With everyone communicating online today, there is a real need to design our messages. Online apps give us the ability to be online, but they leave it up to the user to be the designer and the expert at communicating. So, if you must be the expert, you should think like an editor, a director, and a producer. What does that mean? There are certain skills and techniques that you should consider in order to make your messages and communications stand out.
People are beginning to realize that audiences have a short attention span and are susceptible to an online fatigue factor. Suddenly you see the participants looking at their phones, closing their eyes, looking away, or even getting up and walking away from their screens. That’s when you know you have lost the audience and struggle to think of something that will get them back. Many people don’t realize that focusing online is more intense than communicating face to face.
As an editor, director, and producer, there were things I tried to avoid at all costs. One was the talking head. That’s where all you see is someone talking directly into the camera for long periods. No matter how good the person is at communicating, it was always boring after 2 to 3 minutes. I would change the picture every 2 to 3 minutes to something that illustrated what the subject matter. Then return briefly to the person talking. By changing the image, I was able to maintain the interest of the audience with new visuals.
Remember the talking head when you are communicating online. If you find yourself talking for more than five to seven minutes, you are a talking head and must change the picture. Go to something else to maintain attention. If you use slides, construct them, so they build to the idea you want to express. Introduce one to two thoughts on a slide then change the picture. If you explain a concept, come back to your face for the explanation and then switch back to the slide to introduce another idea. Changing the picture will allow your participants to internalize your concepts and then let them be ready to listen to your next idea.
Have you ever noticed how short the videos are on YouTube? Many are between 2 and 5 minutes. People start to watch a video then turn to something else. They even design the ads so you can skip them after 5 seconds.
Being an effective communicator online means you are aware of people’s short attention spans and can design your communications to allow for new stimuli to maintain the audience’s interest. The next time you are online and listening to someone else communicate, see how long it takes before you start to lose interest. How long before you begin to drift, and your internal talk starts and suddenly mentally, you are thinking of something completely different.
Think like the pros and design your messages for the maximum impact. Knowing how to manage your participants will put you in control of your messages and enable you to communicate the ideas that will inspire and lead people to new awareness and insights.
The short attention span of people is a real threat to communicating online. Manage it, and you can become an effective communicator that has a more significant impact on your audience.