21 September 2009

Not the LibDem conference in Bournemouth

Before last week, I'd only ever been to Bournemouth to attend LibDem annual conferences - and I haven't done that for at least 10 years.

But I did go to another conference in Bournemouth on Friday, the first Annual Conference of the UK Speechwriters' Guild, whose founder, Brian Jenner, is to be congratulated for making it possible for about fifty people with this apparently esoteric interest to spend a day together.

One of the most fascinating talks was by Phil Collins, former speechwriter to Tony Blair, who had an interesting and plausible line on the main theme of the conference, 'Why is there no British Obama?' - which he developed further by explaining why he thinks it unlikely that there will ever be a British Obama.

But for speechwriters, one of his more interesting revelations was about the difference between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in their approaches to speechwriting.

Blair was not only a good writer (as we've all known since long before he became leader of the Labour Party) who wrote quickly and effectively with a fountain pen, but he also understood the importance of using other people's material as well.

The more computer-literate Brown apparently prefers DIY and makes little or no use of material from other writers. In stead, he's continually composing, reworking and storing his own lines about different subjects on his hard disk, and then cuts and pastes different sections according to whatever his next speech is going to be.

For me, this shed interesting light on some of the comments I've posted over the last year, and especially those bemoaning his tendency to pack far too much information and far too many numbers into his speeches (see below).

If he had a better understanding of the importance of keeping things simple, or listened to and/or used speechwriters who do, this might be less of a problem for him.

And, in the unlikely event of his still having to give so many speeches at this time next year, he might pick up a few helpful tips if he came along to the second annual conference of the UK Speechwriters' Guild.

Gordon Brown’s G20 address ignores an important tip from Winston Churchill
How many numbers can you get into a minute?

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