22 Signs of a Great Speech That Sadly Changes No One’s Life

22 Signs of a Great Speech That Sadly Changes No One's Life

A reporter once said of Abraham Lincoln prior to his presidency, “His speaking went to the heart because it came from the heart. I have heard celebrated orators who could start thunders of applause without changing any man’s opinion. Mr. Lincoln’s eloquence was of the higher type, which produced conviction in others because of the conviction of the speaker himself.”

These words are from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new book, Leadership in Turbulent Times, which I am currently reading. If the remaining two-thirds of this book are as good as the first-third, this will go down as one of the best leadership books I will have ever read. It should be in the library of every leader. It is that good.

One of the leaders she profiles is the legendary United States president Abraham Lincoln. After a failed initial stint in Congress, a 32-year-old Abraham Lincoln entered into a deep depression. No longer in politics, he re-entered the legal profession. After a period of waiting, Lincoln returned to politics by making arguments in the House and assisting in congressional and presidential elections.

This interim period was not downtime. It was in intense time of personal reflection, evaluation and growth. Lincoln’s time arguing cases was a time for discipline to confront weaknesses and practices which kept him from achieving his goals and dreams. It was also a time to work on his craft as a communicator.

Lincoln became such a success in defending clients and making arguments before juries that his practice became the largest in central Illinois. By time he re-entered politics, Lincoln had become the country’s greatest communicator because of relentless self-evaluation and constant reps. He would become one of our America’s best communicators ever.

As mentioned in the opening quote, there is a difference between a great speech and a transformative message that changes someone’s life. Lincoln learned the difference. You can as well.

The following are 22 Signs of a Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life we learn from Abraham Lincoln:

  1. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Is Often Delivered by an Immature Voice – Even for speakers, struggle is necessary for strength. It takes time to find your voice, audience and message. This is bore out of pain, struggle and adversity.
  2. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Starts Poorly – Lincoln began each speech by telling everyone what situation had brought them together.
  3. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Divides People Rather Than Unites Them – Lincoln then took all listeners back to their common beginnings.
  4. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Is Not Rooted in the People – You are answering questions no one is asking.
  5. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Does Not Flow From Your Own Experience – There is a difference between exposure and experience.
  6. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Lacks Humor – Humor disarms people. The 1848 Presidential race gave him a chance to display his maturing talents. His good-natured style was so unique it kept the House “in a constant state of merriment.”
  7. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Lacks Expertise of the Subject Matter – You do not fully know what you are talking about.
  8. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Lacks a Narrative – One colleague said, “Abe Lincoln, the best story teller in the House.”
  9. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Is Too Complicated – Lincoln broke down complex issues into their simplest elements.
  10. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Is One-Sided – As a lawyer, Lincoln conversed with jurors as if they were friends.
  11. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Is Confusing – Lincoln’s arguments were logical and profound. His arguments were easy to follow.
  12. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Is Poorly Prepared – As a speaker, you did not put in the hard work of preparation. This is what Lincoln referred to as “the drudgery of the law.” He added his success was due to “work, work, work.”
  13. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Makes the Speaker Seem Like the Smartest Person in the Room – Conversely, a great speech that changes a person’s life makes the audience seem like the smartest person(s) in the room. It was said of Lincoln, “He had the happy and unusual faculty of making the jury believe they—and not he—were trying the case.”
  14. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Lacks Facts – Great speakers connect their oratory skills with facts.
  15. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Is Not Well-Researched or Well-Rehearsed – Lincoln said, “The leading role for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence.”
  16. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Is Argumentative – Lincoln sought common ground and never considered members of the opposition as enemies.
  17. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Is Insincere – Lincoln changed minds because of his sincerity.
  18. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Lacks Clarity – Lincoln changed minds because of his clarity.
  19. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Lacks Conviction – Lincoln changed minds because of his conviction.
  20. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Lacks Passion – Lincoln changed minds because of his passion.
  21. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Lacks Hope – Lincoln always pointed to a brighter tomorrow.
  22. A Great Speech That Changes No One’s Life Is Too Long – Lincoln’s words were pared down and lean.

What is one thing from this list you need to work on as a communicator?

This article originally appeared here.

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