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You Have Less Than 18 Minutes

TimerYour kids can’t listen past 18 minutes

I’ve been working on my presentation skills lately and came across a book called, “Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds,” by Carmine Gallo.  This book studies the most impactful TED talks and shares principles that every presenter can use to make a bigger impact.

For those not familiar with TED, it is a series of lecture events focused on learning from thought leaders in Technology, Education and Design.   Each talk is limited to 18 minutes.  No matter who you are, how smart, rich, famous, powerful or important your topic, it’s limited to 18 minutes.

Short, focused, memorable is the key to TED talks, and the more I think about it, it probably is the key for talking to our kids, too.

I was watching Andrew, a team member in the Boys’ Dorm, deal with a tough confrontation with a boy at our youth ranch; and what impressed me about their interaction — Andrew didn’t go on and on.  He gave the kid plenty to think about in a short, focused, and memorable way; and then told him they would talk more the next day.  Andrew clearly knew that kids can only process so much information at one time.

None of us can truly multitask.  We can do two activities as long as only one requires focused attention.  For example, I can walk and talk, but if I add in chewing gum, things may start to fall apart for me.   It’s hard for adults to pay attention longer than 18 minutes, and even harder for our kids.  It gets even more difficult if they aren’t sure where you are taking the conversation.

Tips for short and effective talks with your teen:

  • Let them know what your point is.  Don’t leave them guessing about why you want to talk.  It may sound something like this: “I’m concerned that you aren’t sleeping enough and I’d like 5 minutes to share why I’m concerned,” or: “I know you feel I go on and on about how proud I am of you, but would you give me two minutes to share a couple things I’ve noticed recently that I’m really proud of.”
  • Plan your end before you start.  Too many conversations are great until the awkward end.  I remember an epic conversation fail when I was a high school student who was very shy around girls.  I approached these girls on the beach and gave a compliment thinking they would make fun of me and say something mean.  Instead, they said: “Oh, that’s so sweet! Thank you!”  At this point, I should have had a plan, but I didn’t; and so I just awkwardly mumbled some stuff and left feeling stupid.  Maybe that story doesn’t help, but it is fun to remember; and I hope you understand that ending well is more important than starting well.
  • You don’t need to say everything just because they are listening. One of the good things about keeping it short is that it will actually increase your total talk time.  Your teen will be more inclined to listen in the future if they know you respect their time and attention span.
  • Make it memorable.  Great talks use visual aids, excellent word pictures, and engage the senses to hold their audience’s attention and drive the point home.  Our kids are highly visual and as parents we really don’t often even try to engage more of their senses other than their ears.  If you are talking about trust and “letting out the line” when they show trust, then why don’t you actually get a rope and demonstrate?   Your visual aid doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to compliment the idea you are trying to convey.

Question:  How do you hold your teen’s attention when you talk?

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