Today I’ve been asked, how do you keep someone’s attention? So, hopefully I’m going to do a good job of keeping your attention until we get to the end of this question! It is an interesting one though, because companies spend inordinate amounts of money to work out both how to grab your attention in the first instance and then how to hold onto it.
“What we do know is that attention spans are actually falling off a cliff.”
If we go back about 50, 60 years, the average attention span was around eight seconds. So you had the opportunity to grab somebody’s attention and you could easily hold it. Nowadays because we’ve got so many things vying for our attention, we’re down to nanoseconds to grab somebody’s attention and then keep it.
If we scroll through websites, we see there’s a tonne of, the technical term is click bait. A bit of a headline that peaks our interest, makes us want to have a look, many websites will also accompany that with some sort of visual image because a picture says a thousand words.
Sometimes the picture may be out of sync, it creates a bit of ambiguity and we want to know more. We kid ourselves by saying, ‘well, I can just click and have a quick look,’ and then once they’ve dragged us in, they will find ways of trying to hook us in and build different ways to keep us reading that post to find out what it’s all about. And what they’re after doing is creating a little dopamine hit, because if we get a dopamine hit, we want to go back and we want to get some more.
So, as I say, companies spend an awful lot of money trying to grab our attention, and then it’s all about how do we keep it?
“The other thing we need to ask ourselves is, why are we trying to keep attention?”
It’s sometimes quite easy to get attention. If I wanted to get someone’s attention and I was in a shopping centre say, I might just start screaming and pointing at something. I’d soon have everybody’s attention! But then if there was nothing actually there to see, people would very quickly move on.
So we need to think about not just grabbing someone’s attention, but how we hold that attention and how we give them value for it. The big problem you’ve got at the moment is we’re so hardwired to scroll, so used to getting our attention pulled in different directions, that this can create a bit of burnout. So if you are producing content or you want to do something, think not just about how do I grab your attention, but once I’ve got it, how do I hold it?
Also, think about the technical tools and about how the brain and the visual system works because the eyes are an extension of the brain and what we focus on is where our attention is going to go. So if you’ve got good visual acuity, an eye for detail, that’s going to pre-determine where you focus your attention, just subconsciously. If the brain then gets curious, is going to decide to dig a little bit deeper.
“A lot of it is actually going to be based on what we see visually. “
So I think it can be a case of going through and starting to understand some of the basic neuroscience behind how you engage attention. There are lots of apps and technical devices that could do it, but be careful that we’re not straying into over manipulating the conditions to hold someone artificially. Because all that will do is burn people out. Once you’ve done that, people get deflated and they’re going to go away.
“For me, it’s how do we grab someone’s attention? But once we’ve got it, have we actually got a clear, concise message to give somebody?”
I would also try to filter in the people you want the attention of and make sure you have filters which get rid of the people you don’t want to talk to because you don’t actually want everybody’s attention. Getting everybody’s attention is quite difficult to do and it’s even more difficult to keep, but if you can filter in who you want, that makes a big difference.
There’s no easy answer to this one, but I think hopefully you’ve got a few ideas there that you can go away with and start to do some additional searches around and look for additional information on that’s going to help you get someone’s attention. Hopefully, I’ve managed to keep your attention till the end of this and you’ve got something from it! If you have, come back and find out more learning moments.