We’re very proud, in this day and age, of our capacity for consuming information. We often brag (or lament) about the speed of the world and the acceleration of change. Surely our TED talks, lightning talks, and 99 second presentations must be recent inventions, right? I wrote for Forbes about this fascinating trend in public speaking. But it turns out, as is often the case, the roots of change go back further than we think. In this case, all the way back to 1917.
Enter the Four Minute Men. A group that worked for the U.S. government in 1917 to convey important information to the masses quickly and eloquently.
Many of the techniques and ethos are echoed by the speaking advice experts give today:
You aren’t there to give them an ear full but a mind full.
Talk to the back row of your audience; you’ll hit everything closer in.
Be natural and direct. Sincerity wears no frills.
Don’t fear to be colloquial. Slang that your hearers understand is better than Latin that they don’t.
Don’t figure the importance of your job on a time basis. Four hours of thinking may go into four minutes of speaking.