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

Talk Back to Us
Send us your comments, praise, suggestions, and sarcastic remarks.

Interactive Story
Rewriting a Story
Beyond Storytelling.

Interactive Story
Galactic Wormhole
Don't just tell your stories.

Distance Makes The Brain Grow Stronger by Tracy Tagliati
Creating psychological distance.

Guest Gamer
An Interview with L. A. Cruz
She has used games in different careers.

Guess Who by L. A. Cruz
Someone's pretending to be you.

Green Monkey
Don't read this jolt.

Fifty-Three Tweets on Instructional Facilitation
Are you a trainer or a facilitator?

Do Training Professionals Always See the Results? by Terry E. Gray
A matter of life and death.

International Workshops
Thiagi in Switzerland
Now in its 11th year!

Online Game
Swiss Neighbors
Match each country with its capital.

From Brian's Brain
Listen! by Brian Remer
A link to the latest issue of Brian's newsletter.

Scenario-Based Survey
Managing Latecomers by Tracy Tagliati
It's never too late.

Survey Results
Grabbing Webinar Attendees' Attention by Tracy Tagliati
A summary of your responses.

Check It Out
Upside Learning ( )
Practical resources.





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

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 2012 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 © 2012 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!


Talk Back to Us

One thing that excites me about writing, editing, and publishing this GameLetter is hearing from you, the reader.

Beginning with this issue, we are making it easy for you to send us your feedback. We have created an OQ (Open Question) page that asks you what you think about this issue of TGL. Click here to go to this page and post your comments.

Here are different things that you could post on this page:

Please include your name with your comment.

Interactive Story

Rewriting a Story

Stories are powerful communication devices. Storytelling should be an important tool in every facilitator's kit.

However, traditional storytelling has a major weakness: It relegates the participants to passive listening or reading. The participants can learn more by creating their own stories, modifying other people's stories, and analyzing existing stories than by merely consuming them.

One way that participants can interact with a story is to rewrite it. Here are different ways to use this technique:

Change The Perspective

You have probably heard about Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece, Rashomon, a Japanese film that depicts the murder of a samurai and the rape of his wife. These gruesome incidents are narrated from the points of view of four different people: the bandit, the wife, the samurai, and a woodcutter. The four stories are mutually contradictory. As Kurosawa explained to the actors when they approached him wanting to know the truth, the point of the film is to explore multiple realities rather than to expound a particular truth.

In this type of interactive story, the participants read the original story from the point of view of one of the characters. Later, they rewrite the story from the point of view of another character. This approach is particularly useful to illustrate the limitations of interview as a data gathering technique. We can also use the Rashomon effect to highlight the different perspectives of a customer and a salesperson, a manager and an employee, or a teacher and a student. We can ask different participants to rewrite the story from the points of view of several different characters and compare them.

Change of perspective provides an effective technique in diversity training. In an activity called Reincarnation, each participant is required to write an autobiographical story around one of his or her achievements, tracing the influence of various factors on this achievement. When a draft of the story is completed, the participants are asked to imagine a change in their gender, race, generation, nationality, or sexual orientation and reflect how the story would have changed: whether the achievement would have the same impact and what factors would have facilitated or impeded it.

Write Sequels And Prequels

In this technique, the participants are given a story and asked to imagine what happened before—or what happened after—the time span of the story. This activity helps the participants to speculate on the factors that lead up to a situation, and what can be expected to happen in the future. The activity is particularly helpful in analyzing processes and procedures and in linking causes, effects, and future prospects.

Rewind And Fast Forward is an activity that uses this technique to explore sexual harassment in the workplace. It begins with the facilitator reading a story that depicts a female employee resigning her job after accusing her manager of sexual harassment. Teams of participants are asked to improvise earlier incidents that led to this situation. Later, they are asked to predict what would happen in the future as a result of this incident.

Change the Setting

In this technique, the participants are asked to rewrite a story without changing the plotline but placing it in a different setting. This activity helps the participants to explore how geographic, cultural, political, and religious differences can influence the circumstances. Such exploration is particularly useful in learning about diversity.

Sankar's Wedding incorporates a story about a software engineer named Sankar inviting his colleague to his wedding. The story describes important events during the wedding ceremony that takes place in Houston, Texas. Teams of participants are now asked to rewrite the story with the software engineer returning to India, his home country, to participate in an arranged marriage. The participants are encouraged to write about the wedding from the point of view of the US colleague by using Internet resources dealing with the legal, social, and religious aspects of Indian marriages. Different stories are compared to each other to determine similarities and differences among the wedding ceremonies.

