Ask people if they’re busy and you regularly hear, “I’m crazy busy”. From work, play, family, entertainment, sleep, to worship; it’s hard to cram everything into a day.
There are many debates over whether we truly are as busy as we think, but the truth is that we’ve convinced ourselves that we are. Everyone has.
The problem with this? If everyone feels busy, it’s hard to get them to stop and listen. That can be the issue that kills your ability to communicate effectively. How can you possibly break into someone’s busy schedule? Is it possible? Or should we just give up?
As church communicators, that’s not an option. Somehow we need to get our critical message across. Here are four tricks for grabbing the attention of exceptionally busy people:
1. Speak directly to your audience. Get on their level.
When a child’s out of control, lost in their own little world, and in need of your critical input, child psychologists universally recommend getting down so you can look directly into their eyes. It says to them “you’re important and I understand”. The same should be done for everyone! Perhaps not in posture but in tone. Pinpoint your audience, stop talking to “everyone”, and call them by name before directing a message to the individual. Simply understand their busyness and talk on that level. Need to talk to business women who are juggling work and family? Then start your communication with “Women, is life crazy trying to work at home and work? Then we…” This aligns to their level and says “we understand you and have catered something directly to you”. Bonus points? Add an image or video that illustrates who you’re engaging. We all love to see ourselves.
2. Keep it short. Don’t tell all the details.
Each person clicking on your website is looking for something quickly. They want to get in and get out with the information they’re desiring. Looking for just the “overview” facts; no one wants to get lost in minutia or a long-winded paragraph. All communicators need to remember this. No one has enough time to listen to everything we want to say; we need to stop talking before they stop listening. Get someone’s attention quickly and tell them the most important information. If they’re truly interested, they’ll find out the other details. Just make sure they have a trusted, up-to-date, easy-to-find source for the specifics (that should be your church website). Pastors, since attention spans are declining because of our desire to multitask, sermons (the ultimate church communication) should align with this too. Keep your message simple and shorter, or interrupt long paragraphs with visuals, videos, or stories. Stop telling long anything!
3. Hit a pain point. Sell a solution.
Envision yourself walking near a construction area with a busy construction worker juggling a traffic sign while keeping up with the backhoe excavations nearby, and still he’s trying to mop his brow in the 100-degree heat. He’s the poster child for busy! Imagine that you yell “Want an ice-cold Coke?” You’ll get his attention no matter how busy he is. Every communication in a busy world needs to either remind people of their pain or scream a solution to something missing in their lives. Often in the church world, we push information that doesn’t need to be told since it doesn’t connect on any important level. Sadly, we don’t gain attention, so few people attend the events or remember the message we’re trying to communicate. What’s important to us shouldn’t trump what’s important to our audience.
4. Think entertainment. Tell a story.
It’s difficult to talk about limited attention spans in a world where binge watching is mentioned regularly. People won’t listen to a 30-second announcement, yet they will watch 11 continuous hours of the latest Netflix offering. Say what?!? Perhaps it’s because we’re creatures of interaction and voyeurism. We get caught up spending more time when we’re compelled by a good storyline – when we hear a plot that sounds like our heartbeat or imagination and when we see characters that look like ourselves or friends. Great stories should have a victim or participant who encounters a villain that we identify with. Then a hero (person or idea) introduces the solution we’re all longing to find. The power of story allows people to spend more time and remember more. An effective communicator must be a good storyteller in this busy world.
Ultimately, never disappoint your audience with communications that are unimportant to them. Once they zone-out into their busy minds, it’s twice as hard to bring them back to the moment. Consider every part of your church service and hold their attention. If your church’s announcement time doesn’t speak to almost everyone listening, people will gradually ignore this time, and you’ve lost a valuable communication time. Think the same way about your website, social media, and email blasts. Use these communication tricks to engage individuals rather than add to the busyness of people’s lives.