The magic recipe to keep participants’ attention

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As easy as pie: a successful trick that can be used in any meeting endangered by boredom

1. Boredom is the enemy
When planning an event, the planner knows that any event needs a certain amount of attention (from the scientific congress to the corporate convention). That is why he puzzles over how to avoid participants to get lost in their thoughts, play games or even fall asleep during the event.

Nowadays, there are many ways for better attention which are mostly based on the idea of keeping your mind busy. New technologies can help a lot, achieving great results: second screen apps, satisfaction survey systems, the possibility to ask question to the speaker or take notes on slides.

However, there is no guarantee that the audience won’t get bored by the speech and your big effort to keep everyone focused will be wasted.

The enemies of attention in a meeting are the same old ones: boredom, hard time to follow, fatigue. What to do then?

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2. As easy as…an apple pie
There is a successful trick against boredom that works every time and it’s very much appreciated. It’s easier than making an apple pie and it makes a very good impression.

Here is our three-ingredients recipe:
brief speeches
constant tone and style shifting
a bit of fun and humour

Mix and blend it all with a brilliant presenter.

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This recipe is even better than an apple pie because every time it can give different, original and brilliant results and you’re sure to have audience’s attention. Let’s present every ingredient and see how it works.

3. Brief speeches
The root of the problem can be maybe related to the difficulty or the miscommunication of the contents. What is sure is that we can stay focused for about 10 minutes and then we get distracted. Even neuroscientists confirm it: the attention span arises during the first 10-12 minutes and then it declines.

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Now the obvious question is “ why waiting for attention to decline? Let’s keep everyone focused, until it’s high! Easy said than done because an event can always be adapted. The problem is how to tell the president, the mayor or the finance director to make it short. The answer: try to fit the speech in 10-12 minutes or to split it in 2 or 3 formally distinct parts.

1. Classic speech
2. Video
3. Interview

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Does this method work? Yes, especially for the president because it makes the task easier. Thus, to make your apple pie, first you need to split your event in 10-12 minutes steps.

Let’s see how to do it.

4. Constant tone and style shifting
The rule is: every 10-12 minutes let’s change the pace.

Example 1: after 10 minutes speech (speaker + slides), NO more classical speech. Let’s try to insert a live or recorded video or an interview ( see previous) before having the same speaker talking again, the later the better. This break will also offer to the speaker the chance to recap, which is always very useful to keep the attention.

Example 2: During the transition from a speech to another we need something to segment time and space. Let’s have adequate moments of discontinuity to recover the attention. For example:
a musical break (old songs are fine)
– a technical announcement (for example the program of the evening)
– a third party intervention (for example the chef presenting the dinner menu or a local specialty)
– a sketch produced by the administration department
– a fundraiser appeal
– a video interview done to one of the competitors

…. You just need to have common sense and good taste. And why not, you can also think out of the box!

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After an intense speech, participants need to recharge and recover their 10-12 attention span.

5. A bit of fun and good spirit
Obviously, its’ better when an event takes place in a relaxed and joyful ambience. And having a bit of fun during the event doesn’t necessarily mean not taking things seriuosly. In other words, humour can be vital to success and appreciation. But fun and sense of humour cannot be understimated and need to be developped carefully in your event.

We aim to create a conspirational and cheerful atmosphere among participants, facilitating the social interaction, the exchange of ideas and overcoming embarassment. This is a strategic choice not only a filler.

Humour should be pervasive and not only limited to some moments.

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Even the event title can contain a hint of self mockery. “This year we nurtured a success”, this is how a food baby company entitled its annual convention.

Even at the registration desk, a mandatory step in any event, if the hostesses are wearing a red clown nose, everyone will be inclined to smile, and if the same nose is part of the participant’s kit, between flyers and programs, soon the room will be filled with red little balls. A nice sight that will cheer everyone up and the tone of the meeting will be clear even before starting.

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Music can also contribute to get some smiles out of the participants, by playing funny songs (better if current music) alluding to company facts, or with personalized lyrics. It is not comedy, it is irony that can be useful to joke a little about yourself, nothing else. The opportunities are endless.

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6. Some handy tips
Here are some funny and handy tips in random order to have some recharge time. You can also come up with new ones. For example:

– caricatures of participants or top managers
– fake participants taking the floor at random
– fake absurd news
– business sketches
– video editing of the previous days
– fads
– drum sessions
– opera singing waiters
– lottery or Trivial Pursuit
– apparent intrusions
– apparent mistakes (with program, coordination, performance)

…and much more without taking yourself too seriously.

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Some warnings:

  1. we are not proposing entertainment like in a resort not even team building activities. But very fast passages to divert the focus and have fun together, possibly by creating watchwords or business sayings, e.g. shared jargon in the group.
  2.  The “on stage” ideas can be taken up and developed with collateral activities during the breaks. e.g. after a caricature “break”, you can set a stand with a caricaturist making participants’ portraits.
  3. These “smiley” tips are not the main dish of the meeting but contributes to spice it up. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are here to do more and we just need a short shake to recharge the famous 10-12 minute timer.


7. Moreover…
Bear in mind that the trick is meant to keep participants focused during the real meeting. The standard format can still be employed for the rest of the event: gala dinner, after-dinner show, city tour, team building activities and so on. All these classic ideas are still good for a succesful meeting. For instance, the same band in charge of the musical breaks can also offer an after-dinner concert, and session drummers can also offer a team building activity.

8 In conclusion
To make your “pie” you need some sources and professional contributions.

Every planner has their story and culture. One is full of creativity and news ideas, the other feels more comfortable with pure organization and logistics. Teorethically, a skilled planner can also plan it all with their staff.

Here is a list of roles that need to be covered not necessarily with only one person per role:
–  a witty and nice presenter (male or female, or more than one) to bind everything;
– an agile and witty pen to create jokes, titles, instructions, posters and so on;
– a music operator, that is, a DJ or a performer, or a band. In short, someone who knows about music;
– an illustrator, caricaturist, portrait painter, photographer or video maker. That is, one who knows how to handle images;
– an expert who knows all about computers, the web, and technologies;
– someone with a lot of connections and knows where to find what he needs (materials or talents).

And if you have come this far … now enjoy your apple pie and the (guaranteed) success of your meeting!!!
Good job!

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