Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.

Facilitative Training
Can you call yourself a facilitator?

Guest Gamer
An Interview with Lenn Millbower
Magic, music, and other show-biz techniques.

Job Aid
Game Show Music Placement Analyzer by Lenn Millbower
How effective is your music placement?

Small steps, brief thoughts, and simple principles.

Brian's Words
How Big Is Home? by Brian Remer
An important insight in exactly 99 words.

Check It Out
Word Scrambler ( )
Can you raed tihs magesse?

Reading More with Les
Two Useful Collections by Les Lauber
Outside the room and inside your imagination.

Single Item Survey
An Effective Facilitative Trainer
What makes a facilitative trainer so effective?

Improv Principles
Status by Brenny Rabine
When is a good time to lower your status?

Improv Game
Status Cards by Kat Koppett
It's all in the cards!





To increase and improve the use of interactive, experiential strategies to improve human performance in an effective, efficient, and enjoyable way.

Editorial Roster

Editor: Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan

Assistant Editor: Raja Thiagarajan

Associate Editor: Jean Reese

Contributing Editors: Brian Remer and Les Lauber

Editorial Advisory Board: Bill Wake, Matthew Richter, Samuel van den Bergh, and <type your name here>

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2007 by The Thiagi Group. However, they may be freely reproduced for educational/training activities. There is no need to obtain special permission for such use as long as you do not reproduce more than 100 copies per year. Please include the following statement on all reproductions:

Reprinted from THIAGI GAMELETTER. Copyright © 2007 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.

For any other use of the content, please contact us ( for permission.

Subscription Info

All registered subscribers receive Thiagi GameLetter free of charge.

However, to prevent us from becoming bankrupt, we have decided to adopt a Busker Protocol. If you like what you read, if you find it useful, and if you'd like us to continue publishing the newsletter, please feel free to chip in with any financial contribution. Our estimated annual cost for this newsletter is $30,000. So we suggest an annual contribution of $30 (which is less than one-third the subscription cost of Thiagi's earlier paper-based newsletter). We would appreciate any amount that you send us, but make sure it is less than $30,000 (since we don't want to make a profit). You can mail your check to Thiagi, 4423 East Trailridge Road, Bloomington, IN 47408 or call us at (812) 332-1478 to charge the amount to a credit card. Or you can charge your credit card online, through The Thiagi Group, Inc. Please let us know if you need an invoice for financial record keeping.

Feedback Request

Thiagi believes in practicing what he preaches. This is an interactive newsletter, so interact already! Send us your feedback, sarcastic remarks, and gratuitous advice through email to . Thanks!


Facilitative Training

For several years, I have been designing training games, simulations, and other such activities, using them, and training trainers to use them. In this process, I have discovered that the typical train-the-trainer program fails to provide competencies related to conducting training activities. To handle this situation, I have begun conducting untrain-the-trainer sessions that are designed to replace presentation skills with facilitation skills.

This article explores some basic concepts of facilitative training that equips trainers to become more effective users of training activities.

What Is Facilitation?

The dictionary defines facilitation as the act of making easier. More specifically, Roger Schwarz (in the 2007 revision of his book, The Skilled Facilitator) provides this definition:

Group facilitation is a process in which a person whose selection is acceptable to all members of the group, who is substantively neutral, and who has no substantive decision-making authority diagnoses and intervenes to help a group improve how it identifies and solves problems and makes decisions, to increase the group's effectiveness. (page 5)

Using methods that range from simple brainstorming to elaborate computer-mediated problem-solving protocols, facilitators help groups to plan projects and strategies, collect and share information, interpret and analyze data, review and evaluate products, make and debate policies, deconstruct and reconstruct workflow procedures, handle crisis, resolve conflicts, prioritize ideas, and make decisions.

What is Facilitative Training?

Although many trainers call themselves facilitators, purists would argue that trainers cannot play the role of facilitators since they have pre-specified goals for the participants. There are also debates about whether facilitation is a subset of training or whether it is the other way around. I prefer to run away from these futile arguments and, for the sake of clarifying what I plan to explore in this chapter, offer the following definition:

Facilitative training is a process in which a person assists a group of participants to select, modify, or accept a set of learning objectives and to acquire new skills, knowledge, and attitudes related to these objectives. The facilitator supports collective inquiry through the use of activities that encourage participants to interact with each other and with a variety of content resources.

