25 Jan 2014 at 19:19
Someone once said that writing a speech is like giving birth. Whoever it was, they had a point. Back in early December I wrote this on the blog…
I must be mad. When will I ever learn? I have just accepted an invitation to give a lecture on the NHS to 50 doctors, surgeons and consultants from a London hospital in late January. Why on earth can’t I just learn to say ‘no’?
I don’t do a lot of speeches nowadays. My job means I don’t do many speeches to local Tory associations, like I used to and because of the hours of I work (my show doesn’t finish till 8pm) I don’t do anything on the after dinner circuit either. So when this invitation came in my instinct was to say ‘no’ on the basis that it would involve too much preparation time, and that I wasn’t enough of an expert on the subject. But then I thought, well, that’s never stopped me before and frankly, I have learned a huge amount about the NHS from all the time I spend talking to people about it and getting them to give their experiences on my radio show.
So I’ve chosen as my title “The NHS: Things That Need to be Said”. That should give me enough rope to hang myself…
And of course as the day of the speech approaches I go into my normal routine – put off writing it, then put off writing it again. I know, I thought, it can be Grant’s last job. But then I thought, no, that won’t work. This is not just a speech, it’s meant to be a lecture, and that means giving it some original thought. But being a lecture, it has got to be quite long and not filled with my normal quota of jokes. I was told 45-50 minutes is what is normally expected. Great. Not. I have this theory that if you speak for longer than 20 minutes very few people ever pay attention. They either start dozing or overtly looking at their watches. I have to say I prefer to do a short speech and then answer questions. A lecture is defined as “an educational talk to an audience”, and bearing in mind the audience is made up of 50 or so consultants, NHS managers and surgeons, who all know more about the NHS than I do, its educational content will be questionable. Anyway, the title of the lecture is “THE NHS-THINGS THAT NEED TO BE SAID”.
It’s the day before the day before the speech and I have finished the first draft. It’s a massive 6800 words long. It’s the longest things I have written in years. It’s almost pamphlet length, for goodness sake! I thought I would ask my Twitter followers how many minutes they reckoned that would make. The estimates range between 40 and 75 minutes. Thanks guys., So helpful. I’ve fed it into two websites which reckon they can calulate speech length, and I might as well not have bothered. One reckoned 60 minutes. The other 75. I think I had better read it out to myself and then embark on a bit of a cull.
I’m now at the stage in the birthing process where I question why on earth I agreed to make the speech in the first place. Oh well, I expect it will all come together in the end :)