Communicate so they keep hearing

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Few people can maintain concentration beyond 20 minutes, when listening to a one-way monologue talk, as Speaker Confessions explains. A recent BBC TV program on rhetoric claimed that Dr Billy Graham rarely spoke for more than 20 minutes, and always used jargon-free simple language.

The long talk is not the way we teach kids. No more should it be for adults. One interesting educational development in recent years has been the formulation of adult learning principles. It’s not ‘we talk, you listen’ any more. And surprise surprise, we see here many elements of communication which are clearly demonstrated in the Bible, and also reflect biblical principles of behavior and respect, inter-personal relationships, and an understanding of the individual worth of any person.

Drama and role-play are hugely valuable tools in effective communication. I can still remember a missions conference where we briefly took part in a role-play, with some delegates acting as suspicious customs officers, and the rest of us attempting to gain access through customs into hypothetical difficult ‘creative access nations’. Many of us were abitrarily refused entry – it was just a game, but I can feel the sense of exclusion to this day! The couple planning much of the conference program had a masters degree in adult learning. And it showed.

Real life story is integral to good communication. Jesus used it all the time. Journalists illustrate abstract or fact-based stories with frequent true stories or quotes. Why? Because. It. Is. Good. Memorable. Communication.

Not long ago, our church watched a 10-minute video presentation about a ministry to a children’s home in E Europe. For an amateur production, it was well-shot and edited, with an unstilted voice-over. But there was no ‘story’, other than that the ministry started in year X, took volunteers over for short-term visits to children’s homes where conditions were not the best, and improved the kids’ lives considerably. A huge opportunity was missed to tell the story of a representative named child – how he had been orphaned, what he suffered, how things are now so much better for him. Or to present the ministry through the eyes of a single volunteer, how she had been impacted and enriched by the experience, and what she had learned.

I’m afraid I can’t even remember the country involved any more!

Here are more pages about communicating with an audience.

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