Speech

This blog is the final entry in a three-part series on the development of presentations and presenting in the digital age. You can read the first two installments here and here.

Whether it is a conventional or digital presentation, knowing the audience and being on point are the most important factors, regardless of the medium used to transmit the words and ideas.

The most significant example of this was the Gettysburg Address delivered on November 19, 1863. Abraham Lincoln was invited as the second speaker at the dedication of the new national cemetery. Edward Everett, the TED Talker of the mid-19th century, was the featured attraction. Everett spoke for nearly two hours, beginning his presentation with ramblings about how dead soldiers were buried in ancient Greece. His speech was more than 13,600 words.[1] Lincoln’s speech was less than one-50th of that length and required just a couple of minutes to deliver.

Everett sent Lincoln a note remarking “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” Lincoln replied that he was happy to hear that the speech was not a total failure. [2]

But the Gettysburg address wasn’t intended for the attendees at the dedication. It was intended for the American people. That the entire address was painstakingly chiseled into a marble monument in Washington and cast on a bronze plaque at Gettysburg – both decades after it had been delivered — suggests it was on point.

There are also instances where cutting-edge technology can be used to deliver an on-point speech. Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight On The Beaches” speech of June 4, 1940 was delivered to Parliament but also broadcast to the British people on radio. [3] Churchill had been Prime Minister less than a month, and the potential debacle to British forces on the beaches of Dunkirk, France was just winding down. Churchill had to warn his people of a pending German invasion. Instead, he steeled them to survive the brutal battle for air supremacy over Britain that would begin the following month. Less than five months later, the Nazis gave up on their plans to invade the United Kingdom.

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[1]          “Edward Everett, Gettysburg Address.” Voices of Democracy. <http://voicesofdemocracy.umd.edu/everett-gettysburg-address-speech-text/> Accessed 27 August 2017.

[2]          “ Letter to Edward Everett.” Abraham Lincoln Online. <http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/everett.htm>. Accessed 27 August 2017.

[3]          “Fight on The Beaches.” The BBC. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/topics/fight_on_the_beaches>. Accessed 28 August 2017.