Interesting Facts about Boredom

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 by Simon Morton

Boredom, we’ve all felt it and occasionally been unfortunate enough to inspire it.

Contrary to something I heard repeatedly as a teenager it is not true to say that ‘only boring people get bored’ – boredom is much more interesting than that.

From an evolutionary perspective boredom is a way of telling you that you are being unproductive.

For prehistoric people it was the difference between sitting on a log daydreaming until a passing tyrannosaur ate you and getting off your backside to invent weaponry so that you could eat the tyrannosaur.

Navel gazing is not good for procreation either – unless, perhaps, it’s someone else’s navel. So once again boredom serves a purpose, encouraging you and your genes to get out there and interact with others.

Boredom is an emotional state, we don’t choose to be bored and it’s unlikely we’ll be able to convincingly look less bored than we are. And as if that weren’t enough it’s also contagious, even a suppressed yawn has the power to travel round a room.

So how do you stop your audience being bored?

You need to get their attention, keep their attention and let them know what’s in it for them and how to get it. Presentation Optimisation – to those in the know.

Ten slides explaining the results of market research into how your new sandwich filling compares to competitors is boring and this sort of boredom is indicative of a low risk/low reward strategy. If you let them eat the sandwiches the risks are higher because they may not like them, but you have increased the potential rewards and given the audience an opportunity to personally invest (and in this case, ingest) in your product.

Strangely, we can also bore audiences by overcomplicating things. For example a Black Hole is (for me at least) an inherently interesting phenomenon, with the potential for time travel and the danger of spaghettification, it’s got excitement written all over it. Yet the calculations required to demonstrate the physics of a Black Hole make as much sense to me as Egyptian hieroglyphs and are therefore inherently boring – I’d rather have the sandwich.

In an ideal world I want to eat the sandwich whilst learning about spaghettification, which is, of course, a (rather clumsy I’m afraid) metaphor for Blended Presenting.

The key here is to think differently about your presentations, beautiful slides do not mean an effective presentation. An effective presentation is one that does not allow boredom into the room. It’s not just the audience we need to protect either, we know that boredom is contagious, and if it starts with the presenter you have a real problem…

If you’d like us to help you – and your audience – by eradicating boredom in your presentations please contact us – we love to chat.


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2 Responses to “Interesting Facts about Boredom”

  1. Ludwig says:

    You are probably aware that the last dino ceased to exist some 50 million years before the predecessor of man lay around bored? How about a smilodon? That could be a nice species to eat or be eaten of in those early days.


    (I have booked your RSS feed).

  2. Justine says:

    My apologies to the paleontologists everywhere. While a smilodon would have indeed filled the menu (and been pre-historically correct) I’m afraid that his marketing team has not been as effective (thus far) in highlighting his attributes to the general public, so I plunged into the ‘dinosaur that everybody knows’ trap! Glad to be attracting the type of reader that notices these things. Justine

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