HOW TO ENGAGE YOUTH?
- DIFFERENT STROKERS FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS
Understand your audience. How old are they? How street-wise are they?How connected are they? Gender? Any recent trauma in their environment?
- WHAT MOTIVATES THEM?
Younger children want to protect themselves and the world. Teens want to protect themselves and those younger than they are. Teens want to help others, especially younger than they are, and their friends. They tend to think they are fine as is.
- LISTEN AND BE FLEXIBLE
No matter how well a project is planned, accidents or misfortune can still happen with it. And when you add young people to the mix, what you thought they wanted to hear and are willing to entertain may change in a flash. Listen to their comments. Watch their expressions and level of fidgeting. Be prepared to alter the program and respond to their needs, not your prepared script.
- SET EXPECTATION
Who are you and why are you addressing them? Most presenters to an auditorium packed with students are boring. They lecture. They have a perspective that school administrators like. And that offer runs counter to what the students want to hear. Walking that line between powers-that-be and your student audience isn’t easy. But it’s crucial to gain and hold their trust.
- START WITH THE END IN THE MIND
Aside from earning your speaking fee or fulfilling your community service goals, what do you hope to accomplish? Communicate that to your young audience, so they can follow you and buy-in (or not). Use their motivation to help get you there. Want to change the world? Save the rainforest? Feed the poor? Get into college? Become famous? Address that. And end with a call to action. Do, build, remember, share!
- ACKNOWLEDGE AND HONOR THEM
Presenting to young people it’s a two-way street. You need to convey information and in some cases try to change behavior. You want to inspire and engage them. You have many tools and tricks in your arsenal, but none better than a few in the audience who „get it“ and help you get to your goal. Induce them to talk more. Then thank them. Acknowledge them. Really include and hear them. Let them know it’s a „we“ game, not just about you. They will respond!