Why Isn’t It Better to Say More?

When you watch a TV show, a play, or a movie, the set you see is carefully chosen. Let’s say the scene you’re watching takes place in a kitchen. The art director is going to select items that convey something she wants the viewer to know about whose kitchen it is, and the details are going to support that story. Crucially, she is also going to leave out any details that detract from that story. If she heaps “kitchen stuff” willy-nilly on every counter, our attention is drawn to the excess.

When you are speaking—giving a talk, briefing a group, reporting on the status of a project—you need to select the details you share like you’re the art director on a movie. What’s essential context to understanding the main point? What’s extraneous? What do the people listening actually need to know?

More detail isn’t better. Just like an art director with props on every surface, when you include everything you know about a topic, we don’t know what to focus on. It can be really tempting to tell us everything you know, but resist the temptation! Curate your story. Be intentional.

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