Be brief, be brilliant, be gone

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I just got off of a conference call. Thirty-five minutes intended to inform listeners about exciting new developments in our business.

Fail.

The news is exciting. Very positive developments. Great things lie ahead. The problem is that if you weren’t already aware of that news, the conference call did little to inform or excite you.

There was too much information. It was difficult to follow. That’s bad enough in a meeting with visuals or handouts, but on a conference call, it is the kiss of death. People are dialing in from their car or from the gym or while distracted with other things. Too much information begins to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Everyone tunes out.

There were also too many speakers. That meant extra time for introductions. There was a lot of overlap, with speaker B covering the same information covered by speaker A. It was also obvious that the speakers had not been told how much time they were alloted (or didn’t follow instructions). The host cut off one speaker who spoke too long so the next speaker could be introduced. Ouch.

The call ended with platitudes and hyperbole. Words that were intended to inspire listeners to take action, but simply made listeners (me) cringe.

Unfortunately, these are common issues with meetings and presentations. It’s why people dread going to meetings and find most presentations too long and boring.

Don’t let this happen to you.

For starters, make sure you have a very good reason for conducting a meeting, conference call, or presentation, instead of disseminating the information in some other way. If you decide to go forward, keep these ideas in mind:

1. Be brief. Succinctly present three (no more than five) key points, and organize them so they are easy to understand and easy to remember. Additional details can be made available via a hand out or web page. Have as few speakers as necessary. In a short presentation, one speaker is usually best.

2. Be brilliant. Don’t do an information dump, have a “conversation” with your listeners. Keep the facts to the basics. Talk more about benefits and less about features. Tell a memorable story. Tell them what and how, but mostly why. Leave them wanting more.

3. Be gone. Keep it short, under twenty minutes if possible, and end with a call to action. Tell participants what to do. Avoid hype. Let the benefits in your presentation inspire people to do what you have told them to do.

Be brief, be brilliant, be gone.

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