I was at a presentation last year and was reminded that the concentration span of the average person in your audience is around 10 minutes. So every 10 minutes they drift off and think about what they should be doing at work, what is for lunch, what they have planned for the weekend and other unrelated stuff. So as a speaker, every 8 to 10 minutes you need to reset your audience’s concentration clock back to zero, so you have them again for another 10 minutes.
This concept was reiterated shortly after when I attended a seminar run by Allan Parker, one of Australia’s top trainers and negotiators. Allan also suggested that one of the ways that you can bring your audience back and reset their concentration clocks is to use the power of questions. So every 8 to 10 minutes, or more frequently if you want, ask your audience a question. Sounds simple, but wont it become boring and obvious if every 8 minutes you ask a direct question.
This is where Allan explained that there are a wide range of types of questions that you can ask. These include:
Prosaic – you know what I mean?
Grammatical – Do you, Are you going to?
Negative Grammatical – Didn’t you, Shouldn’t you?
Rhetorical – no answer is expected – but pause and allow the audience to think
Speculative questions – what do you think would happen if …….
Complex – sometimes double or triple barreled questions. a + b + c = ?
Hypothetical questions – what might you do if you found yourself in….?
Conditional questions – Given that this (the condition) what might happen …?
And there are still more types of question. So master a few different types of questions that you are comfortable with and then regularly include questions, of one type or another (mix them up) every 8 to 10 minutes. This will help keep you audience engaged and it will regularly re-set their concentration clock.