By Betty Hintch
Famous orators of the past offer some excellent examples of the critical eye needed to revise and rewrite. Abraham Lincoln created five drafts of the Gettysburg Address before he settled on his legendary speech. According to a New Yorker article, Dwight Eisenhower wrote 29 revisions of his Farewell Speech before he gave his groundbreaking talk that predicted the technology age and an emphasis on military might.
Most of us won’t find one of our speeches in the history books, but there are a few things we can learn from these great orators:
- It takes a long time to write a strong speech. Eisenhower proposed the idea of his Farewell Speech in May of 1959. It was delivered in January 1961. It’s unlikely you’ll have the luxury of 18 months to craft your next presentation, but you can use whatever time you do have wisely.
- Public speakers must be tenacious and disciplined. Lincoln didn’t stop revising his speech until he was able to encompass the grief of a nation into a three-minute address.
- Advice from respected colleagues is invaluable. In addition to harnessing the expertise of speech writers and even drafting parts of his Farewell Address himself, Eisenhower called on his brother to overhaul the body of his speech.
So next time you sit down to write a speech, pretend you are Lincoln or Eisenhower, ruminating about the best way to address your audience. You may just make it into the history books!
What is the greatest number of drafts you’ve ever written for a presentation?