Facilitative Training Compared to Traditional Training

Before we begin discussing details of facilitative training, it will be a good idea to compare this approach with typical training in the corporate workplace. Here are a dozen comparisons between the two:

Desired outcome

Traditional Training: Effective learning and improved workplace performance.

Facilitative Training: The same: Effective learning and improved workplace performance.


Traditional Training: Traditional trainers primarily present lots of standardized content.

Facilitative Training: Facilitative trainers primarily support collaborative learning by a group of participants

Professional preparation

Traditional Training: Train-the-trainer sessions emphasize presentation skills and consistent delivery of the training content.

Facilitative Training: Train-the-facilitative-trainer programs emphasize conducting activities that support the group to learn on its own.

Perception of learners

Traditional Training: All learners must have prerequisite skills. Differences in learning styles are acknowledged but the focus is on catering to linguistic and logical intelligences.

Facilitative Training: The current group of learners and their learning styles determine the choice of content and activities.

Overall design

Traditional Training: The design of content and activities are predetermined and consistently implemented.

Facilitative Training: Original design is viewed as a suggested safety net. Final design organically evolves during the session.

Goals and objectives

Traditional Training: A standard set of precisely stated goals and objectives are specified for all participants.

Facilitative Training: Session begins with broad goals that are modified through the group's inputs.


Traditional Training: Content is the most important element. Based on task analyses, accurate and need-to-know content is delivered through participant manuals, slides, and standardized trainer presentations.

Facilitative Training: Content is given lesser importance than the process. Content is obtained from different types of existing resources, including participants' current expertise and experience.


Traditional Training: Activities are given lesser emphasis than content. When there is a time crunch, traditional trainers usually skip the activities or reduce the time spent on them.

Facilitative Training: Activities are considered to be the most important factor that contributes to learning. These activities require participants to gather, generate, process, and apply the content.


Traditional Training: Frequent interactions between the participant and the content are required.

Facilitative Training: Frequent interactions among participants are required.

Questions for participants

Traditional Training: A standard set of questions, generated by the instructional designer, is interspersed throughout the training session. These questions (for which the trainer has The Correct Answers) are used for controlling the direction of presentations and discussions.

Facilitative Training: The facilitative trainer frequently makes up and uses open-ended questions. Participants are encouraged to generate their own questions.

Questions from participants

Traditional Training: Questions from participants are generally discouraged or postponed. The traditional trainer responds to participants' questions with standard answers.

Facilitative Training: Questions from participants are encouraged and used to change the direction of presentations and discussions. The facilitative trainer encourages collaborative inquiry to discover the answers.


Traditional Training: Traditional trainers stick to a single hierarchical sequence of content presentation.

Facilitative Training: Facilitative trainers modify the sequence to suit the needs and preferences of participants.

What Next?

We will continue our comparison of traditional training and facilitative training in a future issue of the newsletter. We will also explore different variations in facilitative training methods and the competencies associated with becoming an effective facilitative trainer.

Guest Gamer

This column features interviews with outstanding designers and users of interactive experiential activities. Our guest this month, Lenn Millbower, the Learnertainment® Trainer, is an expert in applying show biz techniques to learning. Lenn is an in-demand speaker; a creative and dynamic instructional designer; an accomplished arranger-composer skilled in the psychological application of music to learning; a popular comedian, magician, and musician; and the president of Offbeat Training®.

I have several of Lenn's products on my bookshelf: ASTD Info-Line: Music as a Training Tool, focused on the practical application of music to learning; Show Biz Training, the definitive book on the application of entertainment industry techniques to training; Cartoons for Trainers, a popular collection of 75 cartoons for learning; Game Show Themes for Trainers, a best-selling CD of original learning game music; Training with a Beat: The Teaching Power of Music, an authoritative book on the application of music to learning.

An Interview with Lenn Millbower

TGL: Lenn, what's your specialty area in the training industry?

Lenn: I help classroom trainers keep trainees awake so the learning can take place through the infusion of entertainment techniques into learning. I have a more specific area of expertise in the application of music to learning.

TGL: How did you begin applying entertainment principles to learning?

Lenn: My first career was as a professional magician-musician traveling throughout the country. Because we were a nightclub act, our pacing had to be fast and furious. Drunks aren't known for their long attention spans. We became extremely adept at capturing and maintaining attention. When I later joined the corporate and collegiate worlds as an instructional designer and professor, I discovered that the techniques we used in nightclubs were applicable to distracted learners in classrooms. As I developed entertainment for the classroom, I evolved it into something I call Learnertainment® (the application of entertainment techniques to learning).

TGL: What is Learnertainment® and how does it relate to game playing?

Lenn: Learnertainment® includes eight different principles. Each principle has an associated action step. The eight are:

Emotion creates memory — Evoke emotion
Laughter produces positive energy — Harness humor
Visuals aid retention — Present with props
Suggestions guide outcomes — Make it magical
Auditory signals trump visuals — Mix in music
Multiple perspectives deepen meaning — Layer learning
The performance sends a message — Stage the surroundings
The performer sends a message — Perfect the performance

On the surface it might appear that these eight principles have nothing in common with gaming, but they do. Games evoke emotions in game players, cause laughter, provide visual mnemonics to the subject matter, can have a musical communication component, and add perspective to the subject matter.

TGL: Can you give us an example of how music can work with a game?

Lenn: Music stimulates all types of emotion. It's constantly on display on every TV game show. The current favorite, NBC's Deal or No Deal, for example, features high energy, up-tempo music when a contestant is invited down to the stage. Taut music accompanies moments when a player must make a decision. Loud punctuations play when the contestant turns down a deal. High energy, triumphant music is played when the contestant makes a deal or wins. This music placement is a key ingredient in the show's success.

TGL: Isn't music difficult to add to live training?

Lenn: Well, yes it is, but it need not be difficult. There are plenty of software sound effect packets, music CDs, royalty free music, and sound makers to make a game even more exciting. The invention of the iPod makes it even easier. Any sound effect, music clip, or fanfare is available at a moment's notice. With some simple advance planning, music can enhance any game.

TGL: What types of games do you use most frequently?

Lenn: I favor game-show style activities because they are easy for participants to understand and begin playing with minimal facilitator instruction. I also like unscrambling activities where a series of items are given to the trainees in a cut-up form and must be arranged in sequential order. These activities are ideal for processing difficult procedures. Finally, I favor any type of activity that places game control in participants' hands.

TGL: What warnings would you give about using instructional games?

Lenn: I have two: First, I get really annoyed at trainers and instructional designers who use plug-and-play activities. They stick activities into learning programs where they think movement or interaction is needed but do not work to integrate the game with the program content. If an activity isn't completely relevant and seamlessly integrated into the content, it has no value. With the tools that the gaming community has developed, there is no excuse for running generic, pointless, activities.

TGL: What's the second warning?

Lenn: I don't recommend cutting game time short, usually by trainers who think that their talking points are more important than the learner's need to process the information. As an instructional designer, I've often been told that the specific group in question likes to be hands-on. But almost always, what the instructor is really saying is, “They don't want to listen to you but they love listening to me.” When class time runs short, the first thing to go is the game. The instructor starts cramming information in a misguided attempt to get it all in. It allows the trainer to claim that everything was covered. Everything may have been said, but the topic is not covered until the attendees have a chance to process the information, most often through a well-designed game. A secondary peeve that I have is the instructor who tells trainees to begin a game or other activity and then interrupts the activity to share more information. The whole point of a game is to give the trainees a self-immersive experience. At this point, the instructor simply needs to fade into the game itself. Trust the trainees and let them go.

TGL: What is your prediction about the future of learning?

Lenn: I believe that, as the older workers leave the workplace and as younger, more technology savvy learners enter, the future of training is in gaming. Once elearning fully embraces more game-like experiences, there will be tremendous pressure on the talking head instructor to be interesting. Trainers who like to hear their own voice will no longer be able to hold participants' attention. In order to compete with the interactivity of elearning, live instructors will have to present more game based training programs. The learner will drive us towards an interactive-gaming future. The result will be better learning for all.

Job Aid

Game Show Music Placement Analyzer
by Lenn Millbower

You can also download a PDF version with (much) better formatting. It's 30,106 bytes long and requires Adobe Acrobat (or similar).

Use this Matrix to aid you in choosing music to enhance your game. Write down your musical selection for each stage of the game. Circle YES or NO to respond to each question.

When introducing the game

Your musical selection: _____________________________________

Does the music you want to use…

When displaying prizes to be won

Your musical selection: _____________________________________

Does the music you want to use…

When calling for volunteers and introducing game show players

Your musical selection: _____________________________________

Does the music you want to use…

When asking game show players questions

Your musical selection: _____________________________________

Does the music you want to use…

While waiting for players to answer questions within a time limit

Your musical selection: _____________________________________

Does the music you want to use…

While conducting lightning rounds

Your musical selection: _____________________________________

Does the music you want to use…

While thanking the players for playing

Your musical selection: _____________________________________

Does the music you want to use…

While concluding the activity

Your musical selection: _____________________________________

Does the music you want to use…

The more times you circled YES, the more effective the music placement will be.

