Brevity is not merely, as the saying goes, "the soul of wit." It's also a necessity in the over-inundated world of professional communication skills. In a recent article from Fast Company, the need for brevity in business is discussed in light of Joseph McCormack's book BRIEF: Making a Bigger Impact While Saying Less. Lisa Evans quotes this stunning bit of data from McCormack's research:
"His research found that average professional receives 304 emails per week, checks their smartphone 36 times an hour and gets interrupted every eight minutes (or 50 to 60 times per day), given that, it’s not hard to imagine why our attention spans are shrinking (from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight in 2012)."
How many times have you seen a speaker take the stage and say "I promise I'll keep it brief"- only to fail miserably at the endeavor? It is as if we have all somehow intuited the findings above (surely, we are well aware of the constant interruptions in our day), yet we can't seem to succeed when it comes to playing to those shrinking attention spans. We would desperately like to keep it short and sweet, but don't always do so.
The consequences of our unintentional long-windedness are far-reaching. Your listeners, whether one person or a large presentation audience, can only process so much information at once. Before you've had them, you've lost them.
A Process for Brevity
In order to embrace brevity, we need to build a bit of self-awareness about our professional communication skills. Take some time and do a bit of a self-assessment of how brief you are:
Do your presentations often run overtime?
Do you find yourself rushing through your final points in meetings? (A big sign you haven't thought about keeping it brief beforehand.)
How does your audience react to you? Do you see them fidgeting, reducing their eye contact, or occupying themselves with something other than you?
Do your colleagues often ask you to "keep it short" or "just get to the point"?
You may need to be more brief in your communication.
In the interest of keeping it short (see what we did there?) here are some things you can do to embrace brevity:
Your presentation should only take up 75% of your allotted presentation or meeting time. This will ensure you cover all of your information without rushing the end.
Beware of over-repetition. With any given point, think Introduce, Detail, Conclude.
Trust your audience. Give the information, and let it go. Trust they will ask for further explanation or clarity if they need it.
Leave your audience wanting more. If you find you're trying to outline every feature/benefit of your product, company, or service, you're saying too much.
Ask more. Look for input from others rather than simply speaking at them. Not only will it help you discover what they need, it will keep you from over-speaking.