top of page

An attention span longer than a goldfish

Most interesting man in the world

Yesterday, when I was about a quarter mile from my house running a quick errand, I realized I had left my phone on the kitchen table. I immediately hit the brakes and began what would have probably been a five-point turn on the narrow road. I suddenly stopped somewhere between the second and the third turn - asking myself "What are you doing? Seriously? - You can't be without a phone for thirty minutes?"

I successfully shamed myself into continuing my short journey without my phone. On the ride I began thinking, as I often do when I am without my phone, how significantly the world has changed in an incredibly short time. Not long ago, phones were attached to walls, and people would get and give directions to each other. Invitations were sometimes declined so a favorite television show would not be missed. Important documents were mailed back and forth for edits and signatures.

I could go on and on. What fascinates me is that all this technology has seeped into every aspect of our lives so effortlessly. And we are different people because of it.

One significant impact on humans is on our attention span. Research shows that the human attention span has declined in the last seventeen years from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. For context, a goldfish's attention span clocks in at 9 seconds. This suggests that it is easier to keep a fish's attention through a glass bowl than an audience's attention in a sales presentation. It is particularly true when an audience may have been in that room for hours, hearing presentation after presentation that look and sound the same.


No matter how fabulous your offering is, if the audience is not tuned-in, your fabulousness will be wasted. We certainly don't want that to happen! Below are five strategies to help you keep your audience's attention while at the same time, being more interesting.

1. Keep them involved

The sooner you get a buying committee talking, the more likely they will participate throughout the meeting. Get them engaged early by having them introduce themselves. Challenge them to share something beyond their name and title. Throughout the presentation, identify in advance key moments to involve your audience by asking open-ended questions.

2.Keep it moving

The days of sitting on a slide with seven bullet points for five minutes are gone. More slides, with fewer words and more images, will get and keep your audience's attention.

3. Change it up! Consider integrating multi-media. A short video or audio tape will make the presentation and your key points more memorable and more engaging.

4. Tell stories. Stories are attention grabbers. They are memorable, and they are relatable- all good things in the sales presentation setting. Incorporate detail and color while at the same time keeping them concise and to the point.

5. Be different. Just because a presentation has always been done a certain way, does not mean that you have to do it the same way. In fact, it could be reason enough to be different. Research shows that the unexpected can be the best way to hold an audience's attention. Do you really need to start the presentation with that agenda? Is there a way that you can make the introductions more interesting? Are there images you can incorporate that are unexpected and imaginative? Is there a surprising give-away that can help to drive home a message while at the same time adding some fun and interest?

It is your responsibility to keep your audience engaged. The world has changed. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Why not try something new and leave the boring presentations to your competitors!

Recent Posts

bottom of page