Information Overload: Why Brevity Is Becoming a Business Basic


Brevity is emerging as an essential new business basic.

In the fast-paced, multi-tasking, attention-deficit workplaces we find ourselves, getting to the point quickly matters more than ever. If you’re long winded, you’ll lose people’s attention and get lost in the data deluge.

But we face daunting challenges just to be heard.

The average person’s attention span is now only 8 seconds, and professionals are interrupted 6-7 times an hour, often unable to get back to their task at hand. More than 43 percent of us abandon complicated or lengthy emails in the first 30 seconds, and the majority of us admit ignoring half the emails we receive every day.

The challenge to capture mindshare

The business world is experiencing information overload, and there isn’t enough time to sift through everything that comes our way.

If you can’t capture your audience’s attention and deliver your message with brevity, people will disconnect with you, and it may cost you promising career opportunities. The unspoken expectation is that successful people will be masters of brevity.

The discipline to capture and manage elusive mindshare now shapes and defines professional success. Shorter emails, better organized updates, and tighter and more engaging presentations are immediate indicators that you’ve got what it takes to succeed.

Getting to the point is getting to be a non-negotiable standard.

Ten years ago, brevity was a nicety and meant primarily for long-winded types that couldn’t stop talking. Today, being clear and concise is an absolute necessity; it’s what successful people expect to see — and they become frustrated quickly when it’s missing.

However, brevity is easier said than done. Why do so many professionals admit the importance of brevity yet fail to be clear and concise themselves?

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4 things that can make a difference

The brutal reality surrounds all of us every day: PowerPoint presentations that lack power and have no point; management monologues that feel more like lectures and less like leadership; and executive briefings that are rarely brief.

In the book Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less, author Joe McCormack outlines why professionals struggle with brevity and outlines how we can overcome challenges and embrace a “less is more” mentality. The challenge goes far beyond knowing the importance of brevity; it also requires the discipline of doing something about it.

Here are three (3) things the author suggests you can do to make an immediate, noticeable difference:

  • Take more time to prepare. It takes a concerted effort in advance to be brief. Write down your main point and three key ideas before you walk into your next meeting or jump onto the next conference call.
  • Respect people’s scarce time. Remember that other people’s time is as valuable as your own. When you sense you’re getting on a roll, it’s time to wrap it up.
  • Empathize with their inattention. Understand that the people you communicate with are buried and can’t handle another inessential detail. Trim excess information wherever possible.

It’s worth the payoff

Brevity is your professional responsibility. Though it may seem an obvious need, it really is hard work requiring constant vigilance and discipline.

The payoff, however, is worth it when you and your ideas clearly and quickly stand apart from your peers.

The post originally appeared in a somewhat different form on

Named as one of the Ten Best and Brightest Women, one of the 25 Most Influential People in the incentive industry, and selected for the Employee Engagement Power 100 list, Michelle was inducted into the Incentive Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame and received their President’s and Karen Renk Fellowship Awards. She’s a highly accomplished international speaker, author, and strategist on leadership, company culture, workplace trends and employee engagement.

Michelle was the Founder and Chair of the Editorial Board of Return on Performance Magazine, and has been featured on Fox Television, the BBC, in Fortune, Business Week, Inc. and other global publications, and contributed to the books Bull Market by Seth Godin, Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk, and Social Media Isn’t Social.   Connect with her via LinkedIn or Twitter