What’s Your Default Setting for Detail?


In nearly every one of our communication workshops, we spend significant time discussing the role of detail in 21st century communication. Does detail matter? Of course it does. How much detail is necessary? That depends on many things: who your audience is, how familiar they are with the topic, how senior they are, how mission critical the situation is… The amount of detail that is necessary is variable.

But here is the game-changer for you to think about. If the amount of detail you must include is variable, then what is your default setting? For most people, the default is “more detail is better.” If I am not sure how much detail on this topic they want, then I’ll just give them plenty to make sure I satisfy their need.

Wrong… dead wrong.

Detail matters, very much. If you are going to be seen as credible, and as a subject matter expert, then you need to have a grasp of some detail. You need to be able to answer questions when they come up.

But you also need to be able to summarize, because not everyone wants or needs the same level of detail. Not everyone has the time or tolerance for lots of detail.

And in the 21st century, the correct default setting in your business communication is to be ready to go deep when someone asks, but also be able to summarize clearly. And lead with the summary. Make them take you deeper, if they have the time and the interest to do so. If we go deep into detail immediately, we are almost certainly going to cause eyes to glaze over, and people will begin glancing at their watch every 24 seconds.

Your default setting in your business communication should be to lead with summary, lead with relevance, and then back it up with detail when time and interest allow.

More is not always better, especially when you are talking about the details of your business communication in a very fast paced, attention starved world.

Have a great day.

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Photo by Simon Cunningham adapted under the following license.


One response to “What’s Your Default Setting for Detail?”

  1. […] then, if necessary, you can descend into the detail. But if you open in a powerful way, the audience will be more engaged, the detail will make more […]

Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.