Magic Numbers For Training

Kenneth speaking to 160 participants in a Toastmasters Convention

Trainer Bob Pike uses a magic formula in his trainings which is the 90/20/8 rule. He mentions that most adult audiences can listen with understanding for 90 minutes, listen with retention for 20 minutes and we need to involve them every 8 minutes.

My tried and tested rule for all the corporate trainings that I have done is a little different. I have modified it slightly because over time, people’s attention span has decreased.

My magic number for training is ridiculously simple but yet extremely effective. I call it the 20 minute rule. After speaking to adults for 20 minutes, we need to involve the audience and induce a ‘state change’.

Question: What does involvement and state change mean?

Actually its simple. Involvement will mean to get the participants to do something with you while state change means to change the current state of condition they are in. This means if they are sitting straight, they move around or move something in their bodies that will change the current state they are in. Here are the different ways I induce a state change in an audience:

1. Get participants to echo what I write on flipchart board.

2. Get the audience to turn to a partner and say a catch-phrase, eg. “Habits determine your success level” or “Success leave trails.”

3. Get participants to take part in activities, either in pairs or group level.

4. Allow them to discuss with their partners on their action steps.

5. Give time to process their thoughts by writing it down.

(This is not an exhaustive list and there are hundreds of ways to do it but these are the ones that I use a lot during my talks.)

Why 20 minutes? You might ask. Well, that’s a good question.

You see, the Hippocampus, part of the limbic brain is that part that pays attention. A person’s attention is calculated using the following formula:

Attention span = (Age/2) + 2 mins     [Note that the max attention span is 22 minutes]

Therefore, using 20 minutes is a pretty good gauge and is easy to monitor.

Hope this helps you when you speak to audiences or conduct your own training. Have fun!


PS: I will be launching my new DVD soon on “Stirring & Connecting with your audience, anywhere, anytime” which will launch in 5 December 2011. It is a DVD that teaches you how to engage and stir the emotions of your audience. Most people can just talk but how many can actually stir your heart? More information will be released soon about it.