Friday, November 28, 2008

How Your Audience's Brain Works

For those who speak in front of an audience (or congregation).  Things we need to know...

How Your Audience's Brain Works - BusinessWeek
Your brain has a tendency to tune out after 10 minutes, ignore "boring" subjects, and require a lot of pictures to retain information. Those are three of the discoveries detailed in John Medina's new book, Brain Rules. I recently spoke to Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and teacher at the University of Washington School of Medicine to get a sense of how business leaders can apply his findings when making presentations to audiences large and small.

1. The brain tunes out after 10 minutes. Your audience might be with you at "Hello," but in most cases, listeners stop paying attention within 10 minutes. Since Medina began teaching in 1993, he has continually asked his students: "Given a class of medium interest, not too boring and not too exciting, when do you start glancing at the clock, wondering when the class will be over?" The answer is always 10 minutes. According to Medina, peer-reviewed studies confirm his observation. "Before the first quarter-hour is over in a typical presentation, people usually have checked out," says Medina.

The 10-minute rule is an important finding for anyone who delivers information to any sort of audience. If you want to hold people's attention, I recommend you introduce some sort of engaging device at or shortly before each 10-minute increment of your presentation. This device doesn't have to be complicated. A simple story will suffice, as will a review of the past 10 minutes. In my presentations, I often tell a relevant story, or better yet, show a video clip that is relevant to the previous discussion. If you're presenting via Webinar software (BusinessWeek, 4/18/08), you can use a tool to push a poll or a question to your audience. Again, be sure to plan these exercises at 10-minute intervals.

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