We're just finishing up the list of Live Spark's The Seven Truths About Events (that you may not want to know). This time, focusing on Truth #6.
Truth #6: Adults are kids in big bodies.
No matter how responsible our roles in life, our attention span remains all-kid. I would venture to say that the only difference between a room full of kids and a room full of adults in a presentation situation, is that adults have learned to be polite enough to sit still and give the facade of paying attention. There is only so far one can stretch their attention span--and only so much information one can take in.
People want to play and, more importantly, the brain needs to play and stretch to absorb information. It doesn’t want to sit in a room for hours on end with PowerPoint as its only stimulus (it will signal the muscles in the arm to reach for the Blackberry under the table).
Now, this doesn't mean that information is trivialized--merely that it is presented in a way that will fully engage the brain. The more crucial the information, the more critical it is to play.
So how do you treat the kid while educating and informing the adult?
Remember to play:
1. Incorporate right and left-brained activities. This allows attendees to absorb information while doing something creative. Couple intense presentation and learning moments with something that allows attendees to use their hands.
This could be as simple as having a reflection period where the audience sketches out a learning moment from the presentation, or as complex as a structured activity--or even an activity within the presentation.
2. Utilize team competition. Utilizing team competition and activities within an event keeps attendees engaged and makes them responsible for their own learning (as they are accountable to their team.)
Set up teams at the beginning of the event, and have structured and unstructured challenges throughout to keep the competition going.
- Unstructured Challenges: Asking questions in a presentation and rewarding teams for interaction, calling for responses in workshops, on-time rewards and spontaneous spirit and cheering.
- Structured Challenges: Games and interactive activities are the perfect way for an audience to feed the brain’s need for competition, stimulation and play while staying on task and on point in an event. These can be game shows, painting challenges, roleplay tasks, etc.
3. Break away from PowerPoint. Interact with your audience. Tell stories within a presentation. Use PowerPoint sparingly, and make it picture-heavy to illustrate and highlight points instead of beating them to death. Have the audience take an active part in a presentation--rewarding them with small trinkets (or team points) for their participation.
You can also use innovative presentation formats. Try an interview or skit; roleplays or demonstrations; case studies and stories.