Short and sweet: The key to succinct communication

Short and sweet: The key to succinct communication

At last month’s Emmy Awards, having been named Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role in Nurse Jackie, Merritt Wever stunned the crowd when she quickly wrapped up her speech in just a few seconds.

Clutching her award, she simply said: “Oh my God, thanks so much! Thank you so much. Um, I gotta go. Bye!” It was hilarious and received a round of laughter and applause. It was the shortest and best received speech of the evening, and was widely talked about because it was memorable for all the right reasons.

We can definitely take a leaf out of her book. So here are some quick tips on applying brevity to your work life.

  • When you are requesting a meeting with someone, request a 30-minute or even a 15-minute meeting. Few people can refuse a 15-minute request and if you can’t say what you have to say in 30 minutes, you need to do some more work before you waste anyone else’s time! Yes, it’s tough love but it’s true.
  • When scheduling meetings with larger groups of people, buck convention and instead of booking a meeting for an hour, book it for 45 minutes. People can use the remaining 15 minutes to prepare and read the agenda on their own.
  • When you are asked to present for an hour, don’t feel you have to speak for the entire 60 minutes and then some! Always plan to finish early, even around the 45 to 50-minute mark. This will ensure you are a hit with your audience – leave them wanting more, instead of wanting to see the last of you.
  • No one reads long emails! Either write a short email and put all the detail in an attachment or pick up the phone and have the conversation.
  • Finally, this tip is from Sir Richard Branson. If you were to put what you want to say on a coat of arms, what would it read?  It would have to be simple and short to fit across the bottom of a coat of arms.  Virgin’s motto, for example, would be: ‘Screw it, let’s do it!’

George Bernard Shaw famously said ‘brevity is the soul of wit’. Paraphrasing for a time-starved world, I believe ‘brevity is the soul of successful communication’.


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