Scriptwriting & Copywriting

'Poetry: the best words in the right order' - Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Sometimes I help executives polish their presentations but more often communication managers pull together contributions from across an organisation, assemble them in a huge pile and say, 'now, please do something with that!'

It's critical to develop a narrative - the equivalent of Coleridge's 'right order' - because we are all 'hard-wired' to respond to stories, not a mass of information. And since the arrival of the web there's no lack of that!

Once I've developed the storyline, I find 'the best words.' Since the arrival of PowerPoint the challenge has been to differentiate between the spoken word and the ones that appear on the screen behind the presenter.

Too often these get confused and the screen becomes an unreadable version of the speaker's notes. So, I usually advise on what is heard and seen. In both cases the general advice is 'less is more!' And an image almost always conveys a thousand words.

For an excellent approach to screen presentations I recommend the book 'Presentationzen' by Garr Reynolds.

Defining structure and focusing on essentials is also critical in exhibitions. I worked with the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and their agency acclaim, on the public consultation about the siting of new nuclear power stations. You can imagine how much information that topic generates! So, I helped them to look at it from the public's point of view. We structured the information, using touchscreens and a good balance of copy and imagery, so people could find what interested them and 'drill down' as far as they wanted to go.

One of the key skills of a good writer is to interpret technical or scientific information and turn it into inspiring communication. That was the challenge when I worked with the agency Shelton Fleming and the boffins at CERN on a travelling exhibition about birth of the universe, fundamental particles and much more.

Taking a brief from people whose day job is to contemplate 'how we all got here' can be quite a challenge! But we succeeded in creating a rich experience that captured the imaginations of young people across Europe. One of the media we used was film. Again, it was all about telling a story and using just enough of the right words for the voice over to support some stunning imagery.

Occasionally, I write public experiences. The skill here is to tell a story on a scale that works for a large audience, combining storytelling, live action and other media. An example was Trafalgar Square 200 for the Royal Navy to celebrate the enduring importance of the sea to Britain since Nelson's death.