November 19, 1863 – 145 years ago today – the Gettysburg Address was delivered by President Abraham Lincoln. Several years ago I wrote this:
November 19, 1863 found two speakers on the program in Gettysburg Pennsylvania. The main speaker was a former Massachusetts senator and current President of Harvard, Edward Everett. Everett, considered the finest orator of his time, gave a two hour speech. After his was finished, another speaker, invited perhaps only because of his position, spoke 235 words in two minutes.
While I am not a historian, I doubt you can find much about Everett’s speech. But a Google search on The Gettysburg Address yields 334,000 results that will tell you much about President Abraham Lincoln’s talk that day.
235 powerful words. 2 minutes.
Think about this the next time you are preparing a speech. Prepare longer and speak shorter. This is the formula for distilling a message that has a chance to influence, move, and inspire people.
(If it has been a long time since you have read these words, you can read them again here.)
These words beg a question for us – how can you distill your message to its core?
This lesson in brevity is certainly an important one for us as leaders from a communication and leadership influence perspective, but the lessons run deeper than this.
The Gettysburg Address also is a leadership lesson for us in:
– Passion. President Lincoln was clearly passionate about dedicating the site as the National Cemetery (the purpose of the gathering and the speech). How much passion do you allow to come through in your words?
– Purpose. While his number of words were few, his purpose was clear – and moved beyond the perfunctory purpose of the dedication. How can you make sure your messages not only meet the need of the current moment but continue to champion your cause, change or the vision you see?
These lessons don’t just apply to a President – they apply to you in corporate leadership, team leadership or supervisory leadership. And they don’t just apply to a one-time presentation or important meeting.
You can ask yourself these questions everyday and apply your answers to the normal everyday conversations, conversations that may not long be remembered, but may have a significant impact on your success as a leader.