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Three Tips for Keeping, Cutting, and Combining Content

Have you ever started watching a video and 2-3 minutes in the person still hasn’t gotten to the actual content of the video or the talk? I am sure you have. I see this all the time. It is one of my biggest pet peeves -- people presenting content that isn’t necessary. Doing this is a sure-fire way to lose your audience. Whoever has made that their goal, right?

In today’s busy world no one has time to sit through a video or talk that is longer than it needs to be. Most of us will quit watching or leave before the person gets to the point. What is interesting is that most people, when creating content, don’t think they are that person. The person who drones on too long or is boring.

Why do people include content that isn’t necessary? There are several reasons. One, they aren’t clear on the purpose of the video or talk. Two, they are afraid their message will get lost if they cut out content. Three, they don’t have a good strategy for choosing what content to keep, cut, or combine.

Opt For Shorter Instead of Longer

Very often people will ask how long should my video be or how long should I talk? Both video and a talk, opt for no more than twenty minutes. Most people have reached their saturation limit by that time. However, this doesn’t mean every time you have to do a twenty minute video or talk. Many times, you can say what you need to say in less time.

It isn’t just about the combination of content. How you present it often influences the overall length. If you are only listing information or key points, that gets boring fast. Always look for ways to incorporate analogies and stories to get your message.

Think about it, which topic title would draw you in -‘30 things I learned about being an entrepreneur’ or ’How sky diving taught me to become a successful entrepreneur’? My guess is most of you are drawn to the second one. It is an unlikely pairing. It is intriguing. If the story is told well and concisely, your audience will listen until the end.

Be Clear on The Purpose of the Video or Talk

Where most entrepreneurs run into trouble is not being clear on the purpose of the video or talk. This typically leads to inclusion of extra content that isn’t important. Which in turn leads to a longer video or talk than is necessary.

In another post, I highlight three key presentation planning questions to ask yourself. These questions can be used for videos, webinars, and live talks. They are designed to help you narrow in on the talk’s message, purpose, and reason (essentially the outcomes or audience action). Once you're clear these, then you will know what to include and what to eliminate.

The Power of Three for Combining Content

You may be wondering why is a group of three so special? What is the power of three (or the rule of three)?

Our brains love patterns. The number three is smallest number needed to create a pattern. Additionally, we can remember three things better. Four or more, we have to work harder and are more likely to forget quickly. This type of pattern is the perfect combination of conciseness and cadence.

When you start to look, you can find groups of three in many different places. It is used in advertising campaigns (Stop, look and listen, Public Safety Campaign, USA), famous speeches (Government of the people by the people for the people, Abraham Lincoln), and even fairytales (Goldilocks and the Three Bears).

In photography and film/video recording, there is the rule of thirds. The frame has three horizontal sections and three vertical sections. It creates a set of nine squares. When framing content avoid putting it into the center square.

When choosing content, stick to three main ideas. Then only use three supporting stories, analogies or points for each. Look closely at all of your content. Most likely you will find several items that can be combined. This creates one point instead of four, five, or more.

Wrap Up

Knowing what content to keep, cut, and combine is important to avoid being dull, bland, and boring. Not having a clear purpose for the video or talk often leads to including too much content. Length of the video or presentation is important. The more content you have, the longer it will be. And the higher the chance you will lose your audience before the end. A good strategy for keeping, cutting, or combining content is to use the rule of three. It creates a pattern that is easy to remember.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. In the comments section below answer the following question. What tips or strategies do you use to ensure you are on point and never boring?

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About the author 


Jennifer has 15+ years of public speaking experience - ranging from groups of 5 to 5000. She draws from her experience as an instructor, academic, and librarian to help others with their presentation skills. When not presenting she loves creating and designing online courses, video, images, slide decks, handouts, conference posters, and infographics.

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