You really can only set about one solid idea every 10 minutes or so. That happens to also be about the length of time you can hold someone’s attention. I believe the two are closely related.

I’ve spent much of the last week working with students leaders in the Pellissippi State New Student Orientation program. They impress me greatly with their enthusiasm, their dedication, and their energy. As we work on their presentation to their new student groups, I see things that just reinforce the idea that “out loud” is for context and inspiration, not detail.

NSO students get a packet of information that tells them all sorts of things about Pellissippi State. Their challenge isn’t getting enough information; it’s making sense of the information they get!

There’s also the issue of inspiring them to master the information. Even some of the NSO leaders have commented to me that they received a similar packet of information when they went through orientation, and never looked at it. In that case, all the information in the world will do no good!

As they work on getting ready to present to their student groups, the NSO leaders seem to really understand that their jobs are to give context and inspiration to the information new students get through handouts and Web sites. That understanding helps a great deal as they make decisions about what to include.

For instance, at one point during practice, one presenter considered the need to include screen shots showing how to access a certain information system. Those details are available already, however, and when the presenter remembered that “out loud” isn’t for details, but rather for communicating big ideas, the choice became obvious: hammer on the importance of that system, and that they have the information about logging in when they’re ready to get into it.

So they have focused on the three or four big ideas they want to get through to their audiences, and have also thought about their structure so they can plan for the realities of human attention span. I’m pleased with them—they are going to be able to harness the power of “out loud” to make a positive difference to these new students just starting on their college journey.

What about you? Are you using “out loud” as a cheap but ineffective way of communicating detail? Or are you harnessing the power of “out loud” to contextualize and inspire?

Photo by Flickr user Casey Fleser.

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