Tuesday Teaching Tip: Stick to the 18-Minute Rule

Today’s teaching tip comes from the book Talk Like TED. It’s a book that documents the 9 best practices of the top TED Talk presenters. These are the people who mesmerize audiences and get their points across. While there are significant differences between the 18-minute talks they give and what we do in a Bible study, I want to use this presentation tip to make application to the way we lead our Bible study groups. Here is what the author of Talk Like TED says:

Eighteen minutes is the ideal length of time for a presentation. If you must create one that’s longer, build in soft breaks (stories, videos, demonstrations) every 10 minutes. Why it works: Researchers have discovered that “cognitive backlog,” too much information, prevents the successful transmission of ideas…It (18 minutes) is long enough to be serious but short enough to hold people’s attention…According to King, the accumulation of information results in “cognitive backlog,” which, like piling on weights, makes the mental load heavier and heavier…cognitive processing – thinking, speaking, and listening – are physically demanding activities…the longer the task or the more information that is delivered, the greater the cognitive load.

I’m guessing that you don’t lead an 18-minute Bible  study (more like 35-45 minutes), so taking a cue from the research in Talk Like TED is important. If our Bible studies are twice as long as a TED talk, how much more important is it that we give our people “soft breaks”?

To become a better leader of Bible studies, learn to break your Bible study into shorter segments of 5-10 minutes. At the end of a section of study, shift gears and do something different (if you’ve been talking a lot, put people in groups or show a video clip). Remember that “cognitive backlog” is a real thing, and the people in our Bible studies are no different than those people who sit and listen to an 18-minute TED talk…our brains all tire of information, and our minds wander.

Let’s learn from the best presenters in the world who deliver outstanding TED Talks.  Help your people take short mental breaks. Change things up every 5-10 minutes. Shift gears. Your people will rise and call you blessed.

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