It comes in many forms. It could be the eyes are focused on a glowing cell phone, or the body shifts like a metronome or the person just gets up and leaves the room. They’re bored, and it doesn’t take long. The British bank Lloyds TSB discovered that the average adult attention span was only 5 minutes. So what can a speaker do to facilitate audience engagement and retention?
Curiosity stimulates learning
A recent study suggests that when people’s curiosity is piqued the reward centre of the brain becomes active releasing a chemical which in turn enhances the brain’s capacity to make memories. Not only could subjects of this test remember the things that had interested them, but they also had better recall of incidental information. In other words, they had learned about stuff they might have considered boring, because it was in proximity to stuff that had aroused their curiosity.
Create a knowledge gap
One way to stimulate your audience’s interest is to create what Akash Karia calls a ‘knowledge gap’. In other words, present your material in a way that exposes the dissonance that exists between what your audience knows already and what they don’t know. This is much more effective if you expose a knowledge gap about something your listeners care about.
Simon Sinek in his TED talk does this masterfully in two ways. Right off he begins his talk by asking questions that are pertinent to his audience:
How do you explain when things don’t go as we assume or better how do you explain when others are able to achieve things that seem to defy all the assumptions? For example, why is Apple so innovative?…
For an audience that wants to be numbered among the great achievers, the odds-busters, the innovators these questions provoke interest. But Sinek doesn’t just ask a question and then quickly answer it, instead he stokes the audience’s anticipation by how he answers with measured disclosure. Watch the first 2:15 of his TED talk below to experience what I am talking about here.
Using pertinent questions that pique our listener’s curiosity, prime them to engage and to recall.
What else have you used to awaken your audience’s interest?by