Communication, Meetings

#293: Find the Time To Make Your Point Quickly

Do your meetings take too long? If so, consider this. Some people think while speaking. Or they speak while thinking. Wait! I’ve just done it. I am typing before my thinking is done. So let me try again.

Some people talk aloud as a way of clarifying their thoughts. (While those doomed to listen to them wish they would do their thinking before they pressed speak.)

Learning to think before you speak does not come naturally, not if you grew up fighting to be heard over your siblings or school friends. However, as habit and a discipline, it pays dividends.

Once upon a time I had 60 seconds to make my point on radio. Exactly 60 seconds, no more, no less. Sixty seconds translates to about 160 words, depending on how well I enunciated at speed.

Somehow I managed that verbal restriction well enough to survive on air twice a week over ten years.

Today, with no more radio submissions to restrain me, I face a blank screen capable of framing many more words than a measly 160. Once again I am free to write as if the bigger the pile of ore, the larger the cache of gold. Or, to honor my personal brand, the larger the heap of nonsense, the greater the chance of writing some sense.

But I continue to restrain myself. Ten years is ample time to learn that quantity seldom equals quality. (Also, radio is a brutal time master).

In making those twice-weekly recordings, I experienced an unknown law of nonsense. When you must say something meaningful within a specified time limited, time speeds up and you run out of seconds before you run out of words. And, strangely, it feels much longer to listen to a 60-second-recording than it takes to speak it.

I now understand what Blaise Pascal meant when he wrote to a friend: “I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” (Yes, I know you think Mark Twain said that. But because Blaise Pascal lived a couple of centuries before Mark Twain, I assume he said it first.)

But enough with the ore (nonsense). Here’s the gold (sense) I have been aiming to get to. Having 60 seconds on air taught me something I wish everybody would apply in meetings:

Have a point. Make it. Shut up.

Of course, the only way to get that right is to prepare before the meeting. Not in the meeting.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.