Today's Reading

Sometimes, when providing information, you and I fall in love with the details, as if they were our children. We want everyone to know all about them.

But this candidate's main message was clear, without the details: "Look, if I can raise six kids, I can obviously run a country."

Meanwhile, at a 2016 Republican debate, one of the candidates, a current senator, said he'd eliminate five federal agencies. Then he proceeded to name each one.

Same trap. Same result.

He listed the Commerce Department twice, as if to say, "You can't just get rid of the Commerce Department once. Any idiot can do that. No, I'm going to get rid of it, and then I'm going to get rid of it again . . ."

If the details are too much for you, the speaker, to remember, your listeners don't stand a chance.


There's mystery in what people don't say. Let's use that to our advantage.

When you ask someone, "How are you?" you get the mysterious answer, "Fine."

No one says, "Well, my spouse just ran off with the plumber, and ever since she left, I've been despondent. Also, the upstairs sink hasn't been draining properly."

But in other conversations, the border between what to disclose vs. what not to, gets murky.

I recently patrolled that border with a group of research scientists, while working on their upcoming presentations. Every presentation lives, or dies, at that border.

We all know what it's like to be in the audience. I often advise clients to imagine an unpleasant dental procedure.

Suppose your presentation is 10 minutes. That's a 10-minute procedure. And if you're one of eight people presenting that day, you'd need to multiply those 10 minutes by eight dentists.

That's a long time.

The Gettysburg Address, as you've probably heard at least 272 times, was only 272 words—two minutes. You wouldn't need a dentist for that, just a hygienist, cleaning and flossing at breakneck speed.

Wouldn't you rather your audience think That meeting was way too short, I wish there'd been another 37 PowerPoint slides! than the opposite?

Then consider, there are different ways to "tell."

You already know the value of a preview (tell them what you're going to tell them) and a review (tell them what you've told them), although it's shocking how seldom we use these tools.

Here's something different: Tell them what you're NOT going to tell them.

A research scientist could say, "I'm not going to tell you about each of the 278 validation studies we ran. Let's just say it was complicated." Message: We didn't just pull this data out of a hat.

When it comes to either information or dentistry, less is more.


Recently, I got a sports watch as a gift. The watch measures all sorts of things when you're out running, or walking, or getting carried away to the nearest hospital.

Sometimes, before it displays any stats, the watch adds a comment. But not always.

Suppose on Sunday, I walk out to the driveway and pick up the newspaper. No comment. Not even, "We can't believe you're up so early! Way to go!"

And even when it adds a comment, like after a four or five-mile workout, the watch seems unimpressed. "Nice effort," is all it says. I suspect it's being sarcastic.

But what I've noticed, since I've been measuring things, is that my workouts keep getting longer and longer. The act of measuring is not neutral; it changes behavior.

If you want to be more concise, let's measure that. Here's a possible workout:

In one-to-one conversations, talk less than the other person. Instead of rambling on and on, ask at least one thought-provoking question per conversation.

In meetings, speak in 30-60 second bites. Provide the headline news first, with details later, and only give details if asked. You'll be surprised by how much you can say in 30 seconds.

When presenting, slim down to 10 PowerPoint slides or less. And occasionally, lose the entire deck (PowerPoint tips, page 102). 

You get the point. I'd like to say more but, according to my watch, I've got to run.



Capture Attention with FOCUS
1. Say Less
2. The Fast-Focus Method
3. Three More Ways to Focus
4. Watch Your Words—and Your Emails

Capture Attention with VARIETY
5. Be Slightly Different
6. The Easiest Way to Explain Anything
7. Stories: The 2.5 Step Method
8. Vary from Announce to Discuss
9. Questions: How to Ask the Best and Answer the Worst
10. Presentation Tricks

Capture Attention with PRESENCE
11. Act As If
12. Ten Actions to Increase Your Presence: Assess Yourself
13. Image: Communicate that You Look and Sound the Part
14. Drive: Communicate that You Get Results
15. Temperament: Communicate that You've Got the Right Disposition


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