Briefing Notes

The British press are all over new PM David Cameron and the honeymoon period has already thrown up features on ‘Cam the Man’.

I caught his biographer Francis Elliott explain how he works, with my ears pricking up with specific interest around briefing notes.

Apparently, he is adamant about how these should be presented. They must be a precise font and point size. And he reacts negatively to any such brief that stretches to a second or heaven forbid, even a third page.

I constantly battle with (non-sales) people on this point. I strongly maintain that any singular piece of writing (like a section of a proposal) or any briefing note (nowadays often confined to an email) must fit on one page of paper alone.

The counter argument I’ve usually had to field is that detail matters more. I don’t buy this in the slightest. I’ve blogged recently about the old saying ‘I didn’t have time to write a short note, so wrote a long one instead’.

One of the very first lessons I learned, just a couple of months into my first ever job, was when presenting a list of figures to a Board member. I showed him on-screen and the instant response was ‘put it on one page only’, followed by an explanation of why execs should only ever be given info on such a single page.

…I wish people would apply this discipline to emails too…

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