You've started reading this column (thanks for stopping by!) but it's likely that in a few minutes you'll be interrupted. Your email chime will sound. Your phone will ring. Or you'll simply remember something else you have to do and flip to another screen.
That's because the biggest challenge in communicating with any audience is both simple and enormously difficult: It's time, or the lack of it. Sure, you need to choose the right communication method. And craft your message so it appeals to your audience. But these efforts are in vain unless the recipient has time and is willing to spend it on your communication.
I'm reminded by a brilliant article I read some years ago by Bob Deutsch, a cognitive anthropologist consultant. Called The Paradox of Time in Consumer Behavior, the idea is that people experience two opposing impulses: We want everything newer, better, faster, but at the same time we feel like everything is happening too fast--spinning out of control--and we'd like to stop it or, at least, slow it down.
"People experience life as a series of staccato 'nows' and must-do's that are metastasizing," writes Mr. Deutsch. "A typical sentiment, 'I used to have a list of chores to do that I could check off one at a time. At some point, my list was completed. Now, as soon as I get to the next chore, another has miraculously appeared at the bottom of my list. It's non-stop.'
And he adds: "Perhaps the best description of the present paradoxical context of the world was stated by a 44-year old woman in a focus group in Kansas City, 'Things are always advancing, getting better, sometimes for the worse.'"
What's a communicator to do, to reach people who are suffering from this paradox? You need to do these things right now:
- Connect the dots. "Help re-structure peoples' experience of the extremely puzzle-pieced environment so they don't feel completely overloaded and splintered."
- Provide reassurance. Give people "a sense that your products and services can help them make better sense of the world and their world. Convert the pressure of time to a feeling of time well-spent."
- Make it easy. Be clear that you're a partner for your audience. You're there to make life easier, not harder.
Thought-provoking, right? This is great advice, especially for communicators who are seeking to ways to counteract information overload.
Stop the madness and save your audience's precious time instead of squandering it. By providing a benefit, you'll encourage audience members to invest a few minutes in your communication. And you'll get your message across.