Sitting down and gearing up to listen to a lecture is like putting your body in neutral. Listening to a single individual for an extended period of time is like putting your body in park.
With our bodies physically doing little, when listening to speakers who don't use any public speaking activities that engage the audience, our minds follow and eventually start to operate at less than optimal performance.
Its actually been proven that after 40 minutes of listening to a single lecture or speech, most audience members will have had their heart rates reduced by almost 10 beats per minute.
Essentially then, as one writer (Scott Berkun in "Confessions of a Public Speaker") points out, most speeches are "slow one-way trips into sedation".
Now depending on whether the glass is half full for you, you might see this as an exciting challenge, one where you have to pull out all the stops and energy, and find creative ways to keep your audience engaged. Or it might depress the wits out of you.
I'm hoping you'll lean toward the former, because despite what the negative science might lead us to believe, great speakers have found public speaking activities to keep their audiences hooked, sometimes for hours on end.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to obey the so-called 'ten-minute rule'.
This rule is simple to understand, but is going to require some out-of-the-box thinking in order to implement effectively.
The idea is that, since most people are automatically going to start switching off after ten minutes, you change direction or introduce something noteworthy or attention-grabbing every ten minutes.
The simple truth is that most people do not have the attention spans, or even the ability to focus for extended period on a single thing, then most of our ancestors in ages past did. Advances in technology means that nowadays we are taught by our surroundings, even from a young age, to expect interruptions.
Even studies on the negative effect of extended internet usage of short term memory seem to corroborate some of this.
So any speaker needs to be aware of this: Gone are the days when you can drone on for hours in a monotone and have everyones undivided attention for your whole presentation. Lincoln and King George might have been able to do that, since they had audiences who could sit in rapt attention for hours on end. But not today. No, we need to be creative to keep people engaged, and the ten-minute rule is an easy way to do this.
Snore Preventing Public Speaking Activities For Any Audience
Here are some practical ideas for implementing the ten minute rule. All or most of these can be used in ten minute intervals, and are sure to get your audience back on track as far as engagement goes.
- Show a short movie clip that compliments what you've just been talking about.
- Introduce a interesting prop and draw attention to it.
- Bring on an additional speaker with whom you share the stage for a minute or two.
- Engage the audience practically by asking for volunteers to help you with some quick demo of role-play.
- Give out a freebie, such as a book or some piece of noteworthy memorabilia.
- Ask a question and ask the audience to answer by showing of hands. You can even select someone to answer.
There are many more ways to do this and some of them will be unique to your topic or the niche that you're covering. Brainstorm some ideas and write them down, then effectively weave them into your presentations at ten minute intervals.
It's an effective and sure-fire way to keep your audience interested for longer. For another important point in dealing with your audience, read the audience engagement page.