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Dealing with disruptions during your talk

[This post is part of the series on Preaching for youth]. Teens aren’t exactly the easiest audience for a speaker. Disruptions during a talk are fairly common as a matter of fact. Teen whisper with each other, or even talk out loud. They giggle, look at their cell phones, show pictures to each other. All the while, you’re standing there trying to give a talk. So how do you deal with these disruptions in an effective, yet loving way?

Ignore when possible

When it’s just a couple of teens talking a bit too loud with each other and the rest is still listening, ignore it. Usually, they’ll stop after a bit.

Use silence

An effective and subtle way to address the disruption is by using silence. Just be quiet for ten seconds or so. You don’t even have to look at the tens making the racket, as a matter if fact I would advice you not to as to make it subtle. Their noise can be heard better and nine out of ten times they’ll notice and stop, or their peers will ask them to.

Make a joke

A good way to get disruptive teens ‘back’ is by making a joke. Mind you, not a joke about them, but a joke in general. The laughter will interrupt whatever they were doing and will make them pay attention to what you’re doing.

Get their attention

Getting the audience’s attention in general will often stop disruptive behavior, like doing something, changing something, telling a story, etc. I’ve written a post about how to get your audience’s attention (back) while preaching, you could use any of these methods. It will focus the attention back on you and your talk, hopefully ending the disruptions.

barbie dolls

Make eye contact with a leader

Most of the times there will be leaders in the room as well. If the disruptive behavior is bothering you to the extent you have trouble staying on track, see if you can subtly make eye contact with a leader. He or she can then walk over to the teens to have a word with them.

Don’t admonish publicly

Normally, I wouldn’t advise you to admonish the teens that disturb your talk publicly, for instance during your talk. That’s quite a severe approach that can have lasting effects. The teens may feel so humiliated that they’ll never come back.

Talk privately

If the disruption was severe, or if you see a pattern emerging, talk privately to the teens involved or have another leader do this, for instance their small group leader. Usually i-messages work well here because they’re not accusatory and explain what their behavior is doing to you. If it’s a pattern, it’s important here to get to the ‘why’ of the disruptive behavior so sit the teens down for a good talk about what’s wrong.

What other methods do you use when teens are disrupting your talk?
[Image: swirlingthoughts via Compfight cc]

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0 thoughts on “Dealing with disruptions during your talk

  1. Sometimes when we need the attention of our teens. We point one finger in the air and one finger at the front of our mouth. The teens who notice it, are doing the same. We stop with this action when the whole group does this. Then we have the attention and do are say what we wanted to tell or wanted to do with the group.

    This is an appointment we made with our youth group.
    In our group, it works effectively and it brings the group together as a nice team.

    1. # Then we have the attention and do are say what we wanted to tell or wanted to do with the group.

      = Then we have the attention and do or say what we wanted to tell or wanted to do with the group.

      1. Thanks for stopping by Guido! I could completely see this work in a more informal setting, like when you try to explain a game or so or in a small group when doing a Bible study, but do you do this during formal talks or sermons as well? It would seem very disruptive to the process to me…

  2. i like this article, particularly because it does not admonish shushing which should be a crime in youth ministry. shushing is a self-fulfilling prophecy. when you tell people to SHHHHHHH they learn to not be quiet until you do so and a cycle of loudness is born. go into any school assembly in America and see the effects of it.

    this is a great article !

    1. Thanks! I never thought of the effects of shushing that way, interesting perspective…Thanks for sharing!

  3. […] Youth Leaders Academy – Dealing with disruptions – In this post by Rachel, she looks at ways to deal with disruptions, especially for youth […]

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