Two things happened this week that reminded me of the need for concise, clear, communication. First, I gave an Ignite presentation and the second was that Twitter announced it was going to up the character limit from 140 to 280. In both instances, brevity is the key. Be clear, concise, to the point, and get on with your day. There is something to be said for being concise, and the act of Tweeting keeps me on my toes every day. Planning and prepping for an Ignite talk…even more so.
Ignite: 5 Minutes, 20 Slides that Auto-Advance – What Could Go Wrong?
About three weeks ago I submitted a talk to Ignite Chicago with the hopes of doing what many think is insane. Besides it being public speaking, it follows a very specific format. You get 5 minutes, 20 slides, and they auto-advance. I’m used to giving 20, 30, 45-minute talks. In those cases it is often a challenge to keep a flow going, thinking about how to keep the audience engaged, and delivering key points. With an Ignite talk, if you blink an eye it will be over before you know it. It often takes 5 minutes just to tee up the topic, let alone get through it!
The good news is that I was selected which meant ‘Game On’ to find a way to talk about a somewhat complicated topic — digital assistants and voice tech — and make it worthwhile to the audience. The challenge was mapping out a series of slides that told the right story with the right words. You had to be quick and concise because that slide was changing whether you liked it or not!
— IgniteChicago (@IgniteChicago) September 27, 2017
Two things played into my advantage. First, I think having done public speaking before helped me know only you really know your mistakes (for the most part). Second, I talk fast! The only time when talking fast might be beneficial. Though, I’m not really sure it is. You sound rushed and appear to be trying to do too much in the time allotted. I will say that night there were better presenters than me, but the crowd was complimentary none the less.
140 Characters Gets Tough at Times. 280 May Be Too Much
We all know Twitter is used in many cases as a sounding board, a content curation machine, a two-way, or one-to-many conversation, and sometimes just a bullhorn. The premise of Twitter was always to be concise and to the point. Then this happened.
Can’t fit your Tweet into 140 characters? ?
We’re trying something new with a small group, and increasing the character limit to 280! Excited about the possibilities? Read our blog to find out how it all adds up. ?https://t.co/C6hjsB9nbL
— Twitter (@Twitter) September 26, 2017
The Twitterverse collectively lost its mind over it. Which is to be expected when you start to monkey with something that has been established and comfortable. 140 characters made us all editors, get creative with our writing, and introduced a ton of acronyms to help shorten the messages. Twitter has its reasons for expanding the length of a Tweet. However, many are criticizing that 140 is enough. I even took a poll of what feature should Twitter actually implement.
What would you like see @Twitter implement as a new feature?
— Fred Faulkner IV (@FredFaulknerIV) September 27, 2017
The expanding the character limit wasn’t even selected. More people wanted an Edit functionality than anything else! That even caused a spirited debate with my circle of friends on what should be done, how an Edit feature should work, and even went to the extent that Twitter’s bigger problem is about community engagement, not the length of a Tweet.
When Being Concise is an Art and a Science
This leads me to the general point. We spend a lot of time writing things, talking, engaging with others and at some point wasting everyone’s time because we aren’t concise and to the point. There is a fine art and science behind having brevity and clarity in your communications. Twitter was one of those few platforms (certainly not a blog like this one) where you had to be concise or it didn’t work. With Ignite talks, you only get five minutes to talk. It was a challenge, to say the least, and one that I want to do again, so I can be better at it. So I challenge you. Regardless if Twitter goes to 280 characters, or if you have a 60-minute presentation coming up. Try to be as concise as possible. Get to the point in the least amount of words possible, but with clarity and consistency. You can apply this to all parts of your work and personal lives. So give it a try and see what happens. You might find yourself with more time to get things done. Not a bad trade-off.