Our attention span has shortened. There it is, I said it. Someone had to. It is no longer appropriate to hold long meetings, lengthy conversations, or training sessions over four hours in duration.
Advances in technology have shortened our attention span: no longer do we have to wait for the evening news, search through encyclopaedias for information, or wait for the mail to be delivered to get that notification. Everything is at our finger tips, this is the age of instant everything.
Is it a shame, you bet. Can we change it, nope. How should we control it, by getting on with it. Join the race or get left behind.
For those of you who aren't as old as me, advertisements on television used to be two minutes long. They were more like a movie and we used to have a game where we would guess the ad as soon as it came on to make them more enjoyable to watch. Now, ads are 15 to 30 seconds duration. A video 'sting' for a media broadcast is no more than 10 seconds long.
When I am presenting to an audience, I know that I have to get their attention in the first few minutes otherwise brains will start to switch off. The traditional bell-curve method of presenting just won't do it anymore. I know that if I have a message, I have to get it out early.
A way of delivering a long message is to use a reverse bell curve. In the first minute or so give the audience something that will grab their attention and hold it for as long as possible. A big bold statement. You cannot hold people's attention forever so fill the middle with information that isn't quite as important. Then, have a big ending that will deliver your key message.
We only ever remember the beginning and end of a conversation, meeting, or speech. Why, because we are more focussed at these times. At the beginning we want to know a person's name and what they have to say. Then our brain wanders off to other things until the words "just before I finish" at which time we come back to the conversation, meeting, or speech.
The KISS principle has been around since the 1960s, how many of us actually use it I wonder. This is a way of maintaining interest in the middle bit of your message. We don't want to know how clever you are, we want to know how clever we are so put your message into plain words so that we 'get it', so we understand what you are saying.
In short, and sorry that I took so long to get there, just get on with it.