In Brain Rules, author John Medina shares a suggestion for maximizing an audience's attention when presenting a lecture. He suggests the “10-minute rule,” where a presenter has ten minutes to hook his/her audience into a presentation by giving them the gist of his/her ideas because the brain processes meaning before details.
summarization strategy that can support this rule is GIST. In short,
you identify the Who, What, Why, Where, When & How, and then write a
20 word statement that embodies the key terms/concepts.
presenting the gist, the purpose and direction of the lecture should be
clearly mapped out and where the talk is in relationship to the map
should be liberally repeated throughout. This prevents multi-tasking
(figuring out where the lecture is going and understanding what is being
said), which takes away from a listener's ability to digest the
In addition, the 10-minute rule requires
that the presenter re-engages with their listeners every ten minutes.
To maximize attention, these hooks need to trigger an emotion, be
relevant, and either summarize or present the material in a ten-minute
module. Telling a relevant story, sharing a youtube clip that makes
connections, or simply presenting an opportunity to
turn-to-your-neighbor and discuss the material are meaningful ways to
give the brain a break and enable the mind to process.
presenters need to be mindful that their listeners are not experts and
that in order to understand, more time needs to be “devoted to
connecting the dots,” as opposed to “relating too much information.”
my practice, I am guilty of putting my students to sleep with endless
powerpoint slides that conveyed very little meaning and lots of content,
which I once thought was relevant. Even when I stared into my clearly
disengaged students' eyes, I plugged away, determined to prepare my
students for district assessments or AP exams. Nothing was learned
during those sessions and my lofty goals of having my students master a
ridiculous amount of material, in hindsight, was comical. But that was
the 20th century. The 21st century will not put up with instructional
strategies that waste time, one of our most valuable commodities.
How do you keep the brain in mind when presenting to your students?