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Clear the Communication Clutter

Communication Communication

As I write this, I am in the process of clearing out and de-cluttering the past eight years of my career and life; an activity that has been forced to the top of my to-do list after deciding to move to a new and more spacious apartment in New York City. Hopefully, by the time you read this I will have emerged victorious, ready to start the next chapter of my life, minus the clutter and reams of paperwork that have been building around me since my last move in 2014. I have already decided the printer is not coming with me this time. (I have a printing problem, so we are definitely breaking up.)

Non-GMO Project

Jill, a good friend of mine, is a professional organizer. My perception of Jill’s work, before hiring her to help me with this overwhelming task, was that she worked with hoarders (the worst kind— the kind you see on reality TV shows and say, “that’s not me”). Now, I see the value in her line of work. There is no way I could have downsized my multiple office supplies, managed my memories, parted with those press clippings, or tossed that little black dress (and many other party-themed wardrobe items) that I feel so emotionally attached to without her looming patiently over me with a side eye that secretly signals, “you’ve got to be kidding me.” Physical spaces are not the only things in need of de-cluttering. Organization in other areas of our life, including our communication can be helpful. Excess communication can get in the way of an effective pitch or presentation. In the same way we can clear out a closet to gain more space, we can clear our own communication clutter to stay focused, stay on message, avoid confusion or avoid losing our audience.

Housekeeping for Communication Devices

If you have ever hired someone to clean your home on a routine basis, you will recognize the value of this service. I always try to convince myself that I can clean my own home to avoid the expense or inconvenience of having someone else do it for me, but a good housekeeper always proves me wrong. When you are living in a space, it can be hard to see the clutter because you are accustomed to seeing it every day. It does not really bother you until either someone points it out or you suddenly realize you cannot stuff one more thing into the hall closet.

Our devices are the same. Laptops, computers, tablets, smartphones, all collect and store whatever we put on them, and when we add too much, they start to slow down and not function optimally. I remember when cleaning your desk was an important task if you wanted to stay focused, productive and organized at work. Now the advice should be to clean the desk top on your devices.

All types of clutter can block your mental focus and this includes tech clutter. Clearing this clutter should be part of your weekly routine. File documents so they are not all visible on your desktop. Delete old emails. Purge pictures and videos. Save the important stuff on an external drive or the cloud. Make clearing the clutter part of your weekly routine by setting an appointment in your calendar to dedicate time to this virtual document cleanse. If you do not have the time to do it or just find that you are really not good at it, just like a housekeeper you can hire someone to do the tech sweep for you, or with you, to ensure it gets done. Once you get in the habit of clearing tech clutter routinely, it will not be so overwhelming to tackle, and you will find that your work becomes more focused and productive, and your devices will be running at top speed.

Rehearse the Pitch

When I am preparing a media pitch, I write it out first, rehearse it aloud and time it. If I cannot get my key points across in under a minute, it is back to the drawing board until I have a perfectly crafted pitch. I make my team do this too. The process of practicing a pitch forces you to get rid of wordiness, unnecessary openers and repeated messages. Journalists are busy people, so getting to the point with our pitch and making it sound interesting enough to consider is a skill that is required for any good publicist.

However, pitching is not exclusive to publicists—everyone does it every day. From pitching ideas to clients, to pitching your boss for a raise, perhaps even pitching your better half on a date night, we all pitch. The best pitches that have the most return on success are those that have been carefully crafted to remove excess wordiness. If you make an off the cuff pitch, those extra words could get in the way of someone agreeing with your idea. The unnecessary words may even cause confusion.

Reading your words aloud whether it is a pitch, article, statement or book, is one of my top editing tips I give when coaching others on how to be a better communicator. Words often read different than they sound, and when you can hear them you will hear the clutter and know where you need to cut.

Drop the Adjectives

Just the facts, please. This is a journalism rule, but can also be effective in de-cluttering communication. Do we really need all the label descriptors anyway? Building ourselves up and our company by using adjectives, such as best, world-renowned, innovative, amazing, important, interesting, new, great, first, unique and impressive, could be clouding your message. Many of these adjectives are also overused, which could make your message weaker instead of stronger. Adjectives can also give the wrong impression. If you have something important to say, you do not want to let a chest-thumping adjective get in the way.

Of course it is fine to use adjectives, just be careful to not let them hijack your message. To make sure your message is strong on its own, review your written piece, remove all the adjectives and make sure the message is clear. Then you can selectively add in a few adjectives if they are strengthening the message. Otherwise, keep your communication clear from any potential arrogant vibe and see how it performs on its own. You may be surprised.

Make It Micro

I was recently invited to speak at an event via the social media app Clubhouse to discuss the difference between microcasts and podcasts, since I have a microcast called, “The Pitch with Amy Summers.” Unlike a podcast that can be 20-30 minutes or more, a microcast is a short form audio brief that is under five minutes or a maximum of 10 minutes. One of the discussion points in the Clubhouse session was whether podcasting or microcasting was more difficult to produce. Everyone agreed that a microcast, although shorter, was more difficult because you have to be intentional and direct with your message. There is not a lot of wiggle room to wing it. In fact, for my microcast that I publish daily, I write out what I am going to say, edit it down if needed, and sometimes record it several times to get it exactly right. Many of the other microcasters shared they also produce their segments in a similar way. One of the hidden benefits of producing a microcast that we have discovered is that microcasting improves your communication over time. It is like exercising your mind and voice to stay on point with your message and eliminate the unnecessary parts of your speech. In the same way a consistent exercise routine can make you strong and lean, the practice of microasting can make you concise and clear.

I relate what I do with microcasting to journaling, except the difference is I am taking my words off the page and verbalizing them. This extra step is a helpful practice for anyone to engage in. Since I started my microcast four years ago, I have become a better communicator. I am a sharper speaker; I can recall and share examples of my work more quickly and I can respond to questions and challenges with ease.

During the Clubhouse event, one of the audience members asked me how I stay motivated to continue “The Pitch with Amy Summers” on a daily basis. I confessed that producing the microcast is time consuming and a lot of work to develop concise communication advice and content. Some weekends I even question why I am spending hours in my studio (aka my closet) recording and re-recording communication advice and tips for an audience I do not know and I rarely receive feedback from. What keeps me motivated is that my communication has improved and as a result I am more confident when I pitch or present. Producing the microcast is practice for me to clear the clutter in my communication and find better ways to say what I need to say without letting other words get in the way.

Practice Makes Perfect

My “Superwoman Syndrome” has been checked at the door with my big de-clutter. By hiring my organizer friend to help me downsize my life for the big apartment move, I am reminded that I cannot do it all on my own. Organization is a skill that requires practice, patience and commitment. It is beneficial in many areas of our life. Clearing the clutter from a desk, device or even your own pitch can make you more confident, focused and direct to get the result you want. NIE

Amy Summers launched Pitch Publicity in 2003, and is credited as the first to strategize live media interviews at both the deepest and highest points of the planet. In 2020, she launched INICIVOX to help individuals improve a wide-range of soft skills centered on the complexity of communications. Her microcast, “The Pitch with Amy Summers,” is one of the most highly rated flash briefings on Amazon’s Alexa. Summers earned her Bachelor of Science degree in public relations with a minor in health science education from the University of Florida and currently serves as board member and founding partner of Naturally New York. Learn more at: www.pitchpublicitynyc.com and www.INICIVOX.com. Receive free daily pitch tips from “The Pitch with Amy Summers” flash briefing on Amazon’s Alexa, Google Play, iTunes, Spotify, Audible, Pandora and anywhere voice is heard: www.INICIVOX.com.

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