A few weeks ago, I browsed the local library waiting to see what non-fiction book would pique my interest. I typically fluctuate between having a stack of books in my "to read" pile to occasionally experiencing a lull in which I want something new and different. As I went down the aisle scanning the shelves in the business area, I literally laughed out loud when I saw on the spine of a book, Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less. Yep, that one was written for me!
In the book, Joseph McCormack practices what he preaches with one sentence summaries for each chapter. He outlines why we need brevity and strategies for achieving it. I won't go into detail here, but will share what it stirred up and new strategies that I'm practicing.
Start with headline: In the first five minutes of a meeting, start with the main idea of the conversation then get into the details or engage in a conversation about it with the rest of your time. Communicate the why. Shortly after reading this, I tried it out in a meeting with Paul and it worked! I often like to give the origin story of an idea and build up to a big, brilliant reveal. Totally unnecessary and I usually lose his interest along the way. This method led to a more productive meeting so I plan to try it out in other situations.
Story, story, story: The day I read his chapter on narrative, Paul happened to be working on a voiceover script for a promotional video. He read it aloud and then gave me a copy to proof. The script had a ton of buzzwords, but said nothing. We've all done it when writing promo, website text, or product pitches because we think it's what the person wants to hear. But will it be remembered? We worked on another version trying to tell a story and will continue to work on that skill as we develop new marketing materials.
Be confident: McCormack states, "You hide behind meaningless words and don't have the guts to take a stand." This packed a punch for me. When I taught high school, if the lesson contained an overhead prepared with lots of notes, it meant I knew little about the topic and clung to that overhead like a security blanket. Needless to say, those were probably the most painful classes for both me and my students.
This reminder led me to spend time honing in on who we are, what we do, and our ideal audience. Having a clear sense of this means needing less words to convey it. A work in progress, but getting shorter and shorter every day!
Is brevity a skill you work on? What tips or strategies have you found effective?