Tag Archive for 'attention span'

The Engaging Speaker is aware of the changing energy in the room

Surviving an Ironman race needs control of your energy

I’ve completed the grueling Ironman Triathlon which is a race involving a 3.8km open water swim, 180km bike ride and finishes with a marathon, back to back all on the same day. The race has a cut off time of 17 hours and I finished my last one in around 12 hours 30 mins. Needless to say, it’s a long day and your energy levels change throughout the day. Nervous excitement before the swim. Steady rhythmic effort to complete the swim. A burst of energy on the bike before settling into a long ride with ups and downs, trying to hold on to your pace in the final 60km while holding back enough for the run. The marathon starts at a lively pace. It’s the final segment and if everything falls apart, you can always walk. You hold a pace, keep it ticking over. Everything seems good until half way through, muscles start to cramp, pain comes. Your pace drops a bit, you fight it to keep going. From 30-38km, you’re in complete pain, you think about quitting or walking. Somehow you keep your body moving forward quietly encouraging yourself and feeding off the energy of the crowd’s cheers. Finally you hit 38km, you realize that in 2km it’s only 2km to go. You perk up. Your pace rises. You find a new wind. You’re going to finish. The final one kilometer, you’re hitting euphoric levels as your endorphins kick in. You finish the marathon practically sprinting, fall over the line and break down into a heap. Before standing up with a warm painful glow of completion. Success.


Energy levels change through a presentation

The Engaging Speaker is aware that energy levels change through a presentation. Shorter presentations are easier to plan. Longer full day sessions require more detailed mapping. Remember people are fresh in the morning so get right into the content. Keep things moving along. Set the tone for starting and ending breaks on time. Plan your afternoons particularly carefully. Participants energy levels tend to dip around an hour to two after lunch, especially if they’ve had a big hotel buffet lunch. During this time period, move towards more physical exercises. Add higher impact team activities. Move things around. Shift venues. Keep things moving, changing and adapting. Finish strong. Have a clear conclusion to the day. Keep a couple of short energizers in your pocket in case the energy plunges. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Ask the participants what they’d like to do to pick up the energy.


Be aware that you create the energy in the room, not the audience

If you looked at your last talk or upcoming presentation in terms of creating energy, what would your energy chart look like? Would it be high at the start and then gradually falling away to nothing? Would it be low at the beginning, peak in the middle and drift off? Or would it look like a read out of a healthy heart with regular peaks and troughs. A good presentation should start and finish strong but should allow time to reflect, time to pick things up and a time for interaction.


What energy map are you creating?

Map your presentation’s energy chart. Is it in line with your message? A rallying sales meeting will start high and finish higher. A senior management crisis talk will have moments of low before building up momentum towards the end. The Engaging Speaker sets the tone for the talk and creates the energy, the enthusiasm, the experience for the audience.

Trend in business presenting – the 18 minute presentation

Jim Gray in The Globe and Mail has an interesting article that picks up on the global success of TED Talks and suggests that this is the future direction of business presenting. I agree to a degreee. What do you think?

Read the article here.

Here is my comment:

Nice article and I think it does pick a trend for shorter – more impactful – presentations. Of course there will always be expectations but for executives who wish to become influential to their stakeholders then the 18 minute presentation is a useful concept.

This is one of the reasons that I am studying TED Talks speech in preparation for my new book. Using samples of people who are ‘giving the speech of their lives’ is a useful benchmark for all aspiring business presenters.

Warwick John Fahy
Author, The One Minute Presenter

About the Author, Warwick J Fahy

Would you like to know how to create impactful 18 minute business presentations? Contact me today on +86 1391 786 7502

Warwick helps C-level executives, working in multinational companies based in Greater China, who struggle to get their point across and influence their key stakeholders. Warwick helps the executive project their message with confidence allowing them to express their opinions powerfully and gain respect from senior managers even when under pressure.”  Learn more about who I help here.

Way of the Future? How to cure short attention spans!

An article worth reading if you are interested in how technology is being applied to help overcome short attention spans.

Now all you have to do is convince your audiences to wear them!

How are you using technology to engage with your audiences?

‘It’s Trendy To Be Free’ – Lady Gaga At Poland Show: What can you learn about presenting a clear message

Successful business presenter?

Successful business presenter?

An essential part of business presenting is having a clear message and making sure that the audience come away with the same message you intended to deliver.

In the pop music world where it’s fair to say most people have short attention spans, we can learn a lot from pop diva Lady Gaga. Recently Lady Gaga managed to take a stand against an issue and at the same time mention her new album numerous times (Born this Way) and still arouse the love / hate responses she is known for. One article on Lady Gaga had over three thousand comments. Not many blogs can rival that response!

So what can we learn from Lady Gaga:

1. Clearly define the issue.

Lady Gaga starts off with a succinct definition:

“The funny thing is that some people reduce freedom to a brand,” Gaga said between tears.

This is a great tagline (with pop diva emotion) that positions her against her pop rivals. By clearly defining the issue, she is now ready to lay out her position.

2. Give your opinion on the issue

Lady Gaga now states her opinion on this pressing issue:

“They think that it’s trendy now to be free. They think it’s trendy to be excited about your identity. When in truth, there is nothing trendy about ‘Born This Way.”

Did you notice the beautiful bridge to her album. Sentence starts with talking about the issue and ends with bringing the attention to her key message – which in this case is her album.

Now, having made the segue, it’s time to hammer home the message:

3. Deliver your message vividly

A powerful way to connect with an audience is to use a metaphor:

“‘Born This Way’ is a spirit, and it is this connection that we all share.”

