An example of a speech
I’m often asked to provide examples of speeches I’ve written. This isn’t always possible because of the kinds of speeches I usually write. Most of them are ‘white label’ speeches – commissions where I’m ghostwriting a speech for someone else.
But occasionally, I get to write a speech for myself. So here’s an example of a speech I wrote for a networking meeting a little while back.
As you’ll see, I took some unusual inspiration, but it went down a storm:
“Wonderful eloquent and engaging presentation from Chris Lomas – he really has a lovely lilting style and amazing use of language – book him for a truly different and inspiring speech.” Mel Downing www.meldowning.com
I’d like to start with a confession…
I’ve been hiding the truth for too long…
But I feel like I’m among friends here, so I can finally open up about this.
You see, the thing is…
… I’m a big fan of a very bad film…
You were probably expecting something a bit more earth-shattering than that…
But I’m saving the really good stuff for my second 4Sight!
So, yes… bad film – big fan…
When this film was released, back in the 1950s, it was universally slated.
No one had a good word to say about it – if they even got the chance to see it.
Most cinemas wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole.
It’s even been called the worst film of all time.
But as the years rolled by, something strange happened.
People started to enjoy the film precisely because it was so bad.
And then Tim Burton made a biopic of its writer / director / producer…
And that generated even more interest in the life and films of… Mr Edward D Wood Jr.
Sadly Ed Wood never knew he’d finally hit the big time.
He died a drunk, virtually penniless in 1978…
But if only he could have known how much joy his films would bring –
And this one film in particular – Plan 9 From Outer Space…
Plan 9 is the ultimate example of something so bad it’s good.
And it is truly atrocious. In every possible way…
But people love it with a passion.
It stars horror icon Bella Lugosi in his last role.
Not even the fact that Lugosi died before filming began could stymie Ed Wood.
Not a bit.
He scraped together some bits of footage they’d already shot and took a trip to the dentists…
… And while he was there, he was sitting in the chair and looking up at this half-masked guy and felt like he was looking into the face of Bella Lugosi.
So he asked him to stand in for his dead star, holding a cloak over his face. And then he cut between his scraps of genuine Lugosi and his dental doppelganger…
He didn’t think audiences could possibly see the join…
But somehow that just adds to the charm.
Plan 9 features some of the most toe-curlingly bad dialogue every committed to film.
The movie opens with a to-camera monologue from a noted fortune-teller, Criswell…
Criswell half rises from a coffin and says…
Greetings, my friend.
We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.
And remember my friend…
Future events such as these will affect you in the future.
The film was going to be called Grave Robbers from Outer Space.
But Wood securing financial backing from a religious group, and they didn’t like the title.
They didn’t like a lot of things about the film!
But Ed Wood didn’t care. He just wanted to get his film made…
And he did.
Because, whatever happened, whatever got in his way, Ed Wood somehow rose above it.
Clearly Wood was no Orson Welles. (Although he admired him greatly.) He didn’t have anything like the backing or the studio support that Wells had. He just made low budget shlcok horror, but he was, nevertheless, a remarkable filmmaker in many ways...
When things went wrong – and they did – he ploughed on regardless.
When his leading man died, he thought around it.
When he couldn’t afford a rubber octopus, he borrowed one...
He lived his life in a constant state of improvisation.
And that’s why he an inspiration to me.
Ed Wood did things his way.
He had an unswerving belief in his abilities, critics be damned.
He had a resolute faith in the quality of his work, audience numbers notwithstanding.
And he loved what he did.
He was desperate to tell the story of Grave Robbers from Outer Space and he found a way to do it.
Although he had to take on a lot of humdrum projects before he got to his magnum opus…
… or in this case his magnificent octopus…
He didn’t mind because he was in Hollywood, doing what he’d always dreamed of.
When I started writing, I did because I liked it.
And I wrote about the things that I liked.
And when I get a proper paying job as Editorial Consultant on Drain Trader Magazine I was ecstatic.
I spent the next year writing about effluent treatment and pitch fibre pipes and I loved it.
I loved it because I was writing.
… doing what I loved for a living.
I felt like Ed Wood.
I think Plan 9 influences me in some more specific ways too.
And it can influence you too, if you let it…
I love Ed Wood’s florid dialogue.
It’s completely un-naturalistic and overblown.
But that’s okay, it was appropriate for his intended audience.
And that’s a difficult thing to achieve.
As a copywriter, you sometimes have to look past what a client thinks you should write…
… sometimes you have to suggest that’s not what the reader really wants to hear.
Ed Wood was in touch with the language of the lurid comic books of the fifties…
… and so were the people who liked his films.
So he actually got it right.
He was absolutely on brand!
Like Ed Wood, I used to have a pretty florid writing style too.
I’d never use one word when twenty multi-syllable words would do the job a lot more impressively.
I don’t write like that anymore.
I stopped showing off.
But there’s a lyricism in his dialogue that continues to shape my interest in how copy sounds.
In the effects of punctuation.
And in the little things that take you by surprise.
All essential tools for the copywriter.
Ed Wood’s films sound distinctive.
Just as our businesses should.
And that’s not easy to achieve.
But the biggest piece of advice I can give you, courtesy of Ed is this:
Be true to yourself.
