Speechwriting Help: From Blank Paper to Standing Ovation Part 1

Posted in Advice and Counsel, Research on July 7th, 2011 by M.Perini

by Michael B. Perini, ABC
perini & associates

Public speaking often takes the #1 spot as a phobia or fear.  This intense anxiety prior to, or simply at the thought of having to verbally communicate with any group can cause physical distress, nausea or feelings of panic.

I have had the opportunity to be both a public speaker and the individual drafting up comments to be delivered by someone else — from U.S. Presidents and general officers to small business owners and non-profit leaders.  An estimated 75% of all speakers experience some degree of anxiety/nervousness when public speaking, according to Communicating for Results: A Guide for Business and the Professions/Edition 8.

I know I have felt some uneasiness just prior to stepping to the stage but have been able to overcome this distress with experience.  Organizations such as Toastmasters International, POWERTalk International or Association of Speakers Clubs (in the United Kingdom) are great sources for training and gaining the confidence to reduce the fear to manageable levels.

Writing a speech, can for some,  be an equally daunting task and can seriously add to the discomfort associated with public speaking.  As I mentioned, I have written numerous speeches for all organizational levels and all possible public events.  Here are tips from my many years of perseverance, perspiration and inspiration.  There is nothing better than to start with a blank page  and end with a standing ovation.

  • Find out the nature of the speaking occasion.  Details and more details.  Here is where you conduct research about the purpose, venue and props.  The occasion will dictate content, duration, tone and audience expectations.  This is a necessary first step that cannot be shorted.  Again, dig deep and deeper still.
  • Meet with the person delivering the speech.  What I call “Ghost writing” or writing a speech for someone you don’t know has many risks and is often the key reason for ending with a bad speech.  So, meet with the speaker.  Bounce off ideas and word choices to ensure that the speech is in the style that is comfortable for the speaker.  Learn from results and key on enhancements that make future speeches even better.
  • Come up with a theme. Determine the “road” that the speaker and those in audience will follow to ensure that no one gets lost along the way.  Remember, the heart of a speech is the message.  The job of both the speech writer and the public speaker is to pass that message to the audience.  Ask yourself:  “Are we conveying a theme?  Evoking an emotion?  Eliciting a response either emotional or a call-to-action or maybe both?”
  • Who is the audience. Young?  Senior?  Special?  Educated?  How many?  Today, with the internet and smart phones the audience is NOT just those at the venue.  The speech could be a useful vehicle for informing others and this fact should be part of the brainstorming process when reviewing speech topics.  Also, associates of the speaker or experts in the subject matter should be consulted as a source for additional information to fine-tune the speech. These additional aspects — golden nuggets — will enrich the speech and be appreciated.
  • Yes, you need a structure. Start with a speech outline.  Key categories include:  Introduction, Main Sections and Concluding comments.  In other words, determine the “chapters”  or main points — like in a book — to chart the direction of the speech. Your public speaking goal should be to engage, stimulate, entertain and pique your audience’s interest as you convey a message.
  • Seek Feedback. Many speechwriters loath this advice.  I have found, however, that feedback is an invaluable step.  This practice will potentially save you from much controversy and embarrassment.   It’s better to learn any problems with the speech before it is delivered, don’t you think?   I try to seek feedback from 2-3 people to include one not directly related to or attending the event.  Through experience I have gained feedback regarding inappropriate content, error(s) of omission, grammatical problems and appropriate use of humor.
  • Your voice or perfect English. I’m a strong advocate of using natural language with it comes to writing non-formal (e.g. business, award ceremonies) public remarks.  The familiarity will allow the audience to engage with you and put the speaker at ease when delivering the speech.

Again, as a formal speechwriter I’ve studied many speechwriters and many public speakers.  In my opinion, the best was Abraham Lincoln, and his best speech is the Gettysburg Address.

I would like to hear from you.  What essential speaking tips have you learned?  What are your favorite speeches?  Speakers?

Remember, we are here to take your speaking ideas from blank paper to standing ovation.








Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What Is The Role Of Public Relations In Fundraising?

Posted in Volunteer/Fundraising/Nonprofits on June 23rd, 2011 by M.Perini

by Michael B. Perini, ABC
perini & associates

In today’s economy successful fundraising is difficult at best.

