Motivation: Brevity: The essence of effective communication
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motivational article was published in Oman Observer ,
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REFLECTION -By Dr Rajan Philipsrajanph@yahoo.co.uk -After 27 long years Nelson Mandela, the iconic South African
leader was released
from prison on February 11, 1990, by the apartheid regime. It was a truly
treasured moment in history. As he appeared at the gates of the Victor-Verster
Prison, he delivered a remarkable speech that marked the end of apartheid. How
long did the speech go? Five minutes!
The importance of brevity for effective communication, can never be over
People sit through weary business conferences and deliberations when they have
no option but to stay. Committees they say spend hours to keep minutes. But
unless a clear message is conveyed quickly and precisely it is sheer waste of
time and human resources.
The normal grouse against very scholarly speakers with all the knowledge in the
world but who fail to stir the audience is that they take too long to get to the
point, or get bogged down with complex and intricate details. In the process
they put their audience to sleep.
According to a Forbes magazine estimate most speeches run over 40 minutes. But
Ron Huff in his book Say It in Six suggests six minutes or shorter as the ideal
time for a speech.
The customary project speeches at Toastmasters International sessions run from
five to seven minutes and are generally well received. They are obviously quite
in line with the Ron Huff principle.
In fact, some of the greatest speeches in terms of memorable contexts and
lasting impact were of even shorter duration. It is said that Winston
Churchill’s oratory saved Britain from defeat in World War II. His Never Give In
speech lasted just six minutes and the oft quoted Blood Sweet and Tears was even
shorter, lasting under three minutes.
Dale Carnegie acclaimed for his How to Win Friends and Influence People wrote
another useful book, Effective Speaking. In this book the author suggests the
need for precision and clarity of expression. An illustrative anecdote would
illuminate a concept quickly saving a lot of long winding and tedious
Brevity implies being short, but it does not mean being shallow or superficial.
We ought to structure our talk well and stay focused. We will then carry the
audience with us and put them in an interactive mode.
Communication gurus have come up with the catchy acronym K.I.S.S. to convey the
principle and virtue of effective communication. K.I.S.S. stands for Keep It
Short and Simple.
Centuries ago the immortal English Bard William Shakespeare hit the nail on the
head when he had Polonius, a key character in the play Hamlet saying: Brevity is
the soul of wit. The maxim implies that articulate and intelligent communication
necessitates only a few wisely chosen words. Good speakers go straight to the
point without beating around the bush.
In conclusion, let us take a look at one of the greatest historic speeches — the
November 19, 1863, Gettysburg Address by US President Abraham Lincoln. It was
primarily delivered to remember the dead in the Civil War fought over the issue
of slavery and national integrity.However, the speech has assumed iconic status for a related reason. We have in
it the unforgettable lines at the end, ‘that government Of the People, By the
People, and For the People… shall not perish from the earth”. These have been
extensively quoted and enshrined as the definition and essence of Democracy. The
text of the speech is well below 300 words and Lincoln delivered in a matter of
two or three minutes. Think of it! Brevity is indeed the essence of successful
Be sincere; be brief; be seated. — Franklin D Roosevelt
Good things, when short, are twice as good. — Anon.
Articles by Dr.Rajan Philips