[On] Point to Ponder: The Mastery of The Gettysburg Address

I am lucky to have extended family in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. That means that during our visits, we don’t have to explore the jewels of this Civil War town in one fell swoop. We get to discover it piece by piece, one visit at a time. Each year, the week before we travel, I watch Martin Sheen and Jeff Daniels in the film Gettysburg, to refresh my memory about the pivotal events that took place here more than 150 years ago. It makes my visit mean more.

There is absolutely a sacred and hallowed ground here in Gettysburg. As you know, it was by far the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Looking across the landscape is like being in a time machine of sorts. As your eyes scan across the fields, you can almost see and hear the tens of thousands of soldiers who marched to their deaths on Day 3 of the battle, known as Pickett’s Charge. Almost. Because the truth is, I cannot even begin to imagine the sights and sounds.

With over 51,000 dead or wounded, more men fought and died on these fields than an in any other place in United States before or since. It served as the turning point of the Civil War, and ironically took place on July 1, 2 and 3 of 1863.

Soldiers retreated on the 4th of July.

Gettysburg is also the location where one of the most famous speeches in United States history was delivered; they were just “a few short remarks” that followed the keynote speaker (who spoke at great length). Indeed, when Abraham Lincoln arrived by train and delivered his short speech at the cemetery dedication on November 19 of that year, he could never know the impact of the 272 words he would speak that day.

Many mistakenly believe that Lincoln hurriedly scratched these words on a napkin in a hotel room just hours before delivering them at Cemetery Hill. This could not be further from the truth. Rather, Lincoln had been deep in thought about the impact of the war for months on end. Long before this address, he had tirelessly searched for the right words to convey his thoughts and provide help for a deeply divided, hurting nation.

The Gettysburg Address is one of the hallmarks of presidential rhetoric. We all know this to be true, but what makes it so? It is because Lincoln combined – in a truly masterful way – the four components of the rhetorical situation – speaker, audience, message, and occasion.

To craft a memorable, effective message requires more than time to scratch ideas onto a napkin or a post-it note. We may be tempted to think that in these days of lightning speed technology and short attention spans that high quality messaging is a thing of the past. We may think people won’t notice our hard work…our exceptional story, speech, or keynote.

This simply isn’t true. In the same way that Lincoln had been drafting The Gettysburg address for months, great speakers mull over their words, phrases, ideas and stories for a long time before perfecting its shape and style.

 

The same is true for us today; masterful investor pitches, keynotes, and TED talks require more advanced thinking. Such speaking events cannot be thrown together the way you can throw together a quick tossed salad. The “recipe for success” when it comes to truly great oratory is more like my grandmother’s Polish nut roll recipe; it takes planning, shopping (for words and ideas), the dough (rough draft) has to “sit” for part of the time and “rise” (editing, rehearsing), and only after careful preparation and watchfulness can it be enjoyed by the crowd.

Today let us pause to remember Lincoln’s powerful words, but let us remember even more the reason he spoke them. May God bless all who serve this great country.

Cindy Skalicky is an expert public speaking coach, brand consultant and the owner of On Point Communications, LLC. She coaches speakers on storytelling techniques, speech writing, delivery, and overall content development. Master the Message. Learn more at www.onpoint-communications.com or contact Cindy at: info@onpoint-communications.com


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“As a professional speaker, I know the value of getting feedback before giving an important speech. As I prepared my TEDx talk, Cindy was the perfect person to give me outside perspective. She did a beautiful job taking the many ideas I had floating around in my head and helping me select what to use, how to organize them, and how to tie it all together.

I love the way she coached, not trying to make her words my own, but instead, considering what I was trying to achieve and helping me stay true to my voice. If you have to stand and deliver a great talk, working with Cindy can help you ensure you’re at your best!”

Tanis Roeder, Elevate Your Communication

Cindy was selected to present at the Career Thought Leader Conference in Denver. I attended her session and was impressed with her presentation and content marketing expertise. I have been a trainer for over 20 years and her presentation added specific impactful strategies that I will include in my next training. Cindy has a natural engaging style that is persuasive and professional. I would highly recommend working with her if you are looking to increase your business presentations.

Beth Kennedy, Executive Coach

“Cindy was truly instrumental in getting a compelling, professional pitch deck put together. Without her structure and guidance on how to tell a compelling story, I know we wouldn’t have had nearly the success and traction that we have. I look forward to continuing to work with Cindy and making our pitch evolve alongside our business.”

Jennifer Henderson| CEO at Career Allies

When you meet Cindy, you can’t help but feel engaged and pay attention. She clearly is an outstanding communications professional. The way she took the stage, conveyed her message and shared her approach to storytelling at the recent conference was mesmerizing.

Cindy made me rethink my approach to storytelling that I had used in my client work for many years. Cindy’s workshop alone made my trip to Denver worthwhile.

Ruth Winden, Executive Coach (UK)

“Last year, I reached out to Cindy to help me with a sales deck I use frequently. I learned how to personalize my presentation in an authentic and informative way, making it more interesting to deliver and for my audience to observe!  Cindy was professional, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable and her suggestions were spot on.  If you want to enhance your communication skills, gain confidence in speaking, and improve overall delivery, I definitely recommend working with On Point!”

Nicole Steed, Global Account Manager | Helms Briscoe