You only have a few seconds to grab their attention...
If you do a Google search on how distractable we are, you’ll get page after page of just how hard it is for us to pay attention nowadays.
A well-known fact about human beings is that if what they’re focusing on isn’t interesting, or if they allow themselves to get distracted, or if we distract them… they tend to check out and we might have officially lost their attention for good.
We don’t want people getting distracted when consuming OUR content, do we!? No! We want their focus and preferably undivided attention.
This episode will walk you through some ideas on how to avoid distractions in your content and provide you with some tangible examples for keeping them engaged!
In this episode:
- It’s not you, it’s them! Well, it’s not entirely you…
- The human brains tendency to wander 47% of our waking hours
- Creative ideas for keeping their attention and getting them engaged
- How to avoid distracting people in our content
- Whether or not ums, ahs, so’s, and buts are all that bad
- And MORE!
Whether you’re delivering content in a podcast, spoken, video, or written format, you have a big job:
- You have to deliver your content in a clear concise, understandable way that helps their brain stay engaged and attentive AND
- You have to contend with people’s natural distractability. Even if they’re reading world’s most riveting novel, all it takes is a child tugging on their arm saying “Mommy, I’m hungry” to distract them.
It’s up to YOU to help them avoid distractions and stay engaged.
A few ways to avoid distractions no matter what type of content you’re sharing:
- Tell stories and share personal experiences
- Use your sense of humor
- Show visuals and video
- Ask provocative or insightful questions
- Share your own perspectives and personal interest in the topic
- Tell people what it has to do with them
Tips for avoiding distraction in spoken content (ie. speaking, podcasts, video, etc.):
- Use previewing and summarizing – let them know what’s coming and why they should stay excited and keep paying attention. Provide simple cues for content that’s coming in the talk.
- Be engaged and present! When speaking, podcasting, video, etc. I really think one of the best ways to keep people engaged is to BE engaged yourself. Be present, energetic, and alive and in the room.
- Tie themes together: Piggyback off another speaker’s remark or theme, bring things together for people from earlier in the day/previous content. Use specific examples if you can, speak right to people in the audience, pick out something that’s important about this specific group or setting.
- Personalize as much as possible and remember that using specific language is powerful.
- Don’t use handouts, slides, and notes that send people other places during your talk
- Don’t overstuff slides with words. If you’ll be providing them later to attendees/listeners, say so!
- Define unfamiliar terms, give context to language that you’re giving new meaning or definition to, and avoid complex jargon whenever possible. Use analogies to break down difficult-to-understand topics.
- Be conversational. You don’t need flowery prose or to wax poetic.
Should you avoid ums/ahs/tsks and other verbal distractions?
I personally say, “So” a lot at the beginning of my sentences when speaking. It’s annoying and likely distracting, I know and I’m trying to work on it. THAT said, don’t get too up in your head about saying ah, um, and other verbal fumbles. Check out the book, Like, Literally, Dude* by Valerie Fridland where she shares the benefits in making mistakes when speaking!
Should you talk faster?
One thing my community shared with me recently was on how distracting it is when people talk SLOW. While, I agree sometimes… I also think it depends on the nature of the talk/podcast AND I think we’re entirely used to speed-consuming everything and probably need to slow down every once in awhile.
Should I worry about ambient noise being distracting?
Kids, dogs, pens dropping, papers rustling. Sure, those things can be distracting. AND, if you find yourself easily distracted by those things, just remember, that for some people these things are unavoidable in their day-to-day. Cut them some slack -they’re human and they’re comfortable showing you that they’re being human.
One thing I do think is very important though is baseline quality audio.
There’s almost nothing that gets me unfocused more than a podcast guest who called in from their cellphone or cheap headset as a microphone. That’s something you might want to consider.
Tips for avoiding distraction in written content (ie. blogs, website copy, social posts, etc.)
A lot of what I shared in speaking can be applied to written, and vicey versa, so I have just three for you here.
- Clear calls to action, clear guidance to links and where you want them to go, what action to take, and exactly how to do it. People are already moving FAST so make sure it’s easy for them to quickly move to your next step because otherwise, you run the risk of them getting distracted.
- Too MANY links in your content can be distracting. One thing I’ve started doing is at the beginning of say, a blog is writing out something very short and sweet that just says all the links to these resources will be at the bottom, so don’t worry about clicking them until you’re finished. On my podcast episodes, I often say all the links are the show notes so don’t worry about finding them or losing them, they’ll be there for you at the end.
- As with spoken, make sure to avoid jargon, complex language, flowery language, and going on and on and on and on (or too many asides and parentheses), etc. It can all be distracting. Help them stay focused by staying focused yourself: Start with a simple question like who is this for and what would I like them to walk away with? Work on writing to JUST ONE person. There’s usually ONE reader engaging with it on the other side – so talk to them as that one person vs. like you’re addressing your entire Facebook audience.
We covered A LOT! Didn’t we! Let’s SUM it all up! Do’s and don’ts to help avoid distractions in your content:
- Do use signals, previews, and summaries
- Do use storytelling, humor, your personality, engaging questions
- When using visuals, make sure you don’t overload slides and/or handouts and remind people if they’ll receive them after the fact so they don’t spend their entire time taking notes
- Don’t give people reasons to pick up their phones and distract themselves with their inboxes and Instagrams
- Make relevant references to other speakers, the event itself, people in the room with you, use examples and specifics
- Be present!
- Don’t pack in too many links and places to go
- Give clear calls to action and instructions on what to do and how
- Don’t use complex language or jargon and do define unfamiliar terms or terms you want to give more personalized meaning to
- Be conversational and
- Be as naturally YOU as possible!
Here’s a question for you to reflect on:
What’s just ONE thing you can start doing and that’ll help your content keep people more engaged and avoid distractions?
Let me know if you pick something and decide to practice with it! You can always connect with me at the links below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Article on Ending Sentences with Prepositions
Grammar Girl Podcast Episode with Valerie Fridland (YouTube)
Valerie’s Book Like, Literally, Dude (Penguin Books)
She Built This Podcast Episode on 3 Powerful and Simple Speaking Tips
Content with Character Episode on Speaking Tips
Connect with me, Emily Aborn
Hi! I’m Emily! I’m a Content Copywriter, Speaker, and Podcast Host of Content with Character and She Built This. Since 2014, I’ve had experience running brick-and-mortar as well as online businesses. I’ve written for 97+ industries and love helping others increase their visibility, connect with their clients, and open up to creativity in their content. For fun, I like word games, reading, listening to podcasts, and adventuring around New Hampshire with my husband, Jason, and my dog, Clyde.
Connect with Me: email@example.com