Short and Punchy (Issue 1069)

In which we are reminded that, when preparing presentations,  it’s best to assume that people don’t read and they can’t concentrate on much for very long.  

To begin our first full day in Dublin, we went to The Little Museum, opposite St. Stephen’s Green in central Dublin. Wrote one reviewer, “This boutique museum is a cabinet of curiosities and historical artifacts all donated by the local population of Dublin.”

The museum is spread across three floors of a large Georgian townhouse and begins with a guided tour lasting around 25-30 minutes. So, for about 15 minutes, in a sunlit, high-ceilinged second story room facing St. Stephen’s green, we waited for our tour to begin. I began to browse dozens of posters, photographs, paintings, and artifacts along the wall to the left, just inside the entry door, heading toward the windows overlooking the Green. Interesting and overwhelming – so much to absorb and very few artifacts were labeled.

As I passed between the two expansive windows overlooking the Green, I spotted a small sign on the wall at about waist height:

Where are all the captions?

Visitors read, on average, just 20% of the text in any given exhibition and they spent two seconds reading each caption. The more text there is, the less likely it is to be read. We thought this research was interesting and decided to highlight the most significant artifacts in our permanent collection with captions that are short and punchy…

Yes, the whole story in two seconds, like pitching in one or two sentences a movie idea to a film studio. [Thinking of Ireland, the movie, Titanic: “Two star-crossed lovers fall in love on the maiden voyage of the Titanic and struggle to survive as the doomed ship sinks into the Atlantic Ocean.”]

The sign continued:

“…Our friendly, knowledgeable guides can tell you about everything else.”

Our “friendly, knowledgeable guide”, Ciaran, was the best part of the experience – an expert raconteur who, referring to only a few of the many dozens of exhibit artifacts,  conveyed hundreds of years of Dublin history with all the friendly charm and humor you could hope for… in 29 minutes.

Short and punchy.

Nick Miller trains bankers to attract and expand relationships with businesses. More profitable relationships, faster. He is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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