I know that I should be a better person than this. But my main reaction to President Obama’s State of the Union address last week was “Why did it have to be so freakin’ long?”
I don’t have the attention span for such things.
If I were President, I would propose that all speeches be limited to 15 minutes, with half that time devoted to Q&A. Now that would be change we could believe in.
No one Wants to Hear a Long Speech
I’m not alone on this issue. Attention spans are short. There was a study done of college students during 50-minute lectures. Researchers found that the students’ highest level of attention was in the first five minutes of the lecture. After that, attention levels dropped continuously until the 17th minute and leveled off.
If you give enough presentations, it’s going to happen. Someone’s going to ask a question during a presentation and you’re not going to know the answer.
Maybe you just need a moment to think about it. Or maybe you just have no clue what to say.
So what do you?
Here’s what not to do. Don't fake it! Your credibility with the audience can be lost in an instant if you are caught bluffing. Instead, you can do one of two things.
And you thought your colleague across the hallway was a poor listener. Consider this. When the doctor asks you “Where does it hurt?” you have less than 18 seconds to respond before being interrupted.
That’s just one conclusion from a burgeoning field of research into how doctors and patients communicate, according to a recent article in the New York Times.
For people trying to communicate more effectively in business, the research provides a fascinating case study in how to (and how not to) diagnose problems. The takeaway message? If you want to reduce misunderstandings, frustration, and lawsuits, listen carefully, don’t interrupt, and ask plenty of questions.
Do you speak with all the energy of a house plant? Do you pepper your conversation with too many “Uhs” and “Ums.” Do you keep your face in a permanent state of “boredom”?
More importantly, do you want to change some of these habits?
If so, then do what Benjamin Franklin used to do. Pick one point of improvement and work on it continuously for a single month. Ben didn’t know it at the time, but he was changing habits using a technique that psychologists call “reticular activation.”
Reticular activation is the little bug we plant in our heads to sensitize ourselves to certain things. For example, reticular activation is what makes you suddenly begin to notice all the blue Toyota Camry's on the road two days after you've bought your blue Camry.
Business Guru Peter Drucker said “Communication. . .always makes demands. It always demands that the recipient become somebody, do something, believe something. It always appeals to motivation.”
To motivate people effectively, you need to have a focused message that you deliver with passion. That’s what we teach at Speechworks.
In our Persuasive Speaker workshops, we coach our clients in how to stand up and deliver presentations with passion and in a way that connects and motivates. In our two-day program, you will deliver five presentations in front of a small group all with the help of our expert coaches.
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Since 1986, Speechworks has been coaching America’s top businesspeople to communicate in a way that connects with listeners, sells ideas, and inspires confidence. Let our coaches help you develop a communication style that inspires confidence.