Sunday, July 19, 2015

How to get more attention

Photo by Johnny Delos Santos

When I write an e-mail, I give it a compelling title. The recipient must be convinced that the content is both interesting and urgent. You know why.

In the book The Attention Economy, authors Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck noted that “The Sunday New York Times contains more factual information in one edition than in all the written material available to a reader in the fifteenth century.”

It’s just one anecdotal description of the information explosion of today. We still have only 18 waking hours each day while there’s an ever-increasing number of tv and radio channels, newspapers and magazines, websites and recreational apps, social media content and Youtube videos, movies, office emails, required reading, text messages, etc. etc.

Even a captive audience is not a guarantee of attention. When I attend conferences and business meetings, I notice that more than half of the participants are doing something else on their laptops! The book Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff says that when listening to a presentation, humans are still ruled by the primitive reptilian brain or the “croc brain.” The croc brain resists some presentations because they are “a threat.” A sales pitch can be seen as a threat to our money and a boring presentation can be perceived as a threat to our time.

If you are a boss, a subordinate, a parent, a teacher, a priest, a PR man, an advertising executive, a writer, just make the safe assumption that nobody is paying attention anymore.

Davenport and Beck said that “Understanding and managing attention is now the single most important determinant of business success. “

These are my suggestions on how to get more attention at work and at home.

Be passionate and do exceptionally good work.  A quote attributed to Methodist leader John Wesley says “ set yourself on fire and people will come to watch you burn. “  People are still interested in people and achievements worthy of emulation. We can all agree that Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Roger Federer and Manny Pacquiao were great even before the hype.

Be relevant. People today have their own filters. To surpass their first line of  defense, make a strong connection between your topic and their interest. For example, say why the ability to cook pasta sauce attracts women. 

Be the prize. Klaff  in Pitch Anything said that people are wary of presenters or suitors who look needy. Instead of pleading for people’s attention or appearing like you need their money, find a way to make them feel that they’re the ones who need you or your message or your idea. Klaff advised us to create desire and tension.  Desire is created when they anticipate a reward and tension is what people feel when they think they have something to lose.

Be disruptive. Ben Parr is the author of Captivology : The Science of Capturing People’s Attention. In his blog article for the Harvard Business Review, he said that one of the ways to attract attention is to “violate expectations.” He suggests that to “get the attention of your bosses, clients or colleagues, try surprising them in a positive way; ask an unexpected question, beat a tough deadline, invite them for a walk instead of coffee. “

Make it short and sweet. The advertising legend David Ogilvy wrote a memo in which he counseled “never write more than two pages on any subject. “ I agree that writing short makes us choose our thoughts and words more carefully. The more words we use, the less we communicate.

When I sit down to read a magazine or on-line articles, I choose to read many short articles than one long write up. The short ones are just more inviting.

Make it visual. Humans instinctively look at pictures. The more interesting the pictures, the more attention it gets. I almost cannot resist memos or articles with big pictures and short captions.

The old saying “out of sight, out of my mind “ is very true. If you truly care for somebody, make it literally visible. Wear nice clothes,  show gestures of love, give pretty gifts, wear a shirt with their name on it, even dance in front of them.

For me, the next one is the most important :

Give more attention. Davenport and Beck wrote “One way to get attention from customers, of course, is to give them attention.” In marketing , this means attracting customers and buyers by giving special offers, discount coupons, after sales service, memorable experiences and the like. In the office, we should show we truly care about what our employers like and what our staff needs.

To get more attention from our spouse and children, we can show them how they are more important to us than our achiever’s ego.

Let us not assume that people are automatically paying attention to what we say just because we’re the boss, the superstar, the pastor or the parent. Let us be reminded of what George Bernard Shaw said. “ The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. “


If you have concerns about your job or if you wish to suggest a topic, you may email me at rglabayen@gmail.com

I would assume that you’re giving me permission to publish your email ( if chosen) and my reply. Your identity will not be disclosed.


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