Friday, January 16, 2009

What Exactly is it that You Do Here?

A former colleague is a speechwriter and a blogger. One of his blog entries takes you through exactly what being a speachwriter entails (I would link it if I could find it but unfortunately I can't at the moment). Anyway, that entry made me want to capture what exactly it is that I do.

It was a while ago and it had slipped from my mind until I came across this. This is a view of a Premiers' conference (well this one is of a First Ministers' Conference but it sounds about the same) from someone in the media. She captures well the sense of hurry up and wait that takes place at these conferences. It captures well what it feels like to be beyond the barricade (and closer to the magical door) because it's really not that different.

They wait for texts that the Premiers are coming out and ready to scrum. We wait for emails seeking information or briefing notes. We wait for emails that give some sense of what exactly is going on in that room so we can begin to write (or more accurately) edit the communiqué that intends to frame the outcomes for the media and public servants. For both of us comfortable shoes are important because along with the waiting there is a lot of running. For us it's running to bring notes and materials, and to make sure information makes it where it needs to be. For them, it's apparently because they may need to run across snowy areas to get a good quote/picture (the observations, however, seem to be about the same).

I'm sure it differs significantly in the preparation, though. For us, there are weeks or months (if we're lucky) examining the province's interests, building coalitions with other governments to advance or defend those interests, and working internally to get information from the technical experts so that we can boil it down into a note that someone who doesn't spend their days worrying entirely about highways or employment insurance or building codes can easily understand and articulate.

When the meetings are well-executed, we have many conference calls and documents shared among the jurisdictions and come to a common understanding of the issues (or at least one we can all agree to). We come up with agreed-to outcomes to put before the Premiers (we defend our jurisdiction's interests and try to negotiate common understandings). We wait while they meet and tell us what to change about the agreed-to outcomes (because they always change even if only a bit). Wait, wait, wait.

This year, we are hosting one of these meetings so my next few months will be consumed with supporting negotiations on the agenda, then it will be back to the outcomes and so on and so on. And then, when that's done, I'm going to take a nice long vacation.

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