Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Ted Talks 18-Minute Rule - Ever Heard Of It?

When I mountain bike or hike to a climbing area, I don't really listen to music that often. The buzzing in my ear is usually a podcast. Some of my favorite broadcasts include those from TEDTalks. At this point, TED, which stands for Technology Entertainment Design, has garnered a cult-like status in the Thompson household. I'm an addict. The content is rich in worldly and outer-worldly study. From the emotional to the very scientific, TED covers the gamut. Recently, while downhilling on one of my favorite trails, I listened to a 60-minutes broadcast about TED. The program covered the origins of TED Talks and how they've become so fascinating. But the one part that struck me was their 18-minute rule, ever heard of it? 

Each TED Talk has one critical requirement: no talk/preso can go on for more than 18 minutes. The owner of TED, Chris Anderson, didn't just pull that number out of his head. Naturally, there's science behind it. Anderson puts it best in discussion about the 18-minute rule: 
It (18 minutes) is long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people's attention. It turns out that this length also works incredibly well online. It's the length of a coffee break. So, you watch a great talk, and forward the link to two or three people. It can go viral, very easily. The 18-minute length also works much like the way Twitter forces people to be disciplined in what they write. By forcing speakers who are used to going on for 45 minutes to bring it down to 18, you get the to really think about what they want to say. What is the key point they want to communicate? It has a clarifying effect. It brings discipline. 
I found a great article on LinkedIn that sited some work by Dr. Paul King. According to researchers at Texas Christian University, the act of listening can be as equally draining as thinking hard about a subject. Dr. King calls it "cognitive backlog." Like weights, he says, the more information we are asked to take in, the heavier and heavier it gets. Eventually, we drop it all, failing to remember anything we've been told.

Imagine if we all listened so intently! But that's the point about TEDTalks! They focus entertaining with education. Each talk has a clear objective: to get you thinking. Whether it is speaker or listener, we all could learn a thing or two about the art of engaging our colleagues and the world.

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