Speechwriters compose spoken passages for live recitation.
Not all public figures are good with words. Each appearance they make must be calculated to elicit the right reaction; every word must be the right word. This is a tall order for most politicians, actors, and CEOs, but luckily, most people in positions that require them to make frequent speeches can hire someone to do it for them. Speechwriters put words in people's mouths; they may do rhetorical work to find points of emphasis that will speak to a crowd or dig up talking points that will get people interested. Whatever they do, a talented speechwriter can be a speaker's secret weapon, giving them the words they need to make the impact they desire.
Finding the right flow for a speech can take a lot of trial and error. It's common for speechwriters to try different styles until they get a better idea of a speaker's personality and public persona, at which point they can tailor elements of their plan to fit each situation better. Speechwriters may coach clients through their writing, helping them to memorize difficult parts, nailing down important moments, and tweaking delivery as needed.
Work in speechwriting may include....
- Studying an orator's natural speech patterns
- Working from a topical brief
- Researching pertinent facts to incorporate into a speech
- Drafting communications and outlines
- Rehearsing with a speaker to perfect emphasis
Speechwriters often work in political settings, constructing elaborate talking points for senators, presidential candidates, and other notable government workers who often make public appearances. They may also work in corporate environments, putting together statements, briefings, and communications on behalf of a company's leader or helping them prepare for speaking engagements. Some work as specialized freelancers who provide speeches for weddings, galas, award ceremonies, and other infrequent gatherings. Still others may find work in marketing or media, contributing to scripts, press releases, and articles.
Becoming an accomplished speechwriter takes time and research. High schoolers can get a head start by participating in activities like debate or theatre to learn public speaking skills. At the college level, focusing on journalism, politics, or communications in a Bachelor's degree program can help an aspiring speechwriter to develop a distinctive voice and understand the context and impact of their work. It can be difficult to find rhetorical training outside of classics and linguistics courses, but completing coursework in these areas can help students to understand the power of speech. Upon graduating, aspiring speechwriters often pursue political, marketing, or public relations work adjacent to their desired field, with some enrolling in graduate programs to hone their writing.
Strong writers and speakers looking to unite their skillsets might find a fulfilling career in speechwriting if they know where to look.
The Professional Speechwriters Association is a worldwide network of leadership communication professionals.
Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs.