It’s that weird time when it feels a little late to wish people a happy New Year but also a little rude if you don’t.
Ah the joys of British awkwardness.
My best and worst New Year was spent in Russia, in 1995.
I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was there was going to be an awful lot of food. And, by the expectant looks on my hosts’ faces, I was going to have to eat an awful lot of it.
Black bread, salads, cheese, meats and smoked fish covered every inch of the table.
‘Kushi!’ they exclaimed (Russian for ‘Eat up.’)
And, since I wanted to be polite and everything looked delicious, I dived in.
We ate, drank and chatted. And ate some more, urged on by my hosts. I was stuffed.
Finally, we cleared the table and took the plates through to the kitchen. Where my jaw dropped.
There, my hosts had laid out the next two courses. Roast chicken, roast potatoes, thirteen side dishes sat proudly alongside dozens of delicate desserts with their cream-filled layers of millefeuille pastry.
‘Kushi!’ they repeated…
I rolled into bed that night vowing never to eat again (and didn’t in fact for a few days afterwards).
And I think of this uncomfortable feeling every time I’m writing a report or a presentation or a speech.
Because I’m always tempted to stuff information in, like the food at that New Year’s dinner.
‘But it’s all useful,’ I reason to myself.
‘I want people to get the most possible value out of their time with me,’ I argue.
‘I want to prove I know my stuff,’ I wheedle. ‘Surely more is better?’
(Any of this sound familiar?)
But I’ve realised this over the years:
My name’s Kim and I’m a value feeder.
That’s right. My default setting is to stuff my audiences so full of information they can’t digest any of it.
But I’ve learnt to be more nouvelle cuisine than all-you-can-eat buffet.
Because people can only remember a few key points at a time, so I focus on those and make them irresistible.
All the rest can be stripped away.
And guess what? People still think I know my stuff.
In fact, they get even more out of their time with me because they can digest more of what I’m saying.
I’ve learnt that more isn’t always better.
So ‘fess up – are you a recovering value feeder too? Or have you always watched the info calories?