We’ve all heard the statistics…
- The human attention span has dropped by 1/3 over the past 16 years.
- A goldfish’s attention span is greater than the average human’s by 1 second.
- Office workers check their email inboxes 30 times each hour while at work.
- The average length watched of a single online video is 2.7 seconds.
- The spoken word is processed 75% faster than people speak.
No one will argue that, as a society, we face a serious issue relative to attention spans. In fact, it might be more accurate to frame the challenge in terms of ‘attention span(dex)’. Because the reality is that while we may be able to stretch our attention a bit using any number of techniques, it will invariably revert back to its slim, narrow 8-second form.
Communications tips to make the most of your 8 seconds
So, instead of bemoaning the state of the ever-decreasing human capacity to focus and concentrate and trying to invent ways to stretch it, perhaps it’s time to consider how to optimize these small windows of opportunity to communicate with others. Effective communication is valuable because it helps us get our jobs done by answering questions, sharing information, and offering feedback. Here are an alphabet's worth of mix-and-matchable ways to make this happen despite the challenges of attention span(dex).
- Appeal to a compelling need, goal or aspiration.
- Be brief and share your message in 8 seconds or less.
- Count off and number your points for greater recall.
- Disregard the approach of telling your audience what you're going to say, saying it, and then telling them what you said. It just takes too long (see point #2).
- Eliminate jargon so that the words you use make sense.
- Forge a human connection to earn the right for more attention.
- Gestures will enhance your energy and the other person’s.
- Harness humor to capture interest.
- Include vivid examples to make your point quickly and more personally.
- Juxtapose contrasting ideas to make the brain work harder and engage longer.
- Keep it real and be authentic.
- Listen to engage others and increase their interest in your message.
- Make it memorable.
- Nix the extraneous details and get to the point.
- Offer meaningful evidence, facts and figures.
- Paint a picture with your words to make the point quickly and in a novel way.
- Quantify the problem or results.
- Refer to the other person by name to maintain his/her focus.
- Speak in terms of shared values to make a connection and make your point.
- Tell a story (but make it a short one).
- Unscramble unnecessary complexity and get straight to the point (see point #4).
- Visualize the information with infographics, diagrams, maps or other helpful visual support.
- Watch carefully for cues that you may be losing attention and adjust your approach.
- Exude enthusiasm; it’s contagious and it’s harder to become distracted while caught up in excitement.
- Yield the floor, drawing others in to increase interest (and start the 8-second clock again).
- Zero in on the benefits to others.
Go forth and communicate!
You’ve only got a short time to get your message across. Use these tips to help optimize how you deliver your message to be concise and effective.
Your turn: What tips do you have for constructively dealing with attention span(dex)?