Change the Level of Detail

In this technique, the participants are asked to expand a brief description or to compress a detailed explanation. The act of slowing down the narration or speeding it up or zooming in and out of a situation helps the participants to conduct a task analysis and to map the steps of a process.

Zoom is an interactive story activity for providing first aid training for hurricane relief volunteers. It begins with a printed story of a volunteer administering CPR to an unconscious person. Teams of participants are asked to “unpack” a specific sentence from the story. For example, the original sentence

Sheila administered CPR to the victim.

is elaborated into

Sheila checked for responsiveness of the victim. She called 911 and checked the pulse. There was no pulse and Sheila performed chest compressions. She tilted the head back to clear the airway…

As a continuation of the activity, the participants are asked to take the first sentence of the new version and provide additional details. In the sample narration above, a participant may modify the first sentence into this level of detail:

Sheila made sure that Charlie had not sustained spinal or neck injury. She shook the unconscious victim gently and shouted, “Are you okay?” Getting no response, Sheila called 911 and proceeded to check for circulation.

In another activity called Essence, the participants are asked to modify the level of detail in a story in the opposite direction: They read a page of the story and compress it to exactly 32 words long. Later, they successively shrink the story to 16 words, 8 words, and 4 words.

Here's another interactive story activity called Faster for reducing the level of detail. The participants are asked to watch a video story, listen to an audio story, or read a text story. Later they are asked to narrate the key elements of the story in exactly 60 seconds. Still later, they are asked to compress the story into 15 seconds.

Add Some Dialogue

In this technique, the participants are given a background scenario and asked to write a suitable dialogue that is likely to take place in the situation. Preparing a script requires the participants to recall and apply relevant principles and procedures. One way of looking at this technique is to consider it as a written roleplay in which a participant takes on more than one role. This technique is particularly useful for learning how to conduct difficult conversations.

Mediation presents a confrontation between two people. The participant is asked to play the role of a neutral mediator who helps these two people conduct a civil discourse, tell their respective stories, and to arrive at a win-win solution. The participants do this by writing a script involving all three people (including the mediator) working through the conflict-management process. Later, the participants compare their dialogues and critique them with a list of mediation guidelines.

Change the Ending

There are two ways to create this interactive story activity: You can present a complete story and ask the participants to change the ending. Alternatively, you can present an incomplete story and ask the participants to supply a suitable ending. In both cases, you are forcing the participants to analyze the events in the story and come to a logical conclusion. This enables the participants to forecast what is likely to happen in their team or in their organization based on what is happening now.

In an interactive story activity called Tragedy, the participants read a story (about the future of their organization) that has a happy ending. They are asked to rewrite the ending of the story and transform it to an unhappy ending. In the process, the participants discover questionable activities in their organization.

In another interactive story called Sentry, the participants read a short-short science fiction story of the same name by Fredric Brown. The last three sentences of this story are withheld and the participants are asked to create them to bring the story to a conclusion. The participants compare their conclusion with Brown's original surprise-twist ending. In the process, they discover the assumptions people make about alien cultures.

Change Everything Except the Ending

This interactive story activity uses a strategy that is the opposite of the preceding one. Participants are supplied with the conclusion of a story and asked to create a plot that logically leads to this conclusion. In creating the plotline, the participants are required to incorporate appropriate principles related to the training objective.

An activity called Galactic Wormhole begins with the facilitator explaining key principles of human performance technology. The participants are then presented with time-travel scenarios that involve two different headlines from the future: The good-news headline proclaims organizational triumph while the bad-news headline bewails organizational disaster. Teams of participants are asked to focus on one of these headlines and prepare a timeline of events that transform the current state of the organization to the future state depicted in the headline. In developing this timeline, the participants incorporate events that feature the implementation (or the violation) of performance-technology principles.

Wait, There's More

In this article, we explored seven approaches to designing interactive story activities that involve rewriting a piece of fiction. Other approaches to incorporating interactive stories in training involve making decisions to take a story along different branches, analyzing a story, and co-creating a story with teammates. We will explore these approaches in future articles.

Interactive Story

Galactic Wormhole

Recently we conducted an introductory training session on human performance technology in which we presented some key principles such as the following:

After briefly presenting a set of principles and briefly explaining each of them, we conducted a session that featured interactive stories. In this activity, teams of participants projected themselves into the future, created science-fiction scenarios, presented the plot line of their stories, and analyzed the stories for common themes.

