On Brevity

In school, esp CBSE and state ones here in India, we are indoctrinated early and relentlessly that MORE is better. More pages to answer the question, more words and more verbosity gets you the higher grade. With this lesson firmly implanted into our heads, already crammed with other stupid lies and fallacies, we are sent into the real world. And lo and behold! The world is the very opposite of what we were told (As recent tweet cuttingly observes, ‘Reality is against Indian culture‘). And now we have to learn the very opposite of what we know and so also unlearn everything we do. And lesson #1 is that Brevity trumps Verbosity any day. The Agency, Manager or Company that is able to present it’s case quickly and sensibly is going to beat the competition.

TED talks are designed to be no more than 20 minutes and they are THE preeminent platform to disseminate important messages today. Twitter is 140 characters. max And they influence so much of culture and policy decisions now. Guy Kawasaki rightly advises people seeking VC funding to limit their presentations to 10 slides and cap the minimum font size in each slide to 30. And limit the pitch to 20 minutes.

Our emails, meetings and idea pitch all have to get shorter and slicker. Schools teach and reward the opposite. The real world punishes most of the behaviors and responses the schools teach you and your kid. Most of the teachers in our high schools and colleges are failed washouts who actually deserve their pittance salaries and who would last about 1 week in the real world. There is a reason the biting saying ‘Those who can’t do, teach’ caught on.

Don’t let school ruin your kids or your own chances. Today the elevator pitch is the ONLY pitch opportunity you probably are going to get 19 out of 20 times. In the 20th century, the most important and scarce commodity was capital. In the 21st, I think it will be ATTENTION. Because there are so many agencies that demand it from the very limited stock a person has to offer of it. So keep the message about you, your company, your product pared down to the bare essential and if that means you have to cut to the bone, just stop whining and start sharpening your knife.

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