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Minimize Distractions for Better Communication

Amy Boone of Ethos3 has an excellent article entitled, “How to Overcome Presentation Distractions.” It’s about how to minimize noise to improve the effectiveness of your presentations.

One of the first things that struck me was research from the University of California Irvine. It found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to regain attention and focus after encountering a distraction.

Holy cow!

If you’re making a 30 minute presentation, any distraction might cost you the full impact of your message.

The article goes on to point out two types of “noise” — or distractions. As presenters, we have more control over one than the other. In broad strokes, there is external and internal noise.

External noise consists of:

  • Environment – this is the physical room and the various elements in it (phones, alarms, beeps, burps)
  • Message – this refers to unnecessary (or hard-to-understand) jargon
  • Presentation – this is nonverbal communication and personal style and presence

The second type of noise is internal:

  • Personal reasons – an audience member might be hungry or worried about her kids
  • Attitudes – an audience member often has preformed opinions about your topic

As speakers and presenters, we have the most control over the external factors. Anticipating and proactively addressing distractions isn’t a luxury – it’s the difference maker.

I’ll leave with you this final quote from the article:

“When we are talking about communication, a good synonym for noise is distraction. It describes anything that gets in the way of a message. And anything that creates a barrier for communicating is a problem.”

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