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Brevity…

Brevity is a skill, true?  Lord knows, it’s not one of mine!  (Can you say verbose?)

Oh well, at least my readers have patience – I hope!

Ever notice that some of the most historically significant speeches in American history are brief?  Take Martin Luther King for instance.  Famous for his role in leading the American civil rights movement, his still-cherished, “I have a dream” speech delivered over 50 years ago was brief.  According to HistoryBuff.com:

Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech was delivered on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.  He spoke for approximately 17 minutes.  http://www.historybuff.com/audio/king.mp3

Abraham Lincoln was even briefer. His most famous speech was less than 271 words.  According to AngelFire.com:

November 19, 1863

Perhaps no speech in American history has been more revered than this short message by Lincoln on the occasion of the dedication of a cemetery in the little town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

I was recently asked by one of my clients to interview two finalists for their firm’s marketing position.  Although I am a sales professional not a marketing professional, I agreed to do the interviews because I believe the sales and marketing communication disciplines (written and spoken) are blurring in the modern marketplace.

It took me about 4 hours to prepare for the interviews.  That included two phone conversations with my client; one with the CEO; one with his Recruiter.  I wanted to clarify the skills, attributes and/or characteristics they wanted me to focus on to insure I was not duplicating or interfering with areas they were focused on.  I also prepared a structured interview template (to prevent Mr. Verbose from appearing!).

I was following former President Woodrow Wilson’s “game plan”:

If I am to speak for ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.

It takes preparation to be brief.  In my case, I structured 4 interview questions.  Allotting time for the candidates’ questions of me, it was good preparation for 1-hour interviews.  The candidates were evidently not as familiar with American history; nor as prepared to be brief.

I’ve often associated this phenomenon with stress.  When we are in stressful, selling situations (and during an interview we are selling ourselves), if we’re not totally prepared we tend to throw more words at it, don’t we?  Well, that’s what they did.  And “throwing more words at it” is often not “better”.

He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met.

Abraham Lincoln

I recapped my interview notes and sent them to the CEO and the Recruiter.  Since I am not a hiring manager for them, I stayed within the boundaries of my 4 questions and did not offer them additional opinions on candidate “fit”.  That’s their prerogative.

But this experience was excellent reinforcement for my sales and leadership responsibilities.  I mean, who can go wrong following Abraham Lincoln’s advice?

My friends, the less you see of me the better you will like me.

Of course, if we plan to apply a “less is more” technique, then whatever we select to include in the “less” better be the “good stuff”, yes?  And to insure we offer the good stuff, albeit briefly, we best allocate sufficient time to prepare.  Yet even with preparation, Mr. Verbose lingers near by.  But I digress – see what I mean!

GAP

Did you like this little ditty?  You might enjoy my website and book, too:  The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective© Please check it out.

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2 Comments


  1. Jim Anderson
    Oct 07, 2013

    Gary-

    On the contrary, I think you speak with much brevity. More importantly, what you have to say is always worth listening to.

    Jim Anderson


    • Gary
      Oct 12, 2013

      Thanks Jim! Your brief note made my entire week! Thx, GAP

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