The strongest advice I can give is that the speechwriter must work directly with the presenter and not get the assignment from a third party. Writing and thinking are interwoven. You can't have one without the other. Writers must know the client's philosophy intimately in order to organize, fine-tune, and clarify "executive thinking."

I asked my secretary to find some good "quotable quotes" that packed some solid advice in them for today's speech and she came back with this little memo: "Dear Boss: The only good quotes I could find are these few from Socrates, who also went around giving people advice, and—unless you've forgotten— they poisoned him."

A good speechwriter is aurally oriented. There is a major difference between language for the ear and language for the eye; the way a speaker phrases humor is as important as what's written. "Write a speech with your mouth," recommends Ed McMahon. So speech writers must practice with the client, because only you know the "sound," the appropriate phrasing, of the words you wrote.

Speakers should rehearse their speech at least twice. The second rehearsal should be recorded on audio cassette and, if possible, on video cassette. Speakers are in show business, whether they admit it or not (and because they like the sound of it, they admit it). Even seated at the head table they're on stage. If they look bored, talk to their neighbors when others are speaking, or bury their heads making last-second changes in your speech, they may think they're invisible—but not to a critical audience.

The speechwriter is also a director, a detail man, and a publicist. Here are just a few of the details a speechwriter is responsible for, and a few tricks of the trade. (Such as never telling anybody you're in comedy. They may demand proof on the spot.)

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