When people listen passively to a presentation, their attention span on average is rarely more than 15 to 20 minutes. This gave rise to the idea to change speakers after 20 minutes. Research now shows that this is a huge misconception. It is not the speaker who should be changed, but rather the passive mode of the participants. Here are 10 ways to address this.
Research shows that adult listeners need about 3 to 5 minutes to settle down properly into learning mode. But after 10 to 18 minutes of passive listening, their attention begins to wander. As the day wears on, the duration of their attention span reduces to a mere 4 minutes!
With passive learning methods such as listening to a presentation, the maximum attention span for adults is 15 to 20 minutes. After that their involvement reduces significantly and thus their ability to learn. But replacing one speaker with another after 20 actually minutes changes nothing. The audience remain listening passively and their level of involvement therefore remains unchanged. They're still in passive learning mode.
What does have bearing, however, is to adjust the learning method from passive listening to active learning by actively engaging the listener. In this way you get a higher level of receptiveness and a better learning retention outcome. Therefore it is better to ask your speakers not only to limit their presentation to 15 - 20 minutes, but also to vary this time with methods that will give participants an active role in the learning process. These 10 learning activities will have the desired effect:
1. Case Studies: practical cases studies that illustrate the theory, to be worked out by participants.
2. Short simulations: role-playing in which participants work around the topics – either coached or by themselves.
3. Discussions: participants discuss relevant issues in groups or as a whole.
4. Games: board game or card game dealing with relevant topics, or videogames around the theme.
5. Brainstorming exercises: short brainstorming sessions where participants exchange ideas around specific topics.
6. Creative content: music, theater or visual art to illustrate topics.
7. Energizers: short physical intermissions, such as throwing a ball to each other. The person who has the ball in their hands must say or do something that relates to the topic of the lesson.
8. A round of questions: each participant asks a question.
9. Moments of Reflection: an excellent opportunity for introverted and analytical people to take a short break to think about what they have learned, summarize their lessons, and work out a plan on how to apply what they have learned in their work.
10. Mini-presentations or summaries by participants: possibly based on infographics, scenarios, Pinterest boards, etc.