Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Lengthy Post About Brevity

While sitting in a business meeting, the following line came to mind:
"People's credibility is always weakened with every generalized statement they make." It was funny, so I tweeted it.

I am currently reading "Stand Up: A Professional Guide to Comedy Magic" and in the text it talks about writing jokes and lines. The particular nugget I appreciated most was the focus on brevity. They explained that the best way to achieve brevity is to take a line you've written and start systematically removing words (while attempting to maintain the integrity of the original line).

The exercise:
People's credibility is always weakened with every generalized statement they make. (11 words)
Credibility is always weakened with every generalized statement. (8 words)
Generalized statements always weaken credibility. (5 words)
Stupid people generalize. (3 words)

Now the "line" may not carry the same comedic value (huge assumption that it possessed comedic value in the first place), but the message is relatively intact.

I bring this up because I spend most of my day--and at time a good portion of my evening--listening to entrepreneurs tell me about their idea. In my mind I call it the bitch of the pitch. It's a bitch, because it is sometimes agonizing and difficult to sit through for all parties involved. However, it is a necessary part of getting an idea out there.

Time is not a consideration for me. I do not hold to a one-minute elevator pitch or a thirty-second commercial. I do not want to turn their idea into a tag line or cheesy jingle. I want them to distill it down to the basics. Here is a three-step process I often use. It is a formula. Some of you (two of the three readers of my blog) will say that formulas do not work or stripping away too much of the narrative exposes too many holes in the mind of the listener. To that I say, "Give people some credit." You can still be creative and a skilled communicator without dumbing down your business idea.

The formula (warning: I like sets of three):
Behavior (what does your business allow me (the user) to do?)
Analytic (how do you know that what it is I'm doing is actually working?)
New Reality (what do I look like now that I've consumed the product or service?)

For example, I worked with an unnamed business, listened to the description of their business and together we distilled everything down to three *core elements:
Exchange [blank]
Track [blank]
Increase [blank]
*Core elements removed to maintain anonymity

This business has a service it is selling and it is pretty feature-rich. I do not need to discuss the feature/benefit argument. This is more about talking about your business in a manner that isn't full of secret sauce and jargon. In fact, this description does not even tell me how they do it. I really don't care. The customer and investor doesn't really care that much either. Not initially. Not in the first discussion. Let the other party ask, "how" or "tell me more" or "I don't believe you" or "sounds too good to be true" or "where to I sign up"...

Take a look at your website, your essay, your wedding vows, your screenplay. Take a look and try the brevity experiment. Try to overcome the bitch of the pitch and slim it down.

Feel free to rewrite my tweet?
People's credibility is always weakened with every generalized statement they make.

No comments:

Post a Comment