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Welcome to

The Standup Trainer Newsletter

November 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:

Dr. Standup Answers Your Most
Pressing Presentation Questions
(New feature!)

You are all invited to submit any presentation-skills-related question to Dr. Standup. (You are invited to submit any unrelated questions as well, but no promises on how useful the answers will be!)

You are also invited to respond to any question with answers of your own. (The Doctor is magnanimous and will publish alternative responses.)

And now, this month's question . . .

Dear Dr. Standup:

More and more frequently, my training classes are interrupted by the jarring sound of a cell phone going off when I am trying to make a critical point. I have tried asking my participants to turn off their phones at the beginning of the class, but someone always forgets to turn theirs off again after the break, and so disrupts the class with some insipid, cacophonic tune. Is there any way to prevent this distraction in class?


Jenny (867-5309)

Dear Jenny:

Ah, how I long for the good old days, when no one had cell phones, and the only way a student could be interrupted in class was if another person peeked in the window (waving wildly) or knocked on the door ("Is Yossarian here? I have a message for him.").

SO less disruptive and distracting!

Well, I do admit that the theme from the Lone Ranger CAN be a bit unnerving to hear just as you are saying, "Now the most important point I wish to make today is . . . ," but it has been my experience that most participants are themselves horrified that they forgot to turn off their phones and they usually rush to the door and out of class earshot quickly.

When this happens, it's your job to continue on with the class, calmly and collectedly, helping the students to focus on the topic under discussion. If you don't make a big deal out of the interruption, they probably won't either.

The problem is what to do with those few eejits (Irish for "idiots") who insist on ANSWERING their cell phones in the middle of class. Here are some options:

1. Try a little humor. You say:

"If that's for me, tell them I'm busy and can't talk right now."


"Tell them I want mine with mushrooms and extra cheese."

2. If that doesn't work, try the Ellen Degeneres ploy: Pick up your own imaginary phone and pretend to have a conversation with the rude participant. "So nice of you to call. Well, you see, I'm in the middle of a presentation right now, so I can't really talk. (pause) Oh, really? What kind of operation? (pause) They cut off his what?"

3. If THAT doesn't work, try to shoosh the one with the phone out of the class by means of hand gestures and body movements.

4. If THAT doesn't work, stop talking yourself and (through pantomime) get everyone else in the class to surround the cell phone abuser and glare threateningly at him or her.

Of course, if you try any of these options, you will have disrupted the class even more than the cell phone guy. You will need to call for a break immediately while you recoup!

Here's an excerpt from a relevant article by Rivkela Brodsky, printed in the Daily Lobo (the University of New Mexico's student newspaper) a few years ago:

It is becoming more common to hear Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5" during class than at a concert.

Students' concentration is sometimes broken by the digital sounds of famous tunes coming from cell phones, while blushing students try desperately to turn them off.

That awkward feeling is one freshman Tahzeeb Gillani knows.

"It went off in the computer pod once," she said. "It was kind of embarrassing because I didn't know it was on."

Gillani said she only carries her cell phone for talking to her mom or for emergencies.

"I don't use it at school because I'm busy concentrating on schoolwork," she said.

In most of her classes, she said teachers request that students turn off their cell phones. But in others, she said professors leave theirs on and give students the same option.

"I don't mind as long as we are allowed to do the same," Gillani said.

Dean of Students Randy Boeglin said UNM has no specific policy regarding cell phone presence in classrooms.

"It's left up to the individual instructor," Boeglin said.

Graduate student instructor Kevin Bennett has an interesting policy when a student's cell phone goes off in his social psychology class.

"If the phone rings, I don't ignore it - I stop class," Bennett said. "The person whose phone went off must announce to the class what their adult porn name is."

The name consists of the student's middle name and the name of the street they lived on when they were younger.

"It's not to embarrass them," Bennett said. "It's just motivation for people to turn off their phones."

Since he implemented the policy this semester, he said incidents of phones going off in class have gone down.

What do you think of that idea? Do you have any other ideas about how to deal with interruptive cell phones or pagers? Send them to me and I'll publish them in next month's newsletter.


Catherine 50 Acre Road (my adult porn name)

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).

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