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Speechwriting tip: Don’t let your speech look like grandma’s quilt

Have you ever seen someone patch together material from two or three off-the-shelf presentations and call it a keynote?

A colleague admitted this to me moments before her boss went on stage to deliver a presentation to a roomful of business people.

My colleague told me she’d spent the past few days cutting and pasting to marry together pieces and parts extracted here and there from her company’s boilerplate presentations.

Unfortunately, it showed.

Can you reuse material from former presentations?

Of course!

But there’s a right way to finesse existing material for new audiences so it doesn’t come off like a patch job.

Last spring, a VIP asked me if we could just “add on this new material to the end of the last speech and call it done.”

I told him there was a better way: to weave this new material in the middle of his other speech, where it logically made sense.

It was also important to rework other parts of his original speech to address what this new audience cared about.

How do you approach a challenge like this?