Crafting a Speech

Writing a speech should be straightforward. You think of what you want to say, write it down, practice it and you’re done. Because I use images in my talks, it’s more complicated. Yes, I do the aforementioned, but somewhere in the process of crafting a speech, I have to insert cartoons that either illustrate or compliment what I am saying at any given time. This doesn’t necessarily mean drawing new cartoons, although sometimes I will do that if I think there is a particular point that needs a funny image and I don’t have one that fits that point.  My vast archive of my own cartoons (thirty years of drawing!) awaits insertion into the presentation, as if they are actors in a play, waiting to be called up.  It’s not as if they are auditioning–except indeed some are better than others–it’s whether or not a cartoon fits an idea.

Writing a speech is a creative process in and of itself. I am still learning how to do it, but I enjoy this medium. The ideas I generally want to communicate are not always straightforward, either, so it’s like a puzzle. Getting that right, and getting the right humor to enhance the ideas is challenging. I enjoy connecting with a live audience–it’s is a real thrill. The anticipation of their laughter is nerve wracking (in the possibility of its absence) and intoxicating (perhaps I will “kill”).

Recently, I was fortunate to see two of my idols: Lily Tomlin and Tina Fey. Lily’s was an actual stage performance, while Tina’s was an interview with my New Yorker editor David Remnick. Lily is a genius, moving her body and seamlessly gliding in and out of personaes. Tina was funny, personable, human. I took away from these events as much as I could. In both cases, they connected with the audience beautifully, and I think that is the key.

I will be giving two talks in New York City this spring.

May 4th, Wine and Cheese 6-7, talk and reception  7-8:30. I am the first speaker in a series called “Living Your Dreams.”  2 Park Avenue. For ticket information:  610-757-4667   or

June 25, TEDx Manhattan. Time and place to be announced.


About Liza Donnelly

Cartoonist and writer and live drawer for The New Yorker, CBS News. Speaker for TED and others. Books: Women On Men,
This entry was posted in News and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Crafting a Speech

  1. Kate McClare says:

    So glad to hear praise for Lily Tomlin. She really is a genius.

  2. tokenblogger says:

    Do they still have Toastmasters?


    I looked it up, they’re still here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s