How To Grab Attention in a World of Distractions

Attention is a very valuable commodity. Marketers understand this. That’s why Facebook, Twitter and other apps keep sending you notifications on your phone. It’s why web pages have ads that pop up, blink or slide in. It’s why TV ads are loud and use unusual imagery. Its why social media influencers so carefully craft and edit their “candid” photos. They are all desperate to grab your attention.

In today’s world, we resemble Doug, the dog from the movie Up. We’re in the middle of a train of thought when suddenly, SQUIRREL! Something else pops up, commanding our attention.

Those of us in ministry also want people’s attention. But instead of looking for a click or a dollar, we want to share the greatest possible message in the world. But given all the competition, how do we grab people’s attention?

One important tool to grab attention is called a “pattern interrupt.” Our brains naturally tend to filter out the normal and ordinary and focus on the unusual. So, to capture attention we need to present something that’s different–something that breaks the normal, expected pattern.

As a simple example, suppose you’re a children’s pastor. Every week, you walk on stage and try to get the kids’ attention. What if you did something different one week? What if you walked on stage backwards? Or roller skated in? Or came in with a potted plant balanced on your head? Or danced onto the stage in a tutu?

The kids would naturally notice and, at least momentarily give you their attention. And it doesn’t have to be something big. Anything sufficiently out of the ordinary can work–silence when talking is expected, an interesting question when a statement is expected, a whisper when people expect a loud voice…

Pattern interrupts like this work because they’re unusual and unexpected. That means you can’t use the same interrupt technique too many times. If you skip onto stage while yodeling and wearing a T-Rex suit, you’ll get attention the first few times. But if you did it every week, the skipping, yodeling T-Rex would become the pattern, and people would ignore it.

Of course, just being weird for the sake of grabbing attention isn’t enough. Once we have people’s attention, it’s critical that we keep and direct it. The pattern interrupt ideally should tie in with the message you wish to deliver, so it also serves as a memory aid.

For example, after doing a silly dance onto stage, you could say, “Have you ever been so happy about something that you felt like dancing? Today, we’re going to learn about someone in the Bible who was so happy about what God was doing that he danced, even though other people thought he looked silly doing it.” This pattern interrupt grabs attention, transitions that attention into the Bible story, and serves as a “hook” that makes it more memorable.

That’s one of the things an entertainer like me can do for you. We can be your pattern interrupt. We can be the unusual, out of the ordinary happening that grabs attention, focuses it on what matters, and memorably presents a message. If you’re planning an event, let’s talk. I’d love to use my magic and assorted silliness to capture your group’s attention and share the most important message of all.

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