In Praise of Brevity in Communication — in a world where everyone’s seemingly suffering from ADD
Have you noticed lately how people’s attention spans have shrunk as fast as 401k retirement accounts? Folks just don’t have the time nor the patience for the whole story. They want the Cliff Notes version, the executive briefing, the synopsis or capsule summary. And if we don’t provide it they simply tune out, if not check out.
Do your clients, customers and co-workers a favor: be respectful of their time. Make your communication concise, and focus on the important aspects of your message. Everyone will benefit.
Your Communication Palette
Savvy communicators choose their mode of communication based on key constraints, including the needs of their readers, listeners and audiences. You too should know your audience!
There are 540,000 words in the US dictionary but no requirement to use them all, or the most obscure words. Choose your words accordingly.
And choose your mode of communication appropriately. Never before have we had more options for communication: e-mail, blogs, listservs, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and other communities. And a responsibility accompanies this freedom to choose. Just as you wouldn’t use a public address system to announce the termination of an employee (tempting as this might be), you likely wouldn’t inform use a listserv to share the results of your latest medical tests with colleagues.
- TWITTERS and TWEETS
140 characters max! It’s not War&Peace. Key points. Vitals only. #Headlines but no fine print, Tip: spaces count too. Use tiny URLs! ((-;Users of Twitter compact their communication to 140 characters or less per tweet (transmission). Learn to distill your ideas and accomplishments into this short form of information. It focuses you on what’s key and vital, and no more.
- THE PHONE MESSAGE
Messages you leave on others’ voice mail should be clear, concise and confident in nature. Identify yourself and your contact number, enunciating well. State the purpose of your call at the outset, to orient your listener. Don’t gab on incessantly. Tip: repeat your phone number a second time for added intelligibility. Pause between bursts of numbers (area code, pause, three numbers, pause, four numbers).Have you noticed how some callers treat a recording device like a license to engage in a stream of consciousness exercise. THINK FIRST, before you call. E-mail me for a phone message template to help you organize and focus your thoughts into a concise and cogent message.
- THE MEMO: Confine yours to one page. You want it read, not ignored. The more focused your writing is the quicker others can grok it.
- CV: One page, double sided at most! Keep your résumé streamlined for ease in reading. Leave readers with an overall impression of competency, intelligence, creativity or other key attributes.
- POWERPOINT: Engage in Pecha Kucha (“Chatter” in Japanese). Here’s the concept: 20 slides. 20 seconds each. No more. No Less. No more “death by PowerPoint!” If you can’t communicate it in 640 seconds…you lose!
Need inspiration? Consider these forms of short communication:
17 syllables. Three lines. No more; No less. Bonus points for its relationship to the environment.
- EPITAPHS: With space at a premium each word counts. How can you sum up a life on a slab of granite, elegantly and poignantly?
- GREETING CARDS
A sentence. A phrase. A word. Or just an image. Power and poignancy in its brevity!
Why make users type a long web address such as the 57 character URL: http://www.ExpressionsOfExcellence.com/longwindedURL.htmlwhen instead you can use TinyURL and instead type:
http://tinyurl.com/ca7zb4 (25 chars) or one with a preview:
http://preview.tinyurl.com/ca7zb4 (with a preview).
- TRAFFIC SIGNAGE
All done with an image! Or at most, three words.
- THE WORLD’S SHORTEST SPEECH
Salvador Dali, famously delivered the world’s shortest speech, just four seconds long. He announced at the podium: “I will be so brief I have already finished,” and then sat down.
Short and sweet seals the deal!
“A speaker should cultivate brevity
With a suitable leaven of levity
In short, be terse
For nothing is worse
Than intermitable verbal longevity”
So choose your words carefully. Bravo for brevity. Say it succinctly!