In 1998, the average attention span could be held for 12 minutes.
In 2008, the average attention span could be held for 5 minutes.
In 2018, what will the average attention span be?
This trend toward increasingly short attention spans is a major concern for training professionals that are trying to design more effective trainings. When looking at the lives of adult learners and knowledge workers, the same trends are reflected. A SkillSoft survey* found that:
- 40% of learners do not have time to complete the training courses required of them.
- One third of knowledge workers clock more than 50 hours of work a week
- 43% sleep less than 7 hours a night, and
- 60% rush through meals.
Instead of worrying about these changes, training professionals should embrace them. Here are 3 easy strategies for making your message stick with those who need it:
1. Shorten It!
Meaningful ≠ Long Duration. Meaningful = Real-Time Utilization.
This Vine video answers the question, "Does air have mass?" in less than 8 seconds.
Turn on audio here ^
2. Chunk It!
Training used to be one long, singular mode of communication (i.e. sit for hours over multiple days or watch a 90-minute video). Training must adapt to be separate, digestible chunks that work together to make a complete course.
3. Apply It!
Learning has shifted away from Deep Attention to Micro Attention.
- Deep Attention: Concentrating on one mode of information, resisting outside stimulation, long focus times.
- Micro Attention: Concentrating on multiple modes of information, incorporating outside stimulation, short focus times.
Following this cognitive approach, learning also has to “stick” in one’s mind. Make compelling content that ties a practical action to it. Encourage the knowledge worker to come up with a specific way that he or she can take the knowledge they just acquired and concretize it by using it right away.
If you are still concerned about the changes in attention span, do not fret. Test out these practices above, and see if these approaches help your learners remember their training sessions.
And make sure to download the "Virtual Events Toolkit" for even more tips on great virtual trainings.
* Social Times: Attention spans have dropped from 12 minutes to 5 minutes (Dec. 14, 2011)