The importance of abandoning crap

I used to work as a video producer. We’d set up time with the subject of an interview, give them an hour or sometimes two, light them beautifully and start asking them questions. We’d normally get around 30 minutes of footage. Some of it answering the same questions, some of it talking around the subject and some of it just B-Roll.

A lot of it was of course unusable. We knew it would be but we shot it anyway just in case.

When we’re recording a video like that we have people’s attention for maybe a minute, maybe 2 or 3 if your interviewee is interesting or the subject is important. We had to be ruthless – which are the most important parts, what does the viewer need to know, what is the action required and how can we best make it entertaining in order to get them to actually watch through to the end?

We all need to be more ruthless in our communications, big or small. I open emails that start with “I’m writing to you because…” I know you’re writing to me, you’re literally wasting your own time writing it, and mine reading it.

We get used to filler phrases in when we write, like warm blankets they cloak our words. They trick us into thinking that we’re being respectful when actually it would be better to use a bit more, of what adman Maurice Saatchi calls ‘brutal simplicity of thought’.

If they’re blogs, videos, infographics, microsites, podcasts or presentations our communications always need to be short and relevant. You always need to be respectful of your audience – who you’re talking to.

One of things we’re trying where I work is to use our own collaboration product Cisco Spark, instead of emails when possible. It’s real time communication and it makes use type shorter, more direct messages. It means we save time on reading and writing hefty emails. It forces us to get to the point quickly and abandon our crap.

And that is better communication.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.