Let’s face it. Attentions spans are getting shorter, making it much harder to get your audience to stay put and focused when viewing an online video. We can see examples of our short attention spans everywhere, but nowhere as pronounced as in the political arena. In politics, the speeches of presidential hopefuls are written in a way that they can be broken into short sound bites. This provides the candidate with the opportunity to hold the attention of their audience while effectively getting their message across.

Your business video isn’t going to win you the White House, but it needs to at least win you the attention of your viewers. After all, the entire reason you made a business video – whether it be for marketing, eLearning or corporate communication purposes – was to get a message across to your audience. And to do this they need to watch the whole way through.

So what’s the culprit killing our attention spans? Is it technology, social media or television? It’s hard to say what’s making it harder for people to focus. For instance if you think social media is to blame, a survey from online dating site OKCupid showed users obsessed with Twitter had shorter relationships. Or, if you blame technology at large, consider that when it comes even to reading our attention span is being threatened in the digital age. After all, it’s hard to concentrate on The Great Gatsby when your own Daisy Buchanan’s Facebook updates are just a touch away on your tablet.

So how do you get your online video audience to stick around and pay attention? Here are some helpful tips to keep your audience from flipping the online channel before you get to the point:

Short and Sweet
For the attention challenged, it should come as no surprise that best practice is to keep your videos short and sweet. Have you ever seen a five minute political attack ad? Of course not, because Obama and Romney know their audience will change the channel before the ad even gets to its most important point.

A study of online video viewing habits by Visible Measures showed 20 percent of viewers abandon ship after a measly 10 seconds. A further 44 percent have flipped channels after a minute. If you’re not catering to these shorter attention spans, you’re losing over half your audience.

This is why it’s best practice to keep your video two minutes or under. These shorter videos ensure a greater percentage of your target audience is viewing your entire video and retaining your message. If you need your video to be considerably longer, break it up into easily digestible pieces and connect them via chapters or parts. Short, connected chapters will help viewers navigate your material without losing their attention. Chapters help viewers get to the information they need quickly and directly, and since all of your chapters are under two minutes, the information they need is also concise.

Start Strong
Now that we’ve established you only have about two minutes to convey your information, it’s time to whittle everything down to the most essential elements. Have you ever seen a presidential stump speech not start strong? No! Or at least not a good one. Presidential stump speeches start out with something to grab your attention and let you know why you need to keep watching. Remember, a full 20 percent of your audience will leave in the first ten seconds if your video and message are not compelling.

Residual messages are a good way to help you focus your presentation and clearly get your point across. A residual message is the one main thing you want your audience to take away from your presentation. This message should be clear in the beginning, middle and end of a speech. President Obama, known for being a great speaker, employs this strategy regularly. This method can help you get the message of your video across with more clarity and brevity.

Make it Visually Interesting
The most informative online business video is going to lose viewers if it is not visually appealing. Most politicians understand striking visuals enhance the story they’re trying to tell. Remember President Obama’s “Hope” poster? A strong visual can linger in the minds of voters, or audience members. While great visuals on the presidential scale don’t come cheap– President Obama has spent $16.4 million just on online ads alone– your video presentation doesn’t need to break the bank! Do invest in some decent video equipment and at least set up a 3-point lighting system. This is your company, after all, and you need to present yourself in a professional manner.

Another great way of keeping visual interest is to hook PowerPoint slides or other presentation tools to your video. Watching a talking head can be boring so it helps to offer secondary material for the viewer to reference. Make sure everything you’ve synced to your video is professional, eye catching, and on message.

Get Interactive
What better way to keep the attention of viewers than to get them involved? This is the reason presidential hopefuls are always attending town hall meetings. Seeing a candidate in person helps voters connect to them on a more personal level. Talking to voters directly and answering even their toughest questions helps politicians form lasting bonds. Leveraging these social ties can help a candidate pave a way straight to the White House. Getting social isn’t just for politics though, it’s also great for business videos with collaboration tools.

Adding social collaboration to video is essential when you are training or marketing. In today’s social media obsessed world, viewers are more likely to stick around if they see your video as a place where they can both give and receive feedback. Allow the audience to leave comments and ask questions, and then make sure to follow up in a timely manner. If viewers feel they’re being heard, they’ll be more likely to come back to your videos in the future.

Take some advice from the campaign trail to keep your online video viewers from flipping the channel. After all, if there’s one thing presidential hopefuls understand, it’s how to get people to pay attention. Getting viewers to stay put during your business video won’t get you a key to the White House, but it will engage and inform your audience.

What are some tips you have for keeping online video viewers engaged? Share them in the comments!