The Elusive 600

Written on: July 15, 2014 | 2 Comments

I’m loving Joseph McCormack’s new book, Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less.  The focus is on lean communication.  McCormack terms it Six Sigma for your mouth!  “In our attention deficit economy, being brief is what’s desperately needed and rarely delivered.”

People speak at about 150 words per minute, but we have the mental capacity to deal with 750 words per minute.  That leaves a space of 600 words where we drift—think other thoughts, take a mini-vacation, lose focus, etc.

soldier daydreams while coming home from a deployment.

Military Photographer of the Year Winner 1997. Title: Thoughts Elsewhere.
Major Kurt Tek daydreams while coming home from a deployment, 01/01/1997.
National Archives Identifier 6498091

McCormack’s tips for clear, concise, and compelling oral presentations are simple:  map it, tell it, talk it, and show it.  Outline your remarks—background, relevance, information to impart, conclusion, and follow-up anticipating expected questions.  Use narrative storytelling to deliver the message.  Use a controlled conversation rather than a monologue.  And use visuals to increase engagement.  Most importantly, stop talking and give people a chance to process.  “The mind is a processor, and if you keep hitting the send button, the effect can be maddening and futile.”

I was especially taken with his advice on avoiding TL/DR (too long, didn’t read) on email messages:

  • Make it Inviting—a strong subject line
  • Limit to One Screen
  • Embrace the White Space—instead of 8-10 sentence paragraphs, aim for three to four.
  • Use Bold Where Appropriate
  • Use Bullets and Numbers—starting each with a strong word or catchy phrase.
  • Cut the Fluff—trim what’s unnecessary.

Finally, McCormack warns:  “When people see you reading this book, they’re going to expect a difference.” Noted!

2 Responses to “The Elusive 600”

  1. Jonathan Webb Deiss said:

    Great insights. Great advice.


    (July 16, 2014 at 10:15 am)

  2. Janice Cobb said:

    I agree 100%. Even this article is lean communication.


    (July 22, 2014 at 2:50 pm)