Here are the details of this interactive story activity.


To relate the principles of human performance technology to the future of an organization.


Teams of participants are given future headlines related to their organization. Equal numbers of teams are given optimistic headlines (that identify organizational success) and pessimistic headlines (that identify organizational failure). Teams prepare appropriate timelines that link the current state of the organization to the futuristic headline. Later, all participants review alternative timelines and discover common themes.


30-40 minutes.


Minimum: 4
Maximum: Any number
Best: 10 to 30




Brief the participants. Present (or review) key principles of human performance technology. Explain that you are going to conduct a science-fiction activity to relate these principles to the future success or failure of the organization.

Present the back-story. To prepare the participants for the activity, narrate the story so far. Use your own words to present the following plotline:

You have been mindlessly surfing the Internet. Obviously not during working hours.

You had a tough day at work, participating in a few exhilarating meetings. You are somewhat tired and sleepy. You feel like taking a nap. Your eyelids are feeling heavy. You struggle to keep yourself awake, trying to catch up with latest memo from your CEO.

You notice strange things happening to you. Suddenly, your hand gets attached to the computer mouse. It feels like somebody poured Superglue on your fingers and palm. You are not able to shake off the mouse.

And now the mouse begins to drag your hand. Your whole body is dragged toward the monitor. You are sucked inside the monitor with a strange “whoosh” sound.

Within a few seconds, you are back at your computer desk. Next to the monitor, you see a newspaper. The blaring headline on the front page attracts your attention. It is a shocker.

You look at the date of the newspaper. Another shocker. It is dated May 17, 2020.

Distribute copies of the handouts. Give one handout to each participant, giving out equal number of copies of the two handouts.

Organize teams. Ask the participants to organize themselves into teams of four to six people who have a handout of the same color.

Give instructions. Ask the participants to read the handout. Explain that the top of the page contains the shocking headline from May 17, 2020. The rest of the page contains instructions for teamwork: Each team should create a timeline of a chain of events that led to the state of affairs depicted in the newspaper headline. Teams should begin with today's date and make a list of events that led to what happened on May 17, 2020. Each event should be logically connected to the next one in the list. Ask the participants to limit their timeline to one page of the flipchart. Announce a 7-minute time limit. Start the timer and tell the participants to begin.

Conclude the activity. Blow the whistle at the end of 6 minutes and announce that the team should complete the task within the next minute. Blow the whistle again a minute later to announce the end of the activity.

Conduct a gallery walk. Show two areas of the wall for the dystopian and utopian posters. Give pieces of masking tape and help teams to tape their posters to the wall. Tell all participants to take a few minutes to walk around this gallery and review the timelines. Ask them to compare the events that are associated with both positive and negative headlines.

Conduct a debriefing discussion. Use the following types of questions to encourage the participants to reflect on the activity and share their insights about the impact of human performance technology on organizational success or failure:

Facilitate the discussion, one question at a time. Invite additional insights from the participants. Record interesting ideas on a flipchart.

Galactic Wormhole as a Framegame

This interactive story activity can be used as a template for creating training sessions for exploring the impact of basic principles. Here are some of the sets of principles that we have incorporated in the Galactic Principles frame:


The Utopian Herald

Organization Scores a Hat Trick

Earns highest customer rating, voted best company to work for, and generates the highest profit for the past 3 years


  1. Read the headline above from The Utopian Herald dated May 17, 2020.
  2. Think of possible causes that contributed to this triumph.
  3. Avoid external causes (such as economic recession) over which we have no direct control.
  4. Create a timeline.
  5. Begin from today and work toward May 17, 2020.
  6. Relate the headline event to the implementation of principles of human performance technology.
  7. Work as a team.
  8. Create a logical timeline on your flipchart.
  9. Limit yourself to one flipchart page.
  10. Finish your timeline within 7 minutes.


The Dystopian Herald

Organization Declares Bankruptcy

Managers and associates blame each other while unhappy customers sue the company


  1. Read the headline above from The Dystopian Herald dated May 17, 2020.
  2. Think of possible causes that contributed to this disaster.
  3. Avoid external causes (such as economic recession) over which we have no direct control.
  4. Create a timeline.
  5. Begin from today and work toward May 17, 2020.
  6. Relate the headline event to the implementation of principles of human performance technology.
  7. Work as a team.
  8. Create a logical timeline on your flipchart.
  9. Limit yourself to one flipchart page.
  10. Finish your timeline within 7 minutes.


