Rewriting is the Name of the Game

A major aspect of speechwriting in the modern era is working effectively with graphic designers. If you are the rare hybrid talent who can combine a gusto for writing with a flair for visual design, you may be able to retain ownership of all aspects in a presentation yourself – more than likely, you will be coordinating the efforts of a team.

I have learned this should be more of a collaborative process than simply jotting down instructions on what you want a presentation to look like. The more that you can involve one’s colleagues early in the conceptual process of creating a presentation, the more invested they will feel as creatives.

I learned an important lesson on setting expectations upfront when working with a graphic designer once. I have long operated under the working assumption that anything I create will be thrown out or altered entirely. It goes with the turf of being a speechwriter. Over time if you stay in the profession, you take it in stride when remarks became an entirely different product by the time they reach it to the podium. You grow accustomed to sending out documents labeled “Version 23”. And you learn to not view discarded drafts as wastes of time, but as important markers along the journey to creating the right product for the speaker.

Veteran speechwriter Mike Long captures the sentiment well when he describes the practice of writing a first draft for yourself. Consider that first version you send it the one that captures your vision for the speech – and then move on. Even if you have disagreements about changes your speaker wants to make – and even though you are expected to offer your counsel – you are ultimately working for someone else. Pride of ownership must go out the window.

Not everyone uniformly shares this perspective on their work, however. In one particular instance, a graphic designer grew angry when I requested changes to a presentation we were developing based on client feedback. It had taken her considerable time and energy to produce what she now seemed to consider wasted work.

My lesson was to involve those I work with earlier on in the creative process – and to better set the expectation that in presentations, we create a first draft for ourselves. We must then accept that we often must throw out some of our great ideas and begin anew. Rewriting and re-imagining is simply the name of the game.