4 Ways to Say Less
"Please be good enough to put your conclusions and recommendations on one sheet of paper in the very beginning of your report, so I can even consider reading it." - Winston Churchill
I LOVE Winston Churchill's directness.
Remember, Churchill was considered one of the greatest leaders of the last century, and he told his staff that he wasn't going to waste his time reading everything they wrote. He made them WORK for his attention. He warned others that unless they said something compelling, he was likely going to ignore their efforts.
The statement seems harsh, but it's likely we all behave like Churchill - we just don't admit it! If you don't catch us with the "hello," we move on. The speed of life make us pay attention to what's compelling, engaging, and easily digestible.
Banish the dull, the banal, and the long-winded communication. We've got more interesting things to do!
The challenge isn't to change our Churchill-esque approach (too late!), but to deal with this common impatience productively. Nowhere is this more critical than in our work environment. (I'm hopeful that we show friends more forbearance!)
We all give information during our job, but is our content impossible to ignore? How do you know if people are really engaged? Here are a few clues:
- Are you telling a story with your facts? Stories create an emotional connection. If you don't have a story, no one will care about your topic.
- Are you speaking from a teleprompter or otherwise reading a script?If so, the audience doubts your sincerity and discounts your message.
- Are you using a presentation deck which has any slide with more than 10 words? If so, people are tuning out and practicing for their next vision test.
- Do you have a memorable bottom line?If not, then you've said too much, and the audience will miss the main point.
Every conversation you have, every meeting you manage, every pitch you give should convey one message. In Made to Stick, Chip & Dan Heath make the case that if you say three things, you've said nothing.
So if you want your words to land effectively, practice saying less. The process is simple, but not easy!
- Tell a story - so your information is repeatable.
- Ditch the word-for-word script - so others see your sincerity.
- Avoid PowerPoint - so you don't bore the crowd.
- Have a bottom line - so the message is memorable.
And, as Forrest Gump would say, "that's all I have to say about that!"