Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Your story in ten sentences

Time to read this post: 1 minute

One Thursday afternoon in November, the former president of Harvard University and noted orator Edward Everett spoke to a large crowd. Critics thought his speech was "erudite, moving, and well-delivered". Given his speech was over 13,000 words, he clearly had a lot to say.

As a former professor in Greek literature, Everett was masterful in his language. After more than two hours at the podium he wrapped up, "But they, I am sure, will join us in saying, as we bid farewell to the dust of these martyr-heroes, that wheresoever throughout the civilized world the accounts of this great warfare are read, and down to the latest period of recorded time, in the glorious annals of our common country, there will be no brighter page than that which relates the Battles of Gettysburg". The year was 1863.

I had never heard of Edward Everett. But I do know Abraham Lincoln, the man who followed him.

In just over two minutes Lincoln delivered what is regarded as one of the finest speeches of all time. It is only 242 words - ten sentences in length. It reminded me of the power of an effective narrative. Fortunately, we don't have to deliver stirring speeches on battlefields at the end of civil wars. But we do need to be heard.

Tough questions

  • What is the next conversation, speech or meeting where you would like to be heard? Specifically when is it? Who do you want to be heard by?
  • What is it that you want the other person(s) to remember ? What is the one sentence that summarizes it?
  • How can you hit that objective by telling a story? Telling an anecdote? Using two minutes rather than two hours to be heard?

Write down your ten sentence narrative. Now.

The Gettysburg address

"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.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate...we can not consecrate...we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

No comments: