The Two-Hour Sales Presentation Vs. A Seven-Minute Attention Span

The average decision-maker has an attention span of just a little over seven minutes. I’m convinced that adult attention spans have been carefully programmed by network television, by the seven to eight minute time segments of entertainment, wedged between commercial breaks. On the other hand, the average sales presentation in the United States runs from one and a half to two hours in length. As a sales manager, you should easily figure out what’s wrong with this picture.

Those of you with complex products or services, or with large product lines may be saying to yourself, that it takes at least an hour to demonstrate all of the features and benefits of what it is you sell and another 20 to 30 minutes for questions and answers, right? Well, if you want more sales, help your staff to cut the length of their presentations down appreciably.

The $elling Edge┬«, Inc.’s Sales Success Strategies workshop, teaches a six-step selling process that can be completed, no matter how complex the product or service, in 30 minutes or less. We speed up the selling process, not only because of a decision-maker’s lack of attention , but more important, so that a sales professional can make more presentations in a given time period. And, the more presentations made over time, the more sales that are consummated.

You do the math. If a sales representative averages one and a half to two hours for each presentation as compared to an average of 30 to 40 minutes, how many more presentations can your staff make each year? How many more sales?

The six-step selling process, taught in the Sales Success Strategies workshops, is outlined in detail in a self-directed learning manual of the same name. You can learn more about it at: http://www.TheSellingEdge.com/manual1.htm

Presentation Skills – The 10-Second Rule

Your main job as a presenter is to ensure that throughout your presentation, you and everyone in the audience remain on the same page, even the same wavelength, every step of the way. If your slides contain more information that it takes the average listener more than 10 seconds to comprehend, you can’t possibly make this happen. People process information at different rates; faster processors will take a shorter time and the slower processors will take longer. Before you know it, you’ve got an audience working at three to five different wavelengths at the same time.

Then to make things worse, most presenters start talking, explaining the slide, at usually about the 5 second mark, and thus add one more thought-path, one more wavelength, to the whole process.

The Bell Curve

Think about it. If the amount of time it takes the average reader to ingest the info on the screen is 30 seconds, then a classic bell curve will tell you that 20% of the audience is going to read it all in 20 seconds, and 20% will take 40 seconds. Another aggregate 20 will fall into the 10 to 60 second range, and before we calculate it all, we know that we have the group broken down into at least five groups of perception time-lines. Now, let’s screw it all up and throw you into the soup, and you begin talking at some new, arbitrary point. To whom are you speaking?

Chance tells us you’re speaking to the largest group; let’s say the 40% who read at an average pace. That leaves 60%, a landslide in political terms, either way ahead or way behind the bullet point upon which he begins to expound.

Actually, it gets worse! You see, as much as a you might be totally in love with the design of a slide you may have spent hours composing, audiences rarely find your stuff as captivating. Because the presentation is important to you, it’s easy to believe that everyone will be engrossed in the action on the screen and thus giving the event their entire attention.

But tell us: have you ever sat through a colleague’s presentation and found yourself thinking about something other than the material he was sweating blood to deliver? Perhaps your plans for the upcoming weekend? The safety of your children? Whether you can let that bill slide this month?

No audience member, no matter how captivating you might believe you are, ever, ever, ever gives a presenter 100% of her attention. Human minds don’t work that way. Long before Windows, we were multi-taskers.

As lives become more complicated, and work cuts into personal time, the line between work and personal become blurred, and we compartmentalize less. Although it’s difficult to attach hard numbers here, it’s reasonable to assume that at best our audiences are tuning in to us -and us alone- more than 75% of the time.

So even if we’re directly communicating with 40% of the group, given our (at best) 75% maximum attention factor, we have no more than 30% of the audience in our camp. The rest are either struggling to catch up, or consider themselves so advanced that their minds begin to wander to unrelated topics, such as their children, the weekend, their bills; they become non-participants in the process.

Taking it to the Limit

So what does this tell us? Of course, there is only one truly viable solution, and that is to limit, by all means possible, the amount of information that is released with each click of your mouse.

First of all, the less time it takes the audience to discern the new information, the sooner they’ll get back to you and start to listen to what you really mean to “say” on the slide.

Secondly, the less time it takes the average people to figure out for themselves what’s going on, the less the width of the bell curve.

Third, and most important, is this: if your slides are designed correctly and consists of nothing but graphics and talking points, or headline-style phrases, the audience will soon realize that they are not being shown enough information to figure things out for themselves. They will conclude that the only way they can hope to be the first to know is to turn their attention quickly to you, and have it spoon fed to them. And this is exactly where you want them to be!

If you put everything you want them to know up on the screen, and if you spell it out longhand, you are training them to look to the screen for their information. Humans recognize patterns quickly, and as soon as the screen becomes the pattern, that’s where they’ll go. Problem is, they’ll be reading one thing while you’re speaking about something else!

The rule of thumb from all this? Make sure that with each passing image, it never takes longer than 10 seconds for the audience to “clear the slide”. By clearing the slide we mean removing the curiosity. Have no more than 10 seconds of material – bullet point, graphic, chart, etc. – appear at one time.

How to use Mind Map Tool for making Great Presentations

In the current globalized world of business, Presentations have become an intrinsic part. Not a day goes without making a Presentation to the CEO or the Chairman, or the Angel Investor, or banker, or any one else for that matter, for clinching a deal, or for raising a fund or a loan, or what have you. Presentations need not be such an awesome task if you learn to apply the basics.

The main elements of a Presentation are preparation and practice. In order to make the right preparation you have to first define the purpose of your Presentation. You have to be clear about the objective of your exercise at every point of your Presentation. You will then have to decide the main message you wish to convey, the kind of audience and the best and appropriate mode to reach the audience. The duration of your Presentation, the settings and facilities available at the venue are other factors that play a definite role for make a scintillating Presentation.

By far the most important aspect of Presentation is maintaining eye contact throughout your Presentation, for only then you will be able to strike a rapport and keep them riveted on what you say. Having a positive and genial approach, keeping your content simple, concise and informative and spicing up with humor and questions to prevent them from losing their interest are other elementary aspects of a Good Presentation.

Equally important to know is that you should capture your audience’s attention in the crucial first 7 minutes, which is the maximum span of attention before your audience’s attention begin to sag. The vital message and objective of the Presentation must come through clearly within those first few moments so audience are aware where you are leading them.

It must be obvious by now that preparation is absolutely vital for making meaningful Presentation. This is where Mind Mapping as a Mind Tool will be of immense aid. In writing the purpose, content, speech and in fact the entire course of Presentation can all be effectively dovetailed into a Presentation Mind Map. You can sequence every step of your Presentation using Mind Map. As Mind Mapping involves giving our full attention, you can be thorough and plan your Presentation well.

Beginning with writing the content of your speech, text for the visual display, the allotment of time for each aspect, being prepared with probable questions to field your audience, quoting anecdotes, humor and so on, Mind Maps serve a simple and yet effective tool. They are not at all obstructive as you will be able to capture the entire sequence of your Presentation, step by step, within just one page. That speaks for the simplicity and power of the Mind Maps. You really have got to learn the technique to understand its true value.