There was a guy in my high school Spanish class who commanded the attention of every person in the room every day.
He was lanky tall, with longish hair and a slouchy walk. He was smart – the clever kind of smart that brings so many unexpected surprises to conversations. Every day, he'd use that clever, slouchy smartness to fling words – and other items – from his seat in the corner of the room. The teacher would freeze and turn toward him, dragging all 50 of our eyes with her.
That guy knew how to get attention.
Guess where that attention got him in the long haul? Yup – nowhere interesting.
Why? Because he was calling forth Cheap Attention.
Cheap attention may work in the moment – all eyes may be glued, people may be magnetized to the scene (or product) – but it is empty and, well, dangerous really.
Cheap attention is:
- the irrelevant joke told at the beginning of the speech
- the vaguely related, drama-filled story used to capture the hearts of listeners and take them on an emotional ride that goes nowhere useful for them
- the strange dance with oversized teddy bear backpacks on grown ups without a stitch of artistry in the choreography (I'm not even going to link to that fiasco – I'm confident you've seen the footage)
- the name-dropping sidebar that only very tangentially fits with the content your audience or readers are wanting from you
It's clear why these strategies are empty (they aren't serving the audience, which is what your work is all about), but why would I say they are dangerous?
Cheap Attention strategies crush trust.
Trust is absolutely essential to impactful communication. If your listener or audience does not trust you, then why would they trust your information? They won't. And so, from moment zero in your expression, your job is to evoke and strengthen the trust between you and the human beings who make up your tribe or audience.
When it becomes clear that the attention getting strategy you have employed was only for the purposes of hi-jacking attention and had no long-lasting value to the people in your audience, they begin to distrust your subsequent actions. What else will the person do just to get attention? It may be overt thinking or it may be a “sense” they have in their primal brain that says, “Danger. Watch out for this one.”
Attention-getting is a science and an art. It is also one of the most (maybe even the most) important elements of impactful communication that you must master. After all, how can you possibly make a real difference in anyone's life if they aren't paying any attention to you?
Cheap Attention vs. Deep Attention
We've touched on examples of cheap attention above. What makes this kind of attention cheap? It's like those plasticy, brightly-colored toys at the dollar store – they look fun, they might even call you forth with their clever shapes and promises (this plastic frog really JUMPS! Watch the slinky walk down the stairs!) but when you actually engage with those items, they quite literally fall apart. They break, they fail miserably to perform. They fill our landfills, just as shiny new as when they were in their package.
You've seen the equivalent of this in speeches, in self-study programs, and even in big-promises books. There are costumes, slick covers, and grand testimonials. And yet, the content simply fails upon engagement.
I'm not concerned that you are planning to go for cheap attention. You are here in this digital learning sanctuary, which means you have no interest in that kind of crap.
You are here to learn powerful Deep Attention strategies so you can make a difference in the lives of others.
Deep Attention is grounded in service. It captures and engages a person because it speaks directly to their needs and desires and – this is the critical difference: it delivers tangible, meaningful value in exchange for the attention given.
It takes more work to earn Deep Attention.
It requires that you really understand your audience, that you dig in on not only what they desperately want but how you can provide truly impactful service in response to those desires.
In order to keep the attention going, you must provide:
- rich, credible, unexpected content
- engaging stories that your audience will relate to
- activities or examples that will stay with them long beyond their interaction with you or your material
- continuous reminders that you understand where they are, that you “get it” and can help
- useful ways of taking their learning forward and applying your teachings to their own lives again and again
These are simply some examples… the key is that the engagement is customized specifically for the audience and has their transformation and growth powerfully at the center.
This will take risk and vulnerability on your part – to push the edges of your sharing, your storytelling and maybe even what you are capable of pulling together in terms of content. You'll need to research, rewrite things, work hard to tie in your audience's needs and desires with your ability to serve them.
Yet, the rewards are crazy awesome.
The reward is that you make a real, meaningful, long-lasting impact with your expression – your product, service, book, speech, workshop, web copy, article… whatever. You actually realize your own vision for your great work by investing in the powers of inviting Deep Attention from those who need you and what you provide.
Isn't that what all of this is really about?
Now you – given that Deep Attention takes some real digging and thinking, we can surely help each other here!
Share your favorite strategy for engaging your people, audience, friends, kids… whatever. Do you have a story that people just always love? Maybe it will prompt a similar story in someone else in our community here. Do you have an exercise that works great for your workshops? It's possible it can be adapted for another workshop of a community member as well. Let's all learn Deep Attention strategies that we can “try on” in our own great work and in our personal lives, too! Share in comments, please.
[Thanks to cdsessums on Flickr for the cheap (free) image]
That’s the work, isn’t it? Engaging people’s interest and attention without resorting to cheap tricks. I think the key is to be clear in your intention. I’ve seen goofy cheap tricks used skillfully when the person is clear and honest about why she or he is using them, and they have a good reason or story for doing so.
But, there has to be a pay-off. If you’re going to ask for people’s attention, you need to make sure it’s worth their while, or, as you said, they won’t trust you.
Great topic! Thank you.
It’s so true, Nancy! Goofy cheap tricks can be so delightful, especially when we are expecting another same-old-same-old presentation or blog post or whatever it is. You hit it right on, though, that it must be relevant (when I was teaching college we’d say that there must be a pedagical purpose, which I always thought sounded very fancy and strange all at once) and that it must “pay-off” for the listener/reader. It’s all about them in the details. I’m thrilled you enjoyed the topic and very happy you shared your thoughts. Thank you!
I love the distinction you make here. As I was reading I kept thinking deep attention leads to deep connection, which is what really increases the know like trust factor.
Completely agree, Tiffany. And as we both know, inside of that know-like-trust is where good, happy business and personal stuff happens