Short updates for scattered attention

Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Is it any wonder that your messages can get lost in the noise?

It's not your imagination. Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. We don't gather around the radio after dinner each evening to hear the latest episode of our favorite serial. In fact, we rarely ever do just one thing at a time. When we do sit down to watch a show, we do it with our cell phone in our hands. That half-hour show is actually about 21 minutes.

The rest of the media reflects this too:

  • TED Talks are 18 minutes long
  • IGTV videos are limited to 15 minutes
  • The average length of a YouTube video is 11 minutes1
  • Quibi launched in 2020 with shows only 5-10 minutes long
  • TikTok is limited to 60 seconds

The limited attention span isn't just entertainment. It's in the workplace too.

According to Microsoft’s research in 2015, 89% of information workers admitted to being distracted daily by online content - mainly social media. That was before we all had the constant ding of Slack channels and notifications on our smartwatches.

And Gloria Mark, a University of California, Irvine computer sciences professor, goes a step further in her article for ReWork: "... on average information workers have a very short attention span when working on the computer, with a median duration focus of just 40 seconds before switching tasks."

Yet the default meeting duration for a new calendar event is an hour, and many businesses hold 1-2 hour all-hands meetings for essential updates like reviewing upcoming changes to benefits plans.

Is it any wonder that the messages can get lost in the noise?

3 Ways to Get and Keep Employee Attention

  1. Try shorter meetings. Daily stand-up meetings in software development are usually 5-15 minutes, allowing the team to get just what they need and get back to their day. Consider breaking up your all-hands meetings into smaller segments and a smaller overall window.
  2. Use asynchronous communication. Rather than trying to find a time that your full team can meet, consider using asynchronous communication to allow each team member to participate on their schedule.
  3. Use multiple presenters. Even the most dynamic presenters can get a little dry after a while. Having various speakers can help longer meetings feel shorter and keep everyone's attention.

Shorter Is Effective

Beyond the shorter attention spans and increased distractions, there are other reasons to change how you're delivering your messages.

First, shorter messages cut the fluff. One of the best ways to shorten your messages is to cut out anything that’s unnecessary - or at least make it optional. When you only have 5 minutes to deliver your key message, then you're going to make every word count.

And if that’s still not enough, shorter messages take less time to prepare and deliver. While you may need to do a massive outline to get to the heart of what you need to say, you'll take less time polishing and perfecting your presentation.

How All Hands Can Help

All Hands is designed to improve team communication - no matter where in the world they are, what schedule they work, or how long their attention span is. With our unique module-based asynchronous team meeting platform, you can easily reach your team anytime, anywhere.


[1]: and likely they'd be even shorter, except for the fact that YouTube incentivises videos longer than 10 minutes, which allows them to place multiple ads and make more money!

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