In a nutshell …
The bottom line is this …
In conclusion …

Let’s face it, when you hear a speaker say one of these phrases, your ears perk up. Either the speaker is letting you know they’re about to share the CliffNotes version of their point, thereby bailing you out because your mind has been wandering. Or the speaker is sending the signal that they’re wrapping up their talk, and there’s no sweeter sound than that of an ending!

I know you’re nodding in agreement. We all agree on this. Speeches and presentations can be tedious. The captivating ones are few and far between. We want it in a nutshell, we want the bottom line, we want the speaker to tell us what the conclusion is. And if this is what we want from them, then it is also what our audiences want from us. The Golden Rule applies; we should do unto others as we would want them to do unto us.

Why, then, is it so hard for business presenters to cut to the chase? Here are a few theories. Check yourself against this list:

Smarts/credibility. I need to share enough information to prove that I’m smart enough and good enough to be standing here or to have this job. Leave your self-doubts at the door. Prepare a talk that embodies confidence and command because it doesn’t hit on every detail. You have the job, don’t you? You’re at the front of the room, aren’t you? Show your smarts and earn your credibility by being crisp and concise.

Thoroughness/credibility. If I’m not thorough, they won’t understand. And if they don’t understand, they might think I don’t know what I’m talking about and/or they won’t be able to make the decision they need to make. Again, throw your negative self-talk in the dumpster outside the building before you enter. That’s the first step. Second, ask yourself if they really need to have the same level of understand as you do in order to get to a decision? Related to that, are you sure they won’t understand if you do a good job at bottom-lining it? The drive to be thorough is all about you. Make it about your audience and cut to the chase. If they don’t understand something and they need you to be more thorough, they’ll ask for it.

This is how we do it. I’ve seen my boss and my colleagues present before, and this is how they do it, they provide a lot of background. I’m just following their example. Oh boy, this is what perpetuates the mediocrity cycle. Keep a critical eye on your colleagues and superiors, they may not have the sharpest communication skills. Don’t be afraid to break the cycle for the sake of efficiency and effectiveness … and ultimately, success. Shape your communications based on your audience, not on self-perpetuating institutional tradition.

They told me I had 45 minutes. I’ve got a lot of time to fill, people are expecting a 45-minute presentation. Okay, so here’s where you go straight to the Golden Rule for guidance. Are you typically enraptured by 45 minutes of one person talking? Do you tend to remember what they said? Probably no and no. Consider preparing a more bottom-line oriented presentation and filling the 45 minutes by breaking up your talk with Q&A or discussion time throughout, or by finishing early. No one will be upset, I promise.

I need to explain first. I need my audience to know everything I know before I can share the conclusion. Unless you’re speaking in an educational setting – a classroom or a training – imparting everything you know on a topic is not necessary. Most business audiences are good with an appropriately superficial level of knowledge, knowing that if they need more comprehensive info you are there for them.

Some of the most popular formats for presentations demand cutting to the chase: TedTalks are quite informative yet are limited to 18 minutes. PechaKucha (20 slides, 20 seconds per slide) begins and ends within 7 minutes. These formats are popular because they are well-suited to adult humans with short attention spans and an ever-increasing amount of information available to them. And they’re enjoyable.

In short, be the solution and cut to the chase.

Beth Levine