Brevity is the Key to Successful Communication

Dug from Up says "squirrel"

In this day and age, capturing and holding someone’s attention is a tough business.

We have hundreds of things demanding our attention at any given moment: emails, texts, snapchats, a coworker’s birthday, a significant other wondering what’s for dinner – you get the picture. (If you spaced out during that long list, you’re not alone. I actually checked Reddit about four times while writing it).

A funny thing happens when you exercise brevity: people don’t mind listening to you. Well thought-out, brief communication shows that you respect and value others’ time.

CEOs and journalists have particularly harried schedules, so capturing and holding their interest is no small feat. Here are six tips to help you do just that:

Have a game plan

Your 7th grade English teacher would be so proud of you if she knew you outline both your writing AND your speech. List major points you want to cover and stick to them. The more organized your train of thought is, the easier it is to follow.

Carefully craft your subject line (or voicemail message)

Headlines sell newspapers. Well, subject lines sell email, and succinct but compelling voicemail messages get you meetings. Take the time to craft something that will command their attention and make them want to respond.

Tell a short story

Key word here is short. Humans are storytellers by nature, so capturing attention with an anecdote is a great way to contextualize a concept. But keep in mind that story time can quickly become very boring, so be sure to keep it brief and tie it to your main point.

Quickly get to the heart of the matter

After sharing that quick anecdote, the best way to capture someone’s attention and hold it is to summarize the salient points up front. If you take more than 10 seconds to set up your main point, you risk losing them to an incoming email or chat message while they’re waiting for you to get to the heart of the matter.

Censor yourself

We’ve all been guilty of talking too much about expertise and knowledge. It’s okay to be passionate about something, but talking for too long and in too much detail is just as bad as rambling. A good rule of thumb is to share just enough to pique the other person’s interest and then stop. If they want more from you, they’ll ask!

Use visuals

PR professionals are constantly told to “use compelling visuals.” Well, duh! Pictures show what you’re talking about. Here’s the catch: if you provide too many visuals, your audience may get so caught up in all the imagery that they stop hearing your words.


So, the main takeaway here is that brevity is a rare and valuable skill. Practice it well and often. Enough said.

Sarah Koniniec can be reached at You can also follow her on Twitter at @sarahkoniniec