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6. The science of not boring people > Direct the attention (“What am I looking ...

Direct the attention (“What am I looking at and why?”)

There are some things the human mind loves paying attention to, including the following:

  • Things we like to eat

  • Things that might eat us

  • Problems we relate to

  • People we empathize with

  • Topics we care about

  • Puzzles we want to solve

  • Bright, shiny moving objects (see car advertisements)

  • People we want to have sex with (see all advertisements)

  • Things that explode (men)

  • Things that are pretty (women)

  • Things that are pretty and explode (men and women)

With this list in hand, an easy trick would be to stick one of these things into your talk every five or six minutes just to jolt people’s attention back to you. This doesn’t work. It’s too obvious. Standing at the front of the room blasting a foghorn while you drop your pants every 60 seconds will certainly keep everyone’s attention, right up until they rush the stage to pummel you. People know when they are being manipulated. Showing a movie clip, telling a joke, or putting up a pretty picture that has nothing to do with your topic will have little lasting effect. It doesn’t mean anything. Only well-chosen pictures are worth a thousand words, and, even then, they can only be valuable if they’re displayed long enough for the audience to comprehend their meaning. If you find natural ways to draw attention to things t....


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