Saturday, June 11, 2016

Stamp out fuzzy thinking - really act like a journalist

On April 26th at the Ethos3 blog Gabrielle Reed posted on Why presenters should think like journalists. Her eight headings were to:

1] Focus on details
2] Understand your audience
3] Present timely content
4] Avoid jargon
5] Craft captivating leads
6] Incorporate supporting visuals
7] Embrace a storytelling narrative
8] Complete through research

Under her heading #8, Complete thorough research, she begins by saying that:

“Perhaps the most crucial lesson my journalism studies taught me was the constant pursuit of accuracy in everything you do – from writing an article to participating in an interview and even giving a presentation. Never purposely mislead your audiences. Always conduct enough research to support your insights and utilize reputable sources to increase trust between you and others.”

Did she (or her company) really do that? No, of course not! Her heading #5, Craft captivating leads, opens by claiming:

“The average individual’s attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 8 in the past decade with the increasing popularity of social media sites and quick reference resources.”

Gabrielle also claimed that in the first paragraph of another post on April 18th titled 5 Ways to increase attention and memory in a presentation.

On April 23rd her boss, Scott Schwertly, blogged about The attack on our attention spans and he similarly claimed:

“The average attention span of today’s employee is 8 seconds. That’s it. 8 seconds.

It has dropped a grand whopping 4 seconds (12 to 8 seconds) in the last 15 years.”

Ethos3 seems to be following the dubious claim made by Lewis Carroll in his poem The Hunting of the Snark that:

“What I tell you three times is true.”

Where did they get those numbers? Perhaps it was from a brief article in TIME magazine by Kevin McSpadden posted on May 14, 2015 that was titled You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish and subtitled No longer can we boast about 12 seconds of coherent thought. He claimed to have gotten those numbers out of a report from a study done by Microsoft Corporation. The numbers indeed are in that study, but they didn’t come from research. Instead they were just quoted from a web page at a dubious web site called Statistic Brain. I blogged about that in a January 21st post titled Is the average attention span of a presentation coach almost as short as that of a house fly? (I called them Tooth Fairy Statistics).

The Spring 2015 Microsoft report was titled Attention Spans, and was authored by Alyson Gausby - the Consumer Insights Lead at Microsoft Canada. Those three statistics appeared on page 6 of the 52 page pdf file. You can find a link to that file in an article posted on June 7th at by John Stevens titled Decreasing attention spans and your website, social media strategy that yet again misquotes where those statistics really came from. 

The stamp out image was adapted from a WPA poster at the Library of Congress

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