This template is inspired by information found in Lenn Millbower's book Show Biz Training (AMACOM, 2003). All rights reserved.



If you want to order one of the books reviewed below from Amazon, click its cover art. We receive a small commission if you do this.

[Book Cover] Maurer, Robert. (2004). One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way. New York, NY: Workman Publishing Company, Inc. (ISBN: 0-7611-2923-5)

The basic idea presented in this book is simple and clear: Great changes are made through small steps. Radical changes and large goals frighten our brain and prevent access to the logical thinking cortex. Small goals, on the other hand, bypass the fear, engage the cortex, and set us up for success. Using several authentic examples, Robert Maurer explain how to inspire creativity by asking small questions, develop skills by thinking small thoughts, guarantee success by taking small actions, handle crises by solving small problems, and strengthen intrinsic motivation by giving small rewards.

Sample practical suggestion from the book: Instead of going on a strict diet, toss out the first bite of a fattening snack. Do this for a month. For the second month, spit out the first two bites. Continue this incremental process until you have stopped eating fattening snacks.

[Book Cover] Maisel, Eric. (2007). Ten Zen Seconds: Twelve incantations for purpose, power and calm. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, Inc. (ISBN: 9781402208539)

This is a small book with a powerful idea. It presents a 10-second technique for reducing your stress level anywhere, anytime. The technique has two components: a breathing part and a thinking part. You use a single deep breath as a container for a specific thought that is related to one of the 12 incantations (or positive affirmations). Maisel combines Eastern concepts from yoga, meditation, and mindfulness with Western concepts from cognitive therapy to provide a strong basis for his recommendations.

Sample practical suggestion from the book: Think “I expect nothing” to remove the vicious cycle of expectations, negative feelings, and uncentered floundering. This healthy detachment does not suggest the absence of goals. However, it recommends that you release your need to control if you want to achieve real control.

[Book Cover] Buckingham, Marcus. (2005). The One Thing You Need To Know ... about great managing, great leading, and sustained individual success. New York, NY: Free Press. (ISBN 0-7432-6165-8)

Marcus Buckingham mulls over a tough challenge: how to provide short, clear answers to complex problems without resorting to oversimplification or triviality. He rises up to the challenge and provides the one thing that will help us achieve each of these three goals: excel as a manager, excel as a leader, and achieve sustainable personal success. Interestingly, the secret of effective management focuses on diversity while the secret of inspiring leadership focuses on the opposite quality of commonality. The key parts of the book that deal with organizational success and individual success provide additional explanations and examples of the three principles.

Sample practical suggestion from the book: Find the most generous explanation of the other person's behavior—and believe it.

Brian's Words

Brian Remer is Creative Learning Director at The Firefly Group ( ). In addition to writing 99 powerful words every month for this column, Brian invents games and interactive strategies to expand learning and deepen insights.

How Big Is Home?
by Brian Remer

How Big Is Home?

Driving across the New York interstate a car approached from behind. With lights flashing and horn blaring, a middle-aged couple smiled and waved enthusiastically as they sped past. “Hey, what's up?” I thought. Then I noticed their license plate: Nebraska, just like mine but a county across the state I'd never visited. I waved and smiled emphatically.

The three of us had yet to meet but here, a thousand miles from home, we were neighbors, even friends. We could exchange gossip at a diner!

The farther you are from home, the bigger home becomes.

Check It Out

Word Scrambler ( )

Tihs is not eaxctly a pzzlue but an inttreeinsg dnteosaiortmn of the biran's aliitby to mkae maening out of slebcmrad and jlbmeud wodrs, as lnog as the fisrt and the lsat ltetres are in thier ccorert ptosioin.

I use tehse senetnces to dmtsonreate how sarmt the biarn is.

Wtrires sepnd a lot of tmie mnkiag srue taht tiher winritg is caelr and esay to udntanserd. But a mtietvoad radeer can undrentasd yuor massgee mcuh mroe eilsay tahn you bveilee.

