When Harvard’s Center for Media and Public Affairs
studied the average length of a sound bite in 2000, it found that the typical TV quote lasted just 7.3 seconds. It’s probably even shorter today. In 1968, it was 42 seconds.
Most of us speak an average of two or three words per second, which translates to a measly 18 words per quote.
Many spokespersons complain that they couldn’t possibly say anything of meaning in that short time period. And they’re right—it’s a major challenge. But it is
Recently, I saw a tweet that contained the “world’s shortest horror story.”
The shortest horror story of world consists of only 2 sentences. "The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door."
Those 17 words send chills down my spine. If you’re like me, you probably created a strong mental picture of the room, how the man was sitting, and the terror he felt when he heard that unexpected knock. With just 17 words, this story elicits a strong visceral reaction.
Next time someone tells you it’s impossible to say something of meaning in just 7.3 seconds, remember the lesson from that chilling tweet: Sometimes, the most evocative ideas require the fewest words.
Brad Phillips is the author of the book The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview. He tweet @MrMediaTraining.