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audience attention

Audience Attention Spans vs. The Breakout Session

In 2015, Microsoft published a study concluding that humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish, and the internet blew up (for the record, a goldfish’s attention span is 9 seconds, and a human’s is only 8 seconds, according to this study).

Cue the cacophony of voices spouting off about how technology is rotting our brains and nobody talks to anybody anymore.

This sounds like bad news for my breakout sessions.

Well, yes and no. The thing is, that study is wildly misleading. Yes, the perpetual stream of noise, advertising, and content being thrown in our faces on the daily has made us disinterested in conventional delivery tactics.

But, although humanity’s attention span has gotten shorter over the years, what’s more important to note is that our brains have been rewired to pay attention to only the most engaging information relevant to our own interests.

Not to burst the bubble of anyone developing the next greatest attention-grabbing, “look at me, not at your phones” presentation tactic, but the modern conference attendee isn’t looking for a shiny object, they’re looking for meaning.

What conference attendees ACTUALLY want in a presentation

The days of conference speaker sessions consisting of an industry expert making a drawn out, glorified sales pitch, with some motivational nuggets and semi-relatable real-world examples peppered in, are over.

Attendees have a desire to know real, never-before-seen, relevant information delivered at live conferences. They want an insider’s look at information not readily available to the general public. And they want it delivered efficiently and concisely—an informal survey of tech conferences showed that 72% of conference breakout sessions are now 30 minutes or less.

Emotion is attention

Still, there’s more that can be done to retain an audience’s attention. Anthony Danzi, SVP of Client Strategy and Sales at Twitch, the wildly successful streaming service for original content creators, put it simply: emotion is attention.

People love being part of a community (it’s human nature!). In the digital age of social media highlight reels and increasingly impersonal interactions, people are looking for that sense of belonging now more than ever.

The companies who go beyond brand storytelling, making an emotional connection with their audience through brand ambassadors and personalities, continually come out on top in terms of having the “stickiest” content.

In this way, breakout speakers become more than just a vehicle relaying your company’s message, they become the very face that your audience associates with your company.

Where do I start?

Attracting and keeping audience attention is a calculated, nuanced process—but it’s not impossible.

The minds at ESG work hard to bridge the gap between your company and your desired audience in whichever form that may take. For nearly two decades, we’ve been perfecting the art of engagement at events—we have fun doing what we do, and you will, too.

Contact us today and let’s get started on something amazing.