Distance Makes The Brain Grow Stronger
by Tracy Tagliati

This interesting jolt replicates research done by Evan Polman of New York University and Kyle Emich of Cornell University on construal level theory. You can find more information about this theory by visiting this page in Psychlopedia: .


The participants work with two different versions of the same problem. One version describes a problem faced by someone else while the other version identifies the problem confronting the reader. The debriefing suggests that it is easier to come up with creative solutions when people are thinking for someone other than themselves.


To demonstrate how psychological distance enables us to generate more creative ideas.

Training Topics

Creative Problem Solving


Six and more.


3 to 5 minutes for the activity
3 to 5 minutes for the debriefing


Two different versions describing the same problem.


Make equal numbers of copies of the two different handouts and arrange them in the same stack with the two versions alternating.


Distribute the handouts. Give one copy of the handout face down to each participant. Everyone will assume they have the same handout.

Give instructions. Tell the participants that this is an independent activity. Briefly explain that the participants should turn over their handout and solve the problem as quickly as possible. When they think they have solved the problem correctly, they should stand up.

Conclude the activity. After a few minutes, acknowledge the participants who are standing up.


Debrief the activity by revealing that there were two versions of the problem. Read the different versions. Point out that the situations are identical. The only difference is whether the reader is personally involved or not.

Share this creative solution to the problem described in the handout: Split the rope lengthwise, tie the two halves together, and climb down to freedom.

Find out if more participants were able to solve the problem when they thought they were solving it for someone else. Let the participants suggest the principle that the farther away the problem seems from us, the easier it is to think abstractly and to come up with creative solutions.

Ask the participants, “How would you apply this phenomenon to find more creative solutions to your problems?”

Point out that when we have a problem it helps to get advice from others (such as a board of directors, peers from other industries, or a colleague). The different perspectives of the others make it easy to offer solutions that you may not come up with.

Ask the participants, “How would you use this technique to help yourself?”

Suggest that if we imagine we are solving problems for a friend or a stranger, or a historical figure, we may be able to think more creatively and come up with more abstract solutions.

Learning Points

It's easier to solve problems when there is more psychological distance.

Creative solutions are influenced by our proximity to the problem.

When we are close to a problem, we tend to think about it in a realistic way. When we are away from the problem, we are able to think about it in a more abstract way and arrive at more creative solutions.


The Prisoner of Zenda

In a faraway land, many years ago, there was a prisoner in a tower who desperately wanted to escape. One day he discovered a rope in his cell. However, the rope was only half the length necessary to allow him to reach the ground safely. Yet he used the rope to escape to his freedom. How did he do it?


You Are A Prisoner

You are a prisoner in a tower and you desperately want to escape. One day you discover a rope in your cell. However, the rope is only half the length necessary to allow you to reach the ground safely. Yet you used the rope to escape to your freedom. How did you do it?

Guest Gamer

Maria Lourdes Ann “L. A.” Cruz is a passionate and dynamic human resources professional with training and experience in multiple facets of management (including marketing, research, executive coaching, planning, and quality management), with specialization in training and organizational development. She brings with her a business partnering mindset along with effective communication and leadership skills. She has designed and conducted training programs all around Asia, specifically in the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Singapore. L. A. is currently the HR Business Leader of a top multinational pharmaceutical company.

An Interview with L. A. Cruz

TGL: L. A., what is your specialty area?

L. A.: I've specialized in human resources (specifically, organization development and learning and development) for the past 10 years after having been a Jill-of-all-trades with several career shifts through marketing, government service, and general management.

TGL: How did you get into designing and using games?

L. A.: I got into this area out of the necessity of keeping my audience awake, energetic, and interested in whatever I had to say.

TGL: How long have you been designing and using games?

L. A.: I've been using games ever since I started noticing that my audience members and colleagues were getting bored and sleepy with long meetings and training sessions when I started in training in 2002. I was hoping it was not just me. I decided to put some fun in by introducing games in our sessions.

TGL: Where do you use games?

L. A.: Even in my past careers, I always found myself designing and using games during meetings when people were half-way in zzzzzland: during discussions to put some structure and framework, during brainstorming sessions to put more energy and zest, and during product trainings to make learning fun and impactful. Games are able to cut across cultures and languages. They never fail to make learning fun and enjoyable. Most importantly, they keep my audience awake and excited!

