The Thirty Second Rule

Between my junior year in high school and senior year in college, I spent many weekends speaking to high school students. I’ll never get the yawns, boredom and disinterested looks I got when I stood up to speak.

I quickly realized I had about 30 seconds to capture their attention. If not, they would simply turn to the person next to them and start talking. (Nowadays, they prefer Facebook and Twitter.)

You gotta love teenagers.

If I didn’t create a reason for them to listen in the first 30 seconds, I was done. It didn’t matter how true, how Biblically accurate or compelling I thought the talk was. I had 30 seconds.

Years later, when I started helping friends with their business presentations I realized the same was true for them. If you don’t give people a reason to listen in the first part of your message, you will lose your audience. It’s not their responsibility to pay attention. It’s your responsibility to give them a reason to listen.

This is why I tell communicators to pretend that the audience couldn’t care at all about what you’re about to say. Your job is to convince them otherwise. People often say we live in the Information Age. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We live in the Attention Economy. Your job as a communicator is to capture your audience’s attention.

The next time you to stand up to speak and look out at your audience, I hope you remember this one rule:

You have 30-seconds.