As you know, public speaking is a seasonal activity. Fall and Spring are very busy. They're prime time for conferences, seminars, conventions, symposia, and commencements. During the Summer, too many people are on vacation. And from Thanksgiving to New Year's, audience calendars are full of social events.
Since each speech is custom-made, your usual speechwriter can't use slow times to build inventory.
Sooner or later, you'll need a freelance speechwriter. Breaking in a new one is a high-stakes game. Think relief pitcher at the bottom of the ninth in a must-win game. Deadlines never move. Execs and staff are always way too busy.
So, what criteria do you use to find a capable freelancer?
A lot of organizations look for an expert in their field. Someone who's already written about their industry. But this misses a big point. Sure, your speech deals with your industry. But more importantly, your speech is about a very specific topic that's tailored to a very specific audience. You are the content expert. The speechwriter's job is to translate your ideas into words, tone, and impact that will work for your specific audience. Perhaps industry experience alone is not the #1 criterion.
If it's a really big-deal speech, you might be tempted to hire a big name -- one with a platinum resume and a sky-high fee. I've seen this work really well. A big name (well-known columnist for Time magazine) writes a big speech for a big fee (north of $20,000 in today's money.) The result? A successful outing that was worth the tab.
I've also seen the "big-name strategy" bomb. A Fortune 100 company gave their chief speechwriter "early retirement" -- and contracted with a Washington, DC, hotshot speechwriter. The script was completely off the mark. The retired speechwriter wound up rewriting it.
Here's a freelance speechwriter selection strategy that works. Ask your top candidate to write a thorough audience analysis -- including the three most important ideas the audience wants and/or needs to hear. Pay for this audience analysis. You're going to need one anyway.
A thorough audience analysis is a window into the freelance speechwriter's thinking, analytical ability, writing skill, interest in your topic, and motivation to do a great job.
Aristotle, who knew a thing or two about writing, said, "Well begun is half done." A strong audience analysis that focuses on what the audience wants and needs is always a good beginning.