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Speechwriting Secrets of President Bill Clinton

Public speaking can be a powerful way to build a business. It can help raise the profile of your business, generate new leads, and generate higher profits. But public speaking can be nerve-wracking and very stressful for beginners. Writing a speech can be quite a challenge, especially for technical writers.

We can all learn by watching professional speakers.

I achieved a long held ambition to hear Bill Clinton in Perth on Saturday February 23, 2002. It was a fantastic event!
My motivation? Anyone who makes $300,000 for a 50-minute keynote must be good. As a professional speaker, I wanted to see Clinton in action. He didn’t want to hear just what he said, but how he said it.

Here is my analysis of what I learned from hearing Bill Clinton in person and noting how he was presented. You should be able to adapt at least some of these points to fit your own circumstances.

1. The marketing strategy

In previous years, a huge publicity blitz drew audiences to see speakers like former Soviet leader Gorbachev and others. Their marketing approach was very commercially focused with a massive advertising budget. The Clinton event had a more humanitarian angle with funds raised for a good cause, namely sick children through the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children Foundation. This was a better match with Clinton’s core values ​​of building community and empathizing with the concerns of ordinary people. The marketing campaign relied heavily on positive media coverage to raise awareness of the event.

2. A memorable entrance

Clinton’s entrance into the ballroom was brilliantly staged. Everyone was asked to stand up and then he entered the room with his US presidential election theme song ‘Happy Days are here again’. The excitement in the room was electric and he gave me goosebumps!

3. Personal introduction

His dress and presentation was absolutely impeccable. (Maybe $500 haircuts will help.) Many women at my table commented that Clinton looked much better in person than on television.

4. The power of presence

There were rumors about being in the same room as President Clinton. His body language, his smile and his confident handshake exuded charisma. The considerable charm of it reminded me of that high school science experiment when you put iron filings in
a white sheet of paper covering a strong magnet. Clinton attracted people like metal filings to a powerful magnetic field.

5. Warm up

Alan Jones was the MC and the warm-up included a short film showing a light-hearted look at Clinton’s last days in office. Scenes included Clinton washing the presidential car, cutting hedges, and playing switchboard operator in the Oval Office. A large scene from a press conference showed Clinton waking up a single sleeping journalist.

6. Introduction

A well-constructed introduction helped build empathy and highlighted that Clinton’s life had not been a bed of roses. The fact that his father died when he was young, his mother was a nursing assistant, and he was born in Hope, a town of 10,000, helped put her success and his accomplishments into context.

7. Build on the sense of destiny

A strong personal brand is built on stories. The story of Clinton meeting President Kennedy at a youth leadership camp was used to great effect. Not only was it mentioned in the introduction, but the famous photo of Clinton shaking hands with JFK was also used in marketing materials. Other branding shots included an intimate moment with Hilary, a shot of him playing the saxophone, a photo jogging, one with Chelsea and one with Clinton alongside 3 former presidents. They all helped define Clinton as the man.

8. Personalizing the message

Clinton’s speech in Perth was customized to include stories relevant to a Perth market, including his memories of Perth turning on its lights at night for the re-entry of a US space mission and comments on the career of a former president from the USA as a mining engineer in Kalgoorlie.

9. Use humor

Clinton had some great lines about how she could have helped previous presidents deal with the media in difficult situations.

10. Memorable one-liners that use opposites

This can be very effective. Speaking of possible solutions to the war on terror, Clinton said that “most of the great things in life are simple.”

11. Essay

Clinton used this proven speechwriting technique to great effect.

12. Use metaphors

Clinton used the metaphor of the gap between the invention of the club and the shield to describe the current situation in the war on terror. He said “this gap needs to be closed.” Metaphors can give intangible concepts a greater impact on the audience.

13. Develop empathy with the audience

Clinton told the story of how she was in Australia in Port Douglas on 9/11 and how her daughter Chelsea was in downtown New York. She connected with every parent in the room as she talked about her feelings when she was unable to contact her daughter for three hours that day.

14. A call to action

The purpose of the event was to raise funds for a children’s hospital. Clinton’s last words were “I want you to help me.” Simple, direct and powerful.

I hope you have enjoyed this analysis. I certainly learned a lot from seeing one of the world’s great communicators in action.
Whatever your personal views on Clinton…her personal warmth, ability to connect with an audience and presentation skills are outstanding.

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