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How to Get a Room Full of Teens to Listen

Getting a room full of teens quiet is at times a struggle hard enough to start pulling your hair out. They’re distracted by everything and everyone—oh, look, a squirrel!—and getting them to shut up and focus can be a real challenge. But sometimes we make it harder for them (and thus for ourselves) than it has to be.

Here are 3 secrets to getting a room full of teens to listen to you, for instance when you’re doing announcements, or explaining a game or program part:

1. Ditch the Mic

I volunteer in a local outreach ministry and last week we were doing some games with the high schoolers in a gym. The acoustics in that gym are awful: the sound keeps bouncing around and is amplified to deafening levels. To be heard, the youth pastor used a mic and portable sound system, but that only contributed to the acoustic cacophony. So I tipped him to ditch the mic.

Don’t engage in a sort of ‘war’ with the teens to see who’s louder. Instead, force them to be really quiet in order to hear you. It may seem counterintuitive, but it works (providing you also do the next two secrets). Of course, this doesn’t work if there simply are too many teens or of the room is too big, but even then you can soften your voice so they have to strain to listen.


2. Make Every Word Count

If you want teens to listen to you, make every word count. Don’t use five minutes to explain a game that could have been easily done in two. Give them a reason to listen to you.

That also means you have to use an ‘attractive’ way of speaking, even when you’re explaining something. If your attitude and tone of voice communicates a lack of interest, or if your non-verbal communication screams that you don’t expect people to listen anyways, teens will pick up on those signals.

3. Don’t Engage or Distract

This is a biggie. Don’t engage in the distraction game by responding to distractions yourself, or worse: creating one. Let’s say teens have finally decided to settle down a bit and then one of them does something minor, like drop a phone. Ignore it. Don’t engage in the distraction, because it will be like giving them permission to be distracted again as well.

And in the same way, don’t create distractions of your own, for instance by making a joke right when you’ve got them quiet and listening. When they’re quiet, do everything you can to keep them focused!

What else do you do to get a room full of teens to focus and listen to you?

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