Retcenly, I drseoievcd tihs Wrod Scmablrer wbetsie wrehe you can go and tpye a mgsasee wtih clcreroty slepeld wdros. (Don't wrroy. The URL swohn abvoe is not smclrbaed.) The prargom semlacrbs the leertts in ecah wrod (lnvaieg the fisrt and the lsat ltetres in tiher ccorert litnacoos) as you tpye! You can cut and ptsae the sacbelmrd wdors to certae yuor datostmenoirn magesse.

Reading More with Les

My friend Les Lauber, a Trainer and Program Manager for the University of Kansas Public Management Center, is one of the most voracious readers I know. I have blackmailed him into reviewing a couple of useful books every month.

Click the book covers to order them through Amazon. (We receive a small commission if you do this.)

Two Useful Collections
by Les Lauber

[Book cover] Gary Kroehnert. (2002). Games Trainers Play Outdoors. Sydney: McGraw-Hill Australia.

Training a group of people who have cabin fever is tough. Especially when they have just come back from lunch, expecting another four hours of dull, uninspiring lecture when the sun is shining playfully across the trees and grass outside. It's not only school children who ask “Can we have class outside today?” Adults are quicker to ask this question, if anything. Gary Kroehnert has an answer: “Yes.”

Kroehnert packs 75 games into his 203-page book. Because these are the meat of the book, the casual (or impatient) reader may skip the excellent introduction. Gary's description of facilitator responsibilities provides a structure necessary for understanding his games, and even experienced ropes facilitators will find themselves nodding thoughtfully as they review it. His justification for outdoors-style training games is succinct and effective. Spend some time digesting Kroehnert's concepts of debriefing. In addition to his suggested debriefing questions in the activity descriptions, Kroehnert provides a list of 15 issues a trainer can bring into the session when appropriate or necessary.

Many of the games are familiar: Balloon Races is a variation of a three-legged race. Trust Fall is a standard, and I have used Pick A Box for years to examine leadership in problem-solving situations. Kroehnert takes these exercises and builds on them. Three-legged races require cooperation, right? So how much more cooperation is necessary for Three-Legged Soccer? Moving is a teamwork game particularly well-suited for a parking lot—even one with a number of vehicles in it. A grown-up take on Hide And Seek gets played in the dark, making it a perfect learning activity for an evening when the participants will spend several days in the workshop. I have used Contagious both as a simple energizer and a metaphor to examine how organizations tend to become more sluggish as they grow.

As with many books of this nature, a grid near the front of the book cross-applies the activities to several criteria. In addition to information related to the training objectives, this grid indicates the game's risk level, energy level, location, and required props. I have often used the grid to help me manage the energy flow during a session. These games are enjoyable so learners engage in them; have depth so participants learn from them; and are flexible so you can adapt them as you need.

[Book cover] Ken Jones. (1993). Imaginative Events for Training: A Trainer's Sourcebook of Games, Simulations, and Role-Play Exercises. New York: McGraw-Hill.

I purchased this book largely for its title. I did flip through the pages before I paid for the book to be sure it really would have imaginative role-plays and simulations. But the idea of events that appealed to learners' imaginations was what got to me.

I haven't been disappointed. Just the simulation titles jump-start your imagination: Gender-In-Law (a gender-based communications activity), Banana Peel (to develop presentation skills), and Singing Refrigerator (which simulates team planning).

Jones designs his activities to provoke the learners in their thoughts and behaviors. Both of these categories are subdivided into three categories: creativity, efficiency, and personal. Each of his 48 activities is assigned to one of these six subsets. His approach is very easy to follow—a description of the activity and its objectives, logistical concerns, methodology, and sample debriefing questions are included with sample handouts.

The activities are flexible enough so they can be adapted to a large variety of objectives. As designed, they cover a wide variety of thoughts and behaviors: hidden agenda (Leaks and Designing Soap), determining value (Number Auction and Trading Values), diversity (Same Again Wine Co. and Gene People), and icebreakers (Creating Portraits and Houses Challenge).

One phenomenon I have sometimes observed in training and development participants is that a simulation that is too close to their reality can actually cause them to distance themselves from the event with complaints about how it isn't realistic enough. The simulations and roleplays Jones offers are carefully designed to elicit the same thoughts and behaviors one would observe in reality, but the activity itself is far enough removed from reality that learners don't feel the same threat. The trainer can then begin to point out similarities between the simulation and real life. Participants find this approach less threatening.

Jones' Imaginative Events for Training can be used as the core of any number of training events. Whether using the activities as designed or as a jumping off point for designing variants, trainers and instructional designers will find very useful simulations and roleplays in this book.

