For the last decade, I’ve spent about 90 minutes every weekend listening to BBC Radio Five Live’s World Football Phone-In podcast. There are very few habits in my life I’ve stuck to more consistently or thoroughly.
If we really are the ‘average’ of the five people we spend the most time with, than outside of my wife and colleagues, the weekly show’s presenter Dotun Adebayo is certainly making a case for his inclusion in my inner circle. I bring Dotun with me to the kitchen whilst doing the dishes, to the grocery store on my weekly shop, on planes, trains, and automobiles.
Of course, the show is partly about soccer players, coaches, and teams, but more interestingly – it is about the unique cultural, geographical, and political nuances of the world’s beautiful game. At once a European, South American, or African history lesson from sport’s perspective. It entertains, but more thoroughly, it educates.
So it was no surprise that the inspiration for this post came from a brief moment this morning when Dotun, joined by his partners Tim Vickery and Mina Rzouki, shared the saying, “Why use a gallon of words to express a spoonful of thoughts.”
It reminded me of a teachable moment in Ocean’s Eleven when Brad Pitt, mentoring Matt Damon, says, “Don’t use seven words when four will do.”
Advice that’s so straightforward yet so difficult to implement. The concise opening to a PowerPoint presentation, in-person meeting, or conference call is pretty rare. It takes preparation to find the right balance between being too brief and too long-winded.
But I think it’s a skill that can be honed. In the 1980s, my mom trained Israeli politicians, CEOs and academics in cross-cultural communications and public speaking. One of her tactics for executive groups was to ask each executive to take out their business card and write on the back of the card – in that small space – what their message was. What they wanted to get across to their audience in their presentation.
The lesson was that you needed to drill down your message to that fine point so you could fit it on the back of a business card. If you yourself don’t know what you want to get across, how will your audience ever understand it?
To some of us, like Dotun Adebayo of BBC’s World Football Phone-In, that ability with the English language comes naturally. Pithy is no problem.
For the rest of us, it’s a challenge, but not an insurmountable one.
This post may have taken me ~ 400 words, a liter maybe, but at least it wasn’t a gallon. Perhaps in the future I’ll fit my thoughts into a teaspoon.