Book Summary: Brief

We are in an attention-deficit society, so being brief is both necessary and uncommon.

There are repercussions when we are not clear and direct. Time, money, and resources are all being squandered. Decisions are made in haste, brilliant ideas aren't pursued, and transactions take much too long to complete.

This book emphasizes the importance of first having your facts straight and then getting to the point—quickly.

Come with us for the next 12 minutes as we look at ways to convey your idea briefly and effectively. It's like Six Sigma for your mouth, as author Joseph McCormack puts it.

Let's get this party started.

Why Brevity Is Vital

Everyone is busy these days. Executives, in particular. Your convoluted marketing message or sales pitch is likely to be lost in the daily barrage of information they're trying to keep up with.

Being short, as McCormack reminds us, is about more than simply time. What matters most is how it makes the audience feel. It's not about getting the most bang for your buck. It's all about getting the most out of the time you have.

To adhere to the rules of brevity, three things must be accomplished: be concise, clear, and compelling. As a result, you must also have a thorough grasp of your subject area.

Mindful of Mind-filled-ness

People around you are mentally strained because they live in a world full of diversions. As a result, it's critical to get to your point before your audience becomes sidetracked.

As you strive to persuade your audience, you're up against four major forms of pressure:

  1. Information overload has become worse as social media and email have become more pervasive in our daily lives;
  2. Inattention, which makes people struggle to pay attention for more than 10 seconds at a time;
  3. Interruptions, which refers to the fact that several items are fighting for your attention at any given time;
  4. Impatience for outcomes, which causes people to be stressed virtually all of the time.

Here's the deal: Even if you are allowed 30 minutes to deliver a presentation, you will have far less time before your audience becomes bored.

Why You Struggle with Brevity: The Seven Capital Sins

Even though brevity is a must in today's society, it is difficult to perfect due to what McCormack refers to as the "seven capital sins."

  1. Cowardice. You obscure your message with jargon and buzzwords because you lack the courage to be direct and take a stance on the subject.
  2. Confidence. You're so familiar with the topic that you can't help but describe it in excruciating detail.
  3. Callousness. You have no regard for other people's time. When you claim "this will just take a minute," it usually takes much longer.
  4. Comfort. When you're comfortable in front of an audience, you may be a little wordy and draw out the narrative.
  5. Confusion. You have a habit of thinking aloud, oblivious to the fact that your audience would prefer to hear the final product.
  6. Complication. You believe the problem is extremely complex, although you must make it as simple as possible for others.
  7. Carelessness. You don't give enough thought to what you're about to say, and your message becomes jumbled.

Brevity Tool #1: BRIEF Maps

4 workers are having a brainstorm.

People who gain expertise giving presentations and sales pitches make the mistake of dismissing outlines, believing that they are a tool that only newbies utilize.

Professionals recognize the importance of having a plan in place. According to McCormack, there are five instant benefits to utilizing them.

Outlines keep you focused on:

  • Prepared, so you are ready to convey your message.
  • Organized so that you can see how all of your thoughts are related.
  • Clear, so you know exactly what you're getting at.
  • Contextual, so you may paint a broader picture and emphasize your argument.
  • Confident, so you know what to communicate both inside and out.

The following is how to create a BRIEF outline:

  • B: Background or beginning;
  • R: Relevance or reason;
  • I: Information for inclusion;
  • E: Ending or conclusion;
  • F: Follow-up inquiries or questions you expect to be asked or may ask;

This style may be utilized for whatever you need to give to your team, from an important project update to the most critical sales pitch you've ever made.

Let's move on to communicating your message now that we've covered how to outline it.

Brevity Tool #2: The Role of Narratives

A speaker is holding a microphone telling a story and motivation.

If you use business jargon, your audience will tune you out faster than you can say "next slide." However, if you tell them a compelling tale, they will happily give you their full attention.

To assist us in doing so, McCormack introduces us to the Narrative Map. The map is made up of five different components.

The focal point

This is the most important section of the tale since it explains its message to the audience. For example, Steve Jobs declared at the start of his iPhone launch presentation, "Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone."

