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Sunday, November 01, 2009

THIS MIGHT HURT: Show 'em Your Briefs - The API™ Approach


“Words are Tools; Words are Weapons.” – Douglas Castle

This Article written and © by Douglas Castle and originally published in THE NATIONAL NETWORKER™ Newsletter. All rights reserved. This article may be reproduced only in its complete form, inclusive of all hyperlinks, with full attribution to both the author and to the publication. For information about the author, go to Linked In/ Douglas Castle or to Douglas Castle’s Blog ; for information about the publication, go to

Show 'em Your Briefs - The API™ Approach

Dear Readers:

I like writing elaborate philosophical diatribes or treatises on intellectually stimulating and throught-provoking topics. I hated writing this article.

In business, your objective in all communications is to be effective. Forget Shakespeare and Longfellow. Forget your eighth-grade English teacher. Forget about the fine art of wordsmithing. Narrative and preambles are luxuries in a time-crunched society.

In business, your communication is science and not art. You use it in order to get something to happen -- whether that means a signed contract, a payment or an appointment.

The reality is that you have very little time to get your message across, and that you must be a missle instead of a mystic. Your audience is typically fatigued, overworked, impatient, inundated with information, preoccupied and has a form of media-induced ADHD. Your audience's attention span is measurable in seconds. Your opportunity is limited. There will not be any courtship.

Here are the rules for effective business communication. Reading Them + Learning Them + Applying Them = Success:

1. Fewer words = more impact per word. Being brief is critical.

2. Your first words must get their undivided attention. If you must, use drama and intensity. All is fair in the battle for you audience's focus to be on you, and you alone. Even is you have to use a visual prop, like a flag or a flashlight, or if you've got to embarrass yourself a bit. With your audience, wake 'em and take 'em.

3. Your next words must clearly and concisely state your proposition. Don't aim to impress someone with your wit and charm -- impress them with a clear expression of what you've got and why they need it. Use surgical speech! Use easily memorable sound bytes (or sound bites).

4. Your last words must be an urgent, direct and very specific call to action... they must be an instruction. You must either 1) request that they do something quite definite within a definite timeframe, or 2) tell them that you will be doing something definite within a definite timeframe. This part of your message is a firm commitment, a promise --- avoid invitations, and use instructions, instead.

5. After your last words, leave. Have another appointment, excuse yourself, rush off, leave your audience in the dust. If you linger, you become less significant. Your audience's time is important -- your time is important.

Remember API - It's a handy acronym for

  • Attention
  • Proposition, and
  • Instruction
The more time that you save through efficient communication, the more that you will achieve.


Douglas Castle

Labels and Terms: API, brevitiy, communicating efficiently, getting attention, Taking command, TNNW_BUZZWORKS, effective presentations, optimizing time, getting your message across, business communication, The National Networker Newsletter, Blue Tuesday, working the room, getting things done, The API method, articles by Douglas Castle.

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1 comment:

William Downey, JD said...

As an attorney specializing in administrative law and regulatory compliance we were taought to be wordsmiths in our briefs, direct and to the point in questions.
My avocation is logisitcs operations management in which verbal and written communication require in most cases short brief communication.
I can attest to the truth and accuracy of Douglas' premise.

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