David Harding: How brevity is the only way to be heard over other communication forms

David Harding, CEO, HardingPoorman Group

Short attention spans are in evidence everywhere.

Stay connected to your audience by being brief and concise. Apply this to meetings, presentations, advertising, and memos.

People love to talk. When they are nervous, they talk more. That’s how salespeople get into trouble. They are nervous about being in front of a new prospect and talk, talk, talk.

Don’t become the dinosaur that loves to hear himself or herself talk. No one else will be listening.

Less is not only more; it’s the only way to be heard over tweets, instant messaging and other forms of communication.

You’ve got :03

Three seconds to pique their interest before your link gets clicked. Three sentences to see whether your big idea actually gets heard.

There’s a deluge of noise out there and just about everyone worth contacting is taking self-protective measures. Each of these questions is a hurdle to cross before your idea is even given a chance.

• Anything new here I can use?

• Are there typos?

• Is the idea worth spending more of my time?

• Is the design professionally done?

• Why do I need this?

• Did someone I know recommend this?

• Is it this offer too good to be true?

Cut to the chase uniquely

You can’t blame your prospects for ignoring you. So, cut to the chase differently, faster, quirkier. Give it to me straight or throw me a curve ball. But stand out from the crowd in a way that is memorable and timely. Then you will be heard above the fray.

What about being brief with executing your strategies?

In his bestseller, “The Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm,” Verne Harnish shares business lessons he learned from case studies of 10 different successful organizations. He compares these lessons against those put forth by John D. Rockefeller Sr. that Rockefeller felt all leaders should address. Harnish demonstrates how to design a high-powered business engine that drives innovation, sales and profits with these questions:

• Do you have five priorities for the year and the quarter and a clear No.1 priority with an appropriate theme?

• Do you have sufficient data on a daily and weekly basis to provide insight into how your organization is running vs. what the market is demanding?

• Do you have an effective rhythm of weekly, quarterly and annual meetings to maintain alignment and drive accountability?

How are your priorities?

Are you on track with your priorities? Develop a single sheet of priorities and make it your roadmap for the year. Keep it brief.

Check in with your sheet on a daily basis to make sure you are sticking with your plan and working as smartly as possible.

Conversations need to be brief, but effective.

Have you ever recommended to others how best to communicate with you? Are you a visual person, or auditory? Do you need time to digest new ideas before you react to them? Are you a researcher or a “go with your gut” type?

Not only should you know what style of communication you prefer, but your direct reports (and maybe everyone you work with) should also know how best to communicate with you. This works in reverse too.

For the first time in my career, someone came in to work with me on social media and asked me to take them to a white board. There he mapped out his thinking visually. Within a few minutes I clearly understood his plan. In fact, it was clearer than ever, because I am a visual person, and my presenter understood that.

The magnificent seven

In her book, “The Seven Minute Difference: Small Steps to Big Changes,” Allyson Lewis says the following:

• Studies have shown that the average corporate executive has an attention span of seven minutes.

• According to Harvard psychologist George Miller, the brain is limited to remembering only seven pieces of information at a time.

Now that you know this information, would you change your communication style with those you work with?

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The company has been voted as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at [email protected] For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com