How many times haven't you heard that exclamation on the vent when things just aren't running as smoothely as they should, when small but annoying mistakes are made one after other? It's not necessarily that you're wiping, but one or a few players seem to die every trash pull, out of carelessness or a little bit too much of "bad luck" or whatever it is. You're evidently progressing a bit too slow and anyone who thinks a bit ahead realizes that there won't be time for many boss trials before raid is supposed to end or before respawns will put an end to it anyway.
What I'm wondering from time to time (being one of those who're crying "focus!", if not in vent, but silently to myself) is: does it really help? Will people focus better just because you tell them to? Honestly I doubt it. It could work if you call it maybe once or twice in a whole raid, but if you do it like ten times in an hour you'll stop hearing it, it won't mean a thing to you.
Still there are situations when the raid actually is showing lack of focus. Evidently something needs to be done. But where do you find it, the focus?
Well, personally I think you shouldn't underestimate the value of mana breaks for the players too, not just for the characters. To actually schedule a few minutes break a couple of times during a long raid will help a lot I think. At least I will get pretty low on energy after being completely concentrated for an hour or two. I know that having a glass of orange juice, a banana and maybe another cup of coffee will make me a lot more fresh and alert. Others may need to say goodnight to their children or mate, take care of bio needs, satisfy their cravings for nicotine or whatever it is that takes their focus away from the raiding. I think that skipping all the breaks just to use every single minute of the scheduled raid for being in combat is stupid, it will hurt the raid in the long run and cost you more time than you save. So don't be greedy. Take a decent break, why not after the first boss kill (if it's 25 man raiding) or after clearing a couple of bosses (if it's 10 man).
On the other hand: don't accept unscheduled breaks and AFK:s, out of any other reason than real emergency. Those breaks ruin focus if anything. For me focus comes with some kind of flow in the game. Actually it's easier to focus if the raid goes on at a decent pace, at least when it comes to clearing trash mobs. The tanks are sort of chainpulling, once you're done with a pull you've moved your attention to the next one. Of course it's a challenge sometimes for mana drinkers like me, but usually I'll manage. I've realized what I didn't understand when I first started to raid that I don't necessarily have to have a full mana pool when every single pull starts - and often I'll be able to mana up while the tank's building aggro. Keeping the flow and the pace up means more to the raid than that Larísa has got 100 percent mana. Honestly. I think that if you take to much time between the pulls discussing buffing, loot, mana drinking etc, or thinking too long about how to mark up the mobs, you really risk losing the focus of the raid.
People who aren't involved in those tasks will be tempted to start whispering with friends outside of the raid, alt-tabbing out to check their mail and such stuff. If you go ahead quickly you won't even give them the chance to think about it.
Then there are other times when just a break or keeping up the tempo won't be enough. After a number of wipes on a boss - the amount of tries varies from guild to guild - a certain mental fatigue will come. Players will start doubting their own ability as well as the ability of others. And when those thoughts come sneaking upon you focus will be gone. Now is the time when the raid leader will have to prove himself as the leader he or she is supposed to be, to step forward and to hold an inspiring speech. What will make the raid focus better? Is it words of encouragement, which points out what they're capable of, how you have confidence in them, reminding them of earlier victories - a verbal sort of hugging? Or do they rather need to be spanked a bit - being a bit nasty, shaking them up and telling them that their current performance sucks and that they clearly need to shape up or they don't deserve to be in the raid? Well, that depends on the situation and on the party. It could work either way, as a raid leader you need to have the intuition to know what kind of speech that best will help the raid to focus. Chose the moment carefully and only do it when absolutely necessary. If you overuse it people will stop listening and rather think you're ranting again.
So to summon it: what methods are there for a raid that needs to find some focus?
- Take scheduled breaks for the players to tend to their physical needs
- Keep up a decent pace in the raid, not taking unnecessary pauses for discussions about buffs, loot distribution, getting mana to 100 percent etc
- Inspire the raid by a good speech - whip them or hug them, whatever they need at the moment.
The idea of all of the methods is to help the raiders to keep up their energy, to be alert and totally present, not only with their character, but with their mind, not letting hunger, thirst, boredom or discourage make them drift away.
Of course this is written from a quite fresh raider's point of view - and I'm not a raid leader myself. So now I humbly ask for some more advice from my readers? Have you got any further suggestions how to find focus when you need it in the raid?