Whether you sell, teach, practice medicine or law, or even if you deliver keynote speeches, one thing is universally true for most professionals: your success as a communicator is in the eyes of your beholder. In other words, regardless of how well or not well you think you did at communicating your message, your audience is the ultimate arbiter of your effectiveness.
Audiences hold a lot of power. They decide whether to buy from you, listen to you, take your advice, or even whether to stay in the room and engage. They decide if they like you, think you’re smart, or deem you worthy of their attention. And then – as if all of that weren’t enough – they get to rate you, refer others to you or not, and talk about you freely, in person and online.
I don’t mean to make you wince or question yourself, but I do mean to raise your awareness. I actually mean to shift your focus to understanding – and then to accommodating – your audiences more.
Your audience may be one or 100, it doesn’t matter, there are common standards that apply.
For my upcoming book, I have been digging into attention spans – how they work and how long they last. After all, if we’re talking to people, we want to make sure we’re grabbing and holding onto their attention and making a positive impression.
Two interesting statistics emerged:
The first is the 8-second rule of thumb. When you are presenting or speaking, audiences size you up in the first 8 seconds and decide whether they’re going to pay attention to you and be fully engaged or not. Yikes, daunting! You need to hook your audience in the first 8 seconds?
Clearly, what you say and how you comport yourself in your opening counts.
The second is that the average adult cannot absorb and process more than 20 minutes of content at a time. In other words, if you are sharing consequential material that you need your audience to understand and retain, you need to break it up into smaller, more digestible chunks.
That’s the quantitative side. It’s probably not a shock, but it’s sometimes hard to abide by and implement because there’s often so much you feel you want or need to share. Just remember to prioritize and package your material in a way that works for your audience, and it’s likely to help your ability to track and deliver as well.