Attention span of a goldfish? Maybe the message is at fault

Goldfish and laptop

It's commonly assumed that the internet and electronic communication is making people less able to concentrate and leading to shorter attention spans.

But a new study from presentation platform Prezi finds that in fact attention spans may not be shrinking, rather they are evolving to be more selective.


The study looked at the effectiveness of content and presentations and how they resonate with business professionals across demographics, including millennials, Generation X, and baby boomers, and finds that the key to engaging content is a compelling narrative combined with stimulating visuals and dialogue.

"Our attention spans being shorter than a goldfish's is a grossly inaccurate rumor. These days it's common to binge-watch a series for six or more hours, so there's no reason you shouldn’t be able to pay attention in a meeting. You just need to couple your content with a compelling story and great visuals," says Nadjya Ghausi, vice president of marketing at Prezi. "We at Prezi believe that attention spans aren't shrinking -- they're simply evolving, and the time to cater to new preferences isn't tomorrow; it's now."

Among the findings are that 59 percent of professionals say they can give a piece of content their undivided attention without getting distracted more now than they could a year ago. Also 49 percent admit they've become more selective about the content they consume.

Respondents say a strong narrative (88 percent) or the story (87 percent) behind what's being presented is critical in maintaining the engagement of their audience. Where presentations are concerned, 79 percent of business professionals say the use of animated visuals is effective in keeping the audience engaged.

However, 95 percent of business professionals admit to multitasking during meetings and around one-third of these multitaskers have lost track of (37 percent) or had trouble retaining (31 percent) the information that was being discussed. One in five admit that multitasking in meetings has caused them to make an error in their work.

Millennials prove hardest to engage with 90 percent admitting they shifted their focus away from the speaker during the most recent presentation or sales pitch they saw live. This compares to 85 percent of than Generation X and 82 percent of baby boomers or older. More than a third of millennials say they only engage with content that they feel has a great story or theme and 82 percent of millennial presenters say animated visuals are effective in keeping an audience engaged.

You can read more about the findings in the full report, available from the Prezi website.

Image creditSergeyNivens/

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