Have you ever been to a lecture?
If you have, you probably experienced the challenge of sitting through a 60-90 minute talk on one specific topic by an expert.
In school, we grow our ability to feign interest for as long as we have to. But as adults, we soon lose this ability.
When giving a speech, most people are able to focus for 5-10 minutes on one topic before they start to drift off into their own thoughts. Some people can last longer if they are highly auditory learners, but generally, people tune out around the 10-minute mark.
This is why most TED talks are between 8 – 20 minutes in length. The longer talks usually have a theme with several key points. The briefer talks have one single message, delivered succinctly.
As a rule, if you aim for 10 minutes or less for a key point, you will keep your audience with you.
If you can add in humor, an intriguing story, and maybe even something practical for the audience, you can keep them engaged further.
One more key point: people love it when you run shorter than the time planned. If you can finish quicker, you will find your audience pleasantly surprised and actually wanting more.
Therefore, learn to brief. Have one core message and back it up with examples that last no longer than 10 minutes.
This will keep the audience enjoying and benefiting, and they will likely ask you to tell them more after you are done.