Recently, I came across a blog from Successful Meetings titled “How to Resuscitate a Tired Association Education Program.” The article shares that though association education programs are highly important, the programs are failing due to attendees’ shortened attention spans. Chris Ballman, Senior Director of Education at SmithBucklin is quoted as saying:
“Recent studies show that the average adult’s attention span is somewhere between three and 15 minutes when focusing on one particular subject.”
In other words, shorter sessions are the answer. And perhaps they are, as we’ve also recently learned that our attention spans are now shorter than that of a goldfish.
With this in mind I thought I’d throw in a few other ideas for keeping your audience awake, engaged and listening:
- Meet them halfway: In other words, you do not want your presentation to be so basic that you lose those who are already familiar with the subject, but you also do not want to make it so complicated that they completely get lost and lose interest. If possible, survey the audience beforehand to make sure they are on board with what you plan to present.
- Change it up: Try creating several smaller presentations within the overall presentation and also utilize different media; a PowerPoint presentation or give Prezi a try, then switch over to a flipchart, play a video, of use an infographic.
- Attendee involvement: Providing some simple tasks for the audience; have them fill out some information, answer a question, talk amongst themselves or partner up to discuss the subject – all such activity makes them a part of the presentation and keeps them interested.
- Once upon a time: Stories are a sure way to get people to listen. In fact, we love stories and tend to retain information better when told in a story form. For example, explaining why it is import to adopt a new way of doing something will have a lot more impact if told in story form; tell a story of how this change affected someone’s life, business, relationships, etc.
- Inject some fun: Have a fun tchotchke you can throw out to those who answer questions, include some humor in your slides or videos, provide colors, markers and paper at each table so people can “decorate” their notes.
- Learn from TED: TED Talks are 18 minutes or less. Curator Chris Anderson explains the reason as being long enough to be serious and short enough to hold attention. Judging from the popularity of such talks, this would be wise advice to follow.
For the Association Meeting Planner this means allowing for shorter time periods for breakouts, and to also think of new and different ways to educate with your attendees. Be sure to check out next week’s blog for more ideas!