Leuven Speechwriters’ & Business Communicators’ Conference

26-27 October 2017
  • Start: 1000 26 October
  • End: 1630 27 October
  • Venue: Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe
  • Address: Janseniusstraat 1 3000 Leuven Belgium
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Rhetoric is the art of influence, friendship, and eloquence, of ready wit and irrefutable logic. And it harnesses the most powerful of social forces, argument. – Jay Heinrichs

In the context of turbulent political events, the 15th UK Speechwriters’ Guild/European Speechwriter Network Leadership & Communication conference will be held at the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe.

Our conferences are open to people who write speeches in their organisations.

We welcome advanced speechwriters, beginners and those interested in developing skills for the future.

You’ll meet colleagues who face the same challenges.

The European Speechwriter Network, working with the UK Speechwriters’ Guild, has pioneered a format where we listen to top speechwriters, leaders and interpreters talk about their work.

We learn what techniques they use, how they craft stories and how they build relationships. We host our conferences in a university environment, enabling speechwriters to exchange ideas, make contacts and build a reputation.


Who should attend?

Previous conferences in Brussels, Amsterdam and Berlin have attracted speechwriters from four Prime Ministers’ offices, the European Commission, NATO, Airbus, BMW, IBM, the CBI, Orange, Deloitte, the United Nations, the European Investment Bank, Coca Cola as well as the Dutch, Danish and British civil service.

This conference is for anyone wanting to improve their ability to write and deliver speeches.

While the conference is predominantly in English, the techniques will be transferable to other languages.

It’s also for people wishing to improve their company’s ability to communicate ideas.

The benefits

  • Acquire techniques used in the White House, European institutions and and in numerous government and multinational offices around Europe
  • Get insights into rhetoric from top writers
  • Listen to outstanding public speakers
  • Have your own work analysed in interactive sessions with top trainers
  • Meet fellow professionals from the Europe and the rest of the world



Click here to download a PDF of the conference timings

DAY 1 – Pre-conference Training

Thursday 26 October – Delegates can choose from three pre-conference training workshops

10am – 4.30pm – John Yorke: Rhetoric & The Hollywood Blockbuster – a 1-day seminar on the shape of stories and how they apply to business, advertising and politics
Click here to download a more detailed description

10.00am – 4.00pm – Martin Shovel & Martha Leyton: The Mystery of the Metonym –  a 1 day seminar on how to write great speeches using the most powerful speechwriting tool most of us have never heard of!
Click here to download a more detailed description

10.00am – 4.00pm – Alan Barker: Plain speaking for international audiences – a 1-day seminar on speechwriting in English as a foreign language
Click here to download a more detailed description

6.30pm – Tour of the Leuven Institute

7.00pm – Drinks reception (tickets are available for local speechwriters who aren’t able to attend conference)

8.00pm – Informal dinner in a Leuven restaurant (not included in conference fee)


Friday 27 October – Full Conference

10am – 4.30pm

Speakers: Lindsay Hayes (US Republican speechwriter) Mark Morris (NATO), Nathalie Milio (Belgian Government), Fergal Nolan (European Commission) Hélène Faure (Former speechwriter to the French PM), Lech Mintowt-Czyz (Shell), Thomas Hart (Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs)


What you will learn and leave with

  • A better understanding of what makes an effective speech
  • Insights on how to work with multilingual audiences
  • Tips for managing your speakers
  • Strategies for dealing with interpreters
  • New contacts, ideas and perspectives on the trade


Pre-Conference Trainers

John Yorke

John @jyintothewoods is Managing Director of Angel Station where he works as aJohnYorke drama producer, consultant and lecturer on all forms of storytelling.

A former MD of Company Pictures where he Exec Produced Wolf Hall, he’s worked as both Head of Channel Four Drama and Controller of BBC Drama Production. As a commissioning Editor/Executive Producer, he championed Life On Mars, The Street, Shameless and Bodies and in 2005 he created the BBC Writers Academy, a year-long in-depth training scheme which has produced a generation of successful television writers.

He is the author of Into the Woods – the highly acclaimed book about how and why we tell stories.


