How the 18 Min Rule of TED Talks influenced my Storytelling Workshops

Learning from a workshop is not a framework and methodology hoarding exercise.

For all my Strategic Storytelling Workshops I suggest tailored content to the key client contact beforehand. I make these suggestions based on audience profiling that I do prior to the workshop. Almost always, my key contact asks me, “Can we cover more content?” For them, the rationale is, it takes time, effort and investment to organise workshops, so let us make the best of this one. It is a logical way of thinking. Isn’t it?

Storytelling Training and Workshop Singapore Malaysia

The moment I hear the client say, “Can we have more content?”, an image of an overfilled toy basket comes to my mind and I question myself, “Why do corporate professionals hoard frameworks and methodologies from workshops like a basket full of toys that never gets used?”

Having worked with TEDx Singapore in 2015, I learnt something about the TED Talks’ 18-minute rule which influenced my Strategic Storytelling Workshops and was a solution to this ‘Cover More Content Mindset’.

Why are TED Talks 18 minutes long?

*TED curator, Chris Anderson, explained the organisation’s thinking this way:

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 them 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.

Researchers at Texas Christian University are finding that the act of listening can be as equally draining as thinking hard about a subject. Dr Paul 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.

How do I apply this insight?

First and foremost, what is clear to me is that a Strategic Storytelling Workshop should neither be about framework hoarding nor should it be about creating a cognitive log. Actually, to me, my workshops are also not about learning. Learning is a very limited goal for a workshop.

A workshop is an oppurtunity to change, just like I have quoted in the featured image of this blog. TED Talks change the way you look at the world.

How do I achieve the change?

1- Strategically Curate the right amount of Content. Maximum 4 business scenarios.

2- Practice the hell out of each one of them.

When participants practice and see themselves getting better, they apply the learning, witness the progress and in the process, change. In essence, I want to give them one toy that changes them because they will play with it, discover with it and progress with it.

Storytelling Workshop Training Singapore Malaysia

Our Strategic Storytelling Workshop is based on Scenario-based Learning (SBL) in which we use interactive scenarios to support active learning strategies such as problem-based or case-based learning. 

* Source: Talk Like TED, Carmine Gallo

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