You Only Have 27 Seconds

by vernsanders on March 13, 2012

As I often do when it comes to writing this blog, I was out looking at what other people are saying on the internet. I do this by reading blog posts and social media messages that have links to things I might be interested in reading. In this particular surf session, I came across a post called The 30 Second Rule.  It is a “sponsored” post on a website, so you have to understand that there is a sales pitch attached to it, but still, I think it is worth drawing your attention to the post’s premise that you only have 30 seconds to engage an audience when you are a public speaker.

I think that it is important to point out that most 30 second television commercials are designed to tell a complete story in more or less 27 seconds (in order to fit the 30 second time slot). That’s an advantage of visual media, obviously, but that commercial “break” has become the lowest common time denominator in current culture.

Let’s transfer those 27 seconds to the church music arena, shall we?

First let’s look at my purchasing decisions. I look at a lot of music every year (I don’t count, but I estimate I see about 3500 new titles in a calendar year). And given my time constraints, I generally listen to a demo when I’m looking at that music. My responsibility as a reviewer means that I listen through to the end if there is any chance that the piece might turn out to be good, but the reality is that if nothing moves me in the first 30 seconds or so, I’m looking ahead to see if there is anything the gives me hope this won’t be just another “same-old, same-old” anthem. If I don’t “see” anything that looks interesting, the piece goes straight to the recycle bin. What does this mean? I don’t care how good your “bridge” is, if you don’t give me a good intro, or start with something engaging, I’m gone.

Now let’s look at my worship planning decisions.  My congregation cuts our music program a lot of slack because we have a track record of engaging them and continuing the worship momentum. But that having been said, we give a lot of thought as to where in the worship sequence (and I’m not just talking about the “worship set list”) any particular piece of music is located, and the logistics of how to get the musicians to continue the worship momentum by not leaving a whole lot of “dead air” unless it is by design (to give people time to absorb, or to decompress, for instance). What does this mean? My musicians have learned that they need to be ready, because the music is going to start when it needs to start, and I don’t like to wait for everybody to get “perfectly situated.” The musicians have learned to look ahead and be “anticipating the moment” of the musical event so that when the music starts they are ready to contribute.

So, for my own situation (and in general, for our Select 20 reviews in Creator magazine, something worthwhile has to happen in the first 27 seconds, or I ask “why are we doing this piece?”

How about you? Is your number greater or less than 27? Tell me how you approach this issue by leaving a comment below.

Ipod shuffle status (What is this?): 3701 (Senza Una Donna – Paul Young)  of 7875

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