“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”
– Mark Twain
Last week, I gave some tips from NYT writer Aaron Orendorff on how to get people to read what you write at work. Here’s a similar tip that can help with writing, public speaking, and presentations.
There is common advice given to novice public speakers: Be brief. Be brilliant. Be gone.
A lot comes across in those six words, and that’s exactly the point. The goal is to get your point across so succinctly, so precisely, and to do it in as few words as possible.
If you’re writing an email, it’s 5 or fewer sentences. If you’re leaving a voicemail, it’s 20 seconds or less. Have you ever done a full presentation with no words on your slide deck?
Sometimes we try to outsmart ourselves. We think that the six-paragraph email of rambling ideas makes it look like we gave it a lot of thought. In fact, you can (and should) spend more time crafting the exact words you want to say to someone in just a few sentences. Two scrolls on an iPhone. Anything more than that, and you’ve lost them.
Maybe George Costanza was right when he tried to leave every meeting on a high note after he landed a joke.
Brevity is key. Brilliance is underestimated. Distance creates anticipation.