Thursday, February 12, 2009

Squeakin' Lincoln: Mastering the Art of Public Speaking

Check out these descriptions of Abraham Lincoln's speaking style, as quote in Abraham Lincoln Online (

Lincoln's voice was, when he first began speaking, shrill, squeaking, piping, unpleasant; his general look, his form, his pose, the color of his flesh, wrinkled and dry, his sensitiveness, and his momentary diffidence, everything seemed to be against him, but he soon recovered.
--William H. Herndon letter, July 19, 1887

Whenever he began to talk his eyes flashed and every facial movement helped express his idea and feeling. Then involuntarily vanished all thought or consciousness of his uncouth appearance, or awkward manner, or even his high keyed, unpleasant voice.
--Abram Bergen in Intimate Memories of Lincoln

Shrill. Squeaking. Unpleasant. Wrinkled and Dry Flesh.

Surely this is not the Lincoln whom Obama tries to emulate.

Or is it?

Baesd on the words of his audience, Lincoln's conviction and passion seemed to erase any physical distractions. How? Because he was able to synthesize body and language. "Every facial movement helped express his idea and feeling." The audience was able to forget his high-pitched voice because when he got into the speech - every part of him joined together to communicate a single idea.

By matching his externals and internals, this man had mastered the art of public speaking.

Clearly Obama lacks Lincoln's physical awkwardness. Yet even those of us like Obama, whose appearance is not "wrinkled and dry"and whose voice is not "shrill, shreaking, and piping," can be our own worst enemies when our words say one thing - while our body language says another.

The audience will pay attention, when what they hear is also what they see.

From the Green Room: Body language makes a greater impact that spoken language. Use it to communicate your message.

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