A big secret to being a successful communicator is learning the art of keeping it brief. In a digital world, we’re being bombarded with messages. The average employee today gets more than 200 emails a day, and spends 40% of his or her day dealing with email. TV, radio, social media, and advertising of all kinds are blasting away as well. This means that most people won’t give you much attention for your email, your talk, or your presentation. In an easily distracted world, if you want to be a successful communicator, learn to do it in short, easy to understand messages.
Over coffee with your BFF you can ramble all you want to, but when it comes to business or public communication, keep it short. Perhaps you’re introducing yourself to a group, making a point in a business meeting, or presenting a new idea in a creative session. Chances are, you could cut it in half and get the point across far more effectively.
But you have to be intentional, and practice. Here’s a few tips:
1. Don’t repeat yourself. This is a huge offender. A bit tip-off is how often you say “again” in a conversation or speech. We got it the first time – you don’t need to keep going back to your original point.
2. Drop the “uh’s,” “aah’s,” “umm’s,” “likes,” and “you know’s.” Not only does it drive people nuts, but it doubles the length of your message. This is important people. Filler words make you look far more ignorant than you think, and believe me, it’s not worth it.
3. Think about it beforehand. Don’t depend on your “off the cuff” brilliance. If I’m in a business meeting and the leader asks us to go around the room and introduce ourselves and say a few words about what we do, I don’t leave it up to spontaneity. As the others are introducing themselves, I’m making a few quick notes on the napkin, so I can get across the important information in just a few sentences.
Being able to communicate, speak, lecture, or present in a short time is very hard. Mark Twain was once asked to speak to a group and he asked the host how long he could speak. The host wondered why it mattered, and Twain responded that if he had an hour, that would be easy. But if he only had 5 minutes, it would take a lot of preparation.
Keep it short and powerful, and your listeners will be far more impressed – and I might add – grateful.