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Welcome to

The Standup Trainer Newsletter

July 2006

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:

  1. Presentation Horror Story of the Month
    It was horrible . . . but it was also a huge teachable moment!
  2. The Answer to Last Month's Horror Story Question
    How a little humor saved the day!
  3. Presentation Skills Book Review
    What's that smell? Oh, it's my audience . . .
  4. Useful Online Resource of the Month
    Icebreakers galore!

Announcing a New Workshop:

The Presenter as Facilitator: How to Achieve Consensus and Promote Productivity with Groups

In this highly interactive and energetic four-hour workshop, participants will practice seven different ways to facilitate productive brainstorming sessions. They will also role-play (on videotape with playback and critique) strategies for dealing with "difficult" brainstormers: dominators, clams, naysayers, snipers, and super-agreeables.

Who should attend: Anyone who has been asked to facilitate a group problem-solving session.

Comments from recent participants at a Sandia National Laboratories Black Belt Summit Conference, in response to the question, "What was the best part of the course?"

Interactive role-playing, especially after lunch!
Engagement of everyone.
Very involved-keeps you going!
The activities were great!
Wanted more!
Great workshop, time flew by, I wanted more.

For more information about how this workshop can be tailored for your organization, contact Ellen at 505-307-1700 (edowling@standuptrainer.com).

1. Presentation Horror Story of the Month

[Editor's Note: Have you a good story to tell about the time SOMETHING WENT WRONG at a presentation you were giving (or attending)? We are soliciting submissions for this segment of our newsletter. If your story is chosen, you will receive a FREE copy of either of Ellen's two books, The Standup Trainer or Presenting with Style (your choice). Simply send your story (just a couple of paragraphs will be fine) to edowling@standuptrainer.com.]

This month's winner is Sherry Tenclay, Supervisor of Professional Development and Skills Programs for the University of New Mexico's Department of Continuing Education.

Some time ago, I was teaching a class in "Work Skills" for students from socially and educationally challenged backgrounds: high school dropouts, unwed mothers on food stamps, etc. The goal of the class was to provide skills to enable them to function adequately in society, finish their education, and get a good job.

On this particular day, we were discussing the concept of personality differences, as described by John Trent and Gary Smalley in their book, The Treasure Tree. [Editor's Note: Trent and Smalley divide the world into four types of animals: lions (aggressive drivers), otters (expressive egotists), golden retrievers (amiable crowd-pleasers) and beavers (analytical methodical types).]

It had been a stressful day in general, and then suddenly things got much worse: One woman started laughing about something, and the woman sitting next to her (who had been in a bad mood all day) turned to her and said, "Get a life!" which immediately ticked off the laughing woman and then next thing I knew the two of them were punching and kicking each other!

I yelled to the men in the class: "Keep them away from each other!" And as they pulled the women apart, I ran out of the classroom to the secretary's office and yelled: "Call campus police and 911!"

By the time I got back to the classroom, the two women had taken their seats and were no longer screaming at each other. I then realized that this would give me a HUGE TEACHABLE MOMENT and we continued an even MORE practical discussion of the importance of recognizing (and tolerating) personalities that differ from our own. It was not a demonstration I might have wished for, but it sure led to a real lesson that day!

[Afterword: The police did arrive shortly after and they did take names and statements. After they and all the students left, I burst into tears!]

2. Presentation Hall of Shame

If you received last month's newsletter (and if you didn't, email me and I'll send it to you personally), you'll remember that I described a training HORROR situation that happened to me while teaching a writing class for "command level" (and armed) police officers. The officers in the back row started passing around a note and giggling (yes, giggling, can you believe it?) until they became so distracting to the other students that I knew I would have to do something to put a halt to their silliness. But what to do?

I knew I couldn't "discipline" them. (They were all 30- to 40-year old career officers.) I knew I couldn't lose my temper and yell at them: "Give me that note!" But wait a minute . . . maybe I could PRETEND to lose my temper. Maybe I could pretend to be an outraged ENGLISH TEACHER (every student's nemesis) and act like I was going to rip that note out of their hands and read it aloud and publicly humiliate the miscreants!

Which is exactly what I did. I put on my best Sister Mary Elephant/Miss Thistlebottom act, strode down the aisle with my hands on my hips, and said in a high, shrill voice, "What in the world is going on back here?! Give me that note!!"

Now of course, for one nanosecond, I thought to myself, "Oh dear. What could possibly be in that note? Am I about to publicly humiliate myself?" But the die was cast and I couldn't turn back now.

I snatched up the note and read it out loud. (Here is where you have to remember that I had been talking about the difference between writing for work and writing for school, the difference between writing a "report" and writing an "essay.") The note said, "An essay is a person from Española."

All of the officers roared with laughter. Then they settled down, I resumed the discussion, and there were no more incidents to report that day. (Several officers wrote on their class evaluation forms, "Instructor has a good sense of humor.")

[Editorial Note: If you don't get what's so funny about the note, send me an email and I'll explain it. Of course it won't be funny then.]

3. Presentation Skills Book Review

This month's review is a continuation of last month's discussion of "I've Asked Miller to Say a Few Words," by Cherie Kerr (CA: ExecuProv Press, 1995).

Kerr (one of the founding members of the LA Groundlings), bases her book's philosophy on the concept of improvisation and its usefulness for presenters and trainers, as well as professional comedians. One important point that she discusses is the need for presenters/trainers to treat each audience as unique, not just "members of the Chamber of Commerce," or "technical engineers," or "brain-damaged welders," or the like, but as a group of people with a specific "temperature" ("the prevailing mood of the group in attendance").

Here are a couple of tips to help you "smell your audience" (as Kerr calls it) in the first few moments of your session:

1. Watch your audience arrive and absorb their energy. "What impressions do you get? Now, play off that, instead of a preconceived notion of how you thought they'd be."

2. Begin with an icebreaker. "This can be in the form of a joke, a fun story, asking the audience as a group one or more questions, kidding with a certain someone in the audience—the possibilities are endless."

In my workshop, The Presenter as Facilitator, I start things off with this icebreaker: I ask participants to write on the back of their tent cards what they'd like to see written on their tombstone. This is a very interesting exercise, with epigraphs ranging from the sublime ("She was a good friend to all and loved her family very much") to the silly ("I should have brought a magazine"). It really energizes the proceedings!

[Another version of this icebreaker, if you think the tombstone writing is too morbid, is to ask them to write on the back of their tent cards what they'd most like to read on the little slip of paper in a fortune cookie.]

4. Useful Online Resource of the Month

Speaking of icebreakers, here's a cool site from About.com with a extensive inventory of introductory activities: http://adulted.about.com/od/icebreakers/.

They should give you plenty of opportunities to "smell" your audiences!

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