Brevity

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Today is the 150th anniversary of The Gettysburg Address.   Lincoln was not the Keynote speaker and his address was only 271 words long.

If I asked you, who the keynote speaker was on that day I suspect you would not know.  Although I knew the speech was 2 hours long, I could not remember the speaker’s name (Edward Everett).   Even if I had,  it would have been for the length of the speech, not its substance.  How many times does this happen during an entrepreneur’s pitch?

Although I know that garrulous does not always equal gregarious I have a hard time remembering it.  And when I forget, I too suffer the fate of Edward Everett.  In the end, people walk away confused, exhausted or irritated.  Length does not translate into depth, and the goal is to capture an audience’s interest not hold it hostage.

In John Mayer’s song ‘Gravity’ he says “twice as much ain’t twice as good…” and I confess that I hear those words in my head when I am in some conversations or presentations.  When I am lucky, it happens when I am doing all the talking and it serves to get me to be quiet and listen.

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The best advice I have ever gotten on this challenge is from Tom Skerritt’s character in “A River Runs Through it”.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4php_B1LQiM .  If you read Norman MacLean’s story on which this movie is based, you know he lived it (it’s only 100 pages long).

Remember: Try to make what you say or write shorter and have the humility to know that your words are not ends in themselves.

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Dan Clark

Dan Clark

Principal of Bowline Consulting, process designer/fixer, wireless telecom veteran, addicted pick up soccer player, fly fisher, backpacker, beer brewer, guitar player, choir singer, recovering bag piper

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