This metaphor has now linked her message to the audience. Now it’s time to get vivid and have a dig at her pop rivals:

“It is something so much deeper than a wig or a lipstick or an outfit or a [expletive] meat dress. ‘Born This Way’ is about us, ‘Born This Way’ is about what keeps us up at night and makes us afraid.”

Injecting emotion and making her message relevant to people’s lives is another technique that business presenters can use although probably in a toned down fashion.

So while you may not know who Lady Gaga is or whether you love or hate her, make sure that you take away these important lessons:

1. Clearly define your issue

2. Give a direct opinion

3. Use vivid language to deliver your message

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Poll shows university students attention span is 10 minutes

attention-problem While I am coaching senior executives, I often mention that an audience’s attention span is around 10 minutes. This means that when you deliver a business presentation you need to continually engage and interact with the audience.

Here is an article in the Times of India that shows another reason why younger audiences’ suffer from short attention spans. Read more.

How can you improve your attention span?

Meditation can improve your concentration

Meditation can improve your concentration

With the need to multi-task and sift through a never-ending flow of information, we have adapted – with the help of technology – to become more skillful at darting our attention spans from point to point.  From an email, to the mobile phone, to a web site, to a download, to a conversation. And so on.

While this adaption is an important part of being productive in a digital information age, it also impacts our ability to focus on one thing for a long period of time. Switching attention between tasks reduces effectiveness and hampers our ability to get things done in one sitting.

I recently attending a workshop and received a 25 minute meditation recording which I use at the end of the day to relax, unwind and calm my mind.  One thing that surprised me was how difficult it is to focus for the complete 25 minutes. While listening to the guided meditation (basically someone’s voice), I noticed that my mind was drifting onto other thoughts.  Even after pulling my attention back to the recording, my mind kept darting onto other topics.

Gradually, the more I meditate with the recording the longer I am able to focus my attention entirely.  As we continue to plough through life with our numerous distractions, it’s good to remember that we can also “work out” our concentration and focus from time to time. Turn off the devices and just relax for 25 minutes. Your mind and attention span will appreciate it.

Anecdote to Long PowerPoint Presentations : Ignite

5 minute presentations

5 minute presentations

I am sure you have all sat through many teeth-grindingly long presentations with 89 PowerPoint slides. But what if the presentation was only 5 minutes long, with 20 slides and each slide automatically rotated after 15 seconds. Sounds great!

There are a number of new events springing up which ‘force’ presenters to be concise. I think this is a great thing. It is much harder to be concise and still remain compelling, but the philosophy of The One Minute Presenter is just this. With today’s short-attention span audiences, it is becoming more and more important to be concise.

If you cannot get along to one of Ignite’s events (Wiki page) – try this method when you are preparing for your next presentation. It will help you deliver a to-the-point message and finish on time.

Adapt your presentation schedule to fit your audience’s body clock

Understanding your audience is essential to successful business presentations. Especially if you are presenting to audiences with short attention spans.  Digital natives are regarded as having less patience for (traditional) presentations, so what can you do to adapt yourself to your audience?

Well a clue lies in a school in England whose headmaster claim that all teenagers need a lie-in and that classes should start at 11am. The claim is based on the way the teenage body clock is functioning which results in students falling asleep in class. In tests so far memory has improved and received (not surprisingly) good response from the students.

While you may not be faced with a teenage audience, business audiences today are just as distracted and likely to tune out if you cannot capture their attention.  If it’s within your control think about the timing of your presentation. Just after lunch most people are sluggish and likely to drift off. Later in the afternoon people’s brains become tired and attention spans drop off.  Mid to late mornings usually work well for most audiences. Also, be aware of spacing your content so that you don’t overload your audience with information.  Add breaks every 10 minutes or so to allow your message to digest and for a different format of presenting like a video, a story or an activity.

See the article in full here at the Guardian.

Importance of producing your message

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Don’t present like your audience has unlimited time, attention or energy

time-attention-energyOne thing you can be sure about when you are delivering your next presentation.  Your audience wish you would finish it quicker, get to the point sooner and wrap it up faster.  Your audience don’t have unlimited time, attention or energy. So don’t present like they do.

If you see people’s eyes glazing over, notice sighs and hear yawns, you are in the “dead energy zone” from which no memories emerge. Your audience is switched off and waiting for you to finish. Those who are less polite will walk out.

To become a better presenter, you need to understand how memory works.  One technique to learn is called spaced learning.  Advocated by Dr John Medina in his book Brain Rules and put into practice in a school in the UK, spaced learning stops trying to force information on the brain. Instead it aligns with how memories are actually formed.

Spaced learning uses intense learning periods of 20 minutes, interspersed with 10 minute intervals of physical exercise that requires hand-eye coordination, such as juggling, basketball and plate spinning. Sounds barmy right? But the results are amazing.  Students who took a 90 minute class on biology had a 58% pass rate. A year late taking another science subject and this time four months of conventional class study the pass rate went up to only 68%.

The technique is fast and uses “hooks” and visual cues to stimulate the learning points. How can you introduce gaps in your presentations where the audience can take abreak, move around and then be ready for a quick review when they return.  You need different versions of your presentations. Insert “check slides” which have gaps in the key messages and ask the audience to fill in the missing words.  Have handouts that ask key questions about the messages. Insert more five minute breaks (keep it to exactly 5 minutes though!) and don’t be afraid to go back to skim through your slides.  Above all, dump your text-based slides for visuals that use pictures and slogans. Make your slides resemble billboards.