We live in an age of data overload. Being constantly inundated with information is causing our brains to reach saturation point. Most people are spending several hours each day consuming various types of media. It’s a constant consumption of information which leads to a loaded mind and lower attention spans. Information overload causes cognitive overload, a condition that is caused by our brain trying to consume and process too much data, leading to low mental energy and stress. All this means that, if we want to get someone’s attention, we have no choice but to be brief.

Here are some tips to support you in staying on point next time you are preparing to speak or present:

  1. Prepare – If you ever find yourself rambling while you are presenting, or going off tangent, or perhaps providing far too much detail, most likely you have not prepared well enough. Have a clear message in your mind by thinking ahead of the essentials that you want your audience to know, think about or act on. An effective way to prepare is to create a mind map, which is a visible outline on paper to help organize your ideas. Assemble your thoughts well in advance and ensure that they key ideas are crystal clear in your mind. A key aspect in your preparation is to brainstorm first and then edit ruthlessly. All that extra fluff needs to go.  
  1. Be mindful of over-explaining – A number of presenters fall in the habit of giving too much information about a certain subject which is either repetitive or unnecessary. When the audience senses that you are over-explaining they will disengage from you, so ensure that you trim down the less essential information. While it’s crucial to explain your ideas, you can be a more concise speaker by making sure you only give explanations when it’s completely necessary for your audience to understand you.
  1. Rule of Three – Provide a limited number of points, yet be sure each one supports the key message. Avoid having long lists or a whole series of bullets which can bore out an audience. Instead, seek to group your ideas in threes as this will make your presentation content more coherent and more memorable both for you as a speaker and for your audience. Once you identify the three most important points, seek to illustrate each one with an example, a story or a brief explanation. Practice articulating these points one by one while ensuring that you stick to the main message.

Keep in mind that the more you say the less your audience will hear, so make sure that every single word and phrase adds meaning. Continuously ask yourself whether the content you have prepared reinforces the main message of your speech or presentation – if it doesn’t, then remove it. The wrong way to condense your presentation is to include all the things that you think you need to say, and simply cut them all back to make them a lot shorter. When you rush through multiple topics in summary form they don’t land with any force. You know the full background and context to what you are saying, and so the insights you offer may seem profound to you, however for the audience it can come across as dry or superficial. It’s a simple equation: Overstuffed equals under-explained. To say something interesting you have to take the time to do at least two things: show why it matters and flesh out each point with real examples, stories or facts.

Speaking concisely increases the chances of your audience retaining the information you provide. While benefitting your audience, speaking concisely benefits you too. When you speak concisely you convey a professional tone that can show respect for your colleagues and their time. Nevertheless, do not compromise brevity for clarity. Remember that being concise requires a fine balancing act with being clear enough.

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