TGL: How do your participants respond?

L. A.: Games always excite and energize people. Of course, having prizes for the winner gets them more interested, attentive, and participative!

TGL: What is the most memorable moment you had in conducting games?

L. A.: I was asked to facilitate a strategic planning workshop for top physicians from a professional association. It was their first time to have such a session and I was a bit worried I might not get their attention. The games I learned from the Thiagi workshop, especially Little Known Facts, were a hit and kept everyone engaged and energetic! It was able to set the framework for a fruitful and fun session for everyone. I ended up getting several requests from other medical associations and hospitals, which either meant they learned a lot from the session or they loved the games and prizes!

TGL: What advice do you have to newcomers about interactive training?

L. A.: Get to know your audience better so you can create games that will connect with them. It is not just about how nice a game is but how well you choose the game to use with a specific audience to achieve a specific objective. Learn to adjust and improvise on the spot when you feel the connection between you and audience is waning. And most importantly, be yourself when you conduct the game and don't take yourself too seriously.

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

L. A.: I usually use framegames because they are very versatile. Quiz games are also fun because they bring out the competitiveness of people in an enjoyable way.

TGL: What is your favorite game?

L. A.: My favorite game is Little Known Facts because it never fails to bring out the surprising information about the participants. In my work in human resources, I find dealing with people fascinating. Getting to know them better through this game is great.

TGL: Who are your favorite game designers?

L. A.: Hands down—Thiagi, of course!

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

L. A.: More and more people would like to learn in a fun way. Games are a way of bringing fun to learning. I find that learning is most effective when participants enjoy it. So I believe that games will play a significant part of training and development.


Guess Who
by L. A. Cruz

This interactive activity highlights the importance of effective communication among teams and gives the members an insight about how their communication style is perceived by others.


20 to 40 minutes.



Brief the team. Ask the team members to select a business case or team issue they want to discuss.

Appoint an observer. Explain that this person will not participate in the discussion but will take notes about what the team members do and say.

Conduct the first round of discussion. Announce a 5-minute discussion period. Ask the observer to keep track of time.

Change roles. After the first round, ask the observer to shuffle the name plates and distribute them to each member. Ask the team members to hide the name they received.

Conduct the second round. Ask the team members to continue the discussion by interacting in the way they think best demonstrates the behavior of the team member whose name is assigned to them. Conduct another 5 minutes of discussion.

Repeat the process. Depending on the size of the team and the intensity of discussions, conduct four or more rounds, shuffling the name plates for each round.

Conduct a debriefing discussion. Ask the observer to lead the processing of the activity. Suggest these processing questions:

  1. How did the members react to the activity?
  2. Can each member guess who was imitating him or her in each of the rounds?
  3. How did each member feel when he or she was being imitated?
  4. Does everyone feel he or she was portrayed correctly?
  5. What did each team member learn about effective communication styles?


Green Monkey

Here's a chance to experience this jolt from the participant's point of view:

Do not think of a green monkey.

Note down the time right now. Get off the computer. Do not read or write anything. Just think. And whatever you think, do not think of a green monkey.

See if you can control your thoughts for a whole 2-minute period so that you do not think of the green monkey.

In this jolt, you will be conducting the green monkey experiment with your participants. This jolt is based on an experiment by Professor Daniel Wegner who was attempting to understand what happened to Leo Tolstoy when he was asked by his older brother to sit in a corner until he could stop thinking about a white bear. Wegner confirmed that people could not control their thoughts. The more we try not to think of something, the more we end up thinking about it. Wegner called this effect the ironic rebound.


The participants are asked to think of anything they want to except they must not think about a green monkey. The harder the participants try, the more difficult it becomes for them to ignore the green monkey. During the debriefing discussion, the facilitator relates this phenomenon to negative self-talk, dieting, smoking and other such activities.


To explore the effects of ironic rebound and to learn to control the impact of obsessive thoughts, emotions, and cravings.

Training Topics


Minimum: 1
Maximum: Any number
Best: 10 to 20


3 minutes for the activity
5-10 minutes for debriefing


Countdown timer


Brief the participants. Explain that you are to conduct a thought experiment. Give the following experiments in your own words:

I want you to do nothing for the next 2 minutes. You may think about anything you want, but don't think about a green monkey. Whatever you do, do not think about this green colored monkey swinging through trees in a forest or even locked up in a cage.