Because the truer you are to yourself, the more authentic your tone of voice will be.
Ed Wood didn’t try to sound like anyone else.
He told the stories he wanted to tell.
And he told them in the sort of breathless, stream of consciousness style that came naturally.
Tone of voice is always tricky.
But I think that deep down you know if your tone of voice is authentic or not.
Some brands want to sound like Innocent.
Some want to sound different to everyone else…
… but you can’t fake the right tone of voice…
… it comes naturally.
You couldn’t call Ed Wood’s films meaningful, but that doesn’t matter.
His audience didn’t want meaningful.
You couldn’t call his films ground-breaking or thoughtful.
Again, not high on his fans’ list of priorities.
What they wanted were films that, for good or bad, had his unique quality all over them.
And by golly, that is what he gave them.
A lot of businesses could learn from that.
They try too hard to be something they’re not.
They work too long to sound bigger, better…
… more formal than they really are.
Last month someone told me his website was written for university graduates.
And I thought that was a bit odd because he sold storage units…
… Of a kind that you don’t need a degree to be able to use!
Ed Wood could have told him his customers just wanted to know they were easy to deal with, and had loads of great options for storing your stuff.
And they would probably have wanted to know that in words they could understand – even if they hadn’t gone to university!
Ed Wood wrote with feeling too.
He infused every line of his scripts with passion.
And it proves that passion really does go a long way.
You don’t have to be the best at what you do…
… if you do it with real feeling and commitment, you’ll be better than the best.
Hmm better than best – that definitely sounds like a ‘Woodism’.
But in my line of work, distinctive is always better than derivative.
Wood took his influences wherever he could find them.
His films are spliced together with whatever bits of stock footage he could find.
He wasn’t fussy.
If he got some footage he felt would enhance his films, he’d use it.
And he’d re-write to accommodate the footage if he had to.
That is not – and never has been – how directors make films.
But it shows he wasn’t blinded by ideas of how it should be done.
And neither should we be.
Every new writing project is a blank canvas.
And I can approach it any way I like so long as I keep the client’s objectives firmly in mind.
Even if I write about pitch fibre pipes every week for the rest of my working life, it still needs to sound different every time.
Copywriters should be just as open to influences as Ed Wood…
… as long as those influences come from the right places.
I don’t take any inspiration from other copywriter’s work…
… I take it from songs and films and the things people say.
That’s how you find the right tone of voice and the right straplines.
That’s where you really get a feeling for rhythm and cadence.
Because the writing isn’t the end product, the effect it has on the audience is.
Ed Wood knew that better than anyone.
Stock footage here there and everywhere…
… scenes that mysteriously go from day to night and back to day in the space of a half minute…
… wobbly sets, risible effects, none of it mattered.
So long as you keep your audience entertained, the mechanics of film-making don’t matter.
He just wanted to tell a cracking good yarn.
And he wasn’t going to let the lack of a budget, or decent sets or anything else stand in his way.
So in that respect Ed Wood probably predicted some of the types of techniques businesses can use now for marketing our in a recession.
No advertising budget?
As long as you’ve got the vision and the creativity, there’s no reason you can’t still promote your company.
These days he’d have gone viral.
He’d have funded his films on Kickstarter or drummed up support on YouTube…
… whatever it took, he’d have found a way.
And so can we…
Ed Wood once advised new writers to "just keep on writing.
Even if your story gets worse, you'll get better".
And that’s great advice.
Because I came from an editorial background, not a sales background…
… I had to find my own way when it came to writing sales letters.
I wasn’t interested in the ‘How to’ books.
I didn’t want to copy what anyone else had done.
I didn’t then – and I don’t now.
I wrote and I wrote and I got better and better.
So when people ask me what books I recommend on copywriting…
… I don’t recommend any.
And I tell them to just have a go and find their own way of doing it.
That’s what Ed would have done.
Too many people whether they’re filmmakers or copywriters or anything else, just do what’s been done before.
Or try to emulate it.
And yes, of course there’s mileage in that.
We all want to be successful and do the best work we can, so we follow successful trends.
But we don’t have to.
They don’t give out Rotten Tomatoes awards for terrible films to filmmakers who follow the trends.
Okay, so he would probably rather have had had the Oscar I suppose.
But an award’s an award.
Given the choice, and assuming he’d been alive to receive his Rotten Tomatoes award…
… Or had a dental doppelganger standing by…
… Or had a long distance electrode shot into his pineal and pituitary gland –
(That’s how they raise the dead in the film) – I think he would have accepted it gladly, because at least it was better than mediocrity.
It helped ensure his film was remembered – and will continue to be remembered.
That’s quite a legacy for a film with no budget and a dead leading man.
Ed Wood never gave up.
And he never let anyone tell him he was wrong.
It was said of Wood that he was "A man born to film. Lesser men, if forced to make movies under the conditions Wood faced, would have thrown up their hands in defeat.”
I think we should all take a leaf or two from Ed’s book.
We should commit ourselves so far as our trade allows, to doing it our way.
So let’s all abandon plans 1-8…
… Let’s open our “stupid, stupid Earth minds” and think like Ed Wood.
Just for a bit.
And let’s see what happens…