Setup or challenge

This is the difficulty, conflict, or issue in the marketplace that your company addresses in a marketing or sales message. Every good narrative has a dragon that must be defeated.


It's all about expressing the possibility presented by the problem. This is referred to as an unmet need or an aha moment by some.


Now we'll see how the narrative progresses. This section of your tale describes the how, where, and when you'll address the problem or take advantage of the opportunity. Usually, there are three or four main points to be addressed here.


After every excellent story, there is a payoff. This is where you describe how life will be for your audience when your solution has been implemented.

So that's how you plan and then write a story that communicates simply, succinctly, and effectively.

Let's now turn our focus to a technique for being clear in our daily interactions with others.

Brevity Tool #3: Controlled Conversations and TALC Tracks

A business man is listening what his employee ask.

As McCormack points out, we are much more undisciplined in providing knowledge in our daily discussions if we are not disciplined in how we offer information.

In a casual environment, being short involves moving away from unending monologues and toward what he refers to as "managed dialogues." There is a rhythm, a purpose, and a goal to these discussions.

There are a few things you should keep in mind to have successful interactions.

Let's start with the three most typical blunders that lead to protracted, cumbersome discussions:

  1. Passive listening: Allowing the other person to go on about anything while saying nothing. As a result, no control exists.
  2. Waiting for your turn: Allowing the other person to speak before stepping in to deliver your bit. As a result, two different discussions are taking place.
  3. Impulsively reacting: Reacting impulsively to anything uttered by another person, such as a phrase or an idea. As a result, the discourse has no clear direction.

Let's move on to a framework that is both balanced and concise. These are referred to as TALC Tracks by McCormack.

T is for Talk

Someone in the conversation begins to speak. It may be you or someone else. At this point, there are two factors to consider:

  1. When the other person has finished speaking, be ready to say something.
  2. Be certain that your response has a distinct point.

AL is for Actively Listen

Throughout the conversation, pay close attention to what the other person is saying. Don't multitask, zone out, or otherwise divert your focus away from the other person. At this point, there are two factors to consider:

  1. Inquire about what you heard using open-ended inquiries.
  2. Investigate the aspects of the subject that pique your interest.

C is for Converse

When the conversation comes to a natural stop, it's your chance to step in with a comment, a question, or a transition to another topic. At this point, you should think about three things:

  1. It's not a good idea to use your turn to start a new topic.
  2. Keep your comments to a minimum.
  3. Know when to stop talking so that the other person may resume their conversation.

When and Where to be Brief

3 worker having a meeting at office.

Let's look at some particular instances of when and when to be brief now that we've covered the basics of how to be brief.

In Meetings

Meetings, as we all know, are a pain. To make the villains suck less, you must murder three of them.

  1. Time. Reduce the time you spend with them. Reintroduce the BRIEF into briefings.
  2. Type. Consider holding a standing or no-table meeting. Meetings should, above all, be more like a discussion than a presentation.
  3. Tyrants. Assuring that your meetings are not dominated by a single person. This includes guest speakers.

Social Media

McCormack suggests that we design social media posts and emails to respect an executive's busy schedule. That usually means making things shorter.


Note to presenters: if you're not speaking about what the audience wants, don't speak at all.

Job Interviews

Nobody enjoys job interviews, including the one who is doing the hiring. Create a BRIEF Map when you're the applicant to briefly explain why you're qualified. Then give a narrative about your previous accomplishments that illustrate what your future employer is searching for.

Sharing Good and Bad News

Always get to the point swiftly when presenting good or negative news to your staff. Allow time for the information to sink in and for them to ask inquiries after that.

Consider three essential concerns when giving terrible news in particular:

  1. Problems. Informing people of awful news straightforwardly and unflinchingly is critical.
  2. Causes. Give the true reasons for the appalling news so that everyone knows what's going on.
  3. Possibility. Take advantage of difficult circumstances to have a heart-to-heart with someone.


Everyone is occupied. The world is pleading with you to get to the point as soon as possible.

As President Franklin D. Roosevelt once stated: "Be sincere, brief, be seated."

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