Move from Information to Inspiration

“Keep your fears to yourself, but share your inspiration with others.”

~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Move from Information to Inspiration

By Judith Humphrey

Why do some people bore their audiences, while others turn their listeners into believers? One key difference is that poor speakers are stuck in an informational mode, while more compelling speakers command an inspirational style. The informational mode emphasizes content, while the inspirational mode reflects a commitment to an idea or vision.

In his book Lincoln at Gettysburg, Garry Wills discusses these two modes of speakers. Wills contrasts the remarks of Edward Everett, a long-winded politician, with those of Abraham Lincoln. Everett was the first to speak at the dedication ceremony of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, and gave an informational address. His talk lasted three hours and covered in painstaking detail the entire three-day battle. In contrast, Lincoln followed with his brief “Gettysburg Address,” now recognized as one of the finest speeches in the English language. This talk lasted less than three minutes, and unlike Everett’s remarks, it offered few details. As Wills puts it, Lincoln’s “speech hovers far above the carnage…The discussion is driven back and back, beyond the historical particulars to great ideals that are made to grapple naked in an airy battle of the mind.”

While neither pure information nor pure inspiration is ideal, most speakers err on the side of presenting too many facts, as Everett did. If you want to be a leader, you should, like Lincoln, have a message or vision that drives your talk. You should move from information to inspiration.

From: Humphrey, J. (2012). Speaking as a leader: how to lead every time you speak: from boardrooms to meeting rooms, from town halls to phone calls. Ontario, CA: John Wiley and Sons.

Reprinted with permission from the OSU Leadership Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, (614) 292-3114,

Coaching Call To Action

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