Be Brief!

Comments (20)

Be Brief!

By: Stephen D. Boyd

Centuries ago great speakers often spoke two hours and more. But today when sound bytes on television news are the norm and serious problems are solved in an hour on a television drama, audiences are most interested in speakers that get their points across in a short period of time. In a speech delivered to a Women in Communication audience, Patricia Ward Brash said, "Television has helped create an impatient society, where audiences expect us to make our point simply and quickly."

Today great speakers are noted for their brevity. Billy Graham, in a recent city-wide campaign in Cincinnati, spoke about 20 minutes each night. Theodore Sorensen in his book, Kennedy, gave guidelines by which President Kennedy prepared speeches. No speech was more than 20-30 minutes. He wasted no words and his delivery wasted no time. He rarely used words he considered hackneyed or word fillers. As Purdue communications professor and researcher Josh Boyd wrote, "In physics, power is defined as work divided by time. In other words, more work done in less time produces more power. In the same way, a speaker's message is most powerful when he [or she] can deliver a lot of good material in a short amount of time."

Here are guidelines to make brevity a key foundation in your next speech. First, keep your stories under two minutes in length. In preparing a story, continue to ask the question, "How can I say this in less time and in fewer words?" Script out your story and then seek to condense it. There is an adage in using humor: "The longer the story the funnier it had better be." Connecting this principle to stories in general, we might say, "The longer the story, the more impact it had better have." To make sure your stories stay under two minutes, include only information that answers the questions, "Who?" "What?" "When?" "Where?" and "Why?" If it doesn't answer one of these questions, leave it out. Make sure also that you have a sense of direction in the story. Each part of the story should move toward the conclusion in the mind of the listener. The listener should always feel you are going somewhere in developing your story.

Second, when possible, follow the proverb, "Less is better than more." Never use three words when you can say it in two. Leave out clichés, filler words, and hackneyed words, such as "You know," "OK," and "All right." Leave out phrases such as "Let me be honest," or blunt, or frank. Avoid "In other words..." or "To say it another way..." Speak in short sentences, short phrases, and short words. Word choice should be instantly clear to an audience. Make it a goal to make every word have impact in your speech.

Third, know the length of your speech by practicing it. Never be surprised by the length of your speech. Never say to an audience, "I'm running out of time, so I must hurry along." You should know because of your preparation and practice of the speech. To go one step further, if you know the time limit on your speech is 20 minutes, stop a minute short; don't go overtime. Audiences will appreciate your respect of their time and will think more highly of you as a speaker because of that. You should never be surprised by how long it takes you to deliver a speech

Fourth, learn to divide parts of your speech into time segments. Let's use a 20-minute speech as an example. The introduction should be no longer than 2½ minutes. You can get the attention and preview your message easily in that length of time. Avoid opening with generalizations about the weather or the audience. Let the audience know up front that every word you speak counts. Spend the bulk of your time in the body of the speech. This is where you make your points and give support or evidence for each point. The final two minutes should be your summary and move to action statement. Some speakers have a hard time concluding. When you say you are going to conclude, do so. As one wise person stated, "Don't dawdle at the finish line of the speech."

One way to keep your speech brief is to have few points in the body of your speech-no more than three. With a maximum of three points, you will have the self-discipline to condense rather than amplify. In organizing your material, accept the fact you will always have more material than you can cover and that you will only include material that relates to one of the two or three points you plan to make. Trying to cover four to six points will almost invariably make you go overtime in your speech.

A key to success in speaking is not just having something worthwhile to say, but also saying it briefly. We need to follow the speaking axiom, "Have a powerful, captivating opening and a strong, memorable close, and put the two of them as close together as possible."

About The Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is a professor of speech communication at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Kentucky. He is also a trainer in communication who presents more than 60 seminars and workshops a year to corporations and associations. See additional articles and resources at He can be reached at 800-727-6520 or at


ray 01.05.2009. 15:27

Is my package almost entirely visible when I wear a speedo brief? What will I do if I get an erection? I am planning to wear a speedo brief this coming october for swimming with my friends. It will be my first time. I have a medium built. Although I am quite nervous because I do not know if the speedo brief would show too much detail. How will I position my penis and what will I do if I get an erection?


Admin 01.05.2009. 15:27

You will have a visible bulge from your balls and penis inside the speedo. But so what, won't show any detail at all, like your ball or penis outline, just a bulge, no different really than wearing any other briefs for tight pants. If you are swimming you won't get an erection, the cold water takes care of that. Plus the pool water takes care of the bulge a lot too, as the penis will stay shrunk up most of the time and the balls will tighten up. If you have the body for it, speedos look fine, and way better than long knee length board shorts.


Nics 21.09.2010. 06:38

How does one write a legal brief of a case? I have to write a legal brief of a case for class. This is our first assignment so I'm a bit confused. Unfortunately, the text books had a shipping problem so I don't even have a guide from the text as yet. Does anyone have an example?


