Walker Webcast: Axios Co-Founder Mike Allen on Saying Less to Mean More
Andrew Hill Card Jr. was the White House Chief of Staff under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2006. According to Axios co-founder Mike Allen, Card had three responses to the large volume of email he received: “Yes.” “No.” Or “see me.”
But why would these authors – former old-school journalists – support brevity in communications? When presented properly, brevity “signals to your audience that you’re being respectful of their time,” Allen said, pointing out that “brevity is confidence, length is fear.”
As anyone who’s written a report or email knows, being brief can be more difficult than going long. Allen provided the following tips for crafting communication of any kind:
Think before writing or putting together any kind of presentation. In other words, think about what you want to say before getting behind the keyboard. Consider the audience and why the content matters to them.
Focus only on one thing. People remember one thing from a presentation, report or email, Allen said, so don’t throw a lot of choices at them. “The key to smart brevity is figuring out what the one thing is and honing it,” he added.
Use that one thing at the top of the content and tease it. “Don’t waste time by saying ‘I hope things are going well during these crazy times,’” Allen said. “That does nothing for your listener.” It doesn’t do much for the reader, either.
Read the content out loud before publishing or presenting. The power of reading out loud “is that you make sure that you’re sounding like a human, and not a robot,” Allen said.
Now, the above doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for deeper dives in such content. Allen said that backing information up with some statistics or other information is fine, as are links or other ways for readers or listeners to access original source material.
But according to the smart brevity system, efficient information communication means “be brief, be bright and be gone.” Said Allen: “Part of communicating more powerfully is to do the thinking on the front end; to figure out what you want to say. Then think about a sharp, memorable way to communicate it. Spell it out. Then just stop.”
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