Unfortunately, it's not a skill that comes easily to many people. One of the areas that really trips people up is when they answer questions, especially questions from reporters who typically have zero patience for longwinded answers.
The first step in mastering the art of the succinct response is to time how long it takes you to answer a question.
If your answers run longer than one minute, you're going to wear out the reporter's patience. They're going to either interrupt you or zone out. You want to get to the point in 45 seconds maximum and that's pushing it. Ideally, 30 to 45 seconds is the window you're looking for in print and less than that for TV. Remember that the average broadcast soundbite today is seven seconds. The longer you talk the more they edit.
So here are the next steps in getting to the point: (You hopefully already taped several answers you delivered to questions at work and perhaps even at home or with friends. If not, this is the first important step).
- Count up how many ideas or comments you delivered in the answers you taped.
- If you could only deliver three of those comments, what would they be?
- Go back and redo each of your answers with no more than 3 sentences in each answer.
- Of those three sentences, which one of them is the "headline"?
- Start your answer with the "headline" and keep paring down your thoughts until you hit 30-45 seconds. If you're doing a TV interview get the answer down to 20 seconds.
- Then try to pull out one idea and get it down to less than 10 seconds. This works for print as well as TV interviews. If this is what you want them to use as a possible quote, the shorter the better.