How to get and keep people’s attention


  1. Pull the rug out from under them. Tell them something so surprising that it overturns their schema of how things work.
  2. Create a mystery. The Heaths tell the story of a professor named Robert Cialdini, who studied popular science books and analyzed the way they engaged their audience. He found books that presented the scientific question as a mystery to be very effective. Cialdini started applying what he learned to his teaching – presenting a mystery at the beginning of each class and revealing the answer at the end. This approach was so successful that when he ran overtime, students refused to leave until he revealed the answer.
  3. Give your audience enough information to create a gap. “Gaps start with knowledge,” say the Heaths. Give enough context to make the audience care, and then present the question.

— Livia Blackburne (2010) “How to get (and keep) people’s attention”

It’s a fast reading, and she also hints for a book, Made To Stick. The post can easily be summarized with another sentence from it: “The easiest way to get attention is surprise.”.

It’s interesting in relation to my work both on presentations and on writing. I have surely a lot to learn about those topics.


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