Single Item Survey

An Effective Facilitative Trainer

A few months ago, we introduced the concept of single item surveys. Read about this approach in the February 2007 issue of TGL.

Here's the single item for this month:

What is one important characteristic that increases the effectiveness of a facilitative trainer?

Read (or re-read) the first article in this issue of the newsletter to learn about the concept of facilitative training.

Be selective. Of course, you can identify several important characteristics of an effective facilitative trainer. But limit yourself to a single characteristic.

Here are a few responses that we have already received:

To contribute your response to this question, visit this survey page (opens in a new window) and type your short answer.

You may include your name or keep your response anonymous.

Improv Principles

by Brenny Rabine

In a recent workshop for managers, we asked the question, “When is it a good time to lower your status?”

One incredulous voice in the back said, “Lower my status?!”

Everyone laughed. Could we really be suggesting that it can be effective to lower our status to someone we're managing? What did we even mean by that? The participant blustered a bit, afraid that his question made him sound like an ego-maniac. On the contrary, we assured him. He'd just blurted out something many others in the room believed: If I lower my status, no one will take me seriously. In training, status games are powerful tools to examine our performance of status in interpersonal situations.

Improvisers make excellent use of status in scene work and storytelling. Low characters can rise up to become heroes, and high characters might be brought low by a fatal flaw. According to Keith Johnstone, status is not about who you are but what you do. A king may hold high office, but if he meekly obeys his bossy servant, he is playing low status to the servant. So, we look at status as a collection of behaviors that raises or lowers our position and makes it above, below, or equal to the position of another character. Status is a performance of our relationship. And since status is relative, it cannot exist on its own.

Status games feel a little scary if we cling to the idea that we are our status. The trainer's job is to remind the participants that our status is a performance. It's not us. It's what we're choosing to do in a given situation. To raise this awareness, then, we use status games to jolt participants to recognize that we're playing a status game all the time, in every interaction. Once recognized, our status performance can change according to our needs in the scene we're playing.

When we consider each workplace interaction as a little scene, we can step back and make some choices. At first glance, taking a high status position seems the obvious choice. And sometimes it is. When we're playing high status, we're asserting our credibility, driving for results, and leading with conviction. All of these sound like time-saving measures. However, if we're playing high status, we could also be ignoring others' ideas, putting others in their place, and presenting ourselves as aloof and closed-minded. This is rarely effective or efficient.

But are we suggesting that we would be better off playing low status with others? A low status performance helps us to listen closely, ask questions, and seem open and approachable. Having a range of low status behaviors at our disposal can be a handy tool in crisis management, negotiation, and consensus building. At its worst, however, low status can make us seem insecure, a novice, or easily overlooked. The challenge, then, is to know when to play high and when to play low.

We're most comfortable with those whose status is equal to our own. We remind participants that people follow leaders more willingly when their status positions are almost equal (with the leader just a bit higher). By stretching our range of status performances, we can raise or lower our status, to better connect with others.

Exercising our status muscles feels like suddenly having super powers in interpersonal relationships. Try it and tell us how it's going!

Improv Game

Status Cards
by Kat Koppett

(This activity is taken from Kat Koppett's book Training to Imagine: Practical Improvisational Theatre Techniques to Enhance Creativity, Teamwork, Leadership and Learning.)


Participants are given a playing card that indicates their status. Each participant “wears” her card on her forehead without knowing what it is. Pretending to be at an annual employee meeting, participants treat each other according to the status indicated by the card. At the end of the roleplay, participants line up in order of their perceived status.

Alternative Uses


A deck of playing cards for every 52 participants


10-20 minutes

Number of players



Distribute a playing card to each participant. Make sure that there are a variety of numbers, low to high.

Instruct the participants not to look at their cards as you distribute them.

Have the group place the cards face out on their foreheads, still without looking at the cards.

Set up a roleplay. Explain that everyone is at an annual company meeting. Each participant should be treated with the status indicated by her card. (Aces are high; twos are low.) As participants get clues about their status, they should take on the behaviors that are associated with it.

After a few minutes of mingling, ask the participants to form a line with the lowest card at one end, and the highest at the other. Participants should place themselves where they think they belong, still refraining from looking at their own cards.

If there are fewer than 20 players, ask each one to guess her card out loud.

Invite participants to look at their cards.

Debrief the participants using these types of questions:



Adapted from Matt Smith, Rebecca Stockley and Seattle Theatresports