Eight seconds is eight seconds. But why does sometimes eight seconds seem to drag out – like when you are waiting for test results – and other times eight seconds seem to go by so quickly?
The reason is called the ‘oddball effect’. This is a term that describes what happens to the brain when it is tricked by the perception of time. This usually happens when something unusual, unfamiliar or unexpected happens. As a consequence, we tend to devote more neural resources to it, so in retrospect it feels like it took a longer period of time – when actually it was just a period of, say, eight seconds.
How the ‘oddball effect’ relates to speaking
When you share new or important information – your audience also experiences the ‘oddball effect’, since they need to think and concentrate on new content being shared.
More thinking is involved, and their perception of time slows down.
The perception of time is also impacted by the amount of information that you share with your audience. If you package too much detail onto one slide or in a set amount of time, your audience will experience the ‘oddball effect’. As a result, they will need more time to assimilate the information shared and you also risk confusing your audience with too much content. They might be nodding their head as you present, but mentally they have clocked out.
To avoid the ‘oddball effect’ you need to take the time to package your content in an orderly format.
This is called a teachable framework, and there are many famous examples of these:
- Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – the information is packaged within a triangle
- Steven Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people – the information is packaged within a circle and triangle, and
- Robert Kiyosaki’s cashflow quadrant is contained, well, within a quadrant
When the audience sees that you have taken the time and effort to package information for them that is easy to understand, they will pay attention to you. Their neural resources are freed up to digest information quickly so that they can engage with you as a speaker and interact during the discussion.
The benefit for you as a speaker to package and frame your content is that it makes it easier to manage your allocated time slot. You also avoid the perception of being a ‘shopping cart’ list speaker whereby you just talk to a series of points on your slide.
Packaging your content
You have four options to package your content:
- An acronym − You take a word related to your content and each letter of that word is a point that you speak to.
- Alliteration − Each point starts with the same letter of the alphabet.
- A visual model − Includes shapes like a circle, triangle, square, rectangle or variations of shapes.
- An infographic − This could include a timeline, a process flow or a diagram.
When you take the time to package the content, your credibility and confidence as a speaker increase and your content becomes more memorable.
Dineshrie Pillay CA(SA)
Business Owner and Public Speaking Trainer