This is the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, arguably the most important speech in American history. It is rightly eulogised and numerous writers have examined and extolled its many virtues. One of these is Sam Leith in his entertaining book on rhetoric, “YOU TALKIN’ TO ME?”
The first is to keep it short.
Lincoln spoke for a little over two minutes, his speech 272 words.
In 1863 people expected lengthy speeches. The speaker, Edward Everett, who preceded him spoke for over two hours .Lincoln defied the protocol of the day, he wanted to make an impact and his words to be listened to. Being brief was a strategy.
Most business pitches if the prospect has allocated, say, 40 minutes take 40 (or probably over-run) minutes, cramming in as much content as they can. Few take a strategic decision to pitch in half the time, to be more explosive, more surprising and more rewarding for the audience.
Few heed Shakespeare: “Where words are scarce, they are seldom in vain.” (Richard II )
“The care with which he was thinking in advance is evidenced by the fact that a few days before, he asked the man who landscaped the cemetery to bring him the plans, so he could familiarise himself with the layout of where he’d be speaking.” (Sam Leith)