Speaking Tip: When To Give A Long Speech

When To Make A Long Speech:  What Would Abraham Lincoln Do? by Gene Griessman, Ph.D.

The Gettysburg Address was just two minutes long. It it is recognized today as one of the finest speeches ever given in the English language.   Generally speaking, a short, crisp, to-the-point presentation such as the Gettysburg Address is moreeffective than a lengthy one.

But it is a mistake to think that you should never give a long presentation.  Abraham Lincoln could hold an audience for a very long time.  The Lincoln-Douglas debates lasted several hours.   At their debate in Freeport, Illinois, Douglas spoke first for one hour, Lincoln then spoke for an hour-and-a-half, and Douglas concluded the debate with a speech that lasted a half-hour.  Their debates were nothing like the made-for-TV presidential debates, with their  two-minute cut-offs.

Lincoln’s speech at New York’s  Cooper Union, which turned Lincoln into a national figure and paved the way for his presidential nomination, was a long speech.

And don’t think that that happened just because it was a long time ago, and people had lnothing to do besides listen to long speeches and sermons.   Ted Turner, who created CNN and the SuperStation is a powerful communicator and super salesman, but he has been known to make very long presentations.   (Truth in advertising: I was host of a TV show “Up Close” and moderated TV specials for TBS for over a decade.)

So, when should your presentation be brief, and when should it be long?  Here’s what whatyousay.com recommends.

One. Take into account the expectations of the audience.
In Lincoln’s  day,  people often traveled long distances to attend a debate or hear a speech or sermon, and would be upset if it was short.   Today that is still the case.  For example, if you paid serious money to attend a Broadway play, and it lasted just 15 or 20 minutes, you might be upset, and demand a refund.  In my case, if I do a “Lincoln Live” presentation as an after-dinner speech or as a keynote, the presentation will not exceed 30-50 minutes.  But if it’s for an event at a theater, it will be much longer, with an intermission.

Two. Think strategically.
A sustained presentation can wear down opposition to your idea.  Ted Turner once made a very long presentation to an important group of cable-system owners, attempting to convince them to carry all of his networks.  He was successful.  Sometimes face-to-face presentations will need to stretch out for hours or even days.  (This is  true of some negotiation and legislative battles, particularly filibusters.)

Three.  Study your audience.
Great speakers know how to read one.  Are they getting tired?  Are they reaching the point of overload?  In that case, bring the presentation to a close.  Lincoln gave  pithy advice on the subjectt: “If you have an auditor who has the time and is inclined to listen, lengthen it out slowly as if from a jug.  If you have a poor listener, hasten it, shorten it, and shoot it out of a pop gun.”

Four. Think about the main purpose of your presentation.
If it’s to inspire, a short, heartfelt presentation may be just the thing to do.  That approach certainly worked at Gettysburg.  It was designed to inspire the people of the North to keep fighting.  The goal–proving that democratic government was strong enough to last–was worth the sacrifice of treasure and blood.  Less may be more.

If your purpose is to provide in-depth information, you won’t be able to do that in two minutes– unless you’re as good as Lincoln, who was able to tell his listeners in two minutes everything they needed to know to make the right decision.  That’s genius.  And that’s the long and short of it.

“Coming Soon.  “Blockbuster new book by Gene Griessman, Ph.D!  Place your order now for an autographed copy.  List price  $24.95. Save $5.00.  Free shipping in the U.S.”

–Gene Griessman is an internationally known keynote speaker, actor, and consultant. His video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions all over the world. To learn more about his services, contact us at 404-256-5927 or abe@mindspring.com Learn more about Gene Griessman at www.presidentlincoln.com and at www.atlantaspeakersbureau.com

Don’t leave yet. Check out at least one other article. You’re already here. Why rush off? Whatyousay.com is full of good advice. We guarantee you’ll be a better communicator if you invest more time here.



“One of the very best videos/DVDs ever made. It’s a classic like ‘Gone With The Wind.’ I show it in many of my seminars. Everyone loves it.” –Brad McRae, “The Seven Strategies of Master Presenters”


Abraham Lincoln pic, effective communication, communication skills.This educational resource is ideal for the classroom—for students from middle school and high school to college, government, and business. It’s been acclaimed by communication experts and educators.

It’s perfect for self-study—for people who want to improve just like Lincoln did. The running time is 60 minutes,which makes it perfect for the classroom. It comes with a helpful teacher/trainer guide written by Dr. Griessman, which includes discussion points and much more


$120.00 (Many videos of this quality sell for as much as $1000.)


Bonus: Order from this site and receive celebrated audio books absolutely free: “Lincoln’s Wisdom” and “99 Ways to Get More Out of Every Day” ($64.95 value)


Free Shipping in the U.S. International shipping and handling, add $15.

Purchase with no risk. Lifetime, no-questions-asked return guarantee.



–Gene Griessman is an internationally known keynote speaker, actor, and communication strategist. His book “The Words Lincoln Lived By” is in its 25th printing and “Time Tactics of Very Successful People” is in its 43rd. His training video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, call 404-435-2225.

Get Free Email Updates!

Sign up now and receive an email once I publish new content.

I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

This entry was posted in Arguments/How To Argue, Lincoln Quotes/What would Lincoln say?, Negotiation/How To Negotiate, Public Speaking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *