Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Keeping It Super Simple - Attention Spans

Good Morning My Friendly Blog Followers...

Last night, after completing a 48-minute Business Presentation, I realized that I didn't even remember discussing certain slides within the presentation.

During my drive home, I called a colleague who was in attendance and asked, "Did I discuss x, y & z in the presentation tonight - as I don't even remember talking about them.

Their response was, "of course you did. Actually you nailed all of those points."

Wow !!!

Upon hanging up the phone, I started thinking about this - Actually, obsessing about it.

I started thinking back on my corporate career experience - from a public speaking standpoint - and it reminded me of a few things...

1) The more you do something (over & over & over & over again), you create deep neural pathways in the brain which allows you to become unconsciously competent at doing them (example: tying your shoes, reading etc.) This means you can unconsciously do something, very well, even though you don't particularly remember doing it.

2) The second thing I started obsessing about was the fact that if I didn't remember everything I presented, how on earth would the guests in the room remember everything I said - especially since they were only hearing it for the first time.

From these two simple, yet important observations, I realized that we as entrepreneurial professionals, all need to re-look at our presentation skills on a regular basis. We should record and/or film ourselves regularly so as to get a different perspective of us presenting IE: be the listener instead of the presenter.

Upon arriving home, all I could think about was the presentation, the audience, and their ability to grasp all the information that I shared ~ or their inability.

Was it my fault if they didn't or couldn't grasp everything that was shared? Do I need to shorten, tighten up or modify the presentation? Or continue doing as I've always done.

Well, that lead to a sleepless night. Tossing and turning going over my presentation countless times.

This morning, I decided I was going to go online and do some research on "The Average Human Being's Attention Span".

What I found truly blew my mind.

Obviously there are many, many, many factors involved within this topic, but the overwhelming statistical fact I read was that the average adults attention span is just 20 minutes !!!

Some of the "simple" factors involved are:

~ The font size/family/style & colour used in the PowerPoint
~ The number of bullet points on a slide
~ The amount of time (minutes) spent on each slide etc.

Then there are some more "difficult" factors that the presenter might not be aware of:

~ Is the Adult actually interested in the information being shared?
~ Does the Adult even want to be there?
~ Their current mindset (did they have a relaxing or exhausting/stressful day)

Then, there are medical questions pertaining to the number of undiagnosed cases of ADD within today's Adults - Thus greatly reducing the "average" 20 minute attention span.

All of this research got me thinking about my presentations; the time being spent on them; the audience's grasp and/or understanding of the information; and whether or not I need to re-evaluate how I am presenting.

The answer is an-across-the-board, Yes, I do !!!

In my particular company, our marketing team has generated a variety of incredible tools for presentation purposes. Two corporate videos (a 6 minute & 1 second clip for a brief synopsis of the company, and an 11 minute & 46 second version that can and does the entire presentation for you). The funny thing is, is that most humans (myself included) like to continue the presentation (ego). Adding in specific information they feel is relevant, and/or expanding on certain points. Sometimes we actually re-present everything the video presented, which unknowingly extended the presentation time well past the amount the average person's attention span can handle.

This information really made me think about how I will present moving forward.

Imagine, using the company's 11 minute & 46 second corporate video which truly explains everything quite eloquently, you the presenter, according to statistics, only have 8 minutes and 14 seconds until you (quite possibly) lose your average audience. Wow!!!

Can you summarize and close in 8 minutes and 14 seconds?

Most people, including myself, if answered honestly to that question, will probably say "as of today, no I can't".

Hence, we need to script our summary and close, which will definitely lead me to another sleepless evening tonight.

Ladies & Gents, thanks for stopping by. Tomorrow's topic: Scripting your summary & close in less than 8 minutes & 14 seconds, Ha !!!



  1. Awesome blog post! Gina and Weston say that all they do is a strong open, press play, strong close and then crank the tunes and answer questions while promoting the bonus and the Saturday training! K.I.S.S!!!
    - Keni MacLeod

  2. Very interesting Bill...You nailed it to a T! As presenters, we have a tendency to provide too much info and over explain. Time to stick to the basics, keep it streamlined and press play on the dvd Baby!
    - Roy Kim

  3. I agree. Ego...Gone!
    - Tony Baggetta

  4. Great article today! I recently read a book called "the presentation coach", the beginning of the book was more valuable for me because it covered the important topics such as effectively structuring your presentation/script for maximum effectiveness. With a maximum of 20 minutes worth of material, like you had mentioned. Easy read if your looking for another book.
    - Johnny McCartin

  5. Keep it Simple! A 6 letter word - going to write it on my white board

  6. This is going on my white board - Keep it simple
    - Jennifer Lynch