Heard an interesting communications story in Toastmasters today. It is captured pretty effectively on wikipedia, but the gist is that when Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg address, there are conflicting reports as to the audience response, and we don’t happen to have the video archived to the web anywhere that I was able to find. The New York Times reported that the speech ended with “loud, continuous applause”, while the Chicago Times dismissed the speech and the speaker as being “silly”. Later recountings of the effect of the speech vary. I think it’s safe to say that the speech hit a politically charged audience, and the various responses reflected the divided nation and ideas that were listening. One hundred and forty years later, people only remember it as good.Which is no different from the people listening to you. They listen with filters and ideals and preconceived notions. The words that may inspire one person will offend the soul sitting next to them. But give them a week, and they likely won’t remember all that, which puts all the more burden on you, the speaker/presenter, to provide a memorable message. I doubt 1 in 100 Americans can tell you the political climate and circumstances surrounding Lincoln’s address, but probably half can quote the opening line, and most would identify it as one of the better-known speeches in American history, though they may not know why. Lincoln spoke less than three hundred words in less than three minutes, but he left an indelible mark on American history with those few words, despite many who dismissed his words at the time.Speaking longer is not the solution. Making a few words have maximum impact and memorability (and create a few words along the way) is more effective.

Aim to be remembered. Preferably for good.

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