Have a higher type of conviction inspired by A Lincoln

 In Mindset

“He appeared ‘awkward’ at first, in his shirtsleeves with no collar. “He began in a slow and hesitating manner,” the reporter Horace White noted. Yet, minutes into his speech, “it was evident that he had mastered his subject, that he knew what he was going to say, and that he knew he was right”. AdobeStock_5851900_WM (WinCE)

White was only twenty at the time but was aware even then, he said, that he was hearing “one of the world’s masterpieces of argumentative power and moral grandeur.Sixty years later, that conviction remained. The initial impression was “overwhelming” White told an audience in 1914, “and it has lost nothing by the lapse of time.”

Although Lincoln’s voice was “thin, high-pitched,” White observed, it has “much carrying power” and “could be heard a long distance in spite of the bustle and tumult of the crowd.” As Lincoln hit his stride, “his words began to come faster”.

Gesturing with his “body and head rather than with his arms,” he grew “very impassioned” and  “seemed transfigured” by the strength of his words. “Then the inspiration that possessed him took possession of his hearers also. 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.” 

(This quote, about the Gettysburg Address, is from Team of rivals. The political genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Godwin

While most of you have heard of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the above description of it by Horace White, highlights questions that I believe all executives should be asking themselves about the planning and delivering of important, spoken messages/presentations.

Namely, for important messages/presentations, I suggest that you ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does  my voice have carrying power?
  • Does my body convey enthusiasm?
  • Minutes into my presentation, will it be evident that I have mastered my subject?
  • Have I done the ‘first job’ and sold myself on the message and its importance?
  • How deep is my conviction about the message?

David Peoples said, “People will be persuaded by the depth of your conviction more than by the height of your logic. More by your enthusiasm than by any proof you can offer.” While for some messages proof may be as/more important than enthusiasm, adding enthusiasm will improve any message.

Your CALL to action/HOW to apply for this post:

1. Re-read White’s description of Lincoln. Ask yourself the five questions before delivering any important message or presentation.

2. Ask a trusted person to sit in the audience.

Tell them to observe: Whether your voice had carrying power, Whether your body conveyed enthusiasm, Whether there was quick evidence that you had mastered your subject, Whether they sensed that you were sold on, and had deep conviction in what you were saying?

Have the person give you private feedback afterward.

p.s. This quote made me laugh. It was shared in a post by Alan Weiss of Summit Consulting.

‘Claims made by scientists, in contrast to claims made by movie critics or theologians, can be separated from the scientists who make them. It isn’t important to know who Isaac Newton was. He discovered that force is equal to mass times acceleration. He was an antisocial, crazy bastard who wanted to burn down his parents’ house. But force is still equal to mass times acceleration.’ — Dr. Kary Mullis, winner of the Nobel Prize for chemistry

Check out this post on the book, Willpower. Rediscovering our greatest strength.


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