A professional acquaintance of ours tells this anecdote about her experience before a college class to which she, as an experienced real-world visitor, had been invited to speak on “what it’s like out there.” As she greeted the students from the lectern, she gazed upon thirty or so young men and women, engrossed in laptops, handheld digital devices of varying descriptions, and who were, to be charitable about the matter, “multi-tasking.” That is, giving the guest speaker a sliver of their attention while attempting to do various other things, almost all of which would fell under the category of trivial distractions. (Outright rudeness is more like it.)

Our friend decided to make a point. She raised her voice, mustered up her best authoritarian tone and said, “O.K. all digital devices will be turned off at this time. Right now you are going to pay attention only to me for the next 15 minutes. And if you find that hard to do, just pretend I am the person you are hoping will hire you when you graduate from this institution!” It was the “hire you” that did it. She had the digeratis’s attention from that point on. Good for her, it says here!

Yeah, we could dwell on inter-generational differences in values, manners, etc., but that’s not the point. (Heck, we know some folks much older than these college students who still give only partial attention to their companions in conversation or to colleagues in meetings due to the head-down, digital immersion phenomenon). What’s more significant to note is that most of today’s audiences are DISTRACTED by something or someone. Literally thousands of messages daily from a wide variety of sources. And you need to take this into account when planning your message and how to deliver it so it will get noticed, understood and acted upon.


Peter Cronk, Managing Partner