The average attention span of a goldfish? 9 seconds.
The average attention span of people in 2012? 8 seconds.
In today’s culture, there are more things fighting for our attention than ever before. Everywhere we go, we are bombarded by advertisements, messages, images, videos and agendas that are all fighting for the valuable commodity of your sole attention.
How are we responding? We’re fighting back. Our attention span is at all all-time low, making it more challenging than ever to be communicated to. We don’t want to be marketed to or manipulated by another company or organization that has its own agenda. We want something real. Something personal. Something authentic.
Here’s the scary reality of all of this: too many of our churches are basing their communications strategies around the assumption that they have the full attention of their audience. Church communication can quickly become saturated with long-winded stage announcements, empty promises, wordy websites, and long newsletter articles or videos. The intentions are good, but the strategy is ineffective.
Something has to change, and it’s not going to be the audience. It’s going to be us as church communicators. What’s at stake? If we don’t adjust how we communicate, we will simply not be effective in helping people take their next step and experience life change.
6 Rules For Communicating To an Audience With A Goldfish Attention Span
Make your first 8 seconds count. We have to design our communications for a short attention span. That’s the norm now, not the exception. If you use those first 8 seconds wisely, your audience will stick with you. Don’t start with information, start with inspiration and communicate why your message matters to the audience.
Provide value. Many times, your audience will tune your message out because they don’t think it matters to them or doesn’t apply to them. When you’re crafting your message, always be asking the question “What’s in it for me?” If you can’t figure that out, neither will your audience.
The shorter, the better. If it’s not absolutely critical to your message, cut it. Move books to chapters, chapters to paragraphs, paragraphs to sentences, and sentences to bullet points.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. A lot of organizations are stuck in ineffective communications because “they’ve always done it that way.” Don’t do it just to do it. With everything you do, figure out the intended response for your audience, and clearly communicate how they can take that next step.
Understand the bandwidth of your audience. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get the results you’re looking for if you’re packing in 7 announcements at the end of a service, have a 4 panel bulletin packed with events, or use social media only for promotion. Fairness can’t be a value in communications. Your audience wants to know what’s most important, and they want clear expectations on what they need to do.
Authenticity wins. People are getting better and better at sniffing out “advertising.” What we all crave is authenticity. Sometimes, when we focus solely on the excellence and perfection of our message, we lose the heart of it. Be real, be vulnerable, and be authentic in your communications. It’ll set you apart from 99% of the other messages your audience experiences each day.
The scary thing about the average attention span of our audience is that it’s only getting shorter. Studies have shown over the last 12 years it has already dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds.
Here’s the cool thing in all of this: our role as church communicators has never been more critical than it is today. Never before have we been given more opportunities to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a world that needs it. We need people like you to step up, lead strong, be good stewards of their role, and communicate effectively.