I know it's going to be hard for you, but try to pay attention for just a few minutes while I share some important information.

I'll make it brief: Science has proven once again that all the information coming at us is killing our attention spans.

Research conducted at the Technical University of Denmark used "a simple mathematical model of topics competing for finite collective attention," write the reseachers in Nature Communications, "the accelerating ups and downs of popular content are driven by increasing production and consumption of content, resulting in a more rapid exhaustion of limited attention resources. In the interplay with competition for novelty, this causes growing turnover rates and individual topics receiving shorter intervals of collective attention."

As Gavin O'Malley explains in MediaPost, "the researchers determined that more content being produced in less time is exhausting the collective attention."

The researchers write: "The shortened peak of public interest for one topic is directly followed by the next topic, because of the fierce competition for novelty."

Since the available amount of attention remains more or less the same, the result is that people are more rapidly made aware of something happening and lose interest more quickly.

If you're trying to get your message across, how can you do so despite shrinking attention spans? Three things:

1. Focus on the audience--to help anyone you're communicating with (customers, employees, colleagues) meet their needs. Your mantra needs be: "It's not about me; it's all about you."  In short, understand what the recipient needs to know and communicate accordingly.

2. Convey your message simply and quickly by borrowing an idea from Hollywood called "high concept." It means being able to convey an idea in less than 25 words--if you can do it in 10 to 15, even better.

Since you probably never wanted to work in Hollywood, why do I recommend you adopt this movie-industry technique? Because it solves a huge communication problem: Lack of focus.

By forcing you to reduce what you have to say to the high concept, to its very essence, you can be fairly certain that your recipients will have a pretty good idea of what you are trying to say.

Once you know how to develop a focused concept, you can use it as the basis for whatever message you want to convey, in any venue--from a cell-phone text message, to an email, to a report, to an entire book.

3. Provide information that will help your audience--customers, constituents, employees, neighbors, suppliers--solve a problem or do something more easily, quickly or effectively.

The two magic words for this are "how to." Everyone wants to improve something: our diet, our décor, our presentation skills, our ability to create strategic plans. So figure out what audience members want to do, and provide information to help them do it.

Luckily, inspiration for how to create how-tos is as close as your nearest newsstand, where publications of every description are creating content that's:

  • Easy
  • Timely
  • Appealing
  • Surprising
  • Fun

Got it? Thank you for your attention.

Published on: Apr 28, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.