95% of people multi-task in meetings

QUESTION – how do I present to win?

THOUGHT – learn from current affairs TV programmes

Research suggest the popularity of so-called current affairs programmes like A Current Affair and This Day Tonight. While I would argue that such programmes are anything but legitimate current affairs – ratings demonstrate they are very popular.
In order to maintain that popularity, these programmes constantly evolve to address the changing nature, needs and expectations of their target audience. They are very market focused. One of the changes that have occurred over recent years involves reducing the average length of a story from 6 minutes to 3 minutes – a change made to cater for the shortening attention span of viewers.

There is evidence that the attention span of audiences generally are shortening. The fact is, however, the attention span of human beings has always been short – and the current issue for presenters relates to the strategies they can implement to maximise audience attention span.

The difficulty associated with holding the attention of audiences, is research that found that 95% of people in meetings, including presentations multi-talk, or at least try to multi-task – often using their mobile device of making notes for the next meeting they are attending.

In my last THOUGHT I highlighted a suggestion by Guy Kawasaki that presentations should be limited to 20 minutes. TED talks are variously limited to 12, 15 or 18 minutes. No time limit is hard and fast., but research does suggest that it is hard to hold the attention of any audience longer than 30 minutes.

Certainly, the longer a speech goes on, the harder it is to hold the audiences attention and the greater will be the dependency on the presenters capability to engage listeners.

It is hard, but essential to hold the attention of your audience through out a presentation. Without that attention, core messages are lost, your credibility can be damaged and the whole experience can be a waste of time. Influencing the attention given to presentations by audiences include:

  • The value of the content
  • The relevance of the content
  • The simplicity of the presentation
  • The structure of the presentation
  • The speaker’s tone of voice and pace
  • The speakers body language and presence
  • The level of audience engagement
  • The stories told

On the last point, a recent study found that 95% of people attending presentations are engaged by stories and will have their attention better held it they are told engaging and relevant stories.

Stories are a powerful communication tool, as indeed, TV current affairs programmes have shown us. True stories are not just engaging, but for the speaker they are easy to remember and easy to tell. Stories make for a better presentation.


Do not speak too long. Keep your presentation as short as possible. Less is almost always more. If you can say in in 2 minutes – do so! If it takes more than 30 minutes make engagement a priority

Embrace the magic of stories. Learn from the likes of great presenters like Seth Godin and Simon Sinek and focus as much attention as possible on telling stories the audience will engage with.


Super Office, Venngage, Info Graphic, Custom Show, Mar Tech Series, The Career Café, Ethos 3, UT Blog, Tableau, American Express, Rule the Room, Financial Post, Linked IN, Presentation Panda, Present Better and Adobe

MORE THOUGHTS – www.djohncarlsonesq.com 

No tags 0