Time the participants. Set your timer for 2 minutes. Start the timer. Announce the conclusion of the thought experiment at the end of the 2 minutes.


Ask, “What happened?” Encourage the participants to share their thought patterns during the 2-minute period. Ask them how they tried to suppress the thoughts about a green monkey and what happened as a consequence.

Relate to real-world incidents. Explain that the more we try to avoid thinking about something—or doing something—the more we think about it or do it. This psychological phenomenon is called paradoxical intent by Victor Frankl or ironic rebound by Daniel Wegner. Ask the participants for examples of how they have experienced ironic rebound in their lives. Encourage them to talk about their futile attempts at suppressing specific thoughts and behaviors. Relate this concept to avoiding negative self-talk, stopping depressive ruminations, dieting, and quitting smoking.

Suggest a strategy. Psychological studies indicate that the harder we try to suppress certain thoughts and actions, they more we are likely to think them or do them. The best way to avoid this type of rebound is to stop trying hard and let go. Let your mind think and feel whatever it wants to but don't believe these thoughts or act on them. Encourage the participants to reflect on this strategy and discuss how they would apply it to improve their self-control.

Learning Points

  1. The harder we try to suppress certain thoughts, feelings, craving, and actions, the more likely we are to think, feel, crave, and act in those ways.
  2. The best way to prevent your self-control attempts at backfiring is to let go and refuse to believe your thoughts or act on your feelings and cravings.

For More Information

Read the excellent book, The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, available here from Amazon. (Disclosure: We receive a little money if you buy the book from that link.)


Fifty-Three Tweets on Instructional Facilitation

  1. Both training and instructional facilitation have the same purpose: effective learning. But they differ in several ways.
  2. Training begins with very specific objectives. Instructional facilitation begins with broad goals that are fine-tuned by participants.
  3. Training encourages consistent presentation of content. Instructional facilitation encourages flexible pursuit of understanding.
  4. In training, content comes from the instructor. In instructional facilitation, content comes from the participants.
  5. Effective instructional facilitation requires integration of training content and activities.
  6. A key competency in instructional facilitation is the ability to incorporate different content resources in the facilitated process.
  7. Instructional facilitation can incorporate content generated by the participants themselves.
  8. Instructional facilitation can follow up presentations by subject-matter experts. Discuss the content of the lecture.
  9. Instructional facilitation requires just-in-time, just-enough, and just-for-the-group content to be processed by collaborative activities.
  10. Instructional facilitation can incorporate video and audio recordings. Participants can discuss what they viewed or heard.
  11. Instructional facilitation can follow up presentations by subject-matter experts. Participants discuss the content of the lecture.
  12. A key competency in instructional facilitation is the ability to establish ground rules for interaction among participants.
  13. Instructional facilitation can incorporate interviews with informants who have significant experience in a specific field.
  14. Instructional facilitation can incorporate reading materials. Participants can share, discuss, and analyze what they read.
  15. A key competency in instructional facilitation is the ability to establish ground rules for interaction among participants.
  16. A key competency in instructional facilitation is the ability to ask provocative questions, answer participants' questions, and question participants' answers.
  17. A key competency in instructional facilitation is the ability to communicate directly and clearly with the participants.
  18. A key competency in instructional facilitation is the ability to keep your mouth shut.
  19. A key competency in instructional facilitation is the ability to guide the participants into divergent and convergent thinking.
  20. A key competency in instructional facilitation is the ability to coach the participants into critical thinking.
  21. A key competency in instructional facilitation is the ability to give effective feedback to the participants.
  22. A key competency in instructional facilitation is the ability to handle resistance and skepticism.
  23. A key competency in instructional facilitation is the ability to ensure equal participation from everybody.
  24. A key competency in instructional facilitation is the ability to maximize the benefits of all types of diversity among the participants.
  25. A key competency in instructional facilitation is the ability to prevent premature closure of participants' dialogue.
  26. Instructional facilitation is a balancing act. You need to balance what is good for the individual and what is good for the group.
  27. Instructional facilitation is a balancing act. You need to balance playfulness and seriousness.
  28. Instructional facilitation is a balancing act. You need to balance competition and cooperation.
  29. Instructional facilitation is a balancing act. You need to balance structure and spontaneity.
  30. Instructional facilitation is a balancing act. You need to balance process and outcomes.
  31. Instructional facilitation is a balancing act. You need to maintain an optimum pace.
  32. Wrong question: Which is better—training presentations or instructional facilitation?
  33. Right question: What features of training presentation and of instructional facilitation produce effective learning?
  34. Training presentations without instructional facilitation results in inert knowledge.
  35. Instructional facilitation without training content is a roleplay of headless chickens.
  36. Instructional facilitation guideline: Let the inmates run the asylum. Trust your participants.
  37. Instructional facilitation guideline: Let the participants teach and test each other. Let them generate content and questions.
  38. Instructional facilitation guideline: Every response and reaction from any participant contains valuable information. Act on it.
  39. Instructional facilitation guideline: Those who talk more, learn more.
  40. Instructional facilitation guideline: The less you talk, the more they learn.
  41. Instructional facilitation: Provoke your participants to talk a lot: ask questions, conduct debates, encourage sarcastic comments, and make them tell stories.
  42. Instructional facilitation: Participation is better than passive absorption. But irrelevant participation is worse than anything. It's distracting and dangerous.
  43. Instructional facilitation guideline: Make use of everything offered by the participants. Learn to think on your feet.
  44. Instructional facilitation guideline: SMEs: Don't prepare, just show up (Ruth Ryan Madsen).
  45. Instructional facilitation. It's better to be a sage by the side than being a guide by the side. Know your subject.
  46. Instructional facilitation guideline: Design training while delivering. Build an airplane while flying it.
  47. Instructional facilitation guideline: Don't let anyone fool you into thinking that you cannot—and should not—be a designer.
  48. Instructional facilitation guideline: A strong structure forms the foundation of flexibility and spontaneity.
  49. Instructional facilitation guideline: Design tightly with your left brain. Facilitate loosely with your right brain.
  50. Instructional facilitation guideline: Remember there is no wrong answer. Remember there is no failure. There's only information.
  51. Best way to learn instructional facilitation skills is to take an improv class.
  52. A great way to learn facilitation skills is to learn to do magic tricks.
  53. A great way to learn facilitation is to conduct a game during a kid's birthday party.


