Brevity is the soul of communicating
A third grader had to do a book report, and he chose a Socrates biography. His report consisted of three succinct sentences:
- Socrates was a philosopher.
- He talked a lot.
- They killed him.
Not much more to say about brevity. Maybe that’s why U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Be sincere. Be brief. Be seated.”
Another U.S. President, Woodrow Wilson once said: “If I am to speak for 10 minutes, I need a week for preparation; if 15 minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”
This is a good explanation for why people are so long-winded. It’s easier. You don’t need to think and prepare as much. Just let it roll.
Maybe that’s why William Shakespeare said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
One thing I know is that brevity is powerful. People who can speak or write concisely and to the point are more successful.
The late comedian George Burns was right on when he said, “The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible.”
I have a little different take on preparation. The nature of my public speaking engagements usually requires me to present for longer periods. But that doesn’t mean I don’t need to be completely ready and well-researched to keep my points brief and interesting.
If I have to make a 60-minute speech on a new subject, I figure it will take 60 hours of preparation. It’s almost one hour of preparation for every minute, if you want your message to be good. You never want your audience to wonder if you will ever stop talking. You want to leave them wanting more – more fabulous content, not just more words.
Are you one of those people for whom conveying information can sometimes turn into the unraveling of a saga? Here are some tips adapted from iVillage.com on how to keep your conversations short and sweet when necessary.
- Don’t get bogged down with irrelevant details. Get to the meat of the information as directly as possible. “I talked with Jim Thursday, or was it Wednesday? No, I think it was Thursday …” Does anyone really care? Get to the point.
- Don’t repeat information. Unless the person with whom you’re talking indicates that he or she didn’t hear what you said, say things only once. I can’t tell you how many times I hear the same message repeated over and over with different words. Don’t rehash old news.