Team Tito

The movie-length attention span

After I posted a link to my previous post on LinkedIn, an old friend got in touch and asked me for feedback on an event he was creating.

Without getting in to the specifics, he had planned 3x 2.5 hour sessions for is attendees.

I told him about one of the ways that I view putting together a schedule: movie-length. When I took a screen-writing class, I learned that the average length to aim for was about 90 minutes. There are many reasons for this—the three act structure, the protagonists journey—but the one that resonates with me is about attention: the longer something goes on, the harder it is to keep folks’ attention.

My general sense on this is that 90 minutes is about the optimal time-frame for folks to take in new information on any given day. Sometimes movies are longer, but it's the exception. Sometimes you binge and watch more movies in one go, but again, it’s an exception.

For programme design, my rule in general these days is that any sit-down session should be no longer than 90 minutes without a break. Ideally, the session should be structured just like a movie with a clear beginning, middle and end, and a narrative journey, but once the 90-minute mark passes, I start thinking about how to get people out of the room, up and about, into a new mode.

So next time you are putting together a schedule, think about what you would do if you were asking folks to watch a bunch of movies on the same day. How would you structure it? Would it change how you put together the programme?

I'm looking forward to some popcorn at your next show 😁.