An expert on the “attention economy,” Kristin Graham will share engagement strategies with the digital and in-person audiences during her Main Stage presentation, “The Secrets of Staying Relevant, Capturing Curiosity, and Keeping Excitement in the Attention Economy,” at 11 a.m. Friday at PCMA EduCon.
Convene asked the consultant, trainer, and speaker on the topic of communications, productivity, and information science what she has learned during the pandemic that will inform how she presents to groups in the future.
“Our desire to find meaningful connections is stronger than ever; however, audiences want to engage on their own terms,” she wrote via email. “Gone are the days of lengthy monologues and dense PowerPoint presentations. Instead, audiences are looking for ways to connect and collaborate through different modalities.
“The technology already exists for us to package content into bite-size pieces through audio files, video snippets, closed captioning, and translations. Not only does this allow people to revisit content, it’s also inclusive for multilingual and neurodiverse audiences. And remember, fun is always a key ingredient for a memorable event.”
Graham also provided more context to her session. Here are her responses to our questions, also sent via email.
Can you share more about what you’ll be talking about during your presentation?
I’ve talked to so many companies in the last year and dug into research on the impact the last year has had on the “attention economy.” I will share insights about adapting to the needs (and attention spans) of today’s extra-digital audience and how to sharpen our own skills as we create opportunities for connections.
Keeping excitement and capturing an audience’s interest has become even more of a challenge more than a year after COVID changed our lives. As someone who has researched and spoken about this topic for years, what do you think event organizers need to keep in mind now to keep their audience engaged, both onscreen and in-person?
We are all still reeling from a year-plus of a digital deluge. The opportunity is to do fewer things better. Don’t overwhelm your audience with too much tech as that will feel like a distraction versus a perk. Instead, go deeper on a few connection points and let people engage on-demand. For example, I’m seeing a lot of content creators moving to micro-content, meaning short bursts of audio and/or video that are three minutes or less. This is the appetizer to get people to want to engage more with the rest of the menu.
Considering that our audience participants are leaders within their organizations, specifically in terms of engaging their stakeholders via business events (online and in-person), how can they be “culture carriers”— the way you describe embodying the culture of the association or company hosting the event?
The year ahead is a test-and-learn experiment as event participants are looking for choice and comfort as they re-emerge both online and in person. There is a hunger to connect and learn within new communities and forums so being a culture carrier means offering choice points that allow people to engage as their comfort levels grow. Also, having ample pre-communication like Q&As and micro-content will help address questions and get people excited for the experience you are offering.
How do you put your audience in the driver’s seat when it comes to crafting events in terms of both design (formats, like workshops or panels) and topics? Polls? Crowdsourcing? Data collection (e.g., tracking where they spend the most time on your website, etc.)? Focus groups?
People are much more comfortable now with interactive elements like chat boxes, polls, up-voting questions. There is also brain science that shows that when you ask a participant to engage with an interactive tool, they engage deeper with the content, remember more later, and are less likely to try to multitask afterward. Also, audiences have less patience for long sessions of talking heads so challenge your presenters to find ways to have more of a dialogue than a monologue.
What are one or two things you would like the audience to take away from your talk and implement in their roles?
This is an opportunity to bring creative thinking into your channels. People are willing to experiment and interact in new ways, so follow your instincts on new ideas to try (and old ideas to retire). Also, be a student again yourself. See what engages you in these new communities and don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. It’s a new world order and we’re all learning together.
Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.