My student gave me one final comment as she was exiting my workshop. She said, “My biggest takeaway from today? Less is more. I won’t forget that.” She smiled and shook my hand as I thanked her for her participation and insights.
When you’re the speaker, you’re trying to achieve an objective when you speak. You’re trying to convey a message, teach a concept, or inspire new ideas. You have a goal for speaking and you won’t achieve that goal without the audience reaching theirs. To help them reach their goal, you need to be crystal clear in your communication, not muddied!
That means giving them less when you speak might actually be better!
Clear Communication is Built With Less
We need to avoid muddying the water when we speak. What do I mean by that? Don’t use too many words when fewer words will actually work better. Be succinct! One executive Kevin worked with said he wanted people presenting to him to “be prepared, be brief, and be gone.”
3 Tools for Practicing Brevity
Here are three tools to help you simplify for message. Do these exercises after you’ve constructed the full message to help you crystalize your key points into fewer words.
100 Word Summary
For some of us 100 words may feel like a painful request for hours of devotion on the word processor, but you might be surprised at just how short 100 words really is. For example, the average speaker speaks at about 125 words per minute. At that rate, you have 48 seconds to speak your 100-word summary. That isn’t much time!
Write out the summary of your entire presentation in approximately 100 words. If you can’t read it in less than 1 minute, it’s too long! This is a great summary to give to the audience at the start or the end of your message.
6 Word Summary
This sounds ridiculous on the surface, but summarizing your entire message in a brief phrase or sentence is powerful. We do this exercise in our Message Builder workshop. Students usually push back at first, but once we put them into the exercise, they see the power and simplicity of the tool. Here are a few examples of what our students have created in the past:
Alpha project, under budget, on time.
Don’t submit change orders after Friday.
Question the customer. Listen for flags.
1 Word Summary – The Prompt
If you thought summarizing your presentation in 6 words was ridiculous, I bet you love this one! What is the one word that could serve as a mental prompt for your entire message? What is one word that causes the floodgates of the audience’s mind to open wide and let the message rush in?
In 2001 I was working with a managed IT services company as a business development manager. I had a good year because I was privileged to work with an amazing sales team that year. We closed one of the largest deals for the company and one of the biggest I’ve ever closed in my life, even to this day. As a result, our entire sales team made President’s Club that year and we all won a trip to the prestigious sales conference.
At the President’s Club event our team was asked to sit on stage in front of an audience of hundreds to explain how we managed to close such a large deal. I let the rest of the sales team offer their insights first. They all did an amazing job pointing out the engineering hurdles we overcame, the legal negotiations, and the financial plan for asset depreciation. Like I said, they were a great team and I was proud to serve as their BDM (Business Development Manager) on this deal.
Then they handed the microphone to me and only one word came to mind. So I shared it. Momentum.
I explained how the more we worked together as a sales team overcoming hurdles, we became a stronger team. We accelerated and hit our stride. We became efficient and more productive over our 8 months together. I ended with this. “I guess that’s how I’d sum up the key to the entire win. I’d sum it up in one word… Momentum. Help your team find it’s momentum and nothing will stop you.”
As I exited the ballroom that evening the CEO of our organization was shaking everyone’s hand. He stopped me by holding our hand shake with a tight grip and a longer hold. With a genuine smile on his face, he looked me in the eye and said, “Momentum… I like that. Keep up the momentum next year.” It wasn’t something I had planned to say. It just came to me as I listened to every member of my team offer their insights on teamwork.
The lesson I learned that evening was one of simplicity. To connect with an audience and give them something of value, a one-word summary can be your ticket. You give them a one word prompt and their brains will unlock everything they learned and felt from your message.
If you want to have a greater impact on your audience, don’t weigh them down with more unnecessary words. Give them something to remember!
I’ll close with my 6 words…
I will see you next week!