Terry E. Gray has over 29 years experience in all phases of design, development, delivery, and maintenance for both instructor led and e-learning. Terry is currently residing in Utah and supporting the United States Department of the Army's Chemical Demilitarization program.

Do Training Professionals Always See the Results?
by Terry E. Gray

As training professionals, we sometimes ask ourselves, “Are we really making a difference?” I myself have asked this question on a number of occasions. I do believe that we do make a difference. Sometimes we just do not see how our training affects others.

Being a Training Specialist at a hazardous waste incinerator requires that we teach all employees CPR and First Aid. This is mainly to have them respond to emergencies in the plant. Because of our safety record being what it is, the employees do not get to apply their skills to real-world situations very often. This sometimes results in the feeling “Why do we even bother teaching the subject?” I know quite a few individuals that have received this type of training and never have performed CPR on a real person.

One day in the late Fall a family was enjoying a day of fishing on one of the local lakes. The water was quite cold, pretty close to the freezing point. A young boy in the boat fell overboard while not wearing a life jacket. He immediately sank to the bottom of the lake in about 30 feet of water. It just so happened that two of our employees were also at the lake that day. They jumped in the water and made numerous attempts to find the boy. With all hope fading one employee filled his lungs full of air and made one last dive. On this try he saw something flash in the water. The flash was the boy's belt buckle. When he pulled him from the water he had been submerged for over 3 minutes. The boy was not breathing.

Our two employees put their training to work, performing CPR, and after a time the boy was revived. Even though he had been underwater as long as he was he made a full recovery with no lasting effects.

So as training professionals, remember that although we do not see our goals and objectives met on a daily basis our training does make a difference.

International Workshops

Thiagi in Switzerland

Thiagi is conducting two workshops in Winterthur (near Zurich) this June.

Workshop 1. Interactive Training Strategies (June 4-6, 2012)

In this workshop, you will experience, explore, design, and deliver 17 different learning activities that produce effective and engaging learning.

