7 Tips for the 7-Minute Attention Span

“People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.” – Steve Jobs

7 minutes. The attention span of a typical audience lasts about 7 minutes before you run the risk of losing them. You might get 10 minutes if the topic is especially of interest, or just 5 minutes if you’re lucky enough to be presenting in that sleepy post-lunch period.

Imagine you’re on deck to present at an update meeting on a glorious summer day. Audience members are dreaming of sipping fruity drinks from a chaise beside the pool, or twirling their toes in a white sand beach as turquoise waves crash against the shoreline. Their minds are lying under palm trees, but you’re stepping up to the front. What to do?

Here are 7 tips you can deploy about every 7 minutes during your presentation to combat 2015’s hyper-short attention spans:

1. Ditch the PowerPoint

Your audience has seen more PowerPoint presentations than they care to remember. As soon as the lights go down and the projector fires up, it’s instantly harder to keep their attention. If you absolutely must use slides, less is more. Limit the quantity, start and end with the screen blanked out (by using the B button), experiment with using more images versus text.

2. Ask Questions of the Audience

Engage your audience in relevant conversation, ask them for real-time input on your topic, and have them share their experiences. Adults like their knowledge acknowledged.

3. Use Transitions

Transition phrases can help signal audience members’ brains to tune in and pay attention. They also make it easier for your audience to follow along with your story. Think about saying transitions between main points, each slide and different speakers.

4. Be a Storyteller

Everyone loves a good story – whether in preschool or the presentation room. Prepare a relevant, engaging story to accompany your presentation – and plan to channel your inner storyteller at a strategic moment to draw your audience in.

5. What’s in it for Them

Why should those people perched in the conference room chairs give their eyes to you instead of their smart phones? What’s in it for them? In your opening, answer that question. Use that knowledge to connect with your audience, to make your content relevant, and to hold their attention.

6. Get Your Audience Laughing

Laughter is a remarkably powerful tool for engagement. Plan to inject some relevant laughs into your presentation – a funny story or a bit of self-deprecating humor can go a long way.

7. Change is Good

When in doubt, change it up. Are audience eyes getting glassy, no longer able to resist the magnetic pull of those smart phone screens? Change something. Your speaking location, rate of speech, body language, or visuals. It is hard to stay engaged with something that looks and sounds the same for a long period of time.

Audience distractions, from summer daydreams to incoming text vibrations, are here to stay. By deploying the tips above, you have a better opportunity to capture and keep your audience’s attention.

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