The words don’t matter

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am a speechwriter.

When you meet me at a party,
you react as if I am the biggest disappointment
since you discovered the Tooth Fairy doesn’t exist.

I am the personification of modern life,
in which nothing is real anymore.

Beef meat is actually horse.
The waitress’ smile is actually a way to get a tip.
And a passionate speaker is actually a puppet reading words from paper.
Words that he didn’t even bother writing himself.

Well, let me tell you this:
Those words don’t matter.

You may say in return
that rhetoric is an important part of public speaking.
Obama wouldn’t have been as captivating
had he proclaimed ‘verily, we are able!’
Churchill wouldn’t have been as inspiring
had he insisted ‘we will fight them everywhere and win’.

Beautiful words stand the test
of reprints of history books.

But to enter history books,
you need to catch the attention of history first.

And it is here, that words don’t matter.

Because a good speaker
is more than a messenger of prose.
A good speaker
is a person
who believes in an idea
so firmly
that he must make it heard.


I am just a speechwriter.

And there’s only so much I can do.

I can make you say words
you may have never thought of yourself.

I can suggest anecdotes,
whole new arguments even.

It is not a big deal to make your audience understand what you think.
But to change their thinking
and their actions,
you will need to make them feel what you believe in.

I guess you’ll need to believe in something first.


I am just a speechwriter.

I cannot make you believe
in ideas that you don’t genuinely care about.
And as long as you don’t care,
you will never deliver the speech convincingly.

the times my colleagues and me have cringed
knowing our carefully crafted texts
had not even convinced the speaker to join his or her own ‘cause’.

Meta-commentary on the text:
“‘The fish in the Rhine are doing better than ever.’
Yes, this is well written.”

Direct conversation with the writer:
“I’m just looking at the speechwriter in the back of the room, because I am not sticking to the text. You did a great job preparing, sorry!”

Total mess-up of your own concepts:
“We need i-novation to make e-novation the core of innovation.”

What a noise!

Whereas a speech,
is much like music:
it has verses, dynamics, a leitmotif.

(“I am just a speechwriter.”)

The true artist is the speaker.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Your ideas will only stand
if you make us feel you stand by your ideas

If you put the music to our song
If you give the rhythm to our blues
If you show the rhyme in our reason

That’s when we may be convinced
That’s when we will sing along with you


Openingsspeech speechkaraoke International Film Festival Rotterdam, 29 januari 2014.