Day 1

Openers that jump start your training session and establish a climate of caring and sharing

Interactive lectures that combine structure and control with playfulness and spontaneity

Structured sharing activities that let your participants learn with—and learn from—each other

Textra games that convert dull handouts into dynamic tools

Jolts that last for less than 3 minutes and provide a lifetime of insights

Closers that review the new skills and action plans for their immediate application

Day 2

Board games that revive bored participants

Card games that increase the players' fluency with principles and procedures

Improv games that apply a spontaneous process to explore key concepts

Instructional puzzles that encourage participants to employ new ways of thinking

Magical events that engage participants in new ways of learning

Day 3

Simulation games that convert the context of the workplace to the security of the training session

Interactive story activities that move participants from passive listening to active sharing

Reflective teamwork activities that use action-learning techniques for immediate insights

The case method that encourages participants to analyze a realistic challenge and make effective decisions

Roleplaying that helps participants practice appropriate behaviors in response to challenging situations

Debriefing games that relate the simulated situation to workplace realities

Workshop 2. Design Clinic and Advanced Interactive Strategies (June 7-8, 2012)

Conducted by Thiagi and Samuel van den Bergh, this course is designed for participants who have completed Thiagi's 3-day workshops on interactive training strategies.

The course will incorporate individual needs of the participants. The topics explored in the session will be based on the participants' choices before and during the workshop. Thiagi and Sam will provide consultative advice and feedback on interactive training activities that you are currently designing (or planning to design).

For more information, see the detailed brochure (550k PDF).

You can enroll for these workshops online at: .

Online Game

Swiss Neighbors

This issue's online game ( ; requires Adobe Flash ) has you classify different cities in and around Switzerland according to the country they belong to.

You see the name of a European city on the left side of the screen. Your task is to click on one of five different buttons (Austria, Germany, Italy, France, and Switzerland) on the right to identify the correct country. To add excitement to the activity, there is a timer counting down to zero. You also get immediate feedback and a score at the end of each round of the game. You can play the game any number of times. Each time you play, you get a list of different cities in a different order.

Classification is one of the key skills in mastering, recalling, and applying different types of facts, concepts, and principles. Here are some examples of how this online game can be used with different training topics:

Play this issue's game. Play it repeatedly. Notice how your ability to recognize cities and countries improves.

From Brian's Brain

by Brian Remer

Humans have been listening since we evolved ears on the side of our heads. Yet that doesn't mean we always do it well. Recent research with mirror neurons provides insight into the power of active listening skills for improved recall and rapport with a conversation partner. Choose a listening skill you'd like to improve! Power Tip: Practice a new skill for 30 days and you'll have it for life.

Read more in the March 2012 issue of Firefly News Flash: .

Scenario-Based Survey

Managing Latecomers
by Tracy Tagliati

What do you do when a participant arrives late to a training session? When this situation comes up in Thiagi's sessions (and it always does), I've seen him use it as an opportunity to review. He does this by asking the participants who arrived on time to share aloud with the latecomer the important points they have learned thus far. This provides for a win-win-win situation. Within a few minutes the latecomer is up to speed, the participants have reviewed the key learning points, and Thiagi gets a chance to check for understanding. This strategy is so effective, I sometimes wonder if he purposely arranges for a participant to arrive late.

Poll Question

Is this a technique you would use for a latecomer?


(The poll opens in a new window.)

Open Question

What are some techniques you use to manage latecomers?


(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

Grabbing Webinar Attendees' Attention
by Tracy Tagliati

Last month we shared with you the challenge of keeping learners engaged during webinars. To overcome this challenge, one expert used the simple technique of saying “If there's one important take away you get from this session it is this…” Then he built up the participant's curiosity by including a long pause before providing the one important take away. We asked you if this is a technique you would use.

Here's what you had to say:

Yes: 81% No: 19%
(Percentages reflect 42 votes received by March 30, 2012.)

Yes: 81% (34/42).
No: 19% (8/42).

We also asked you what are some of the techniques you use to keep your webinar participants engaged?

Here were some of your responses:

Response #9) Most participants get frustrated with fancy technology strategies such as breakout rooms because they waste too much time for too little benefit. So I limit myself to standard text-chat comments.

Response #15) Engage them every few minutes through polling questions, chat discussion, calling on them for input or feedback, asking someone how they have applied the concepts or handled similar situations in the past. Treating the call/webinar more like they are with you live in a meeting vs. that you are “training to” them always helps keep more folks involved.

Response #18) I review my favorite classroom activities, and see how I can modify them for webinars.

Thanks for your responses.

Check It Out

Upside Learning ( )

Upside Learning is an elearning company with an interesting website and blog.

I especially recommend the Resources section, ( ), which has interesting whitepapers and presentations. The whitepaper, Do You Need Games in Your Elearning Mix?, provides useful information about casual gaming approaches.