Martin Shovel & Martha Leyton

MartinMarthaMartha and Martin run the UK consultancy CreativityWorks.

They write speeches for chief executives, politicians, leaders of trade unions and professional organizations, and they train speechwriters and other communications professionals.

Martin was recently commissioned to write a series on political rhetoric
for the Guardian’s Mind Your Language blog, and is currently writing a book on rhetoric.

He is also a prolific cartoonist and commentator on Twitter, and he and Martha have created several animated films, including the viral YouTube hit, Busting the Mehrabian Myth.


Alan Barker

Alan is Managing Director of Kairos Training Limited. He regularly delivers workshops and coaching on speechwriting to a wide range of organisations, including the European Commission, the International Criminal Court and The Natural History Museum, London.

Alan is the author of fifteen books, including: How to Solve Almost Any Problem (Pearson), Improve Your Communication Skills (Kogan Page), How to Manage Meetings (Kogan Page).





Lindsay Hayes

Lindsay has served as a speechwriter in the U.S. Senate, a Cabinet-level agency and on two presidential campaigns. Those principals include several major figures in American politics and government. Among them, Mitt Romney (2012 campaign), Sarah Palin (2008 campaign), the late U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (2002-2006), and U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, whom she assisted with his New York Times bestseller The Way Forward. She got her start in the research arm of the White House Office of Speechwriting.

Today, she heads Redpath Writing, a firm founded to assist clients that need a collaborator for major speeches and high-profile communications projects.



Dr Brian Murphy

Brian served as special advisor and speechwriter to two Irish Prime Ministers from 1999-2011. He lectures at the Dublin Institute of Technology. He holds a PhD in Modern Irish History from the School of History and Archives, University College Dublin. Brian’s monograph Forgotten Patriot: Douglas Hyde and the Foundation of the Irish Presidency was published in 2016 by the Collins Press. He previously co-edited Brian Lenihan: In Calm and Crisis, the bestselling book on the public career of the former Irish Minister for Finance.




Hélène Faure

After working in French politics for five years, including two years as a speechwriter for former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Hélène decided to become a screenwriter. She now works on Baron Noir, a French TV show on politics. She is also a freelance copywriter.




Patrick Stephenson

Patrick is Deputy Editor and Webmaster at Security Europe, a think-tank on European security issues based in Brussels. From 2011 to early 2015, he was a speechwriter for the NATO Secretary General. In total, he worked for NATO or NATO institutions for some ten years, including a stint as an editor for The NATO Review, NATO’s flagship publication on transatlantic security issues. Before joining Security Europe, he wrote freelance articles and blogs for Foreign Policy magazine, the US Atlantic Council, Europe’s World magazine, NATO Review magazine and the Huffington Post. He also teaches the occasional course in political science or economics at the University of Maryland in Europe.




Lech Mintowt-Czyz


Lech is senior speechwriter for Shell, writing for the CEO as well as other senior executives. He moved into speechwriting after more than 20 years as a news journalist for British newspapers – as a reporter for the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard, and then as a news editor for The Times.



Renée Broekmeulen

Renée will be hosting a breakout session. She has worked for 20 years as a speechwriter and teacher. First as a civil servant writing for the Dutch Ministry of Education, Science and Culture and the Ministry of Interior Affairs. Ten years ago she started her own business. She writes speeches for politicians, directors and managers about every possible subject and teaches starting and/or aspiring speechwriters in The Netherlands and in Belgium how to be a professional speechwriter.




Nathalie Milio

Nathalie is a Belgian speechwriter and works as a cabinet advisor to Governor Cathy Berx of the Province of Antwerp.

In 2015 she founded her own small speechwriter company Nathalie Milio – Teksten-Toespraken-Vertalingen for which she writes Dutch and French speeches on a regular basis. She is one of the driving forces behind and founder of the learning network Speech!- Belgian Speechwriter’s Network that aims to share and exchange expertise and knowledge on professional speechwriting in Belgium.




