Earlier this year I gave a talk at the Ignite Conference in Minneapolis about reading a lot of books. The kicker: The talk was limited to five minutes (strictly enforced) and 20 slides that auto-advanced every 15 seconds.
Those restrictions created a format that was quick, snappy and informative. The goal was to share something interesting and keep people engaged.
I sat down to draft my presentation, pulling content from my short booklet, 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again. Cramming a book’s worth of content (OK, a short book’s worth) into five minutes? This could get interesting.
But I discovered the power of restrictions.
With only five minutes to talk and each slide advancing after only 15 seconds, I had to stick to the facts. No time for unnecessary fluff. Drilling down to the most important concepts became easy.
Sometimes we’re tempted to go on and on. We think a subject really needs that many words. Heck, I wrote an entire
book booklet about this topic. But sometimes condensing it to its very essence makes it even more powerful.
While hacking my topic down to five minutes I was able to zero in on the most important content. I was forced to delete the side comments and extra stuff that didn’t help. All the stories, lead-ins and examples—none of that mattered.
In the end I had a powerful presentation about reading a lot of books. It got a ton of great comments and sparked a lot of conversation and buzz.
How would your church’s content be helped if you had to make it shorter?
- Does your sermon really need to be 45 minutes (or 20 minutes or 12 minutes or however long your sermons usually are)? What if you cut your sermon in half? Or chopped it down to a quarter of the time?
- Does your bulletin announcement need to be that long? What if you had to say it in a single sentence?
- What if your welcome video could be only 30 seconds long? What’s the most important thing you could say in that 30 seconds?
- What if you took all the ministry copy on your website and cut it in half? What would each ministry want to communicate in that limited space?
More often than not, your communication is going to get better when you impose restrictions.
By the way, it’s no coincidence that truncated content like 140-character Twitter posts and 6-second Vine videos are all the rage in social media. We’ve been feeling the power of restrictions for a while now. And it works.
Here’s my five-minute talk on reading a lot of books: