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It Doesn’t Have To Be Fancy — Why Less Really Is More

Executives often think that complex communication is better, but the key to effectively getting your point across is knowing your message doesn’t have to be fancy.

Executives often think that complex communication is better, but the key to effectively getting your point across is knowing your message doesn’t have to be fancy.

Many of today's business executives are caught up in the idea that “more is better” when it comes to communicating. They operate under the theory that the more words used or the fancier the presentation, the more important the content will be perceived. As a result, they add useless fluff to content in emails, newsletters or presentations. However, that doesn't make them look good; it only dilutes their message. Instead of allowing a message to get lost in unnecessary noise, remember that “simple and short” is a much better way to communicate — particularly at the managerial or executive level.

People may nod in agreement, but these same people are afraid that if they speak so plainly that everyone can understand them, their message will no longer sound sophisticated. But the main objective is not to sound sophisticated — it is to get your message across. When your reader is crunched for time, brevity is essential.

Think about going through your emails in the morning. You are in triage mode, deciding which emails need to be answered right away, which ones need to be forwarded, which ones need contemplation and which ones are junk. If you're like most people, if an email is not immediately understandable, it will go into the "read later — or maybe never" pile.  A similar thing happens with newsletters or reports that come across your desk. I believe things should look nice, but some people spend so much time on the template that they forget about the content. The same is true in presentations or even in corporate web content, where functionality is important, but the message should be the main focus.

As organizations become flatter, all employees are doing more with less time, so if you're the sender of an email, newsletter, presentation or other item, make sure your message has every chance of being read and acted upon by being clear and brief.

Using too many words can also be detrimental when we talk because when we are talking, we're not listening. Sales professionals do this all the time; they make the sale but don't stop — and they ultimately talk the buyer out of the sale. You should listen for the word “YES.” When you hear it, you need to stop talking. 

Mark Twain had it right when he said, "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” While it may take more thought to craft a clear and effective message, what you want to say will stand out without the fluff and clutter. Your readers will pay attention, and they will thank you.

Paul Glover is the founder of The Glover Group, a management consulting firm dedicated to assisting companies survive the “WorkQuake” of the Knowledge Economy by improving workplace performance. He had a 30-year career as a labor/employment law attorney and union leader. Paul is a FastCompany expert blogger who teachers leadership theory, assessing leadership skills and teambuilding, among other topics. Paul presents 76 strategies and tips to thrive in the Knowledge Economy in his new book, WorkQuake, published by Round Table Companies. can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @WorkQuakeBook.

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