The more I work with entrepreneurs, the more I realize how the skills required to succeed as an entrepreneur are not taught in schools. One of those skills is brevity.
Specifically, we are are not taught how to edit our thoughts down in size. We are rewarded in school for writing multi-page essays and papers, providing as many details as we can fit into the assigned length.
Out in the real world, where time is precious, whomever you expect to read what you write instead wants you to use as few words as possible, conveying your ideas in as little space consuming as little time as necessary.
To demonstrate, all of the above can be summarized as: be clear and concise.
The mis-quote from Pascal too often comes to mind as I repeat my lesson on saying more with fewer words. “If I had more time, I’d have written a shorter letter.” (The actual quote translates to, “I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter,” which ironically says the same message in more words.)
The obvious question is then how to accomplish this untaught goal. The answer is rather simple, but as Pascal warns, will take you some time.
- Begin by summarizing your thought into a single paragraph. Keep that paragraph to just 3 or 4 sentences at most. Keep only the key details most important to convey your thoughts, and leave the other details for later conversations.
- Reread what you have written, removing anything that seems redundant or superfluous. Rewrite any sentence if you have a better, more concise way to say the same ideas.
- Repeat #2 until you are happy with the result.
- For many people, 1-3 is difficult, but #4 is harder still, as now your challenge is to summarize that paragraph into a single sentence.
- Reread that sentence, and word by word eliminate any that are unnecessary, paring that sentence down to the minimum needed to convey your idea.
For a company pitch, follow steps 1-5 to explain what problem you are solving in a single sentence, then repeat steps 1-5 to explain your solution in a separate sentence. That then creates a two-sentence pitch, which you should be able to speak aloud in 20-30 seconds.
At that point I usually then challenge the entrepreneurs I’m training to step 6, editing that pitch down to a single sentence.
The result of all this effort is a pitch that not only conveys all the important information, but most importantly creates a pitch that starts conversations. Too often entrepreneurs forget (or have never understood) that the whole point of a pitch isn’t to answer every question, it is to begin a conversation where the audience can get the details important to them, and the answers to their questions.
The same is true for sales, where the point is to get a potential customers’ specific questions answered, to get as quickly as possible to a close.
Less truly is more in these cases. Try it for yourself and you’ll see how much more powerful your communications become the shorter they get.