The President of Fox News, Roger Ailes, calls today’s culture a “headline society.” We now live on short, direct, and to the point soundbites. Certainly it’s not the way we’d like it to be, but the truth is, if you’re a professional communicator, giving a presentation, making a speech, or writing copy for advertising, websites, or other media, you need to think “short.”
I read a study recently that when meeting new people, they decide their opinion of you within 5-7 seconds. I’ve noticed that in today’s nearly unlimited cable TV world, it only takes 2-3 seconds to decide to change a channel.
To survive in today’s distracted, disrupted culture you have to capture people’s attention, and do it quickly.
Communicating in “word pictures” is a helpful key to capturing people’s attention. In Ailes’ book “You Are The Message” he gives the example of a presenter droning on and on about how much oil is imported into a country within a year. But a better way would be to say, “That’s enough to fill every football stadium in this country ten times over.”
Think about it. Do you have difficulty condensing your comments? Do you take forever to explain a subject? Do you feel nervous at the challenge of doing a 5-10 minute presentation? A good way to start is to read “How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times” by Roy Peter Clark. It’s a good read in how to make your writing (and presenting) crisp, clear, and above all short.
We live in a headline world. It’s time to start communicating in a language the people of that world understand.