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You might think, as so many people do, that scowling journalists just don’t care much about the stories they report.

Murders, house fires, a failing school here, a hospital crisis there. But we do care actually, and there was plenty of smiling in the newsroom the other day when Brighton & Hove Albion clinched promotion to the Premier League.

And then, an hour or so later, we got word that Theresa May was about to appear on the steps of 10 Downing Street to make an announcement.

Viewers that evening still saw a lively report from the Amex, but it wasn’t half the feature we’d hoped it would be. The national news was extended, ours was shortened, and the top of the programme entirely rebuilt to reflect the drama in politics rather than on the pitch.

We get used to it. “Pivoting”, I think it’s known as — planning something, ditching something, planning something else, all within a few hours. My trick is to remind myself that the person on the receiving end never knows what they didn’t get. It’s a philosophy that may apply as much to planning a product, a service or an internal report for your boss as it does to a news bulletin. And if it’s delivered with a smile, then so much the better.

Why less can be so much more

I’m at a networking breakfast. The scrambled eggs are being cleared away, I’ve drained my coffee cup and given up long ago trying to get the waiter to bring me some more.

But I’ve had some really interesting chats with the people to my left, right and opposite, so it’s been worth getting up early for.

Now it’s time for the inspirational speaker. He’s to be introduced by a man from the company that’s sponsoring the breakfast. This man, the sponsor man, is from a car leasing place. The banner behind him depicts a flashy car and has a car leasing logo. I’m not very interested.

There’s a brief, nervous introduction. And then this: “The oil baron Paul Getty once said — ‘if it appreciates, you buy it. If it depreciates, you lease it.’”
And that was about it.

He made a couple more brief comments, smiled, reminded us of which company he was from, and sat down. Ninety seconds all up, I reckon. Modestly done, not enough time for his nerves to start to infect us, and a ruthlessly clear thought that immediately got me thinking that when I finally part with my beloved Audi A1, I might lease, rather than buy. From him.

It’s a principal my fellow news reporters and I use each week making our news programmes. Less is more. In a newsroom, there’s no option: I may well have an editor telling me that it’s a really busy news day so I’ll need to sum up today’s really complex health funding crisis in 135 seconds (to include key facts, interviews, context, what the government thinks of it all and the story of someone caught up in it all.) But it sharpens the mind, and trains you well to figure out what’s going to be remembered, and what isn’t.

I came away from breakfast with five business cards, a thirst for the elusive cup of coffee, and a brand new insight into car purchasing that I may well have missed if it had been smothered in a fifteen minute talk.

I can set up my roaming newsroom in your office if you’d like your team to sharpen up their employability skills — or if you’re interested in seeing how it works at a networking event, join the fun at the Nightingale Room above the Grand Central Pub on Friday 21 April!

Get in Touch

If you find these forms a bit annoying, just give me a call on 07850 188620 or 01273 606246 — I always like to chat about how I might be able to help.  Or just send me an email letting me know what you have in mind, and we can take it from there.  If you do like the forms, don’t forget to put something in each box marked with a *.