Say It in Six

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Author: Ron Hoff

Publisher: Andrews and McMeel

Reviewer: Goke Ilesanmi


Time, they say, is money. We all have an equal number of hours in a day. However, while some achieve much within the available hours, others achieve less or nothing. At the organisational level, the same thing manifests. It is interesting to know that this is due to effective time management or lack of it. This is why I want us to X-ray this book entitled “Say It in Six”, with the subtitle “How to Say Exactly What You Mean in Six Minutes or Less”.


It is 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. His Byline has appeared in the “New York Times”, “Wall Street Journal”, “Chicago Tribune” and other publications. Hoff is also a frequent keynote speaker.


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 this text has the attributes of a winning presentation. He says through this text, you will be able to sell a new idea to a tough board of directors in six minutes or less; save your job by stating your case in six minutes or less; and steer an ‘open meeting’ to a decision in six minutes or less.


As far as structural segmentation is concerned, 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.” The author adds that the point being made here is crucial to the premise of this book. In this time-driven era of the nanosecond (one-billionth of a second), six minutes is a treasure and if you know how to use it, you can make a case for yourself or whatever you have got in mind, educates Hoff.


The author says you should imagine how long it would take a business executive or a politician to explain all 10 commandments today. Hoff adds that such a business executive or politician would have to define what a commandment is, how it differs from regular laws, such as ordinances and the like. The author stresses that the audience would also have to be told the advantages and disadvantages of each commandment.


According to Hoff, “It has been said that Winston Churchill’s oratory saved Britain from defeat in World War II. You will find the most stirring words of his ‘Never Give in’ speech….The entire address was six minutes long. ‘Blood, Sweat, and Tears’ was even shorter – two and a half minutes.”


The author asks why brevity so often accompanies greatness, adding that if you conclude your talk on time, your audience will undoubtedly be impressed and grateful. He educates that in addition to being the soul of wit, brevity seems to make people appreciative.


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’. Example: ‘Gee, I’m so glad to be here today. It’s always so good to get out of New York and see how the real people live.’ 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. The author says in many cases, the vocalised pauses are so often that they become a part of the person’s normal speech pattern. He stresses that “You know” may be the number-one vocalised pause in America as it (“You know”) just seems to fit so naturally into almost any subject.


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 based 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.” He adds that if the structure reminds you of an old clothesline, with a supporting pole on each end and lots of low points in between, you will know you are in for a long, dready session.


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 – from 8.30 to noon 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.


Structure-wise, 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, especially that 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. The fact is that the way you say something is as important as what you say. Jokes 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.


Finally, this text is conceptually rich. For those who want to achieve brevity in the conduct of their meetings, it is a must-read and must-digest and the tips must-apply.


GOKE ILESANMI, Editor-in-Chief/CEO of https://www.gokeilesanmi.com.ng and Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is a Certified Public Speaker/Emcee, (Business) Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker, Career Management Coach, Renowned Book Reviewer, Corporate Leadership Expert and Editorial Consultant.

Tel: +234(0)8056030424; +234(0)8187499425Email: info@gokeilesanmi.com.ng; gokeiles2010@gmail.com


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