The Gettysburg Address was delivered by Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863, to dedicate the battlefield cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Lincoln's powerful words inspired his audience. We remember his speech this many years later, and as speakers we can learn a lot from it.
Consider these three lessons from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:
1. You can make an impact even if you aren't the keynote speaker.
Believe it or not, Abe Lincoln wasn't the keynote speaker that day. Edward Everett was. Everett was a popular orator of the day and was called upon to deliver the main speech at the dedication ceremony. Lincoln was simply asked to deliver a "few appropriate remarks" after Everett. But which speech have you heard of? Which speech do we still talk about to this day? Exactly. It's not necessary to be the keynote speaker to inspire an audience.
2. A speech doesn't have to be long to be powerful.
Edward Everett's keynote that day was two hours long. Seriously. Abraham Lincoln's entire Gettysburg Address was under three minutes and influenced the course of history. Everett himself said, "I wish that I could flatter myself that I had come as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes." Enough said.
3. Slides aren't necessary.
Abraham Lincoln didn't use slides while presenting the Gettysburg Address. Not only had slides not been invented yet, but they weren't necessary. The focus was on Lincoln's message. Lincoln prepared a powerful talk and delivered it without distractions like slides. They simply weren't needed. I'd also point out that most, if not all, famous speeches have been presented without the use of slides to distract from them. If you'll recall, "I Have a Dream" involved zero slides as well.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Those words still make an impact long after the speech was delivered. Will yours?
Click here to read the full text of the Gettysburg Address.