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Rethinking the Optimal Session Length

Some sources say that the average adult’s attention span is 20 minutes, others say it’s down to 5 minutes, and many claim it’s just 8 seconds—literally less than that of a goldfish. With a push to shorten meetings in the recent past, do event professionals need to rethink the length of sessions?

The 45-minute meeting movement was introduced in 2010 and focused on everyday meetings, but it hasn't quite hit the event world yet. The movement was a push to shorten hour-long meetings to 45 minutes, to increase productivity.  Participants would be able to use those 15 minutes to review meeting notes from the prior meeting, prepare for any upcoming meetings and perhaps even arrive to their next meeting on time! With 15 minutes to regroup, the days of employees coming late to meetings feeling frazzled and leaving with more questions than answers are numbered. Making time to recap and disseminate key takeaways is important for not only our everyday meetings, but also our annual conferences and events.

So how would that effect the event industry? If we’re going to look at shortening sessions, we’ll need to know our audience mix. Millenials on one hand, favor making sessions shorter, more meaningful and relevant to their ability to be more successful.  They also have a tendency to oppose ice-breaker activities as well as monotonous introductions while Baby Boomers seem more tolerant of formal meetings and are more apt to follow protocol. When it comes to finding the optimal session length, you really need to understand your target audience, how inclined they are to actively participate, and what you want them to do with the information they've acquired.

As an attendee, maybe you can answer the outstanding question: What is the ideal session length? (Or, did we lose you at 8 seconds?)