We live in a hyper-connected, info-flooded world. This is no secret.
We have limited space in our brains to take in all the information and connections available to us. This is also no secret.
Limited brain space affects the speaker (or writer) as much as the audience. The onus is on the receiver to decide what is worthy of their attention. The onus is on the speaker to create content worthy of that attention. This doesn’t mean making packing as much valuable content in as little space as possible. It does mean being very selective of what content we do give at any one point in time, and then ruthlessly editing it down until our message comes across clearly, plainly, and memorably.
This hit home today while I was prepping a new set of business cards. There’s so much I want to say about myself and my business, and so very little space in which to do it. Someone needs to pick up the card, have something about it stick in their brain, and then remember my name and one contact method. That’s a tall order for a piece of paper that usually gets a glimpse less than one second long. I’ve got six lines, each less than three inches wide. It isn’t much, so I need to decide what’s important and what’s important has changed. Email, telephone, and website obviously get some real estate. Do I need to give a physical address? Not really – people are going to email or call before they send a letter. How about my Twitter handle? Something that last year earned my derision has proven its usefulness to me and I deemed it worthy of a line. My father would cringe that I would add such a thing, but my business world is very different than his.
Six lines, each less than three inches wide. That’s not a lot of room. Neither is two minutes for an elevator pitch, or ten minutes for a business presentation, or an hour for an educational lecture. Decide your most important point, write down everything that you want to say, and then ruthlessly hack back anything that doesn’t support or drive that #1 point home. Our jam-packed brains will thank you for it.