It’s been said that the average attention span of a human is 8 seconds.
That’s less than a gold fish.
I’ve also read, and I find this more plausible, that most healthy adults are unable to sustain attention on one thing for more than about twenty minutes at a time. However, we are able to re-centre our attention, but not endlessly of course.
When I did a training course a while back, each session was no more than 45 mins. I was told that after this length of time, I simply wouldn’t retain the information.
I read an item on the Psychology of Speaking that says that, if you’re interested in the topic, you can focus on a presentation for around seven to ten minutes, tops! So if it’s number after number you’re listening to, your mind maybe starts drowning in a mathematical soup before you’ve even settled in your chair.
This got me thinking (for more than 8 seconds), why do conferences have sessions that continue for two hours or so without pause? I wondered if by the end, anyone was listening. They must be right? People ask questions. Maybe it’s the applause that wakes them up!
So what can we do to combat this? Well I’ve had a look around at ideas – I have to say none of these are mine, but I did find them interesting and I wondered if anyone had tried them out.
- Take a mini break – not 20 mins – 3 mins to stand, stretch, think about what you’re going to cook that night, 3 mins is enough
- Ask questions to your audience to gain their responsive and refocus
- Be a storyteller – we watch films for hours on end don’t we. I guess that’s because we don’t have to think, we can just follow
- Move – yes apparently if you simply move to stand in a new position this works too, it refocuses the audience – they might have a little shuffle at the same time
- Use media – change what your audience needs to be focusing on regularly
Theory has it that this is the same for meetings such as team meetings and creative sessions – maybe try that one at Monday morning first gathering of minds – it may make a refreshing change.