The Bookworm Sez: Brevity makes an impact


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Fast, faster, fastest.

That pretty much describes your workday. You hit the floor running every morning and, physically or mentally, you don’t stop moving until bedtime. Consequently, you’ve learned to deal with distractions, decisions, and details, you do it with less, and you do it now.

You’re sure it’s the same with your clients so, in a business atmosphere that moves blink-fast, how do you capture and keep their attention? In “Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less” by Joseph McCormack, you’ll get the not-too-short answer.

In the course of a day at work, your clients might get hundreds of emails, texts, and voice-mails. They’re inundated with information and the time allowed for sorting through it decreases every day. They’re time-starved, which means one thing: “If you can’t capture people’s attention and deliver your message with brevity,” says McCormack, “you’ll lose them.” 

Having too much information is stressful, as you might know, especially when one realizes that the stream of info isn’t going to stop. It’s natural, then, to start to mind-wander. Interruptions don’t help, and impatience follows quickly. The antidote to this is brevity, which is a “stress release” for everyone involved.

Before you start, though, there are “Seven Capital Sins” that can hinder your efforts to become brief and to focus. Avoid them, and use a basic approach to trimming your message with McCormack’s four steps: map it, tell it, talk it, and show it.

Never go to a presentation unprepared. Write an outline so you know what needs saying, then learn to mind-map (visual outlining) and brief map as a guide for succinctness.

Be “clear, concise, and compelling” through storytelling, rather through boring biz-speak. Remember that, like every good tale, you need a villain and a happy ending.

Start controlled conversations to laser-in on what’s important and stay on-point. Check in with your audience occasionally, to make sure they’re still paying attention. Learn to track, and cultivate good listening skills.

Finally, avoid mind-numbing blah-blah-blah by using visual material to get your point across. Make it interesting and “cut to the customer’s chase.” Then, don’t forget to express your gratitude, because it’s “not about you.”

I have fewer than 150 words to tell you what I think about “Brief.”

In brief, it could have been shorter. Author Joseph McCormack practices what he preaches in this book, but sharp readers will find repetition and rather lengthy anecdotes. McCormack also says his methods are “immediately useful,” and while that’s true, I felt… well, information overload.

And yet, this book will absolutely help anyone who motor-mouths through their workday or anyone who needs to learn that “a few minutes” may mean literally that. There’s no doubt in my mind that Big Talkers will read and understand how to get to the nitty-gritty with this book, and meeting-planners will have clearer calendars.

The trick, I think, and what will help to counteract the overload, is to be counterintuitive. “Brief” may be just a couple hundred pages or so, but it’s not something you want to read fast.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is the author of The Bookworm Sez, which is published in more than 200 newspapers and 50 magazines throughout the U.S. and Canada. Schlichenmeyer may be reached at bookwormsez@yahoo.com.

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