Concision: Put Yourself on the Clock
I spent yesterday evening at a "Speed Venturing" event. Entrepreneurs got 12 minutes to pitch their business to potential investors. Most chaffed at the time constraint, especially when the 'winners' had to summarize their business in 1 minute. Hearing their stories during the un-timed networking, I could tell why: most were technologists and engineers that had really cool concepts. They innovated around some really hard constraints and the results were worth talking about. Most could talk for a half hour without even getting started.
But I'm still a fan of the 12 minute constraint. (As were the investors.)
Constraints foster the best creativity. When you have to get the point across in a few minutes, you come up with the most ingenious ways of doing it. Even if you have an hour for a pitch, I'd practice getting it done in ten minutes. Concision makes you crisper and easier to understand.
Materials: a timer and a whiteboard.
- Identify the question you're answering. Write it at the top of the whiteboard: constantly seeing it will give you a clear standard for editing your answer.
- Take your business plan (or other documents) and pick out the important ideas that answer the question. Write these, bullet point style, on the whiteboard.
- With all your potential ideas on the board, answer the question a few times out loud without the timer. Try a few different arrangements and begin to group the ideas in ways that sound connected. You're trying to build a logical order.
- Introduce the timer first as a diagnosis tool. Give your best answer and see how long it takes; then start cutting and rearranging. Set the timer to countdown mode and practice a few more times. You're trying to hear what can be left out without leaving the question unanswered.