Category: Content

You’re speaking to the board of directors, trying to win approval for a large capital improvement. Do you give them a detailed analysis of the reasons to approve the project? Or do you hit them with a few key messages supporting your position?

You have a better chance of winning their approval if you go with a few key messages. Too much information actually makes decisions more difficult, according to “Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking,” Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller that focuses on how people make judgments.

Gladwell writes that it’s easiest to make decisions when we focus on just a few key things instead of an overwhelming amount of data: . . . in good decision-making, “frugality matters,” says Gladwell.

The book cites several fascinating studies. One study involved how Emergency Room doctors can best decide whether someone is having a heart attack when they come into the hospital complaining of chest pain. The study determined that focusing on just a few key factors as opposed to a very broad number of factors, actually increased the ability of the doctors to accurately predict the heart attack.

“What screws up doctors when they are trying to predict heart attacks,” Gladwell writes, “is that they take too much information into account.”

Similarly, frugality matters when trying to be persuasive in a presentation. Focusing on a few key messages is far more persuasive and easier on the decision-maker. Of course, it’s incumbent on the speaker to sift through to the most important pieces of information.

So next time you have to persuade, don’t dump data on the decision-maker, pick a few key points and drive them home. You’ll be far more successful.

Speechworks is a communication and selling skills coaching firm. We teach professionals how to craft and deliver complex messages in a simple, persuasive manner. Since 1986, through workshops and one-on-one instruction, we have helped countless individuals become better presenters and communicators. You can reach us at 404.266.0888, or on the web at

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