by Ted Frank | July 10, 2017
According to the Statistics Brain Research Institute in Palo Alto, CA people now have shorter attention spans than a goldfish (8.25 seconds versus the goldfish's nine seconds).  So how can you grab their attention, hold it, and help them beat the goldfish? One of the most effective ways is quite unusual in the corporate environment. Marketers use it all the time, designing into ads, stores, and pretty much every public space imaginable. 

But the most sophisticated purveyors of its power are the craftsmen behind movies and television. What is this mysterious, but incredibly powerful element? Music.

Marketers and movies use music to instantly zap us right to a place, a time period, or a feeling. They use it to inspire us, make us happy, and open us up to new ideas. In movies, they use it to cement key moments so we'll remember for years to come. 

So why aren't people leveraging the power of music in meetings and events?

In my work with corporations, I've asked this question many times. Three main reasons emerged why business people don't utilize music as a powerful component in their presentations: 

It simply doesn't occur to them

It feels difficult 

It feels risky 

But if we're already losing their attention, then a little bucking of the conventional may just be the thing to help bring it back. And what an opportunity to distinguish ourselves and shape our image in the same powerful way that movies and marketers do.

So here are some easy ways to harness the power of music and make your meetings powerful and memorable.

Welcome everyone in

With so many obligations every day, our colleagues often arrive weary and expecting to be bored. Having music playing as they walk in can refresh them, clear their minds, and quickly show them that this isn't just another drab gathering.

I call this "open music" because it relaxes everyone as it opens them to your message. Songs that are positive, upbeat, expansive, and universally enjoyed, such as Motown, Michael Jackson, or Pharrell are perfect for this feeling; death metal, not so much. But it's even more powerful when it's relevant to your topic: in my Data-to-Story workshops, I've been playing Margaret Glaspy's "Emotions and Math" because it hits two big points we'll be discussing throughout the day. And it's also a likeable song. The result is that people are more relaxed, open, and ready for my information and ideas.

Inspire with propel music

Just like a climax in a movie, music can help you create a rallying point that inspires everyone around your idea. Music that's exciting and propels everyone forward with positivity is the ticket here. I often play the Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing" because it's got those exact traits and releases that dopamine mentioned earlier.

Video tamed the radio star

Because you never want to look like a gimmicky DJ, delivering music in a video can make it feel appropriate and still provide the same power. And because it's self-contained, it's also a lot easier to manage with your clicker. 

To design music into your video like a pro, follow the aforementioned formula. Begin with open music, then move toward propel music so you can create that inspiring crescendo. A recent anthem can give you both: Taylor Swift's "Style" opens with an alluring but expansive guitar, then builds tension as more instruments are added. Later there's the break that gives everyone a rest, and then it all builds again toward the anthemic "We never go out of style." 

An anthem, especially one that matches your initiatives tagline, can quickly rally everyone together. If played to a large group, check with your legal department to see if you need to license it. In a small and confidential setting, you're usually in the clear.

Music. It's powerful, gets the dopamine flowing, and it's perfect for bold innovators like you. For that next meeting when you need to get their attention, music will help it sing. 

Ted Frank is the principal story strategist at Backstories Studio. His book, Get to the Heart, shows professionals how movie-style storytelling can make their presentations clear, compelling, and c-suite ready.