Is being bored a lack of interest? A symptom of being tired? Or is boredom what happens when you simply can’t find the energy to pay attention?
This lil’ blog will begin the 2-part series on the Psychology of Design. We’ll first look at why your audience is bored and then look at methods of encouraging memory retention.
Boredom is considered an emotion that evokes a light feeling of disgust and this makes sense because while we like to think boredom is nothing to do, we don’t feel agitated while napping, daydreaming or watching Netflix. Boredom is a combination of:

  • difficulty paying attention
  • awareness that we can’t pay attention
  • our belief that someone or the outside environment is causing the problem for us

And we’ve all been bored audience members. We start getting restless, scroll through our phones, fidget, and clap a little too enthusiastically when the speaker finishes. If we understand why audiences get bored, we can understand how to better avoid that problem as public speakers.

Our psychological definition of boredom is:

a profoundly unpleasant state of unmet arousal: you are aroused rather than despondent, but, for one or more reasons, your arousal cannot be met or directed. These reasons can be internal—often a lack of imagination, motivation, or concentration—or external, such as an absence of environmental stimuli or opportunities.

This means that when your audience is bored they blame you! They have trouble focusing their attention and they come to the conclusion that the difficulty they’re experiencing is directly caused by their environment, making you the next likely candidate for a burning at the stake.

Let’s look at 3 key causes of boredom and what you can do to avoid boring your audience.

1. Monotony

Boredom is likened to a kind of mental fatigue caused by repetition and lack of interest in our tasks. A bored audience member has likely had to sit through countless presentations before you and believes that what you’re talking about is just another repetitive thing they’ve got to sit through at work. This means that when you craft your presentation and speech, you’re in the process of making something that your audience believes they’ve already experienced or seen.
Tip: Think outside of the box when it comes to design. A visually compelling presentation will do wonders in terms of keeping your audience interested.

2. Feeling Trapped 

Have you ever wanted to leave a presentation but knew doing so would make you look rude or even belligerent? People who are bored feel it when they feel trapped and when they feel like they don’t have a choice. An engaged audience stays by choice and when forced by social niceties, audience members are less likely to want to listen to what you have to say.
Tip: Incorporate activities such as Q&A and participant activities. This gets your audience moving and relieves the tension of feeling trapped.

3. Lack of Flow

Flow refers to what happens when an individual’s skills match the challenge presented by the environment. This means that an engaged audience member is challenged by your ideas, provoked by your words, and is mentally stimulated by your presentation. Your audience “in flow” means they are totally immersed by the task of listening and critical thinking. Finding the balance of flow is important because easy tasks lead to boredom and tasks perceived to be difficult lead to anxiety.
Tip: Understand your audience and design your presentation to cater to the majority. There’s no point dumbing it down or making it too complex if your audience will be bored with it.
So now you know why your audience is bored, keep an eye out for our Thursday blog to encourage memory retention in your audience.



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