QUICK SUMMARY: One of the toughest communication lessons to master is the art of “less is more.” Why is that?
There is plenty of evidence to convince us to shut up and say less in a faster, more compelling way. And yet, we consistently ignore that advice. What if there was a way to overcome that pattern?
The work of Barry Schwarz is extremely compelling in demonstrating that the paradox of choice does not favor more choice! His research compellingly showed that if shoppers were offered free samples of 24 types of jams compared to 6 types of jams, they sampled more jams with the larger choice grouping, but they bought significantly more jam with the smaller sample size. How does that data impact your ability to communicate with executive presence?
You don’t have to prove yourself – oh, yeah?!
So many leaders I coach try to jam 10 pounds of information into a 5 pound bag. I cannot tell a lie – so do I. Why do I do this, when I know better? Well, let me just speak for myself – it’s about proving we know what we’re talking about. Wait, let me rephrase that – it’s about proving I know what I’m talking about!
Let’s see…over 25 years of experience as an executive coach, a global clientele, repeat gigs at Fortune 100 companies, standing ovations, author of a successful book, people telling me our work at Change Masters has changed their lives – nope, that’s still not enough evidence to that little monkey in my head that says, “You’d better prove that this makes sense, that you know what you’re talking about.”
True confession time!
Now, it’s dramatically better than it used to be. The first printing of our book, Seeing Yourself As Others Do, was published at 198 pages – but the first draft was 724 pages long!!! Tom Mungavan, my co-author and president of Change Masters, deserves sainthood for that editing process! As he likes to say, I make it interesting and he makes it short.
Three tips to shut up faster
So if you’re like me and tend to lose your internal delete key for presentations, let’s both try the following three things:
1. trust that I won’t run out of things to say. I know that shorter sounds smarter. I commit to living this belief.
2. what if I just assumed – no, if I accepted – that I’m in front of these people who are staring at me because they need what I’ve got? It would make my preparation and practice a lot easier and far less stressful.
3. make it more about my audience than about me. The more I engage my audience (in my case, through live coaching on their persuasive skills), the better I reach my audience. I can take a deep breath and let them have more time to discuss, give them more Q&A time and any number of approaches I’ll discuss next time on how you can continuously re-engage your audience.
In other words, it’s time to follow my own advice! Man, I hate it when that happens. I’ll keep you posted – let’s see how successfully I listen to me. Would you give me your thoughts on how hard or easy this idea of “less is more” is for you as a communicator or a presenter? Any success stories and abysmal failures would be welcome!
Carol Keers Vice President, Change Masters, Incorporated