John Cleese: bold editing is key to success

If you want to make your next presentation or speech better, try making it shorter. Editing – bold, brave, brutal editing – is an essential part of the creative process.

Take a tip from Basil Fawlty – or, rather, from John Cleese (above), creator of Basil and so many Monty Python sketches.

His advice is simple: “If you have an average show, and you can dump half of it, it doesn’t get a bit better – it gets a lot better. I began to discover that whenever you could cut a speech, a sentence, a phrase or even a couple of words, it makes a greater difference than you would ever expect.”

If your ‘show’ is a presentation or speech and it’s not working for you, try the Cleese approach. Strip out the clutter from your writing, and you may find that what’s left begins to sparkle.

If you need a further incentive, imagine you had to pay $1 for every word you wrote. Unless you have the good fortune to be rolling in cash, you’d pretty soon start to economize. Snip a word there, cut a word here. that’s $2 saved.

When you look at your script, speech or presentation – be brutal. Is every word earning it’s place? If every word is not working hard for you – guess what? It’s getting in the way. It’s getting in the way of your performance, and it’s getting in the way of the audience’s comprehension of your message.