An epidemic is plaguing the corporate world and there is a good word to describe it - ‘infobesity’. Businesses have overindulged in information. People are finding it harder than ever to decipher, decide and deliver.
Lee Iacocca (Chairman of Chrysler in the 80’s and a leadership guru to this day) once said “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere”. But the reality is that the never-ending stream of emails, meetings dominated by PowerPoint, endless reports and documents… not to mention social media… means that information now is more like bad cholesterol, clogging business arteries and slowing decisions. It’s overwhelming and the result is that people only remember and act upon a small fraction of what they read or hear.
The key to influencing and persuading is therefore quite simple – keep it brief. Deliver an ‘executive summary’ only. Get to your point quickly, clearly articulate the benefits and back up your argument with succinct supporting evidence. Leave the detail out. If you say something of interest but don’t say enough, the other person will simply ask a question – which will lead to a productive discussion. But don’t bombard people with too much, too soon.
I said it’s simple... but of course being concise is often harder than being prolix. As Mark Twain famously said “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead”. But the time you take to keep your persuasive argument brief will massively improve its impact and effectiveness.
James Carville (communications advisor to Bill Clinton) said “The communications business is the only one where you multiply by subtracting – the less you say, the more you’re heard”.