We had a vigorous and productive conversation with clients yesterday, in one of our Persuasive Communication Skills Workshops. And the topic of this conversation was typical. We were discussing with participants the need for getting to the point in the 21st century business world. And several of the participants were politely but firmly pushing back, concerned that I was coaching them to ignore the detail. I was repeatedly reminded that “not every situation lends itself to the short version, the elevator pitch.”
My colleagues and I agree. The details matter, sometimes they matter a lot. And you will never hear a member of The Latimer Group team say otherwise.
But what you will hear us say, all the time, is that there is power and credibility available to you if you have the ability to take the detail and summarize the long version into a short version. To use a golf metaphor, we believe firmly that you need to have that “club in your bag.” Frequently you only have the time for the short version. Maybe you catch someone walking in the hallway, or on their way to the elevator. Maybe you have been scheduled for a longer meeting, but the person you are meeting with is behind schedule, and your hour-long meeting is now going to be ten minutes. Maybe you are presenting something at the end of the agenda and everyone in front of you abused their time limits, and your fifteen minutes is now five. These are common examples of situations when the short version is not only important… it is all you have available to you.
Our advice is always as follows: The best communicators can provide their audience with the long version, and the short version. For most of the people we meet, all of whom are subject matter experts, the long version is easy. But the hard work is summarizing a topic into a short and simple version. And the more technical the topic, and the more technically-minded the speaker, the harder it can be to simplify.
We believe that this is among the most important communication skills to have at your disposal in the 21st century. And it is often psychologically challenging for subject matter experts, because it ALL feels important to them. How do you cut any of it out? It is all critical! Yes, that may be true. But when you are dealing with time limits, and short attention spans, and impatient audiences, choices must be made.
Make them well, simplify, and you will be respecting your audience’s time, and building great credibility.