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b2ap3_thumbnail_malala.jpgProviding numbers and statistics are an important part of building a case for support but when it comes to making donations, people find it hard to give to a number. But let us see a viral video about a lonely kid building a cardboard arcade or a news story about a girl getting shot in the face for going to school and the money will flow.

Thomas Schelling* first introduced the concept of the Identifiable Victim in his 1968 paper The Life You Save May Be Your Own. “There is a distinction between an individual life and a statistical life," he wrote. "Let a six-year-old girl with brown hair need thousands of dollars for an operation that will prolong her life until Christmas, and the post office will be swamped with nickels and dimes to save her. But let it be reported that without a sales tax the hospital facilities of Massachusetts will deteriorate and cause a barely perceptible increase in preventable deaths—not many will drop a tear or reach for their checkbooks.”

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Edward Everett, American politician & orator, born April 11, 1794b2ap3_thumbnail_Edward_Everett.jpg

Two hundred and twenty years ago, the world received a child who would grow up to be the man who got upstaged by the Gettysburg Address. At least that's how he is remembered today by the few who remember him. The Hon. Edward Everett was The Featured Speaker, the headline act, you might say, for the consecration of the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

Everett's two-hour speech was delivered from memory and that alone is an admirable feat. His final "farewell to the dust of these martyr-heroes" was supposed to be the rousing ne plus ultra. But, no.

Abraham Lincoln comes in between a hymn and a dirge to deliver his two-minute bit that will go down in history as one of the finest examples of oration in the English language. His address is the one everyone remembers and I daresay that was as true five minutes after the end of the event as it is today.

Everett certainly got schooled about what makes a great communicator. You might expect him to be bitter but he wasn't. He wrote to Lincoln, "I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near the central idea of the occasion in two hours, as you did in two minutes."

Everett gave a beautiful speech that no one remembers. There is a lesson there for us, too, as we communicate with our audiences.

Less is more.

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I'll be co-presenting (along with Katy Malone, outreach and education manager, Zuckerman Museum of Art) the session:


Countdown to Ignition! Creative Visitor Engagement Strategies

Who hasn’t been to a “big” museum and experienced a little pang of envy over all the cool visitor engagement tools they had? But even within the realities of your limited resources you can still create a participatory experience for your visitors. This session will leverage the power of our collective brains to develop creative engagement techniques without busting your budget or burning out the staff.


If you're in the Southeast and you work at a museum, please do consider attending the SEMC meeting in October. They always have an excellent program and Knoxville is a fun place to visit.

Registration opens on May 1 >

@SEMC2 | #SEMC2014

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