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Welcome to

The Standup Trainer Newsletter

November 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.)

In this issue: Zzzzzzzz . . .

Dear Dr. Standup:

I just led a training session for new hires to teach them about our performance review system. It was a small group of about six people. One of the participants fell asleep during my presentation and proceeded to snore loudly throughout the rest of the meeting.  I didn't want to embarrass the guy by waking him up (but in retrospect, was it any less embarrassing for him to be snoring in a meeting?), so I tried changing the tempo of the presentation in an attempt to wake him up and hold his interest (he'd rouse a little and then nod off again and start snoring again), and then I just gave up and rushed through the presentation so the poor man could go back to his desk to get some sleep!

What would you have done in that situation? 


Sleepless in Albuquerque


Dear Sleepless:

Ah, sleep. As Shakespeare said it so well in Macbeth (Act II, Scene 2, lines 35-39):


" . . .the innocent sleep,

Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care,

The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath,

Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,

Chief nourisher in life's feast . . . ."

Of course, Macbeth had just murdered the King of Scotland and was having a bit of trouble getting some shuteye, but that's another story. (And who would want to have Lady Macbeth sleepwalking through a mandatory recertification training session?)

But I digress. Actually, Sleepless, I myself have had a sleeper or two in my classes from time to time. (Hard to believe, I know, but there you go.) I've taught writing classes for many years for companies like Intel, and many times a student in my class would have come right to my grammar class (grammar mind you, such an interesting topic!) after working all night. So when that person fell asleep, I just made sure that he/she was sitting in the back of the room and not disturbing anyone. (The snoring, of course, makes it a different problem.)

I am reminded of an amusing event that occurred a long time ago at an American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) leadership conference in Dallas , TX . It was that deadly hour after lunch, 30 or so participants stuffed in a stuffy room, and the speaker decided (for reasons unknown but time will tell) to lead them all in a VISIONING EXERCISE, which involved telling them all to sit back, relax, and CLOSE THEIR EYES.

Well. He couldn't have made it any worse if he'd also passed around those neck pillows one wears on a long flight and a bowl of Lunestas.

Sure enough, after a few minutes, an elderly gentleman in the back of the room fell deeply asleep. And then began to snore. His was a snore of such epic proportions that those of us out in the hallway working the registration desk could hear him as well, although at first we just simply assumed that the speaker had decided to demonstrate the use of a leaf blower in class.

The speaker (we were told later) tried everything polite he could do to wake "Buster" up—he talked louder, he dropped books on the floor, he moved closer to the sleeper—all to no avail. Finally, the only thing he could think of to get the class back in control (everyone was, of course, laughing hysterically) was call for a break.

What could this speaker have done to prevent this situation? He could have used his own knuckhead to figure out beforehand that a "visioning" exercise would be death after lunch. It should be just common sense that you don't do quiet, introspective activities at a time when participants are focused more on digestion than discerning.

Then he should have prepared an engaging, interactive exercise designed to keep people alert and awake from oh, around 1 to 2:30 PM. Put everyone into groups and pick a "leader" for each group. (Make sure that anyone who looks like they're about to doze off is appointed the leader!) Have them discuss something, solve a problem, or play a game. Even better, make them stand up to work together: Give them flip chart paper and markers and tell them to "go to the wall." (It's harder to sleep standing up.)

This situation reminds me of a story told about a young, ambitious playwright who got his first play produced on Broadway. A very influential and prominent theater critic (sometimes identified as Carl Sandburg, sometimes as George Bernard Shaw) attended opening night, but slept through the entire performance.

After the show, the playwright accosted the critic in the lobby. "How could you!" he sobbed. "How could you sleep through the entire performance when you knew how much I valued your opinion?"

"My dear young man," the theater critic replied, "sleep IS an opinion!"

Any other thoughts on how to keep anesthetized audiences awake during your presentation? Send them forth!

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