Capturing Elusive Attention Spans? Breakthrough Thinking at last. Discover Now!
Can subtle shifts in our communication techniques make a palpable difference to our audience?
In business, Goliath consistently beat David every time. Yet the days of the behemoth beating smaller businesses were over a generation ago. David now can beat Goliath. All it takes is for small, nimble businesses to understand what the customer wants — then give it to them.
Not thinking I’m literal? I wasn’t — but here’s one David operating individually, yet influencing millions. This David is an accomplished communications coach, walking his talk.
Bringing ideas to market is easy thanks to technology stacks and ecosystems. These tools are within the grasp of small and large businesses alike.
What of the customer’s attention span? This span diminished in proportion to another emerging reality: an individual’s ability to create compelling, even viral content.
Access to expensive equipment was a high barrier to produce high-quality commercials. Businesses would flock to advertising firms and their army of smart creatives. Gurus of mass influence provided thought leadership. Smart creatives wielded rarified expertise, business nous and creativity. Their output: world-class print and radio ads.
In the past, widely available music and creative outputs had studios, agents and editors vetting each work, and these gatekeepers served as the arbiters of taste.
Whereas today, anyone with a mobile phone and simple editing software holds power to captivate. An individual channelling their smart, creative side can produce a visual and aural extravaganza. Their work holds the potential for hundreds or thousands of views in a short timeframe.
Enter briefer audience attention spans
So the supply of impactful messages has increased. Our demand for this content may have also increased. We may spend more time seeking shorter and more intense content. Our attention bends to our brain’s sensation-seeking, dopamine-driven ways. The supply of short-form content abounds too. From brief yet punchy comedy videos, podcasts and Tik Tok videos.
So with this increased attention comes a greater discernment. Do we now tend to “swipe up” if content bores us within the first couple of seconds? If our brains are habituated to this new normal bombardment of messages every day, how does this translate to leading change on projects?
What is the sole point you are trying to raise in each message? Do you have a single point of truth to direct your reader’s attention to particular details which do not contribute to the sole point?
Emails: Could you pare your message back to three sentences?
Videos: Can you impart your message in a 30-second video?
Presentations: Sure, have dozens of slides — even switch to a black background? But what single point (and powerful imagery) can you place on each slide? This impactful, 79-slide presentation is a brilliant exemplar.
Public speaking: How many dry-runs (practices) can you undertake? What difference do you notice after each dry-run? Do you have a spare 17 minutes (after reading this article)? If so, I recommend checking out this powerful and memorable presentation on public speaking techniques.
Storytelling: A simple slide deck can convey a compelling story. Personalised images are impactful. Think cartoons are for kids only? Canva provides useful and professional-looking cartoon templates. But don’t rule yourself out as an able cartoonist! You can attend cartooning courses like “Cartooning for Change”.
Channel the mindset of a stone sculptor. Start with volume, then prune.
Get it out. Yes, your first draft may be word vomit. Sometimes your craft is a collection of words to help you form what you are going to say. There’s nothing wrong with this approach-sometimes it’s great to get all the words out onto one page before deciding your next step.
Make like a pyramid. Using the Minto principle, you could then look at your assortment of words and concepts and start afresh with a blank page. What is the one thing that needs to be said? How can you pair this down into essentials? Is there a catchy headline or slogan help you convey the major point? And in conveying your major point, always think: “So what?”.
Valuable real estate. Every point on your page serves a purpose. Your first couple of drafts may seek to help you collect, organise and even arrange the concepts you wish to convey. But by starting afresh, your second draft is where less is more.
Artificial Intelligence “assists”. Headline analysers can help you craft your key point. This point may be a call to action, be it a consideration of the topic or intended to compel the reader to do something. The headline in this article went through a headline analyser. The original headline: Breakthrough Thinking: Impactful Business Communications. Not bad — I scored a ‘67’ for my headline analyser’s measure of audience impact. Yes, I am a sell-out: the above headline scored a 73. At that point I gave up trying to find another headline, and it screams for attention already.
What is your single call to action? Even messages intended to raise awareness should compel someone to do something eg. To visit a particular information source to register for something.
The second-briefest messages I know. Take a leaf out of the makers of the haiku. A haiku’s brevity is powerful. Three powerful sentences deliver a clear and memorable message.
Paring back — murdering your darlings — is hard. Even this article could be pruned. Maybe it is a balance of getting your message “out there” and producing an optimal-quality article?
Looking at the amount of time you invest in your messages, what can you remove to nail your essential points?