GIODN Book Review – You’ve Got 8 Seconds by Paul Hellman


By Cindy Banyai, Ph.D.


We all are under pressure to get more done in less time. The modern world has most of us needing to work at ever faster and faster speeds to meet our goals. With so many people working at such frenetic paces there is a big need to make your point and make it quick, if you want anything to happen. This is what Paul Hellman explores in his book “You’ve Got 8 Seconds: Communication Secrets for a Distracted World.”  This book was featured as the July OD Book Club for GIODN. Let’s look at some of the highlights.

What’s the gist?

People’s attention spans are ridiculously short, all you get is a moment, make it count.

  • Key Strategies

Hellman focuses on three key strategies when it comes to quick and effective communication: focus, variety, and presence. Let’s have a look what he suggests for each of these strategies.


One of the main points of this strategy is that less is more. This is beautifully captured by the statement: “Use words. Not a lot. Mostly simple.” Hellman also suggests that you sequence key points so they’re memorable, talk like a regular person, and repeat your message multiple times and ways. These are all sound points and fundamental for persuasive and effective modern communication.

Additionally, to be an effective communicator, you need to include a purpose statement in your message that includes what you’re going to talk about and why – value from audiences’ perspective, as well as end with a call to action.

Hellman also suggests a handy acronym to help you structure your message, specifically around accomplishments. SOAR:

  • Situation
  • Obstacle
  • Action
  • Results

I thought this was such a straightforward and helpful way to structure discussions on achievements that I put it into practice right away!

This book also makes some helpful suggestions on improving the focus of your email communication. Hellman offers 10 steps to sharpen emails:

  1. Capture attention with subject line
  2. Update your subject line
  3. Manage emotions
  4. Don’t email everyone
  5. Don’t use abbreviations
  6. Follow up
  7. Consider the phone
  8. Respond
  9. Adapt your style
  10. Edit



The next strategy area Hellman focuses on is variety. The discussion begins with considering making a risky disclosure. In order to effectively employ this tactic you will need to consider the following questions: What does your audience gain by knowing? How likely is it to make them want to jump off a plane? This means you need to look at the point of the disclosure, essentially building trust, but make sure that you do not go so far that it makes people uncomfortable.

The next thing to incorporate as far as variety goes is to jump in with question or anecdote. This is part of the larger concept emphasizing that you shouldn’t expect your main point to pop out of the toaster ready-made.

Using variety helps you persuade people to acknowledge and believe your message. You need to reach people through their head, heart, and hands. Hellman proffers the 2.5 Step Method for connecting with an audience. It is a pretty straight forward approach and includes the following: 1) open with a problem, 2) close with business-relevant point, and 2.5) move quickly from first to last.

Hellman also provides some tips for making your slides the best they can be to catch people’s attention quickly. One of the main points he makes is “don’t confuse your slides with your main message!” He then goes on to suggest the 10-20-30 Rule. No more than 10 slides. Don’t talk more than 20 minutes. No less than 30 point font. Putting these tips into practice really can help you put your message in focus!


Presence is the way that you look and show up while communicating. The first tip is to act as if, which is akin to the fake it ‘til you make it, but only with more authenticity. You need to act as if the goal you are trying to achieve is happening now. Be mindful of your image, including nonverbals and optics.

Remember to show your drive to tell your message and reach your goals. Drive includes focus, energy, initiative, and commitment. Hellman also reminds us to demonstrate the right temperament for people to be able to receive our message. Temperament includes humility, command, optimism, and composure.

Overall this book was a great read with useful and applicable information, no matter what you are doing or how you want to do it. I have incorporated many of the strategies from the book into my personal and professional life. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for inspiration on their personal and professional path.

The Institute of Organization Development is proud to offer the Global Institute of Organization Development Network (GIODN) to provide opportunities to network, learn and share for all those who are passionate about Organization Development. The Global IOD Network (GIODN) is a Global OD Membership Network as it brings together people from across the globe to network, learn and share about Organization Development.

IOD offers online Organization Development Certification Programs to help participants gain skills to advance in their career in the field of OD.

IOD’s OD Certification Programs are offered online over 8 months, meeting 3 hours per month.  Each session is delivered through Go-to-training.  Our expert faculty provide interactive discussions, examples, tools, guidelines, and resources to enrich your learning experience.


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