Not too long ago, I came across a study (http://socialtimes.com/attention-spans-have-dropped-from-12-minutes-to-5-seconds-how-social-media-is-ruining-our-minds-infographic_b86479) that maintains that the attention span of adults has decreased in the last decade from 12 minutes to five minutes. According to the study, and as one might expect, the proliferation of social media is cited as the primary culprit. The study made some startling observations, going so far as to suggest that technology and social media are channging the way our brains work, create hormonal imbalances, stress and a whole host of symptoms that are changing the way we perceive and process information. None of which, I might add, sound too good.
One can easily bemoan the study’s findings, but it is difficult to argue with them beyond perhaps questioning the extent to which attention spans have shrunk. But that would be quibbling at the margins. The point of the study is spot on. Indeed, we live and work in a bullet-point world. And it has implications for those seeking to communicate with others, not only in the social realm, but especially in the professional business environment. If attention spans are indeed down to five minutes, the way we develop and deliver messages in presentations, forums, meetings, etc., has to take that reality into consideration if we are to be successful.
How, then, can one be a successful communicator in a world that talks and thinks in bullet-points? Let me offer three steps for the business communicator. (I would offer more, but that would require more than five minutes of your attention.)
The technology around which we order our lives in the 21st Century did not start the trend toward abbreviated attention spans and messages. Its forefather the television did that. In the 1968 presidential campaign the average television news “sound bite” was more than 40 seconds. By 1996, it was less than 10 seconds on average.
Does all this mean that no presentation or discussion can be more than five minutes? Of course not. The point is to develop tools and techniques that will allow you maintain the audience’s attention and expand audience the length of time they will stay with you in mind and body.
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