Why the Best Speakers are Masters at Brevity

By Dez Thornton & Bob Rathbun

Imagine you’re pouring an ice-cold glass of water on a blazing hot summer day. As you watch the freshly squeezed lemons dance around the top of the pitcher, the water in your glass reaches the top.

Fully aware of what’s happening, you continue to pour until water is spilling all over the countertop and running off onto the floor. Undeterred, you carry on until the pitcher is empty and you’ve made a complete mess.

Sadly, being unable to accurately gauge when their point has been made or when they have sufficiently answered a question, this is exactly what many public speakers do during their presentations. They just keep on pouring, making a mess of what could have been a refreshing presentation, leaving their audience feeling like they’ve been waterboarded.

"Today’s audience has an extremely short attention span. The sooner you stop, the more they’ll love and appreciate you."

Ladies and gents, in the 1,000-plus years history of public speaking, never once has an audience member complained because a speech ended too soon. That being the case, be careful to avoid making the fatal mistake of equating the length of your talk to the depth of your knowledge or level of audience engagement.

Today’s audience has an extremely short attention span. The sooner you stop, the more they’ll love and appreciate you. My grandfather was on to something when he used to say, “Always look for the shortest book you can find on a particular topic because the short books were written by people who knew what they were talking about―just look at how little time it took them to say it.”

In the spirit of his wise words, we’ll end here because our cup runneth over.

We’ll leave you with this—be brief, be good and be gone.

Bob Rathbun

Dez Thornton

Emmy award-winning broadcaster and voice of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Atlanta Hawks Bob Rathbun and communications consultant to CEOs Dez Thornton share actionable strategies to refine public speaking and leadership communication skills.

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