Conquering the Commencement Speech

With commencement season coming up, veteran speechwriter David Meadvin shares tips and tricks for succeeding at one of the most difficult speeches to write and deliver.

Q: Why are commencement speeches so hard to write?

A: When it comes to commencement speeches, there's an unavoidable tension between uplift and cliche. Everyone in the audience -- graduating students, faculty and family -- expects to hear something inspiring, but commencement speakers tell us all the time that it feels like every concept has been done before. It takes real time and brainpower to kick ideas around before landing on a set of themes and stories that feel right.

Q&A: David Meadvin Discusses Fortune's Best Companies To Work For

The process of submitting for and earning a place on Fortune's Best Companies To Work For list is complex. Below, Inkwell president David Meadvin shares some insights and best practices.

Q: Every year, competition to earn a spot on the Best Companies To Work For list grows fiercer.  Why is it so coveted?

A: In my experience, both in-house at major companies and as a consultant, the war for talent has gotten more intense almost every year. While tech companies wage war for the best and brightest on the West Coast, companies across all industries are competing with one another -- as well as the tech firms -- for talent all over the country. And almost every recruiter I've worked with reports that placement on Fortune's Best Companies To Work For list is one of the best credentials for attracting talent. It's also a great opportunity to rally existing employees and build excitement and pride.

Washington Examiner: The Three Minute Interview with David Meadvin

The following Q&A originally appeared in the Washington Examiner, February 20, 2012:

What was one of your biggest challenges in becoming a speechwriter?

The hardest thing is developing a thick skin. When you are working on a speech, there are a lot of people delivering edits and you can write a lot of content that you think is great but doesn't make it to the final draft. You will never make it in the long term if you are too territorial about your words.