We recently marked the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s famed Gettysburg Address. Mentions of it were all over the news, with many articles taking the time to reprint or go over the speech itself, the impact of it on our nation’s history, and the circumstances surrounding his presentation.
Many of the articles also used the tag line, “150 years ago, a 2-minute speech shaped a nation.” A brilliant tag line, don’t you think? Accurate, powerful, concise, and attention-grabbing.
I have to say that in all honesty, until I read that line I didn’t remember that the speech (which of course I had to memorize back in junior high) was only two minutes long. Back then, it felt like it went on for ages.
It made me think about the impact of public speaking, and how strong one’s words would have to be to create the kind of indelible impression the Gettysburg Address had in shaping our young nation … in only two short minutes.
Are you a good enough, powerful enough, thoughtful enough, heartfelt enough, persuasive enough, articulate enough, concise enough, or clear enough speaker to rise to a two-minute occasion in the way that Abraham Lincoln did?
Although two minutes is fairly short for a conventional, prepared-type of speech, there are many occasions when you might need to speak for two minutes.
• “Elevator” pitches (not just introducing yourself, but pitching your business or product idea at a convention or networking event)
• Giving introductions for other speakers
• Impromptu speeches
• Sharing your feedback at a meeting, presentation, conference, etc.
• Answering questions posed by superiors
• Answering questions during a presentation
I noticed in the articles about Lincoln’s address that people referred to his speech as “carefully crafted.” That can give you a tip as to how to go about your elevator speech or introduction for another speaker: Prepare it ahead of time, tweak it, test it out on others, and practice it till it falls off your tongue like liquid silver.
But, what about the other occasions to speak? They are all fairly impromptu, aren’t they? There’s no way you could possibly prepare for those situations, right?
Well, for meetings, conferences, and other presentations, you can sit down ahead of time and consider what questions you might be asked.
Consider the subject matter, your relationship to it (i.e. your experience or job duties), and what your opinions and beliefs are. With that in place, think through your answers to the questions you might be asked.
Remember the “why” as part of your answer to any ideas or beliefs or opinions you share … Why do you think that? Why do you believe that? Why should we do that? Why would that work? Etc.
Have your answers to these why-type questions thought out and practiced. You’ll find your confidence and ability to clearly articulate your answers will rise with the amount of preparation you put in. At some point, impromptu speeches might just become second nature for you!
Many of our clients turn to us for help with all kinds of public speaking. We offer our Presentation Skills training programs to company leaders, managers, or individual contributors. We also offer individual presentation skills coaching. Contact us today for more information on a solution that’s right for you or your team.