As in "Keep It Simple Stupid". This applies to about 78,000 different situations in life (this is just a rough guess; I didn't count) not the least of which is when we pitch to clients.
We've all probably heard or studied a bit about the concept of one's "six word story" or "elevator pitch". Those require a bit of work to frame properly, to really dig into one's inner workings to extract the brand essence - the DNA - of what we are all about. Just as in the world of the thirty-second TV spot where an audience needs to be ensnared and held in a short period of time, so too must our own pitch effectively engage our audience quickly and concisely.
At a recent industry meeting, our group hosted a guest speaker - the talented Gilda Bonanno - who has an interesting background: a motivational speaker who is also part of an improv acting troupe. She introduced the group to a couple of interactive exercises, one of which is called "Half Life." The gist of the exercise is that the room would split into pairs of people, and we were all given a universal topic to discuss - in our case, "a day at the beach". A timer was set to 64 seconds, and each pair had to engage in a one-on-one improv dialog with one another, creating a little made-up story. At the end of the allotted time, the timer was reset to 32 seconds - half the time, hence the name "Half Life". We were then instructed to engage in the same basic story to one another in half the original time. After the time was up - you guessed it - the clock was reset to 16 seconds, and we repeated. At 8 seconds, it was tough - but most of us managed. Many laughs ensued, and it brought the group together with a wonderful dynamic in the air!
What we all learned was the importance of how to carefully choose one's words, with limited time to express them. As the time limit grew progressively shorter, we were forced to trim the fat and only retain the stuff that mattered when relaying our story back and forth. Fluff and extraneous color hit the cutting room floor - so to speak - with just the distilled backbone of the story remaining.
The entire exercise reminded me of a high school creative writing class where we were all instructed to take one of our own poems and scrutinize each and every line, putting them on a sort of defensive literary trial, culling every word that absolutely did not contribute to the greater welfare of the ultimate message. We weighed whether each word was enough of an anchor or necessary brick in the wall. If not, it got the axe. It was amazing to see how many poems wound up being boiled down to a mere fraction of their former mass. It was an early view to what I'd later see in the "six word story" concept. And that particular exercise actually paid off for me; applying it led to winning an Illinois Poet Laureate Award. True story. (Results not typical; do try this at home.)
Think about all this the next time you need to frame a pitch - whether working on a new business proposal, or a casual networking social around the cocktail weenies and cheese platter. And if nothing else, it also works great when saying grace around the dinner table.
(As a related post, please check out our friend Drew McLellan's thoughts here.)