Why is my TEDx talk so short?

I have 840 seconds to encourage people to value human to human communication as much as they value their technology.

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8 days to go until my TEDx talk at the Open University. I’m very excited. I have 14 minutes to convince the world to join my crusade. 840 seconds to encourage people to value human to human communication as much as they value their technology.

You see, I’m frightened that in our excitement about all the amazing things technology gives and promises us, we’re losing what I think is our most fundamental life skill.

All around us – in homes, cars, offices, restaurants, chambers of government – two things are happening. 1. People are not listening and talking to each other at all. I bet you’ve seen a family around a restaurant table, each one on a device. 2. Debate (in public and in private) is becoming angry, ugly and ever more personal.

Social media in particular has taught us to communicate rapidly, briefly, simplistically, without nuance. I worry it’s making us think that way too!

It takes fewer characters to name call – “nasty woman”, “bad man” than to unpick ideas you disagree with. Perhaps Michael Knowles has spent too much time on social – hence his attack on Greta Thunberg on Fox News in September – “mentally ill”. Why not go after the science, Michael?

The problem is, the more we avoid human to human communication, the less confident we become. It’s like a sport. We have to learn techniques, and then we have to practise. If not, there are real-world consequences for us all, every day. It takes skilful communication to:

  • Shine in a job or university interview
  • Complain about the cold chips and get a reduction on the restaurant bill
  • Change hotels without causing offence to the owner
  • Negotiate a discount on a new bed
  • Ask for a pay rise or promotion
  • Present compelling ideas to a client or colleague
  • Deliver tough feedback to a team member
  • Avoid an argument with your teenager over the length of her skirt!!!

The consequences of downgrading or marginalising communication can be more serious than congealed chips. Why else has ITV launched its 'Britain Get Talking' mental wellness campaign to encourage people to simply chat to each other, away from digital distractions?

Of course, this takes time, the thing all of us struggle with in the 21st century. Our pace of life seems ever faster. Concentration spans are ever shorter – 8 seconds according to Microsoft’s research. We’re turning into goldfish.

Which is why my TEDx talk is so short…..