Adjust Your Sales Presentation for a 7-Minute Attention Span

By Julie M. Hansen

Based on what you know about declining attention spans, the smart strategy is to have a structure that renews your audience’s attention every seven minutes. You don’t want to wait 10 minutes, when your audience is at their lowest attention point, and you don’t want to do it too often or you’ll make your audience jumpy.

Planning on a seven-minute renewal point means you have a good chance of always having an adequate level of attention from your audience.

In fact, one presentation style called Pecha Kucha embraces this new reality by requiring presenters to deliver their presentation in less than seven minutes using only 20 slides. Originated in Tokyo, Pecha Kucha has developed a worldwide following. Speakers gather in more than 800 cities to deliver a presentation lasting six minutes and forty seconds (yes, it’s that precise!) by following the required format of presenting 20 slides that display for 20 seconds each. To make it even more interesting, the slides automatically advance, so presenters can’t spend five minutes on one and one minute and forty seconds on the other 19. Interested in Pecha Kucha? Sounds like your cup of tea? Check for a group in your area.

You need to renew your audience’s attention every seven minutes to avoid it hitting the point of no return. In a 30-minute presentation, that means you need to renew your audience’s attention four to five times. In a one-hour presentation, you need to renew it eight to nine times. The more times you need to renew attention, the more techniques you need at your disposal in order to avoid being repetitive. Here are a few tips on how to renew attention throughout your presentation:

  • Shift focus. A simple way to regain attention is to shift the focus to a new topic. The seven-minute mark is a good transition point to move from one agenda item to the next or from the body to the closing.

  • Plan interaction. The strongest way to regain your prospect’s attention is to involve her in your presentation, either by asking her a question, conducting a poll, or asking her to write down questions from the audience on the whiteboard.

  • Limit distractions. Whether it’s ambient noise from the room next door or flickering overhead lights, distractions can reduce your prospect’s ability to focus on your message. Do what you can to limit outside distractions to keep her attentive through the entire seven-minute chunk.

  • Keep it moving, but don’t rush. Many salespeople worry that they won’t be able to get a point across in seven minutes; however, if you’ve ever tried to sit quietly for seven minutes, you know that it’s actually a decent amount of time. Although seven minutes is certainly a guideline, the discipline of trying to convey a point in seven minutes or less is quite valuable. If you find it impossible to break up a topic into seven minutes or less, consider shifting your prospect’s attention using something less abrupt, like moving from one side of the room to the other, writing on the whiteboard or flipchart, or asking your audience to weigh in on a topic.