4 reasons getting attention for your message to you is TOUGH

Every day, you are bombarded with messages from people that want to influence you.

Talks, ads, Facebook posts, blog posts, books at the store.

Chances are, you ignore almost all of it. If you didn’t, you’d spend your entire day reading things you probably don’t need to (or have time for).

The downside is, your audience does this too. They’re bombarded with people that want to tell them things and to save themselves from going crazy, they ignore most of it. Everything they come across gets automatically and subconsciously considered to see if they should pay attention. To do this, they pass it through several filters.

Understanding what these filters are is one step in crafting a message that people love and share.

If you’re looking to get an audience to listen to your message, here are the 4 (pain-in-the-ass) filters your message has to pass through:

  • Filter 1: “Do I know what this is?”
  • Filter 2: “Do I already know this?”
  • Filter 3: “Do I want to know this?”
  • Filter 4: “Do I want to hear *this* speaker’s perspective on this?” (eg: or is it likely someone else that I can find quickly has a perspective I’ll like more?)


Filter 1: “Do I know what this is?”

If you see a blog post in another language, chances are you won’t read it. Seems obvious enough.

But, the same is true for something confusing or unclear (eg: using complicated lingo, an ambiguous message, or a message that’s confusing or rambling). When we were selecting TEDx speakers, a few of them had messages that were confusing.

Here’s one example — “I want to talk about thinking in business”, or “I have a number of ideas that connect a person’s hear to their mind”. What is this person trying to say? We weren’t sure either, so we filtered them out.

Before anything else, your audience tries to figure out what it is you’re talking about. If your audience fully understands what you have to offer, you’ll stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

Filter 2: “Do I already know this?”

“You should eat more vegetables” is a great idea, but you’ve heard this enough times that you don’t need this information again.

[clickToTweet tweet=”‘You should eat more vegetables’ is a great idea, but you’ve heard this enough times that you don’t need this information again. #fourfilters #findaviralmessage” quote=”‘You should eat more vegetables’ is a great idea, but you’ve heard this enough times that you don’t need this information again. #fourfilters #findaviralmessage”]

If there was a talk about eating more vegetables, chances are very high you’d never get curious enough to click on it….not because it isn’t a GOOD idea, but because you already know it. There’s no reason to investigate further.

The same goes for many motivational talks…they’re entertaining, but often we’ve heard these messages so many times before that we don’t value them as highly as they should be valued. For example, you already know that:

  • if you set your mind to something, you can do it
  • big goals can motivate you
  • time is precious
  • travel can expand your mind

…and so on (there’s a reason why most motivational speakers get turned down for TEDx)

Filter 3: “Do I want to know this?”

Once you pass the “do I know what this is” filter and the “do I know this already” filter, you’re left with “New Ideas”. Things that people don’t already know. The next test is…do they want to know?

Not all “New Ideas” are things people want to know. You probably don’t know anything about making soup from your worn out shoes, but I don’t suspect you want to either. It’s a “new idea”, but you probably don’t care.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Not all ‘New Ideas’ are things people want to know.” quote=”Not all ‘New Ideas’ are things people want to know.”]

I suspect you also don’t know what I had for breakfast yesterday, but again, you probably don’t care, or at least, you don’t care right now.

Your audience’s desire to know something depends on context too — they may not want to know about making ice cream in winter, but a LOT more motivated in summer. They may be especially motivated to learn about the law profession right after learning they’re getting a divorce, but not so much at other times.

Filter 4: “Do they want to hear *this* speaker’s perspective on this idea?”

I’d love to know the best way to meditate, but I’m much more interested to hear that from the Dalai Lama than from my friend who started meditating last month (even if the advice is the same).

You may see a post on your Facebook news feed about setting goals, but you’d probably like to know how to set goals if Richard Branson was teaching you rather than your unemployed friend from high school.

Trust and credibility have a critical effect on whether someone is willing to accept your message. Experience, showing you understand their struggles or getting a referral from a friend all play into this.

When crafting an idea to land on a TEDx stage and spread worldwide, it’s not enough just to *have* a message. Your message (unfortunately) has to pass through all of these filters in the mind of the audience. It’s hard.

The good news is, by understanding what these filters are, you can ensure your message passes through them as well as possible.

Here’s an action step for today:

Take a look at your Facebook news feed — it’s full of posts that people share with you in an effort to get you to click, comment, and share along to your network.

As you scroll, notice the filters at play. Is it confusing? Something you think you already know? Something you don’t want to know? Are you just not interested in learning from this person?

Leave a comment with some of the things you “filtered” out today. I’d love to see what you found.


Ryan Hildebrandt
Ryan Hildebrandt
Articles: 31

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *