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

Interactive Lecture
Distributed Reviews
Interaction after your lecture.

Interactive Story
Shrink your story.

An Activity from Mark
Let's Go To the Movies! (Opener / Assessment) by Mark Isabella
A free activity and a special discount on 53 more.

Short Story
Adventures in Storyland
A microstory about storytelling.

Instructional Puzzle
The Secret of Handling Sales Objections
Here's an important idea.

International Workshops
Thiagi Workshops Outside the USA
Back to Singapore and Hong Kong.

Online Course
Coaching for Performance: A Facilitated Online Experience by Matt Richter
With a special discount for TGL readers.

Pieces of Advice
Follow @thiagi on Twitter.

LOLA 3: Instructional Magic
A sure way to get their attention.

From Brian's Brain
Become Motion Activated by Brian Remer
A link to the latest issue of Brian's newsletter.

Online Survey
How Do You Conclude Your Training Session?
The end….

Survey Results
A summary of your responses.

A Survey From Matt
Online Learning
Elearning experiences.

Check It Out
Two Guys On Your Head ( )
Listen to interesting conversations.





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

Editorial Roster

Author and Editor : Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan

Assistant Editor : Raja Thiagarajan

Associate Editors: Jean Reese and Tracy Tagliati

Contributing Editors: Brian Remer and Matthew Richter

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2014 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 © 2014 by The Thiagi Group, Inc.

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

Subscription Info

To sign up, or to donate and help us continue this newsletter, please see the Online Newsletter page on our website ( ).

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!

Interactive Lecture

Distributed Reviews

This interactive lecture is based on my Each Teach textra activity in which different people learn different steps of a procedure. It uses the fact that people usually focus only on small units of a lecture.


To encourage participants to share their recollection and ideas about a unit of the lecture they focused on.


Minimum: 9
Maximum: 50
Best: 15 to 30


About 45 minutes (depending on the length and complexity of the lecture content)


Use this Strategy When

Sample Topics


Decide on the number of groups. Estimate the time you will need to present your training content. Divide this by 3, 4, or 5 (which is the number of minutes for each unit of your lecture). The answer you get is the number of groups. Make sure that the groups have at least three members. If not, decrease the unit time suitably.

Example: You estimate that your lecture will last for 15 minutes. You have 17 people and you are thinking of 3-minute units. When you divide 17 by 3 (and round off the answer) you get 6. This is the number of groups you will divide your participants into.


Brief the participants. Have the participants count off by as many numbers as there are groups. (Example: If you want to create five teams, ask the participants to count of by fives: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, 2, …) Announce that you are going to give a lecture presentation, and invite the participants to listen to the entire lecture. Explain that from time to time you will identify participants with a different number to pay special attention to the next unit of the lecture. Everyone with that number should concentrate on the content presented in that unit and take useful notes.

Present the first unit. Before you begin the lecture, ask the participant with number 1 to pay special attention to the first unit. Explain that this unit will last for 5 minutes (or whatever time you decided upon).

Complete the first unit. Set the timer for 5 minutes. Make your lecture presentation as you would normally do. Stop the presentation when the timer goes off. If you want to be dramatic, stop in the middle of a sentence. Announce that you have completed the first unit. Tell the participants with number 1 that they can relax and listen to the rest of the lecture without straining too hard.

Continue with the second unit. Announce that you will continue the lecture from where you left off and present the second unit. Ask the participants with number 2 to pay special attention to this unit. Set the time for 5 minutes and give the second unit of your presentation.

Continue with the other units. Conclude the second unit and repeat the same procedure with each of the ensuing units. Try to time last unit so you conclude the presentation at the 5-minute mark.

Give instructions for individual preparation. Announce the conclusion of the entire lecture. Ask all participants to review their notes for the unit they paid special attention to. Explain that they should identify the key points individually. Announce a 3-minute time limit for this review. Set the timer for 3 minutes and remind the participants to work individually.

Ask participants to team up and discuss their common units. Ask the participants to find others with the same number. Ask the members of each group to share their notes and their ideas with each other.

Ask participants to pair up and discuss different units. Ask the participants to find a partner with a different number and exchange their thoughts of their respective units. Announce a 3-minute time limit for this sharing of ideas. Set the timer.

Continue sharing different units. At the end of the 3 minutes, ask the participants to switch their partners and pair up with someone else with a different number. Repeat the procedure for sharing of ideas for as many rounds as time permits.

Conclude the activity. Announce the end of the session. Thank the participants for sharing the responsibility for spreading your training message effectively.

Interactive Story


As an interactive storytelling technique, you can encourage your participants to write the Great American Novel, or an epic, or a saga, and share it with each other. But I prefer the microstory approach.

Microstories are pieces of flash fiction that are brief. Below are examples of microstories in different sizes.

Here's a short-short story that is less than 400 words long:

“The Three-Legged Goat”

The young goat had only three legs. No one knew whether it was born that way or lost its left rear leg in an accident. However it happened, the goat had learned to hobble on his three legs.

The three-legged goat always stayed in the middle of the herd as the goats grazed in the meadow outside the village. The villagers left the herd alone most of the time except on the Nagore festival. On that day, they caught the fattest goat. The village priest killed the goat with a long ceremonial sword as a sacrifice to the local deity. Later, the villagers feasted on mutton biryani.

A young boy from the village was trying to catch a goat. At first, the goats ignored him because they could easily escape from his grasp. But for some reason, they suddenly panicked and ran away helter-skelter. The boy chased them until the herd disappeared into the mango grove, leaving behind only the three-legged goat.

With one final spurt, the boy grabbed the goat by its lame leg. The goat fell to the ground, struggled for a few moments, and lay still, panting hard. The boy squatted near the goat, also panting hard. After a while, he changed the grip to his left hand and reached into the pocket of the shirt. He pulled out a sharp shining knife.

The boy sat on top of the goat because he needed both his hands now. The goat tried to struggle free, but the boy adjusted his weight to keep the goat pinned down to the ground.

The boy lowered his face, disfigured by an ugly scar, close to the goat's ears.

“I am not going to hurt you,” he whispered. “I just want someone to talk to. The other boys don't want to talk to me because I am ugly.”

The goat stared at the boy's face.

“If you don't run away, I will share this mango with you,” the boy said. He reached once again into his pocket and pulled out a ripe mango. He sliced a piece with his sharp knife and fed it to the goat.

When the boy stood up, the goat also stood up. It did not run away.

Here's a short story about the futility of mindlessly listening to words and writing them down. It uses the 99-word format that was popularized by my friend Brian Remer.


His father told him: You have to listen carefully to your teacher and write down everything he says. The teacher talked about the Russian revolution. Jim faithfully wrote everything down.

During the next class, Jim's mind began wandering. The science teacher was talking about engines. Jim daydreamed about sitting inside a cylinder and being squeezed by the piston. He giggled because it was funny.

Now 50 years later, Jim is the best mechanic in the engine shop. The only thing he remembers about revolutions has to do with the maximum rpm of the turbo engine he is fixing.

Six-Word Stories

When asked to write a full story in six words, Ernest Hemingway was supposed to have responded with For sale, baby shoes, never worn.

The online magazine SMITH invites its readers to submit their autobiographies in six words. Here's a sample: Baby changed my life and body. There is a book collecting many of these memoirs: Not Quite What I Was Planning.

When I asked her to describe the concept of interactive stories, here's what Nitya Wakhlu wrote as a six-word story: Stopped talking. Started listening. Magic happened.


Obviously, microstories can appear on printed pages or on web pages. If you are planning to use 500-word or 99-word stories, you may assign them as a pre-session exercise or as homework. You may use six-word stories as an end-of-session review activity in both face-to-face and virtual training sessions.

Where Is the Interactivity?

I am supposed to talking about interactive storytelling and so far I have merely given you examples of microstories. You may be wondering, where is the interactivity?

The secret is to embed these microstories in interactive storytelling activities. Here's a list of suggestions:

Here's Your Homework

Write a 99-word story on the use of microstories. Set it in your future life after the next 12 months. You can either paste it into the comments section below or email it to me ( and I will share it with other readers.

An Activity from Mark

Mark Isabella has created a card deck called Engagement Emergency that contains 54 activities for instant interaction. The activities take 2-10 minutes to run and require little setup or preparation. These a la carte activities come in a variety of formats including action planning, feedback, group formation, openers, pair work, and reflection. If you are in the midst of rapid instructional design and need an opener, you can consult the deck and find one quickly. If you are in the middle of a presentation and need a shot of engagement and interaction, you can thumb through the deck right before you begin your session or during a break.

Let's Go To the Movies! (Opener / Assessment)
by Mark Isabella

Divide the large group into subgroups of 4-5. Display the following movie titles on a flip chart page or slide.

Give participants 3-4 minutes to identify the movie title that best describes the nature of their workplaces and why. Have 3-4 volunteers share their choices with the larger group.

A Special Offer

Engagement Emergency decks usually sell for $59.95 (plus $10.95 for shipping within the USA). If you order now, you will receive a $10 discount. You can purchase each Engagement Emergency deck in our online store for $49.95. No need to enter a coupon code—as long as you order before November 30, you'll get the discount automatically.

Short Story

Adventures in Storyland

I am the solo trainer in my large company with nine field offices.

Top managers (and their accountants) had figured out that the travel cost for training was a major expense. They decided to save money by asking me to use the company's webinar platform. They figured out that I should have no problem shifting to this new virtual training.

I started offering my classes as webinars. I had no difficulty exporting my PowerPoint slides and sending out my handouts as PDF documents.

All the training content was there, but the classes did not click. Something was missing.

A couple of weeks later, I attended a workshop about virtual classrooms. I discovered the secret. Stories are the operating system of the human brain. I decided to become a storyteller.

My trainees were engaged throughout my story-based sessions. They frequently clicked on the icons of clapping hands and smiling faces to cheer me on.

So I sent out a feedback questionnaire. Almost everyone gave me 5s for interest and inspiration. I had included an open-ended question about what was memorable about my training sessions. The stories, of course.

I should not have pushed my luck, but Ramon, a student from the local university wanted to do an evaluation project for an instructional technology course he was taking. I invited him to evaluate my training webinars. He interviewed several participants over the telephone.

A month later, Ramon prepared a report for his professor. He gave me a copy.

The report had good news and bad news. The good news confirmed the positive feedback I received. The bad news? The trainees remembered the stories but not the learning points. They told the stories to their colleagues but did not apply the new skills they were supposed to have learned.

Bottom line: My stories put the trainees in a blissful trance but did not teach them anything useful or usable.

The data from the report did not shake my belief in the power of stories. Fortunately I read some stuff on interactive storytelling. I changed my strategy.

In my webinars now, I invite the trainees to make up their own stories. The setting in the stories is their job situation; the time span is the near future.

I encourage the trainees to make the stories authentic. I tell them to share the stories with each other.

In my webinars, the trainees type feverishly in their chat boxes creating, completing, analyzing, and modifying the stories. I keep my mouth shut most of the time.

Here's what one of my participants, Nitya Wahklu, typed as her six-word story:

Stopped talking. Started listening. Magic happened.

Instructional Puzzle

The Secret of Handling Sales Objections

Recently my friend Stanis Benjamin shared the secret for handling sales objections. It made a lot of sense and I would like to share it with you. But to prevent other people from stealing it, I have encrypted this piece of advice.

Cryptograms are highly engaging language puzzles. If you are unfamiliar with cryptograms, we recommend our explanation from our October 2006 issue of TGL.

The puzzle is presented in our interactive cryptogram solver. It requires JavaScript to run, and is specifically designed to work on mobile devices (i.e., iPhones and other smartphones, iPads and other tablets). It also works with modern desktop browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, and up-to-date versions of Internet Explorer.

Please try the puzzle out at and tell us what you think by using the comments link below.

A hint for this puzzle

The solution

International Workshops

Thiagi Workshops Outside the USA

Thiagi is conducting public workshops outside the USA. Check our online calendar at for details.

If you would like to organize a Thiagi workshop in your part of the world, send him a note at .

Online Course

Coaching for Performance: A Facilitated Online Experience
by Matt Richter

Coaching for Performance (CFP) is a Thiagi Group online workshop adapting our flexible 4-Door™ ELearning approach. CFP is a completely facilitated program that occurs virtually and asynchronously—meaning participants can engage any time they want. The course is the equivalent of approximately three days of classroom time, but you have 30 days to complete it on your own schedule.

One of our participants, Marzia Edwards from the UK, gave a video testimonial.

To learn more about the course format, structure, and objectives, see the details in our online store at or .

Special Offer

The course is usually priced at $599, but as a TGL reader, if you enter the code TGL-CFP when you sign up in our online store, you will get $100 off.

