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Welcome to

The Standup Trainer Newsletter

March 2008

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.)

In this issue:

1. Overeager Participants and the Other Students Who Hate Them

2. The Standup Trainer Tries to Sit Down

Dear Dr. Standup:
I remember back in October of last year, you told the story of Mr. Ma, a very difficult participant in the presentation skills class you were teaching in China. As I recall, the point of the story was that everyone else in the class was bothered by Mr. Ma's rude behavior, and finally the Human Resources Director stood up and told him to behave or get out.
[Note: If you want to read the story of Mr. Ma, go here.]

I have a different problem: One of my students is a very extroverted, bubbly, effusive, dramatic participant. She has an opinion on every point brought up in class and does not hesitate to speak up (and out) at every opportunity.

My own first reaction was, "What a great participant! I love students like these!" But then after the first class I received an email from one of the other students who wrote, "I think it was very distracting how some other participants just blurted out things that seemed more disruptive than funny and it seemed like you were really encouraging that behavior." Of course I encouraged her behavior; I thought she was hilarious!

So what do I do now? Do I tell my highly participatory/opinionated loudmouth student to chill out and stop butting in? Or do I tell my concerned/carping student to just jump in herself and deal with it?

Caught between a Whoopee Cushion and a Whiner

Dear Caught:
There just is no pleasing everybody all the time, is there? But there IS a way to deal with opposing personalities in the classroom by using structured, facilitated activities that will take the spotlight away from the drama queen and allow the sullen bad apple to shine.

If you've conducted your class up to this point as an informal, large group discussion, you're going to have a tough time getting the blabbermouth to shut up. You need to come up with some structured activities that will give each participant a role to play or a task to perform. Then you merely have to remind everyone of the rules of the game if anyone starts to get too bossy or boisterous.

Here is a selection of general "brainstorming" activities, each structured so as to ensure that one or two pushy participants will not hog the whole show:

Rotational Ideation

Participants submit their ideas one at a time, in turn. (This approach lacks the spontaneity of the traditional method, but it does ensure that each participant will have the opportunity to contribute.) If a participant does not have anything to say, he/she says, “pass.” The session ends when everyone says, “pass.”

Successive Integration Method

Ask participants to write their ideas about a problem on individual slips of paper. Then ask two group members to read their ideas aloud. The other group members will then try to integrate those two ideas into ONE idea. Then ask a third participant to read his/her idea. The group then tries to integrate the third idea with the one they’ve already integrated. This process proceeds until all ideas are integrated.

The Slip Method

The Slip Method requires the participants to write their ideas on slips of paper (or index cards, or sticky notes). The completed slips are then grouped into logical categories and then analyzed. This method is particularly useful to ensure full participation and guarantee anonymity. It can also be used to generate the sections of a book or manual.

The Nominal Group Technique

This method was developed at the University of Wisconsin in 1968. Participants are seated in small groups at round tables. Each is given a sheet of paper with the topic (or problem to be solved) written at the top. They are then asked to brainstorm (individually and silently) a list of ideas to deal with the topic. The facilitator then goes around the table, asking each participant to share one idea at a time from his/her list. The facilitator records these on the flip chart. Participants discuss these, then vote individually on the ideas, ranking according to their preference.
My motto is, "When in doubt, facilitate!" But be sure to structure the facilitation so that all involved can participate equally. And for more games and activities, visit Game Master Thiagi's website (www.thiagi.com), where you'll find a slew of structured learning events to spark the dullards and quench the hotheads.
Dear Dr. Standup:
I realize that this might seem rather heretical to you, but I recently read that Elliott Masie tried SITTING DOWN for a training session and was quite pleased with the results. In his Learning Trends newsletter (#508), he says, "I just spent three days teaching our Learning Leadership Academy and sat down for most of the program. While most trainers usually spend the day on their feet to project energy and presence, it is interesting to experiment with sitting down. The discussions and tone of the sessions changed dramatically as myself and co-presenter Nigel Paine sat WITH the group rather than standing in front of them. Try it!"
What do you think of this?
Tired of Being on My Feet

Dear Tired:
I think it would depend on the size of the group. I can easily imagine sitting down with 10, maybe up to 20 participants, especially if they're seated in a semi-circle, but I cannot imagine doing the same in front of an audience of, say, 200 people.
As for me personally, I have tried sitting down with a small group, but find myself invariably popping up to my feet as soon as I want to make a point. It may just be physically and mentally impossible for me to teach sitting down. This is why I was not surprised when, after one of my classes in China, a Chinese student came up to me and said, "I so enjoy your teaching. It's like watching a cartoon!" (I believe she meant that as a compliment.)
How about the rest of you? Can you actually teach sitting down? I'd be curious to know . . . .

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