Last night I attended a cocktail party that doubled as a fundraiser, which had its share of the who’s who of Manhattan society. Before going, I was expecting the requisite air kisses, fine wines and canapés. All that was there but what I hadn’t anticipated was the, what seemed to be interminable, forty-five minute speech. With an epic monologue that touched on Osama Bin Laden, the Petraeus scandal, sustainability, diversity, the importance of living with integrity, sports and even a shout-out to a new pond being built, the point of it all seemed rather nebulous. In between wondering whether the curtains would hold my bodyweight if I discreetly shimmied out of the window and deciding whether an impromptu donation would stop what was somewhere between a lecture and a homily, I thought “this woman lost her audience after the first two minutes.”
In our business, we constantly remind our clients to be cogent, relevant and succinct in every form of communication. According to a Pew Study, attention span has radically diminished, with people looking for instant gratification rather than in-depth analysis. Instantaneous communication such as Twitter and text messaging has reduced our vocabulary and truncated the way in which we speak, resulting in a dearth of attention span.
No longer can someone hope to regale their audience with tangential information; in today’s world, relevant sound bites are imperative to successfully engaging with your participators, who are no longer simply listeners. Saliency has become increasingly challenging to achieve, but here are some quick tips:
- Define your message. There’s a short window to communicate, so make sure you know what you’re trying to say.
- Stay on point. Departures from the main message aren’t fun or quirky; they are confusing to your audience. Always veer back to the topic at hand.
- Keep it short. You have between two to five minutes to get your message across. Use the time wisely.
- Adapt to your audience. If you see the audience’s eyes glazing over or hear whispers in the background, don’t be afraid to cut some of your materials or adjust the tone and cadence of your speech to re-engage them.
- Close it out. In the several minutes you have been speaking, your audience may need a reminder of what the point was. Use the last one to three sentences to summarize your message effectively.
It’s a brave new world of communication, but streamlining your message and keeping it pertinent will successfully connect you with your audience.