Sign up now

If you have any questions, please email instructor Matt Richter at .


Pieces of Advice

Every day, Thiagi tweets ready-to-use pieces of practical advice on HR topics such as coaching, creativity, customer service, feedback, leadership, listening skills, and management.

Here are some recent pieces of advice that were retweeted frequently:

Make sure your training is relevant to the participant's job. Brandish this relevance throughout the session.

Avoid animation and special effects in your slides. From a training point of view, they distract the participants rather than help.

Don't present any content that is not used in a learning activity. Don't conduct an activity that does not incorporate the content.

If your slides contain complete sentences, participants will read for themselves. Limit your slides to key words and phrases.

Behavioral objectives don't give the big picture to the participants. Present a content outline in plain language instead.

All training involves changing your participants' behaviors. So learn and apply the skills of a change manager.

Join the thousands of people who follow @thiagi on Twitter. If you don't have a Twitter account, it is easy to sign up for a free one at


LOLA 3: Instructional Magic

A couple of months ago, we launched a webinar series (on interactive webinars) for TGL readers. The October webinar was on interactive storytelling.

We conducted a poll at the end of the October webinar to select the topic for the November webinar. From the menu of LOLAs (Live Online Learning Activities), the participants selected instructional magic.

Thiagi and his team will conduct an interactive webinar on instructional magic on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 12 noon US Eastern Time.

Register for this free webinar at .

In this webinar, you will participate in several instructional magic episodes. You will learn how to use magic to provide relevant exercises on the topics of critical thinking and lateral thinking. You will also learn about other uses of magic in webinars. Don’t worry: This will not be a flaky session. Thiagi will focus on ensuring relevance of the magical activities and explain how to link them to your content.


Hint for the Cryptogram

The third word is “objection”.

Back to the puzzle

From Brian's Brain

Become Motion Activated
by Brian Remer

Most of us know the benefits of physical exercise. But we don't necessarily understand the benefits to our brain for learning and memory. New neurons and new memories are just two effects that come with increased oxygen to the brain. Learn more in this issue.

Power Tip: Add a movement break to your day of at least 30 minutes to maximize brain benefits.

Read more in the October 2014 issue of Firefly News Flash: .

Online Survey

How Do You Conclude Your Training Session?

Does your training session end with a bang or with a whimper?

Poll Question

How do you close your training sessions?


(The poll opens in a new window.)

Open Question

Can you briefly describe your favorite closing activity?


(The survey opens in a new window.)

You may include your name along with your response, or if you prefer, keep it anonymous.

Survey Results


Poll Question

In the October 2014 issue of TGL we asked our trainer-readers how they get their training sessions started.

As of October 24, 2014, 34 readers responded. Three of them (9%) said that they ask the participants to introduce themselves. One of them (3%) said that they provide logistic information such as the schedule. Fourteen (41%) said that they conduct an opener or an icebreaker. Eleven (32%) said that they conduct a jolt or a brief surprising activity to get the participants' attention. The last five (15%) said that they do something else.

Open Question

As a follow up to the poll, we asked the readers to briefly describe their favorite opening activity.

Here are some of your responses, as of October 24, 2014:

Thanks to everyone who responded.

You Can Still Participate

This survey is still open. Feel free to add your comments by visiting the survey page.


Cryptogram Solution

Handling an objection takes a process, not an answer: Listen, clarify, think, respond, and check back.

Back to the puzzle

A Survey From Matt

Online Learning

Please take this brief survey. It will help us better understand what features and criteria you have for elearning. We will post the results in our next issue of TGL.

The Thiagi Group Online Learning Survey:


Check It Out

Two Guys On Your Head ( )

I came across this web site recently while searching for some rational discussion of the Ebola scare.

Two Guys on Your Head ( ) is a radio program from Austin, Texas, a college town that also happens to be the state capital. The show features Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke, who explore different aspects of human brain. The conversation is hosted by Rebecca McInroy.

The web site archives a series of interesting conversations from the program. The one that attracted me was Why Do We Freak Out About Existential Threats Like Ebola? ( ) It is definitely worth listening to: It gives useful insights into critical thinking—or lack thereof.

Other archived conversations deal with how to make yourself happy, what makes cat videos so clickable, can on-line brain trainers really make you smarter, how your brain can help you put off procrastination, and other such intriguing questions.

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