Thomas Hart

Thomas studied Classics at the University of Amsterdam, with a research master’s in rhetoric. During his degree, he started writing speeches for local politicians as a freelancer. After his degree, he wrote for the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science in The Hague. He then worked at a consultancy firm that specialises in reputation and communication management. Currently, he works as speechwriter for the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs.





Alexander Drechsel

Alexander is a staff interpreter at the European Commission, working from English, French and Romanian into his native German. He shares other people’s opinions in the interpreting booth, and his own opinions on languages and technology on his website or as @adrechsel on Twitter. Alexander will chair the conference.





Fergal Nolan

Like most speechwriters, Fergal began his career in a completely different field; fisheries, to be exact.

He joined the European Commission in 2000 and spent a number of years working on the Common Fisheries Policy and on European Industrial Policy until 2012, where in a twist of fate, he found himself writing speeches on enlargement and neighbourhood policy for then Commissioner Štefan Füle.

Fergal has continued in that role ever since, now working for the current Enlargement and Neighbourhood policy Commissioner, Johannes Hahn. He also leads the team responsible for briefings in the Directorate General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.


Guy Doza

Guy @guydoza has a degree from Royal Holloway’s Centre for Oratory and Rhetoric. His research is focused on the application of classical rhetoric in modern speechwriting. He runs training courses for political writers in parliament. He has worked with a number of ministerial offices and trained Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and SNP speechwriters.

As well as his political work he has also written for a range of private clients ranging from executives at BP to academics at leading universities.



Matthew Collins

After 25 years talking for a living – teaching prisoners, TV presenting, giving frequent after-dinner speeches – and bringing up two sons alone, Matthew Collins did an MA in Voice Studies at The Central School of Speech & Drama.

He continues to teach prisoners but now also teaches voice skills to business people, performers and children. He uses Shakespeare for work ranging from articulation practice to emotional exploration of a free voice.

Matthew began his career in television, first presenting on BBC2’s The Travel Show (which he did for eleven years), then on programmes such as Wogan and Richard & Judy. He’s performed one-man shows at the Edinburgh and Buxton Fringes, written four travel books and contributed to most British national newspapers.




More speakers to be announced in the coming days…while we do our best to make sure all speakers on the programme will appear on the day, we cannot be responsible for any unforeseen cancellations.



If you prefer for us to send you an invoice instead of paying through Eventbrite, please send an email and we will send you one.


Cancellation Policy

Bookings will not be accepted unless accompanied by payment and cancellations must be received no later than one month (28 days) before the conference if a full refund is to be given.

Cancellations received within 2 to 4 weeks of the first date of conference will be refunded 50%. If you can’t make it at the last minute, you can transfer your attendance to a future conference.


Get to Leuven

By Air

Land at Brussels Airport, which serves Europe, America, Africa and Asia. The airport is quite busy and also has a lot of low-cost carriers.

There is a train and bus station in the Airport itself. Suburban trains to Leuven (a ride of 13 minutes) run every half hour on weekdays and every hour at the weekend. Taxis wait at the arrivals area.

Travel time to Leuven is about 20min by car (with little traffic) and 13min by train.

More low-cost carriers arrive at Brussels South Charleroi Airport but travel time to Leuven is considerably longer (1.5h). You can purchase a special bus+train ticket for €14.40 that will enable you to take the bus from Charleroi airport to Charleroi railway station, and from there on to Leuven train station. There is no direct train link between Leuven and Charleroi; you have to change trains in Brussels.


The Leuven Institute has a number of bedrooms @ €110 including breakfast. This is the best place to stay as we all get to have breakfast together. Click here to download an application form. Please email the form to reception@leuveninstitute.eu You can also call the college on 00 32 16 31 04 30 to reserve your room.




There are a limited number of places available at a discount to people in full-time education who are considering a career in speechwriting. Details on application.


Join our Network

Membership of the UK Speechwriters’ Guild or European Speechwriter Network entitles you to a £50 + VAT discount on the conference fee.

You can follow the European Speechwriter Network on Twitter @EUSpeechwriters

You can apply to join our Linkedin group, European Speechwriter Network

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