Nonprofits do some pretty complex work. As a communications professional, it’s your job to simplify that work into language and images that others can understand and be motivated by — in as few words as possible.

In his new book, Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less (Amazon link),  Joe McCormack argues that being brief is essential for everyone.

He says the consequences of not being brief can be brutal: wasted time, money, and resources; decisions made in confusion; and worthy ideas rejected. If you can’t capture people’s attention and deliver your message with brevity, you’ll lose them. That’s something that every nonprofit communicator knows first-hand!

My Favorite Parts of the Book

McCormack explains why it’s so hard to be brief, and offers many useful tools, including BRIEF Maps (his version of a mind map), how to use stories to keep things brief, using graphics instead of words, and TALC –  talk, active listening, converse.

But my favorite part of the book is Part Three, “Decisiveness: Gaining the Decisiveness to Know When and Where to Be Brief.

In this section, he shows you how to remake your approach to many potential time sucks in our lives, like meetings, social media, and presentations, and how brevity can help in various situations, like delivering bad news.

You Might be Wondering, “How Brief is Brief?” 

McCormack says to ask yourself these 7 questions:

1. Can I hear an hour’s worth of complex information and summarize it in a 2-minute debrief?

2. Do I write e-mails that get to the point in five lines or less?

3. Do my PowerPoint presentations contain fewer than 10 slides, with plenty of images and little text?

4. Can I translate complicated ideas into a simple story, analogy, or anecdote?

5. Can I expertly deliver headlines like a reporter?

6. Do I speak clearly and concisely—in plain English rather than confusing corporate jargon?

7. Do I know instantly when I’ve “lost” somebody?

Need Some Help with Being Brief?

On Thursday, August 7, 2014 I’m teaching our webinar on writing brief in the nonprofit world:

Writing Short: How to Write Subject Lines, Tweets, Headlines, Facebook Updates and More

I’m adding a few of my favorite lessons from the book into the webinar deck (although we’ll have many more than 10 slides!)

I hope you’ll join us!