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In the case of a meeting with the CEO to provide an update on a project’s progress, the headline may be “the project is behind schedule.”

B (Background):

Provide a quick context—what prompted the update?

R (Reason):

Explain why you’re speaking now—why should they pay attention?

I (Information):

Provide two to three key nuggets of information you want to share. What are the bullet points of the conversation?

E (End):

Decide on what note you want to leave the conversation. In this case, you may want to end by telling the CEO what you will do to get the project back on track.

F (Follow-up):

Consider the questions you anticipate the CEO will ask you when you finish speaking and prepare answers in advance.

We’ve all heard the phrase “less is more” yet many of us still have a tendency to over-explain, send lengthy emails, and book hour-long meetings that only have 20 minutes of real content.

The problem is much of what we say in these contexts is ignored. Joseph McCormack, author of BRIEF: Making a Bigger Impact by Saying Less says getting to the point right away is crucial to attract the attention of customers, clients, and investors. “Brevity is an essential skill that can propel people’s career in an age where the people that they’re talking to are overwhelmed,” he says.

To practice being brief, McCormack suggests “mind mapping” to organize ideas before writing an email or making a presentation. But rather than a traditional “mind map” that has ideas jutting out from every corner of the page, he proposes a map that uses the acronym BRIEF to simplify communication.