Concision: Tell Them What They Need to Know and Nothing More
Have you ever found yourself being a blabbermouth? You just talk and talk, going off on tangents and unrelated anecdotes.
You try to convey an idea, describe a product, or make an argument, but you end up getting lost in a word salad of your own making. And you can tell your counterpart is bored to death.
Not only does this convey weakness, it also does your customer or audience a disservice: it makes it harder for them to understand your message.
If your message is important or valuable (which it should be, otherwise why say it), this should concern you.
Enter the power of concision and restraint.
A concise message cuts out the unnecessary jargon, side notes and superfluous remarks.
A concise message stays on topic and is delivered sharply and efficiently. It’s an arrow of clarity fired straight to the other person with no unnecessary fluff.
In addition to its efficiency and impact, a concise message demonstrates confidence and authority.
We are naturally drawn to, and respect, people who speak in simple and powerful terms. As soon as someone starts blabbing, we immediately start seeing them as less certain, less secure and less reliable. It’s a visceral, psychological process.
There is one last big advantage of concision, and this makes it very clever: mystery and anticipation.
When someone gives us a strong statement, we are curious to hear more: What does that mean? How did you come to that conclusion? Can you explain more?
By contrast, when he or she starts blabbing, the mystery evaporates.
By trying to be exhaustive, they become exhausting. There is nothing to be curious about. We become bored and the presentation feels tedious and grating.
Needless to say, you want your audience to be excited and engaged in your message. You want them on the edge of their seat.
There are two simple ways to make your message more clear and concise: (1) use fewer words, and (2) use simpler words.
Look through your marketing and sales copy. Look at your email blasts and Facebook posts.
Chances are, you can identify superfluous words and phrases—sometimes entire paragraphs—that do not really contribute to your message. They either take away from the message or distract from it.
This is especially important in your most critical sales and marketing literature—the material that really needs to perform, like a landing page or a sales brochure.
When writing, make your paragraphs shorter and use bullet points and numbered lists to break up the text. This makes it easier to read, visually, and allows for a quicker recall for the reader.
Using numbers also applies to speaking: “There are three main topics I want to discuss with you today…” or “We basically have two major options for this project…”
And then cut out the fat in your presentation and highlight the essential information that matters. That’s concision.
Most US Presidents speak at around a 6th to 8th grade level.
This is no accident. Certainly the typical American President is not a high school or middle school dropout. But speaking with simpler words allows them to reach the broadest possible section of the public.
Even for a well-educated audience, simple words and shorter phrases will make the message stick better in their minds.
It’s a lot easier to remember a slogan like “End Illegal Immigration Now!” than a more nuanced statement like: “We should urgently stop or greatly diminish the inflow of foreign nationals across our borders, so as to maintain law and order, and secure our cities and towns.”
Another very easy way to make your message more concise is to use contractions: “do not” becomes “don’t”, “we will” becomes “we’ll” and so on.
Concision is your friend in communication. Try to restrain yourself from letting your words go all over the place. Your communication will have much more impact.