Attention span – your chance to keep your audience interested!

Posted on 2014/01/02

Everybody talks about engagement at seminars, meetings or conferences but many of these people often don’t really know what engagement means in a real and practical way or how to retain it. What are we going to do by engaging our attendees and why do we need to do so? What is our goal for engagement in our meetings, our learning environments or conferences?

So, theoretically, engagement is about avoiding things like “I am sorry, did you say something?”

Moving forward, let us tell you, that, yes, you can say many things by looking into the audience’s faces: are they looking up or down or do they talk to each other or maybe they are asking each other questions which are off topic. And the typical meeting looks like this:

The picture above shows the traditional situation – the speaker is standing at the front of the audience and is taking a lead, killing the audience with some kind of presentation.

People are often dealing with many things about themselves: they are thinking about homes, checking emails, so there are many things vying for the audience’s attention and it’s our goal to make sure that when people walk out through the doors, they remember why they were here and what they have accomplished – if they do this, then they have been engaged. So your goal is to make sure of this using some technological help: with a combination of tools, we can turn that environment around, so you can have active participants and active contributors. IQ Polls are perfectly suited to this situation –tool, but we will tell you more about this later. And, if you have doubts about it, bear in mind that there are many smart people in the audience and you need to know what they are thinking in order to have a successful interaction with them.

There are easy ways to keep an audience’s attention and make sure that they will retain that knowledge. You are going to meet people who want to be a part of what you have discussed. They are going to remember what they did there and you are going to be able to take that information which you have collected from them and use it as provable proof of success. Also, you’re going to be able to go back after reporting, so you can engage them in learning and find inspiring ideas within that room.

There are also some questions which you need to be considering when choosing to use or not to use any kind of technological tool:

- How much intellectual capital are we leaving in the room?

- What is the impact of engagement? Detention, getting ideas, finding a path forward?

- What is the value of collecting and information from your delegates? Brand loyalty, increased retention, dynamic?

It is a comfortable way for the audience to share what they know. You do manage to get the audience’s retention and you get inspiring ideas.

Furthermore, there is an attention span which you should bear in mind (it is shown below). The average adult’s attention has decreased from 12 minutes to 5 minutes and that was a decrease reported in 2008, so just imagine how many minutes we lost during the last 5 years? Now it should be somewhere between 3 and  3½ minutes, but, let’s assume that you have 5 minutes.

But it is important not to get upset. You can keep people interested and interupt the process of loosing their attention, challenging your audience by asking questions, by finding out about what audience knows and by using this information.

Well, then, you do a lot of questioning, you repeatedly get interrupted and keep people’s attention for longer, with people even stopping texting. You take time away from disturbance. In this case, the IQ Polls voting tool can be your best friend by keeping their attention and engagement. So, create questions and show them to the audience, ask them for a quick response and together the audience will explore the results. You need to have them in your speech.

There is a great quote which is “The true art of memory is the art of attention.”This quote was written by Samuel Johnson and it leads to fresh ideas, making your audience part of the process, increasing their retention and gaining a measurable level of improvement leading to the success of the  event.

Read more about attention curve here.