The average attention span of a US Executive is six minutes. How long is the average powerpoint presentation? Well, we hazard to guess, it’s much longer than six minutes. Executives have a zillion things to focus on during the day and if you want your change initiative to get the attention it deserves, try the following.
Cut Mercilessly. Once you have your powerpoint deck ready, step back and cut it in half. In half. Have a trusted advisor help you with this, and it will make your message so much more crisp. One client had a really hard time doing this with her deck – and all the clever, informative slides she’d spent nights creating – until she realized that the outcome of the presentation was quite simple. She needed her steering committee to give her permission to cut one piece of the project out. Since she was the clear expert on the decision, she knew that whatever recommendation she made, it would be accepted.
The Old Rule of Three: tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. It’s an oldie, but goodie. Roughly once every three minutes, typical cubicle dwellers set aside whatever they’re doing and start something else—anything else – as do executives. Distractions consume as much as 28% of the average U.S. worker’s day, including recovery time, and sap productivity to the tune of $650 billion a year, according to Basex, a business research company in New York City.
Make an Ask. You’ll probably want some form of action or next step coming out of your presentation, so be crystal clear what that is. And make it easy for them to say yes to. One client asked for a team of 15 people to be assigned full time to his initiative. This was never going to happen – he would have been far better off asking for 5 part time people for 30 days to get the ball rolling and build the business case for a larger team.
One of the keys in your change initiative is to always be moving the effort forward. Presenting to key executives, in their distracted state, is a key competency in getting that forward momentum. In her new book, Distracted, Maggie Jackson explores the latest discoveries about attention and how we concentrate. It details the rising costs of living in a split-focus world. It’s great to learn about, but more important is how you adjust your presentation to your executive’s focus.