The 10 minute rule of presenting
In his book Brain Rules, Professor John Medina writes about the how the brain works during a lecture or class. Professor Medina takes us through a typical fifty minute class and shows how our brains actually pay attention to the class.
What is interesting about this exercise, is that our brains can only pay attention to something for around ten minutes. After that we start to lose attention and interest. This poses a problem for presenters, as a typical presentation lasts much longer than ten minutes. Most presentations are around forty to forty-five minutes long.
So what can we do to prevent this attention deficit happening?
The first thing we can do is to prepare our presentation into ten minute segments. What this means is that we need to change the speed and type of style we are presenting every ten minutes. This can be anything from showing a short video, doing a product demonstration to asking your audience questions. In fact anything that is different from the previous ten minutes.
What is interesting here is that I have adopted this style in my classes and have found that it really does work. When I am teaching a class, I spend ten minutes going over the theory, I then change the structure by either asking students questions directly, or having them work in pairs. I also occasionally tell a funny story, or give an example directly on the white board. Over the last twelve months I have been able to teach myself to know when that ten minutes is coming to an end and I now instinctively change the pace of the class.
This not only helps my students, it also helps me to know that my students are learning in a better way than previously. Previously, I always noticed that my students were losing attention around the fifteen to twenty minute mark, I have now learned that that attention was disappearing after ten minutes.
I understand that there are a lot of considerations to think about when you are preparing a presentation, one more thing seems to be pushing the limits too far. But we must always remember, that giving a presentation is rarely, if at all, for our benefit, but rather it is for our audience’s benefit and therefore we must do everything we can to make our presentations interesting and educational.
More information on this ten minute rule can be found at that the Brain Rules website here, and below is a short video demonstrating how activity and exercise can effect the way we learn, which is taken from the Brain Rules DVD.