Did you check the time in that last talk?

I noticed I started doing this in movies first. Although it definitely also happens in talks – seminars, lectures, meetings, etc. I check the time. Over and over and over again. Some situations are better than others, and I only check once or (gasp) maybe even never.

I started using the number of times I check how much time is left as a way to judge how “good” a talk/movie is. And by good, I mean it kept my attention and I didn’t spend it wondering how much longer I needed to stay there. Which means, it’s possible for something to be so awful it’s good, because you’re sitting there waiting in awe to see what ridiculous thing will be done/said next.

I saw a movie the other night where, while I thought about checking my phone but didn’t (it wasn’t out). But, the thoughts were actually fleeting enough that I probably wouldn’t have even if it was accessible. During a couple of the talks (like the initial keynote), I never felt the need to check. But other talks, I was both checking and leaving early.

I don’t actually count the number of times I look, more I just use it as a general feel. It’s more of a “Talk A I never looked while Talk B was spent staring at my phone hoping it was finally time to leave.”

I find this is an interesting measure to use, because every time I do look, it usually means breaking my attention from the presentation for at least 10 seconds. More or less depending on if my phone is handy or there’s a clock on the wall. (An easily visible clock can prevent this from being too much of a distraction.) Sometimes, the break turns into checking email or playing a game (oops).

But each of these breaks, is a spot where the presenter lost my attention and possibly lost me in their presentation. And each one requires me to try to figure out what I missed and if it’s important. This makes the first time the presenter looses me the most important. Because it becomes harder and harder to stage engaged through further interruptions.

Sometimes it’s the fault of the presentation (okay, most of the time). But there are also times when I’m just too tired or stressed or worried about something to focus. But in those cases, I don’t hold it against the presenter. I’m also not as likely to be checking because I’m lost in my own thoughts or trying to keep myself awake. (I apologize if I yawn during your presentation – I guarantee it’s not a sign of boredom. When I’m bored I play on my phone or doodle.)

Anyway, do you find you have certain habits that you do when you just can’t get into a presentation? Do you check the time like me?

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