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Delivering your message in an age of short attention spans

Since the first commercially operating printing press ran paper through its wheels in the late fifteenth century, the art of communicating a message has been under continuous refinement. The days of lengthy type-written letters were replaced by the telegram, opening the door to shorter forms of writing and faster responses. Then came the fax, email, SMS - further advances in telecommunications that have reduced communication down to its most recent incarnation, the tweet. With such short-burst messages becoming the norm, there's no question that the twenty-first century consciousness has radically changed how it receives messages. A recent study in the impact of digital media on children's learning has shown that 71% of teachers believe students' use of social media has negatively affected their ability to concentrate. The trend is clear; we are now living in an age of short attention spans. The challenge this poses to all organisations is how to adapt methods of communication to ensure simple, quick delivery without compromising the message.

Marketers, training experts and teachers alike are faced with the seemingly impossible challenge of creating attention-grabbing content on a day-to-day basis. There are no hard and fast rules to making this work, only that with time being short in both business and consumer contexts, it's vital your audience is kept engaged so they absorb and retain the information you want to impart. In much the same way as a tweet has the ability to convey a key message in only 140 characters, an educational video can communicate a story in only 180 seconds. When it comes to building your own explanatory video, simplification is absolutely key. Visualising your message using the simplest tools possible is what determines whether the clip is ultimately a success or whether you should have saved yourself the expense. The trick is to analyse the topic and systematically filter out layers of information; leaving things out is the key to conveying the core message. At the same time the audience's point of view must also be considered - be sure to keep in mind any previous knowledge the audience may have of the subject.

Aside from brevity, another advantage of educational video in the face of a time deficient audience is its stickiness. Microsoft undertook a study that measured a click through rate of 43 per cent on a web page that contained a short animated clip; the world-wide standard rate for a site that doesn't contain video is only 8.2 per cent. Simply by having a short video embedded into a landing page, a website is 500 per cent more likely to attract and retain visitors, making it an essential tool for any business in the digital age. Traditional communication methods are simply not enough to meet modern business needs anymore. The proliferation of social media has made way for the rise of storytelling through bullet points, infographics and, most importantly, video. To keep up with the twenty-first century attention span, communicators of all kinds must act now to ensure they can carry their message across in a heartbeat.

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