If you’ve never heard of Edward Everett, don’t worry you’re not alone. In November 1963, he was one of two speakers scheduled to dedicate a Civil War cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Everett spoke for over 2 hours, delivering more than 13,500 words. The second speaker was Abraham Lincoln, who spoke for only 2 minutes, delivering 272 words.*
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is now considered one of the greatest speeches in American History. And it only took 2 minutes! That is the essence of less is more. On November 20, Everett wrote to Lincoln: “Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the Cemetery. 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.”
Do you need 2 hours or 2 minutes to tell your story? Strive to be Lincoln, not Everett.
* Source: “Abracadabra Moments, the Opening Line you Should Never Use and 10 More Ways to Sell Ideas” Fast Company, May 20, 2010 by Sam Harrison