In last week’s post, I wrote about keeping time and not losing the attention span of your audience. The attention span is the interval that a person in your audience can concentrate mentally on your content. The human attention span varies depending on age. As a rule of thumb you may assume that a child has an attention span of about 5 minutes, while the average adult can stay engaged for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Overall, if you don’t want to lose your listeners, you’d better make sure that your words are worth listening to, that you present with passion, and that you adapt your content and presentation style to your audience.
There are also 2 simple techniques that may help you extend their attention span. I remember them by the “P+R” acronym, which stands for Pause+Repeat (instead of Park+Ride.)
- Pause a few seconds before showing a slide or presenting a key message, to create a sense of anticipation. Pause right after a key point to allow it to sink in.
- Repeat the point for those who may have wandered, and summarize your key messages at regular times (and certainly at the end of your presentation)
Some other useful tricks to reactivate your audience, and keep their attention:
- Do something emotionally relevant, e.g. tell a joke or bring an anecdote.
- Intrigue, surprise or provoke them; ask a question, do a quiz or launch a poll.
- Switch the medium: draw on a whiteboard, show a video, run a short demo.
- Change the speaker. If you really have so many important things to tell, consider bringing a colleague to offload part of your speech.
But always remember that if you can’t explain it in a few a few sentences, your content may be either too complicated or you don’t know what it’s about… So, why not give a try to alternative presentation formats like TED (18 minutes), Pecha Kucha (6 minutes, 40 seconds) or Ignite (5 minutes flat)?
Other blogs and articles to read:
- What to do when you’re losing your audience (by Olivia Mitchell)
- Why Long Lectures Are Ineffective (by Salman Khan)
- 20 Tips for Engaging Your Audience (by Rowena Crosbie)
- Baby, baby, you’re out of time (by me)