Listen to the audio version of this post here.


Tell me if this sounds familiar? I’m on a webinar – there are a lot of those, these days, right?

It’s a subject I genuinely want to know more about, and the woman who’s running the thing is clearly an expert. So, I start out enthusiastic about this opportunity to learn some things.

Somewhere in the first half hour, my excitement begins to wane. It’s a lot of information and it’s coming non-stop.

The second half-hour, I’m still half-listening. I’m also checking my email on my phone. Okay, I admit it: I also log into LinkedIn and reply to a couple of comments on my post from earlier in the day.

By the third half hour, I’m horrified – I didn’t realize there would be a third half hour. My phone rings; I decide to take the call. The online group is so small, I feel like I can’t just sign out; it would be noticed. So, I take my phone into the other room.

And when I come back, the woman is still talking. And humble-bragging about how she’s really hitting us with a firehose, huh? Really giving us a lot.

She brought up the firehose four or five more times before she finally ended the session after two long hours.

Here’s the thing. She didn’t really do us—or herself—any favors.

This firehose metaphor. Drinking from a firehose means being overwhelmed. Inundated with a torrent of information spewed in your direction.

Does any of that sound like a good way to learn? Or to develop a business relationship? Or to make a buying decision?

There’s all kinds of debate about how long a person can listen and learn. I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of research about the human attention span. I found everything from the famous goldfish comparison suggesting we can tune in for about 8 seconds …to an assertion that a good speaker should shift gears every 18 minutes because that’s when the audience begins to drift.

I’d bet the truth is somewhere between them. And closer to the first one, if I had my guess.

Here’s what I know for sure. Especially when it comes to online learning, meetings and events, we have a frighteningly short amount of time to capture their attention.

Then keeping their attention is another whole challenge.

That’s why I asked my LinkedIn connections to Pledge to Be Pithy.

Whether you’re introducing yourself in one of those Zoom-based networking events that are becoming popular, or running a meeting, or offering a full-blown webinar, you’re way better off to be clear and concise. That’s what makes you compelling and memorable.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who wishes people would cut to the chase, already. Professionals lined up to take The Pledge:

Then there was Andy White: “Totally in on this pledge. I completely zone out after a while – detail overload, half of which is off at a tangent, more often than not. Great advice (and also a handy note-to-self, seeing as we can all be guilty of it, especially when you are passionate about the topic under discussion).”

Apparently, Andy thought twice about that comment. Because he added another one: “Or the pithy version: yes!”

Listen, there’s definitely a place for long-form communication. And in most of our business interactions, especially online, and especially now when so many are new to online platforms, we maximize our impact when we minimize our verbiage.

  • Open powerfully (we can talk about that another time).
  • Make your point. Or make three; don’t make 17.
  • Close with something your audience will remember. (A Call to Action, perhaps?)

Here’s to shorter communication your audience can digest and act on.

By all means post a comment below and take the Pledge to Be Pithy.

Or if you think short-and-sweet is overrated, you can tell us that too.