Don’t Make this Stupid Mistake #10: Too Much Info Too Soon

August 13, 2009

Here’s the situation:  John was eager to make a good impression.  A  highly qualified individual,  John was was interviewing  for a desirable position.

Here’s the stupid mistake:  John told me the mistake in his own words:  “I just blew an interview,” John said. “I droned on and on about my background for 45 minutes and bored the interviewer. The guy’s eyes glazed over, and I didn’t get called back.” 

In their eagerness to make a good impression, job seekers often provide too much information too soon. They miss the opportunity for a dialogue and the chance to make an impression by targeting the interests of the other party.

Salespeople make the exact same mistake. So do project managers reporting on the outcome of a project. Chances are you make the very same mistake on a regular basis–in e-mails, presentations and proposals. Providing too much information too soon is the top communication mistake.

Here’s the solution:  One of the strategies I recommend to my clients comes from Garr Reynolds–on the topic of simplicity.

Reynolds is right when he says that simplicity is an exercise in subtraction. Conciseness is an exercise in subtraction as well. As you plan a presentation, a project report, an e-mail, a proposal or an interview, ask yourself what is essential to your receiver understanding your message. Subtract everything else.

Once you subtract the nonessential, your communication will become more clear, concise and powerful. What’s more, you’ll open up communication “space” in the situation, which allows you to receive and respond to the interests and concerns of the other party. This is the heart of persuasion.


Power in Your Presentation: Cut Your Word Count

February 20, 2008

Copywriters know there is power in brevity.  For example, Coke–it’s the real thing!  These are  five memorable words that have carried the brand a long way.  Verizon’s, it’s the network, is even less.

As a speech coach, one my biggest challenges is to encourage people to cut words, especially when telling a story.  When preparing a story for one of my own speeches, I write the entire story out.  Then I begin to cut away chunks of information the listener doesn’t absolutely need.  Then I go back and look at the words I’ve chosen.  I try to make every word alive and descriptive.  In the end, a three-minute story often turns out to be more powerful as a six-minute story.  A professional communicator, I’m in the business of cutting works to gain power.

Even so, I was caught short by the power of an exercise on the Smith Magazine website.  See  The idea is to write your life story in six words.  Here’s one person’s example:  Cursed by cancer; blessed by friends.  How powerful is that?!  Make a visit to this website.  You can submit your own six-word story and check out the collection from famous and not so famous people.  This is an exercise in eloquence worth pursuing.  Send me your examples!

 PS:  I first learned about the six word stories at: