Imagine the person who created the first billboard. It was the mid 1800’s. They saw an opportunity to capture the attention of a group of many who were traveling by regularly.
Being the first and only ones to advertise that way probably elicited, “Hey look George, we should buy that!” Then the discussion for the next few miles was all about that one attention-getter.
Then it was over. The attention time shortened even more after they travelled by it for the 8th time.
Today is so different though. We have unique signs, various messages, and amazing advertisements everywhere. Everyone is trying to get your attention. And if you’re like me, you get distracted by squirrels. “Oh look!” Then it’s over. Something else attracts your attention and you move on.
All that ad money’s wasted unless they get you to look. For a few seconds.
It’s one thing to gain the attention of someone. In fact, it’s fairly easy if they’re sitting in a church service since (other than the occasional text message) you have one communication going on. But it’s much harder when someone is away from your pews. How do you possibly get them to pay attention to your message then? It’s not like they’re only seeing the sole billboard with your message in their busy lives.
There are certainly ways to get the attention of someone (and the more you know about that someone, the better). Here are the basics for getting someone’s attention:
1. Say their name.
When you’re in a crowded room and someone says your name, it tends to get your attention over the noise. So learn how to creatively say the name of your audience. Examples: “Are you a church communicator? Then you need to buy my book.” or “Students that are going into exam time, you should meet for a special time of prayer tonight.” It’ll grab their attention.
2. Understand their pain.
Once you say their name, let them know you comprehend what they’re going through. We all like a sympathetic voice; it gets our attention. Examples: “Mothers with young kids, we know you don’t have any time for yourself, so we’ve created…” or “Dads of teens, isn’t it crazy how hard it is to talk to your kids?”
3. Suggest solutions.
People pay money for solutions. The more special or unique the solution, the quicker we’ll offer a credit card. If we’re willing to give up cash for a great solution, we’ll certainly give up our attention to the description of what we need. Especially if it’s a pressing need in our lives that needs a solution. Examples: “What if I could give you water where you’ll never thirst again?” or “I can ease the burden you’re enduring with one simple truth”.
So, you’ve gained their attention. I can also do that by setting off fireworks in the church parking lot. It’s ultimately quite easy to get people to turn to something. Examples: Pornography, violence, a car wreck, etc.
But how on earth do you as a church keep their attention? Here are 3 ways based on what I practice each week with my Bible study of 160 adults. I understand how distracted people are when they arrive and sit down. It’s imperative that I get their attention, but I also need to keep their attention – from their phones, thinking about what they’ll eat later, and from people-watching around them.
1. Tell engaging stories they can relate to.
Once you practice the steps above for getting their initial attention, keep it going by indulging in a captivating story. Make it about them or someone who they can relate to. Examples: Have a group of senior adults? Talk about a child who’s similar to their grandchild. Or talk about loneliness. That last piece of advice is telling them a story about their pain. Or tell a story about how someone like them found a solution they may need.
2. Move them toward a goal.
Sometime it’s good to start at the end. Remind them where they are now and set the bar high about the place they’ll be at the end of your time. Example: “Students, it’s difficult juggling your dating relationship, your home life, and your school requirements. Stick with me and in 20 minutes I’ll show you how a good spiritual life will let you balance everything perfectly”.
3. Be personal, authentic, and transparent.
Rarely does anything capture and prolong someone’s attention more than a juicy story or something that’s unexpectedly personal. Examples: You’ll get people to listen just by starting with “I probably shouldn’t tell you this about me, but…” or “It sounds crazy, but I couldn’t stop crying this week. It all started by…”
You now know the tricks. So, to much is given, much is required! As a Christian communicator, use these things to gain an audience’s attention and keep their attention. But most importantly, tell them something eternal once they’re listening.