Making it even harder is the strategy used by many organizations to jump right into to what is commonly called, “the  ask”.  In other words, to figure out the simplist way of getting the donor to give, i.e. by check, credit card, payment  program, any amount is ok plan, etc.  This effort is often followed up with the promise of recognition of some sort, i.e., name on a banner, flyer, program, brief mention in remarks during a post campaign event.  All these elements are necessary, yes, for successful fundraising, but  have limited long-term value without first building a foundation with the potential donor by creating and facilitating conversations around the “who” and “why”.  This critical component, that  will result in achieving better fund raising results, is the role of public relations experts partnering with fundraisers and using well tested strategies and techniques.

We all need to remember: The choices supporters make about which charity to donate to today can be won or lost on establishing the right messages –– this important task needs to be left to experienced public relations professionals.

Here are 10 important reasons why fundraisers need to give more attention to public relations strategies and methods.

1.  Well lead PR programs (message development, story placement, marketing, advertising, use of social media) can raise awareness.

2.  PR programs can reinforce and build on the messages that fundraisers are giving to supporters by garnering media and public support.

3. PR professionals can help find and target potential fundraising audiences and encourage the conversation and thus commitment.

4. PR can be the cornerstone of telling a good story about how the fundraising made a difference to transform the way people think about  the next fundraising campaign.

5.  Fundraising aims to encourage donations. Strong PR supports  that “call to action” by showcasing the charity’s integrity, need for funding and benefits from how the money was spent.  PR can help develop a strong and effective case study library that will help motivate fundraisers and donors alike.

6. The PR and fundraising teams (or individuals depending on the size of your group) should be pulling in the same direction.  Meeting and sharing information on a regular basis is vital.

7.  PR experts can help fundraisers think about the difference between donors (those who give donations) and supporters (those who give their time to volunteer or help raise funds).  Both these groups have stories and they need to be recognized.

8.  Worth repeating from #1: use of social media. Social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter are useful PR tools and growing in usage every hour.  Your PR expert can develop a strategy tailored to generating income.

9.  Using PR in fundraising campaigns can be measured to determine how much it contributed.

10.  PR should always be practiced. This is a strategic discipline and not a tactical technique.  Fundraising, in my view, should be viewed as a specialization of public relations, not the other way around.

Times are tough.  The pot for giving is small.  Therefore, great communication is even more important.  Now it is especially important to let supporters know about your organization, cause or special donor event BEFORE “the ask” as well as following up afterwards.

I know from experience that  a strong and integrated public relations component will result in persuading more supporters to come your way. So, please think about the role of PR in fundraising.  We would like to hear how you have used PR in your fundraising efforts.

Call us as we can take your fundraising efforts to new levels by integrating public relations.





Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why aren’t you using email marketing?

Posted in Advice and Counsel on April 14th, 2011 by M.Perini

Top Email Marketing Services


By Michael B. Perini, ABC
perini & associates

One of the best ways to keep your audience coming back is through email marketing.  I believe strongly that it’s better and more effective than regular email.

Using attractive, professional-looking email communications to stay in regular touch with customers and prospects is a great method for building strong customer relationships.

Here are three reasons why you should consider email marketing:

1. Affordable. Email marketing is affordable regardless of budget.  Besides, you can save on paper and postage.  There’s nothing to print, no stamps to buy, no envelopes to stuff, and no more paper cuts. Being “green” is an environmental friendly good result.

2. Boost customer communication. Email newsletters are fast and inexpensive to create. So you can send them more regularly than paper ones. And email marketing puts you in customers’ inboxes more accurately than regular email. So you’ll avoid spam filters and be seen by more people. And you’ll stay top of mind with people who want to hear from you.

3.  Target your audience. By segmenting your database and creating smaller customer lists based on their interests you can send more relevant and targeted messages. The result: more response and action on your emails.  After all, isn’t that what you want?

There are a number of good email marketing services to use to get the word out.

Here are the 5 top services we recommend.  All allow you to import mailing lists, remove unsubscribed contacts, group your email contacts, automatically detect duplicate emails, forward to social media outlets and require an Opt-in feature.

Constant Contact


Benchmark Email



Finally,  from these recommended services it’s quick to see results with real-time reports.

Constant Contact, for example, allows you to schedule email delivery for when your audience is most likely to check email, so you’ll increase the likelihood they’ll read it and take action.

You can see who opened your emails, who forwarded them to friends, and even who you need to resend them to. You can also tell who clicked on which links in your emails, allowing you to understand what people are interested in reading about, and tailor your content to get the best response and most business.

Email marketing an easy, effective, and affordable way to keep your audience coming back!  Let us know if we can help you get started.  If you already use email marketing let us know any lessons learned.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,