Say less – and persuade more

The more words we use to say or write something, the less convincing we become.

Persuasive writers and speakers are succinct. They use the minimum number of sentences needed to convey their message. They know that using more will dilute the effect they’re seeking, or create an impression that they’re insecure in their verbal abilities.

speech

Along with saying less, it’s also a good idea to slow the pace. In oral formats, this gives the impression of gravity and significance. Insecure speakers have a tendency to gabble and to blur their words, undermining authoritativeness.

In written formats, pace can be governed by appropriate word choice. Readers pause for thought over the correctly chosen word. They skim through material that doesn’t hit the nail.

The best writers and speakers say what they need to, then stop. Silence allows the message to sink in. It also gives readers and listeners the opportunity to respond, which they are grateful for.

Enough said.

Photo by Kristina Flour

Over the top, almost

I recently went to a performance of Verdi’s nineteenth century opera, La Traviata. Like modern musicals, it was a multi-media spectacle, combining singing, dancing, narrative, an orchestra, scenery and lighting.

The outdoor harborside setting boosted the opportunity for grandiose effects, including fireworks and cast members arriving by boat. An enormous 3.5-tonne chandelier with 10,000 Swarovski crystals overhung the stage.

SWEET SPOT REACHED

The whole enterprise was over the top – almost.  This is surely the key to success in entertainment, communication or almost anything, which is knowing how far to push and when to ease back.

The sweet spot is the point just before the effort falls over the line into absurdity or ridiculousness.

Changing entertainments, watch any motor race and check the lead car. You’ll see lots of small evidence of the traction limits being approached, such as brief wheel locks during braking, sideways judders on the bends, tail wag under acceleration.

The winner is the person who can drive fastest without spinning out, colliding or failing to take a corner.

JUST THIS SIDE

The skill of motor racing is not to drive safely and under control, but to keep the car just this side of catastrophe. Similarly, an accomplished producer or communicator knows exactly where the traction limits lie.

Of course each medium has its own parameters or variables. Opera is not the same as motorsport or a politician’s speech.

But people who have mastered the sweet spot principle are invariably the most successful. This was just as true in Verdi’s time as it is today.

Photo by Borna Bevanda