If you’re a speaker or a writer … and if you have a business or a career you’re a speaker and a writer … discipline is your friend.

Here’s what I mean by discipline. You probably can’t say everything you’d like to say in the time or space available. You’ll need to choose what to leave in and what to leave out.

Speakers, bloggers, workshop leaders – everyone seems to find this challenging.

I did a webinar last week for Engaging SpeakersDive in with a Splash: Create a Great Opening for Your Talk. Someone congratulated me later for only doing half an hour. As she put it, “You didn’t give everything away.”

But I didn’t set out to avoid giving anything away.  They told me I had half an hour to talk. I chose my subject and decided what to say about it, based on that 30-minute container.  I couldn’t possibly cover everything about being a good speaker. But I could give people some value if I focused on one specific thing that speakers struggle with – how to begin their presentation.

It’s that specificity that trips people up.  For a couple of reasons.

Some experts are so eager to help people that they get carried away with their content … there’s so much to say and it can do so much good and people really need what they have to offer. They go way overboard and wind up overwhelming their audience with the sheer volume of information.

These heart-centered, mission-driven, transformational types come from a place of sincerely wanting to help. And they miss the mark. Turns out their listeners or readers would have gotten more help from less content. Sadly, the nugget someone needed was buried in the blahblah.

And then there are speakers and writers who seem to be more focused on themselves than their audience. You’ve probably seen this too – the whole point seems to be to show off how much they know and how much experience they have and how wise they are.

Soaking up the spotlight, the ego-driven expert desperately needs to be seen as knowing it all.  And it seems as if they’re intent on telling us every single bit of it. Every time.

When I coach my clients, we cover enormous ground.  Honing their material, finding the right structure, developing their delivery skills … getting themselves in front of the right audience.  People who are serious about their success want to master all of it.

Honestly, they can learn a lot from me. And, I’m becoming more convinced all the time that one of the most useful things I do for them is push them to get specific.

I want the speakers I coach to zero in on their audience and exactly what those people need.  To focus like a laser on one way they can meet that need. And to have the discipline not to drown people in data.

I invite you to experiment with cutting back on content.  Not because you want to tease people or make them pay you to get more of your expertise. (Although paying you is always a good thing, isn’t it?)

I’m recommending the laser-focus because attention spans are short – and getting shorter. Because you serve your listeners or readers best when you give them just what they can take in and use. And because in the end, your words have more power when there are fewer of them.