In a classic West Wing episode, Jed Bartlet is on stage at a presidential debate. Faced with a brief, pithy statement from his rival, Bartlet says, "There it is, the ten-word answer." He then asks, "What are the next ten words? Tell me the next ten words, and I'll drop out of the race right now."
The point, of course, is that when challenged to offer more detail, his opponent can't deliver.
As a communications coach, I fear that our cultural obsession with brevity is forcing far too many communicators down this same dead-end road. "Wow me with your 30-second elevator speech." "Win the startup competition with your 1-minute pitch." "Ensure publication in the newspaper with three catchy bullet points."
Each of these is, of course, an important communications skill to develop. But what's next? What happens when your clever flash of words opens that next door, and you're given the treasured opportunity to dive deeper into your story? Are you prepared to talk about your idea, business model, technology or science in greater depth, and with complete clarity?
As you and your team work on your communications skills, by all means, think through those ten-word answers. But don't forget about the next ten, or the ten after that, or the ten after that. Dig deeper, and develop the ability to engage any audience with the full scope of your work.