Conferences and events with multiple workshops, speakers and trainings mean that you’ve got to get the balance between giving enough, and not overloading people with too much.
The biggest fear for most of us is that the delegates will disengage and start staring out of the window.
There is a lot of research that says that, unless the audience is being ‘entertained by something fast paced and entertaining’ then the average attention span of most people is just 20 minutes.
I’ll talk about the specific strategies used by professional entertainers and keynote speakers to keep attention for much longer in their shows, concerts and performances in tomorrow’s article.
So since humans can focus on a particular task for twenty minutes before their mind wanders off, it might be a good idea to look at your event in terms of 20-minute blocks.
The task of chunking everything down in to 20-minute pieces might sound difficult or impossible, but really all it means is that we have to look at introducing a change of some sort at 20-minute integers.
This could be a change of environment, a short comfort break half-way through a 40-minute address, a state change (e.g. from sitting listening to an interactive activity).
It is easy to imagine that this 20-minute rule only applies to when folks are sat watching presentations, but the truth is that it even applies to interactive activities. After 20-minutes participants are starting to drift off.
The effect this can have on delegates is that they view your event as one that was engaging, since they never really had chance to drift off in to their own little dream world.
They’ll also see it as having been packed and varied. The perceived value here is even greater than if your event was one long presentation.
So there you have it, the 20-minute rule for events, meetings and conferences to help you get more out of them by understanding the attention spans of the people.