Resources for Presenters and Trainers

Free! "10 Tips for Effective E-mail"

Free! "5 Ways for Overcoming Death by PowerPoint™"

Training Programs in Communication Skills

Who We Are: Associates'  Biographies


Welcome to

The Standup Trainer Newsletter

August 2007

Brought to you by Ellen Dowling, PhD ("The Standup Trainer") and the fine folks of Dowling & Associates, Inc.



This newsletter is guaranteed certifiably useful as well as amusing. (If you are not completely satisfied, there are unsubscribe instructions at the end. But we're betting you'll change your mind by the time you get there.)

Welcome to all new and continuing subscribers!

In this issue:

More ideas on how to include interactive activities in your presentations or training sessions.

Dear Dr. Standup:

I am designing a two-day training session on presentation skills for 10 participants. I want to begin the training with an interactive activity that will energize them but not take up too much class time. (My schedule allows only 15 minutes for this activity.) Any suggestions?


Long on Engagement but Short on Time

Dear Long/Short:

You've touched on one of the major concerns for including exercises/activities in a presentation or training session: How to find enough time to do justice to the activity and yet ensure that the course content is not comprised.

One of my favorite activities for the start of a presentations skills class is the old game, "Two Truths and One Lie." If you've not heard of this game before, it's quite simple to play: Each person stands up before the rest of the class and describes three things about him/herself, one of which is untrue. (For example, "Hi, I'm Stella Kowalski and here are my three things: I have a pet ferret, I love to go 'caving' on weekends, and I once trained at Langley for a career as a CIA operative.") The rest of the class then asks the speaker questions to determine which of the three "things" is the lie.

I like to use this activity in a presentations class because it accomplishes two content-related goals:

1. It gets participants up and speaking in front of the class right away.

2. It demonstrates immediately how easy it is to overcome stagefright if you involve your audience in your presentation.

HOWEVER—every time I've used this activity, it takes at least 5 minutes (maybe more) per person. If you have 10 participants, that's almost an hour right there just for this "warm-up" activity.

So let's look at some opening exercise alternatives that will meet these two criteria:

1. No longer than 15 minutes to conduct the exercise;

2. People have to stand up and speak in front of their classmates.

Here's an activity I've used before in my presentation skills classes with great success. I call it The Introduction Game and it goes like this:

Divide the group up into pairs. (If you have an odd number of participants, just rotate the extra person in a group of three.) Ask the player A's to interview the player B's and find out three things about them:

1. What they do at the company they work for.

2. Where they are from originally.

3. What they hope to get out of this class.

[Note: You can vary the three "things" to elicit whatever information you would like to glean from your particular group.]

Next, ask the B players to interview the A players. (Give the whole group 5 minutes for the interviews.)

When all are ready, have each player come up to the front of the class and introduce the player they interviewed, being sure to end the introduction with a big, broad, "Now please put your hands together and welcome So and So!" or something similar. (You lead the audience in applauding wildly.) The player who was interviewed comes up, takes a bow, and then immediately starts an introduction for the person he/she interviewed, using the same format, and so on.

All the applause makes this a very energizing exercise. I even used this activity with my Chinese students in my business communications class at Peking University and they LOVED it!

Here's another alternative activity, one I adapted from that Master of Interactive Energy himself, Thiagi. (If you don't know who Thiagi is, go here immediately!) Thiagi calls this "Four Questions," but I think of it as "Instant Audience Analysis."

Divide the class into 2 or 3 groups. (In a class of 10, you could have 2 groups of 5, 5 groups of 2, or 2 groups of 3 and 1 of 4.) Give each group a card or sheet of paper on which you have written one question. Sample questions:

Where are you from originally?

What do you like most about speaking in public?

What do you like least?

What do you hope to learn in this class?

What do you like to do in your "spare" time?

Ask each group to develop a plan for collecting answers to the question from everyone in the room. Then they spend 5 minutes interviewing as many people as possible and collecting answers to their question. They then analyze the answers and create a summary report of the analysis, which they present to the rest of the class. (I like to give them a blank transparency to use as their visual aid.) Everyone in each group goes to the front of the room for their presentation, but only one person needs to actually speak.

I like this exercise because it achieves the "get-them-up-in-front-of-the-class" objective, but does not force the "stricken-with-stagefright" participants to keel over too early in the proceedings.

As I said, I have used both of these opening activities many times and with excellent results. But while looking over Thiagi's invaluable site, I noticed that he has taken an improvisational game from the TV show "Who's Line is it, Anyway?" (my all-time favorite program) and adapted it for trainers. The game is called " The World's Worst " and I am going to try it as a opener for the presentation skills classes I am conducting later this month.

If all goes well, I'll report on this activity in next month's newsletter. If it thuds like the proverbial lead balloon, I won't mention it again.

That's it for this month! If you enjoyed this newsletter please do pass it on to your friends. (Or send them to www.standuptrainer.com to get their own subscription. Why should YOU have to do everything for them?)

If you have a suggestion for something we could do to make this newsletter even MORE useful as well as amusing, please contact us:

Dowling & Associates, Inc.
Ellen Dowling, President
(505) 307-1700