Dear Vital Speeches editor …

A woman who heard me speak at the IABC conference in Chicago earlier this summer sent me an question that had a whiff of desperation: “What is the maximum length of a speech to hold an audience’s attention?”

Twenty minutes is the general guideline, I told her, but I added that it depends on the speech. “Some people can hold an audience for an hour, whereas the truly gifted can bore an audience in 30 seconds!”

And I asked her what occasioned her question. Of course, she was working on a speech that was getting longer and longer with every new round of changes.

“Tell ‘em Vital Speeches editor says it’s scientifically proven that an audience loses focus at 20 minutes and people begin to die at around 30,” I told her.

“Thank you!” she replied.

All in a day’s work, ma’am. —DM

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