Author: Ron Hoff
Publisher: Andrews and McMeel
Reviewer: Goke Ilesanmi
It is a fact that brevity is one of the essentials of good communication. This is why I want us to X-ray this week, this book entitled “Say It in Six”, with the subtitle “How to Say Exactly What You Mean in Six Minutes or Less”, written by Ron Hoff, one of America’s leading speakers and presentation coaches.
As an executive in the major leagues of marketing and advertising, Hoff has made literally hundreds of multi-million-dollar presentations. He says this book is the first really-new idea to hit the world of presentations since the Gettysburg Address (time: 2 minutes and 42 seconds). Hoff stresses that through this book, you will be able to sell a new idea to a tough board of directors in six minutes or less.
This text is divided into four parts of 14 chapters. Part one is generically christened “We talk too much” and contains three chapters. Chapter one is entitled “You Are Looking at Six Minutes”. According to Hoff here, what you are reading right now is the physical mass of a six-minute speech. He says, “If you were to start with the first word of the first paragraph of this section and read aloud until you arrived at the very last word (‘appreciative’), you would have talked for about six minutes.”
In chapters two and three, the author discusses concepts such as the lynchpin of the six-minute speech and “Pardon me, but why six?”
Part two is conceptually harmonised as “Cut to the chase” and covers seven chapters, that is, chapters four to ten. Chapter four is entitled “To slim down to six, we must first dump the junk!” In the words of Hoff here, “First to go: ‘introductory remarks’. No one has ever had the slightest idea of what this means. More likely than not, an ‘introductory remark’ is a code phrase meaning ‘pure baloney’. It’s blather, pure time-wasting blather.”
Another thing the author says needs to be avoided is vocalised pauses, which I prefer to call “space-fillers”. He expatiates that these are used by speakers to fill the air when they do not know what to say, explaining that there are hundreds of them such as “Ahhh”, “Ummm”, etc. Other things Hoff says we need to avoid in our speech to achieve brevity are the need to forget those nice and smooth transitions that make everything flow together like oleo; eliminating all jokes and anecdotes, etc.
Chapter five is on the subject matter of a six-minute structure that will work forever. In Hoff’s words, “If you could strip every speech before you hear it – that is, see its ‘bare bones’ structure – you’d know in an instant whether it was worth your time or not.”
In chapters six to ten, the author analytically X-rays concepts such as time for a startling experiment; sharpening your pencil; two very different ways to say it in six minutes; the style of the six-minute speaker; and nipping nervousness in the bud.
Part three is summarily entitled “Special delivery” and contains two chapters, that is, chapters 11 and 12. Chapter 11 is based on the interrogative subject matter of “Should six-minute speeches be taken seriously?” Here, Hoff says you will not find a more intriguing plotline for a business drama than he discovered in Monterey, California. He adds that in Hollywood, the premise would be described this way: The hungry and aggressive “young entrepreneurs” come seeking money and favours from the wily veterans of the financial community – called from this point forward, “deep pockets”.
Hoff educates that every entrepreneur makes a six-minute presentation during the morning session and the audience members are composed of bankers, venture capitalists, brokerage houses, and the like, seasoned executives with “deep pockets”.
The author explains that most of the entrepreneurs need money for everything from secondary offerings to “growing the business”. He adds that they may be planning to “go public” some day and would like to make a good impression on companies that recommend or buy stocks. In chapter 12, the author discusses the concept of learning from the greatest six-minute speakers in the world.
Part four, the last part is based on the general subject matter of cutting costs and solving problems in six minutes and covers chapters 13 and 14. In these chapters, Hoff discusses the concepts of cutting costs with a cleaver; and personal payoffs of the six-minute system.
Conceptually and stylistically, this text is fantastic. For instance, the language is standard, yet simple, while the presentation is creative and logical. Hoff makes abundant use of graphical embroidery to reinforce readers’ understanding. He uses classical/literary allusions, including legendary quotes, to achieve conceptual amplification. What’s more, the author also includes worksheet section to arouse and sustain readers’ active participation. Hoff includes prologue in the text to give it analytical background.
However, grammatical and conceptual errors are noticed in this text. One of these is the error of conditional-clause misapplication, e.g. “If you were to start with the first word of the first paragraph of this section and read aloud until you arrived at the very last word (‘appreciative’), you would have talked for about six minutes” (page five). The conditional-clause error here is that the Theoretical Possibility of conditional clauses is used instead of the Open Possibility type, “If you are to start with the first word of the first paragraph of this section and read aloud until you arrive at the very last word (‘appreciative’), you will talk for about six minutes.”
The Open Possibility type is the correct version to be used because the action is still “practically” not just “theoretically” possible, and it is in a hypothetical context.
Another area where I disagree with Hoff is his recommendation of avoidance of all jokes and anecdotes in our presentation (page 26) just because we want to do it in six minutes. How you say something is even more important as what you say. Jokes and anecdotes are used to arouse and sustain audience’s attention. So, they should not be sacrificed on the altar of brevity, even though you can minimise them.
On a final note, this text is excellent. For those who want to achieve brevity in presentations and conduct of their meetings, it is a must-read and must-digest and the tips must-apply.
GOKE ILESANMI (FIIM, FIMC, CMC), CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker, Career Mgt Coach and Certified Mgt Consultant. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
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