Official Blog of Bannon Leadership Consulting Founder Shawn Bannon

Speechwriting and Public Speaking in the Genes?

I’ve written speeches professionally for the better part of the last 15 years. In a career that’s been blessed with tremendous opportunities, I’ve written words that have been spoken by a dozen Fortune 500 CEOs; three U.S. presidential candidates (including one winner); two governors; five U.S. senators; six members of the House of Representatives; four mayors; dozens of other business, civic and community leaders; and even members of both the Major League Baseball and National Hockey League Halls of Fame.  I’m not bragging; I’m just running through the list so you understand what I’m really talking about when I say that writing speeches has been a very important part of my career.

At the same time, I’ve given my fair share of speeches and presentations over the years. And those are always fun. Most recently, I spoke in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where I delivered a keynote address on community and economic development to the good folks of the Northwest Chamber Leaders Conference.  It was a great time, and I probably learned twice as much from the wonderful community and business leaders who came to the conference from all across the Pacific Northwest and western Canada as they learned from me.  When it was over, I was asked by a handful attendees about whether I’d be available to come and speak in their communities, and so it goes for somebody who writes and gives speeches professionally.

A week later, though, I was blessed with a real treat — an opportunity to sit in the audience and watch my father deliver his first public speech in decades.  My dad, George, is an amazing guy. I’ll spare you the million and one reasons I’ve got the best dad in the world, but I’d urge you to take my word for it.  He was forced to retire early with a severe knee injury in 2001, and after he adjusted to the realities of his life without work, he threw himself into the pursuit of one of his lifelong dreams.  He wanted to write and publish a novel.

So, on March 23, he took to the front of the room at a “Meet The Authors” night at a local library to deliver his first book talk.

Like all public speakers, he was nervous. I’d talked with him about it a month or so ago — even offered to help him organize his thoughts. I worried for him and wanted him to do a great job, and I kind of felt a pang of role-reversal, thinking back to the times when I was a kid and he’d offer to help me study or when he’d talk to me about my batting swing. As much as he ever wanted me to succeed on the baseball field, I wanted him to hit a home run when he delivered his remarks at this event.

But he didn’t ask me to help him put together his speaker’s notes. So I was a bit more anxious for him than I let on when I met up with him a little while before the event was scheduled to begin.  There were three other authors who would be speaking, and they’d all done these things before. But Dad looked ready. So I gave him a quick pre-game speech about how everybody in the room wanted him to succeed and how he’d be great just by being himself.  Then I took my seat and waited.

The first couple of authors who spoke were very good — both having published multiple titles and done years worth of speaking engagements and media interviews.  Then it was Dad’s turn.  And he killed it.  Seriously, a grand slam.  He got his first laugh from the audience after about 12 seconds and another within half a minute of that. He made connections with the crowd, told personal stories, wove in details of the story in his book and brought it all home with a personal message about chasing one’s dreams even when you think time may have passed you by.  I was in the back of the room, and about halfway through his remarks a teenage girl in the seat in front of me leaned over to her mother and said, “I like him.” And I couldn’t have been more happy for my dad or more proud as a son.

So I wonder … is it in the genes?  I understand how I can craft a pretty decent speech with so many years of experience. And I understand how I can give a pretty good speech with so many years studying, teaching and practicing speechmaking. But how does my dad, who hasn’t delivered public remarks in nearly 20 years, win the room like he did?

I like to think he gets it from me.

Please take a little time to watch the video of my dad’s remarks at the Northland Public Library Meet the Authors event. If you like what you hear, visit his Web site,, to order a copy of his novel, The Final Crusade. It’s available from Amazon and all the other usual suspects, but if you order from Dad’s site you get it for $5 off the cover price, free shipping, and he’ll personally sign it for you.

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