Admin 21.09.2010. 06:38

This much I can tell you -

your legal brief needs to pick a side in the case and argue why that side should prevail if this is truly a "legal brief"

In legal briefs precedents are often cited (meaning other case law that was ruled favorably for your similar position) - in the absence of case law, you need to logically show why your side should 'win'


thelover <3 11.07.2009. 10:52

What is the best type of brief/trunk to wear under a velvet gymnastics leotard? Hello! I am a 12 year old girl gymnast from Australia. I am competing this year with a black velvet long sleeve leotard. I was wondering what is the best type of brief/trunk to wear underneath a velvet leotard? Cotton or nylon? Somebody told me nylon but that was under a lycra/nylon leotard. So I was wondering what the best type of brief/trunk is, that I could wear under a velvet leotard and have it not showing! Please answer!

thelover <3

Admin 11.07.2009. 10:52

I hate this problem because then you get worried if your underwear is showing but the solution for me is wearing Victoria secret string bikini underwear or Gk makes briefs just for leotards and I use those for competition and don't have a problem and for practice I wear an string bikini underwear
And many places sell that kind of the string bikini underwear.
Hope this helps you!! also nylon works the best because its smooth and won't get bunched up as much as cotton would!!


evmics 21.07.2008. 21:38

How do you write an opening brief for appeals court? Im from california and im writing an opening brief to appeal a DMV decision that suspended my license. Does anyone know where i can find examples of "opening briefs" online cuz i cant seem to get any good ones/helpful ones. Let me know!


Admin 21.07.2008. 21:38

I would suggest you go to your local law library and ask the librarian to recommend a book on appellate brief writing for you. I would consult more than one, to see which seems the most understandable and helpful for you.


Brandon 07.01.2013. 04:32

How do I find a topic for a policy brief? I have to write a policy brief for my International Relations class. How do I choose/find a topic to write about? I'm considering doing something with Brazil and their offshore oil expenditures but I'm not sure how I would make the prompt for the policy brief specific for the problem. What would I write about then? Although I google searched this, I still don't understand what to do or how to specify the topic so an explanation would be appreciated. Any other topic suggestions are also appreciated. Thanks!
What about damming of the mekong river for hydroelectric energy development. Would that be "international" in some aspect?


Admin 07.01.2013. 04:32

Here is information about formatting the paper:

Here are topics:

Here is a sample paper about Brazil:

Here is a sample paper about the Mekong River:


Tarafish 31.08.2008. 05:18

What would you describe as a brief essay? I'm going to Advanced 9th Grade and I have to write an essay for part of some stupid summer homework. The thing is I'm not sure what would be considered a BRIEF essay at that point. I'm used to essays being about 3-5 paragraphs long, but I'm not sure if less than that would be considered an essay as opposed to simply being paragraphs, and thus I need a second opinion. So I'm requesting your assistance.

Aproximately how many paragraphs should be in a BRIEF essay?
Approximately how many SENTENCES should be in each paragraph?

Thank you very much.


Admin 31.08.2008. 05:18

The minimum for an essay is 3 paragraphs, otherwise it's classified as a short answer. For a brief essay, I would say 3 paragraphs - an intro paragraph, main body paragraph, and a concluding paragraph. Good paragraphs should be somewhere in the nature of 7-10 sentences long, with the main body paragraph being on the longer side, since it is your explanatory paragraph.


Jessica W 09.01.2009. 17:15

How do I write a brief biographical sketch about myself? I'm applying for scholarships and one of my essay prompts is " Write a brief biographical sketch about yourself. Limit your essay to 300 words". What do I do?

Jessica W

Admin 09.01.2009. 17:15

Give a brief outline of yourself that would be recognisable. What class do think that you were born into and what do you aspire to. What were your experiences that stay in your memory or influenced you. What are your interests, likes, dislikes,hobbies etc. But do not produce long lists, make it of some interest to the person reading it.
Good luck


sam123 11.01.2010. 22:07

How many paragraphs would be in a brief essay? I have to write a brief essay for Global Studies.


Admin 11.01.2010. 22:07

5 paragraphs that are 5-7 sentences each. That is probably a one and a half page essay which is pretty brief.


Aaron 30.06.2007. 23:22

What is a minority rationale in a brief casing? I am doing homework and I am having to do a brief casing. I picked the case Global Crossing Telecommunications, Inc. v Metrophones Telecommunications, Inc. I have completed the Facts, Issue, Ruling, and Analysis. I am just not sure what the Minority Rationale is. Thank you!


Admin 30.06.2007. 23:22

I have not studied law nor do I plan on doing so but I might be able to ease your research, with the links below

FCC Rationale
METROPHONES TELECOMMUNICATIONS, INC. ... has not explained its rationale in great detail,
Telecommunications Act of ... offered any rationale as to why ... Metrophones current counsel, when urging this Court to grant certiorari
Minority Rationale


sunshine gal 18.04.2006. 17:19

How do I write a student appellate brief? I have to submit an appellate brief for a class. I've never written one before so I need any ideas.
Clarification: This is for a moot court assignment. I have to write a brief on behalf of the petitoner.

sunshine gal

Admin 18.04.2006. 17:19

The simplest thing to do would be to go to the website of some of the national moot court competitions. They will often post the winning briefs from past years. You can then follow the forms that the briefs use-they are all very similar and very standard. Try


Write a comment

* = required field





* Yes No