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Welcome to

The Standup Trainer Newsletter

October 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.)

Welcome to all new and continuing subscribers!

In this issue: Boo!


What better topic to write about at this time of the year than presentation horror stories?

I am preparing to go back to Beijing , China in a few weeks, to teach an "Executive Communication" class to 45 employees of Pfizer. This all reminded me of a horrific (at least for a few minutes) situation that happened to me in China in April of this year, when I was teaching essentially the same class to a group of HIGH LEVEL GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS (as the nervous administrators constantly referred to them, alternately with "Dear Leaders").

One of the participants in the class was a man named (so my interpreter told me) "Mr. Ma." Mr. Ma was a nice-looking man, always smiling, always seeming to be paying attention. I remember thinking early on in the class, what a nice guy. I wouldn't mind having a class full of participants like him.

It was only on the second day of the class that I noticed that Mr. Ma was participating more than anyone else in the class. But that didn't bother me too much, as I was able to deflect many of his remarks by using body language to encourage others (on the other side of the room) to speak up as well. And besides, Mr. Ma was still smiling.

My interpreter, however, was getting nervous. "He is not asking relevant questions," she whispered to me. "That's OK," I whispered back, "I can deal with him. After all, this IS a class in presentation skills."

Then suddenly, during a bit on "how to deal with the Q&A," Mr. Ma asks me, "What is your opinion of your President Bush's stand on the war in Iraq ?"


THAT was an unexpected question.

Pause. Deep breath. OK (I think), watch this.

I turn to the other members of the class and say, "Mr. Ma has just demonstrated an example of an irrelevant question, meant to distract the presenter. Now, let's discuss how to handle this situation . . . ."

And I would have led right into a discussion of how to handle someone like Mr. Ma, when suddenly, a very tall Chinese man in the back of the room, stands up, and begins SHOUTING ANGRILY IN CHINESE!!!!

I am struck dumb. What is he shouting about? Is he shouting at me? My interpreter, who has turned very pale, is also stunned. Then she turns to me and says, "The man in the back of the room is the Human Resources Manager who set up this training session. He has just said that everyone here has come to this class to learn, and that if Mr. Ma does not want to learn, he should leave the class now."

Mr. Ma just smiles.

And does not say another word for the rest of the class.

To this day, I am convinced that I could have handled this situation WITHOUT the help of the loud HR Manager, but it was nice to have a "training policeman" resolve the problem for me so succinctly.

I've showcased many training horror stories in earlier issues; if you'd like to revisit them (or read them for the first time), they're here:

Fullbright Professor Makes Bad First Impression in Norway

You can be a FABULOUS presenter and still not be "right."

Sometimes all you can do is hope they're laughing WITH you, and not AT you!

When is audience participation not such a good thing?

Whoops! Did you see that slide? What slide?

Have transparencies, will travel!

Can this marriage be saved? It's always a question of compatibility.

Where there's a will (and a sheet and some safety pins), there's a way!

If you are suddenly attacked in class, divide and conquer!

Proof that Murphy's Law is alive and well in the United Kingdom.

An easy way to aggravate your students.

Beware the evils of brand-spanking-new technology!

A little improv can help, even if the students are packin' heat.

It was horrible . . . but it was also a huge teachable moment!

A Conference Catastrophe

A Conference Catastrophe II: The Evil Lives On

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