I love sandwiches. I love sandwiches. Yes — I would marry them, if I could.
This week my friend Jon asked me what I ate for lunch one day. It was the right day to ask. I spent probably too much time describing to him my current favorite sandwich — the amazing Phoenix sub from local chain The Chocolate Factory. It's not a complicated sandwich but it's got a specific vibe and it does it well. Jon was really impressed 🙄 and asked me if I was a professional sandwich-eater. I did not dispute.
It got me thinking about other sandwiches because, well, yummmm. The "Velvet Elvis" - an absolute chef's kiss that a Milwaukee bar stopped selling years ago, but still makes an appearance in my kitchen — peanut butter, banana, and bacon, "grilled" in a buttery frying pan. If you're a fan of salty & sweet it will make you cry. And a sandwich that I've only heard about — The Dennis — mentioned many times in our work Slack by my New York-based coworkers. It looks like a real monster.
Amazing sandwiches are amazing because they are cohesive. They push you to the edge of your comfort level but they show the restraint and respect to not push you over. They are adventurous...but responsibly adventurous.
Unlike my kids at the frozen yogurt place.
Andes Candies, Boba Balls, Raspberries, and sour Gummi Worms
My kids are currently 9 and 12. It's been a while since we've been to the local frozen yogurt joint (ugh, COVID), but when we've gone their combinations give me shivers. Oooo, they've got strawberry yogurt! And Reese's Pieces! And Andes Candies! Oooo, sour Gummi worms, brownie bites, raspberries, and marshmallows!
Don't get me wrong - each of things, on its own, is delicious:
- Reese's Pieces
- Andes Candies
- sour Gummi Worms
- brownie bites
But together? An absolute nightmare. Barf city. I won't even finish the leftovers when my kids put together these nightmare concoctions.
I'm so hungry right now but what does this have to do with delivering a clear message?
When you're communicating a complex idea to someone, it's tempting to tell them everything you know. Every single detail you've learned is valuable to you. There are so many cool things you've learned about your topic, and you've put a lot of time into it. You just want to share all of it with your audience.
But is all of it necessary? Is some of it noise? How much of it will distract someone from the main idea you're teaching them?
Think of it like that trip to the frozen yogurt place. You're not my kids — you know better than to mix all the toppings you like in one dish. You'd rather craft something cohesive. Even though you love toasted coconut and Andes Candies and raspberries, you wouldn't dare put them all in the same dish.
Treat your communication and content the same way. Not every concept needs to be shared. Find the ones that fit together and create a cohesive narrative.
If you're drafting an email to your leader, they don't need to know everything that happened in the latest incident. Tell them the most important facts.
If you're writing a blog post, it doesn't have to be 5000 words long. Less is better — if you feel like you've got several stories to tell, tell them in separate blog posts.
If you're building a presentation, don't add slides just to fill time. Your listeners will learn a lot more from one cohesive story than three stories and 13 unrelated points.
If you're building a workshop or course, you don't have to teach every feature. Focus on the features that most align with your learning objectives. Give them resources to learn more when there could be side quests, but your workshop doesn't need to include the entire universe.
Cut out the Gummi Bears if you're going for a mint and white chocolate vibe. Skip the performance analysis if you're going for an intro to building an app. Be the Velvet Elvis. Be the Dennis. Be the Phoenix. Be cohesive. Cut out the noise that doesn't fit your narrative.