A career can be built or broken on your ability to get to the point. Your success – or a painful setback – may often come down to mastering an essential skill that potential employers, decision makers and business leaders crave: brevity.
Before you panic and decide to start talking faster and try to cram more words in less time, I recommend you take a closer look at three persistent problems that many aspiring professionals frequently overlook:
- Over explaining. When you know so much, you may struggle to determine what to trim. The “affliction of expertise” can be a real burden that you share with those around you. You force them to hear the long, boring report rather than get the tight, interesting “trailer” version. Learning how to eliminate unnecessary detail and getting to the point can give them instant relief.
- Underpreparing. Blaise Pascal, the famous French philosopher and mathematician, once said, “I would have written you a shorter letter if I had more time.” In an age of shrinking attention spans and information overload, you need to embrace the art of the visual outline, or mind mapping. It’s a new skill that helps you organize and draw out your ideas in advance so that when it’s time to talk, present or fire off an e-mail, you are confident that your messages are clear, concise and connected.
- Missing the point. Imagine reading newspapers and magazines for an entire week and they all had no headlines. At the end of that experience, you would certainly be exhausted and frustrated. That’s how you make people feel when you don’t get to the point quickly – they’re left guessing. Embrace headlines as a creative way to grab and hold people’s attention right from the start.
When you recognize these weaknesses and begin to address them, people around you will feel the difference – and so will you. You and your ideas will advance faster than those verbose people around you.
Joe McCormack is managing director and founder of the Sheffield Company, a boutique firm that helps align senior leadership teams around a singular message. He is the author of BRIEF: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less and founder of The BRIEF Lab, a specialty institute to develop lean communicators. He’s also developed an introductory online course on how to become a “lean” communicator.