they will be listening to on Christmas Day at 3pm and they factor it into their day, their eating and their drinking schedules.

Serious question: In the UK, when did anyone (apart from political staffers and inhabitants of the Westminster Village) even think of organising their day or their meals around a political speech?

Most leading politicians spend their lives going from venue to venue and giving speeches to members of the public who remember very little of what they say and their security details who can probably recite each word and ‘joke’ off by heart. No wonder the public say politicians are all talk and no action.

The politicians don’t have time to do anything! They are talking all the time.

Perhaps this is the ultimate victory and winning tactic for Sir Humphrey? Keep the meddling Minister out of the office – give them 20 speeches a week to deliver – they will get nothing done and feel important at the same time. Perfect.

By making speeches so often, politicians have cheapened their potential power of their words. The public have switched off and got on with their lives, relying on being told what the leaders of our political parties say by the media and commentators and seeing the odd snippet or soundbite on television.

More precisely, the public are told what the media thought of the speech, their interpretation of its content and their analysis of its delivery. Filtered. (Ed: Delicious irony, here!)

Politicians’ words are heard via someone else’s ears, mixed with their perceptions and prejudices and then regurgitated, recounted, summarised, abbreviated, analysed and commented on in someone else’s wor

Speech writer perspective – The different types of speeches and the characteristics of a good speech

Speech writer perspective – the different types of speeches and the characteristics of a good speech

There are three main ties of speech. Business speeches, political speeches and social speeches.

Professional speeches or Business Speeches include pitches and presentations, AGM speeches to stakeholders, fundraising speeches and select committee interviews and speeches.

Political speeches include getting selected speeches and getting elected speeches, constituency speeches, parliamentary speeches, special interest speeches such as Human Trafficking or Housing, factory or visit speeches and international speeches such as speeches to the United Nations and similar international organisations.

Social speeches are the most obvious – they include best man speeches, wedding speeches, funerals speeches, after dinner speeches, birthday speeches and speeches at your golf, sporting or social club.

Although as a speech writer I have helped thousands of people prepare for most own these types of speeches, my focus has always been on political speeches and business speeches.

But the same principles apply to all the different types of speeches and speechwriting – and so do the 10 elements of MessageCraft.

You can also tell a good speech from some basic key characteristics which I outline for you here.

Characteristics of a good speech:

  • Clearly, confidently and naturally delivered
  • Different and original – this is tricky – copy and paste speeches are just endorsement speeches
  • Delivered well and showing some clarity of thought
  • Made up of short words – and not many of them – long speeches are boring even when delivered by the William Hague’s of this world.
  • Memorable not because of what you say but because of what your speech makes your audience think about and how your speech makes your audience feel.


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