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

Rapid Instructional Design
Participants Generate Content
Let Time magazine's Person of the Year create your training content.

Card Game
Build a list, one item at a time.

Other Games Based on Dozens
Create your own game and share it with other readers.

Guest Gamer
An Interview with Susan Otto
She enhances training modules.

Simulation Game
Do You Remember? by Susan Otto
How to enhance your recall.

Event Alert
Thiagi's Workshop in Switzerland
An effective workshop in an exciting location.

Textra Games
Textra Games: 26 to 30
Could this be the final set of textra games?

Reading More with Les
Creativity Techniques Galore, and Useful Advice for New Trainers by Les Lauber
Two useful books for your library.

Brian's Words
What's Your Contribution? by Brian Remer
An important insight in exactly 99 words.

Check It Out ( )
An easy way to share slides.

99 Seconds
Bilingual Joke
Listen to an audio clip about a translated joke.





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

Editorial Advisory Board: Bill Wake, Les Lauber, Matt Richter, 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!

Rapid Instructional Design

Participants Generate Content

Let the inmates run the asylum!

This is my major recommendation for designing training in a faster, cheaper, and better fashion. It urges training designers to shift the responsibility for learning to the learners.

Making learners participate in the educational process has been around since ancient times. We have taken it one step farther by applying it to adult training and combining training design and delivery into a single concurrent and continuous process.

Adult participants bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the training situation.

Unfortunately, this adult-learning principle is more frequently ignored than implemented. In our generative training approaches, we figured out a way to exploit this cliché by requiring adult participants to generate the training content.

Structured Sharing

These powerful training activities encourage participants to recall and share information and insights related to a specific training objective.

Here are five examples.


This structured sharing activity begins with an open-ended question about a performance outcome. (Example: How can we delight our customers?) Each participant recalls a guideline based on what she has experienced, heard, and read. She writes the guideline on an index card. Participants exchange the guideline cards repeatedly with each other. After several exchanges, they pair up, review the guidelines, and distribute seven points between the two. They repeat the process, pairing up with new partners. After five repetitions, participants return to their seats and add up the score points. The facilitator counts down from 35 (the maximum possible total score), identifies the top five to ten guidelines, and discusses them.

Top Tips

In Top Tips, as in the previous activity, participants come up with a tip for achieving a specific outcome (such as closing a sale). They pair up with each other and share their ideas, listening carefully to the other person. During the next round, each pair joins another pair, creating a quad (a team of four). Each participant now explains her partner's idea (not her own). After the participants in each quad have shared all four ideas, they decide which idea is the most useful. One member of each quad now presents this selected idea to the entire group.

Group Scoop

This structured sharing activity also begins with an open-ended question (for example, what are some popular opinions about the Internet?). Each participant writes down four different responses on index cards. Participants throw their cards into a bag and pick up three other cards. They exchange cards with each other. Finally, they form teams of any size, select three cards everybody agrees on, and create a poster that captures essential ideas from the selected cards. Finally, participants share and discuss different posters.

Four Questions

In this structured-sharing activity, each participant receives a card with one of four survey questions related to the training topic as in these examples:

What types of problems do you frequently have with this software program?

How do you learn to use the software program?

What is the first item on your wish list for improving this software program?

If your coworkers ask for help in using this software program, what do they usually want to learn?

Participants who have the same question card organize themselves into a team. The four teams develop a plan for collecting answers to the question from everyone in the room. Next, they spend 5 minutes interviewing as many people as possible and collecting answers to their question. They analyze the answers and identify major patterns. Each team presents a summary report of the analysis.

One To Ten

In this structured-sharing activity, teams of five people are seated around separate tables. Working independently and silently, each participant comes up with a positive story from her experience that is related to the training topic (for example, the best way to cope with change in the workplace). Each participant pairs up with another person from another table and shares the stories. Returning to the original table, each participant tells two stories—her own and a personalized version of the other person's story—in an unspecified order. Other participants at the table listen carefully to each pair of stories and vote which story is the person's own story. After sharing all 10 stories, participants at each table analyze them and find out the common themes that contributed to the positive outcomes.

Structured Sharing Activities Produce Effective Learning

Debriefing Experiences. Adults learn from their experience—but only when they reflect on it and share their insights with each other. Structured sharing activities provide a process for systematically debriefing a group of adults about common and similar experiences they share.

Best Practices. These activities enable us to identify and share the best practices in an organization or an industry.

Ownership of the Content. Since participants create the content, they feel a legitimate sense of ownership. They are more willing to accept and apply new skills and knowledge that come from their coworkers and peers. Also, the content generated by participants is placed in familiar workplace contexts.

Dynamic Content. These activities do not deal with static, canned content. Instead, every time the activity is conducted with a new group, you are likely to end up with fresh content that is different from the content generated with previous groups.

Mutual Learning. Most structured sharing activities do not merely generate content. Participants interact with the content, processing it, and evaluating different bits of information in a collaborative fashion.

How To Make Structured Sharing Activities More Effective

Here are some common guidelines that we use for designing effective structured sharing activities.

Focus on a clear goal. Begin with a specific (and open-ended) question for the activity.

Provide structure. Don't just say, “Talk among yourselves” and leave it at that. Provide a systematic structure that prevents participants from meandering away from the training objective.

Match the activity with the level of participants. Make sure that participants have some level of experience and expertise on the topic. At the same time, use a divergent group so people can benefit from different experiences and types of expertise.

Cultivate an authentic learning mindset. Dispel such silly notions as “Each question must have only one correct answer” and “There is a finite amount of relevant content that must be mastered”.

Collect content for future use. Gather all the information generated by participants by collecting index cards, tape recording discussions, or eavesdropping on conversations. Later, analyze and organize the information. Alternatively, use information collected from one group to be processed by the next group.

Follow up. Comment on the content generated by participants. Reinforce novel and useful information. Supply any missing information that the participants ignored. Correct misconceptions, fallacies, stereotypes, and prejudices by gently and constructively presenting accurate and valid alternatives.

There's More

Participants' generating the training content is only one aspect of letting the inmates run the asylum. In future issues of this newsletter, we will explore other aspects that include participants designing, delivering, and evaluating training.

Card Game


Here's a fast-paced card game that can used to review the content while requiring some higher-order thinking.


3 to 5 players.
Larger groups can be divided into smaller groups with each group playing a parallel game.


Prepare category cards. Create about a dozen cards, each containing a category related to the training topic.

For example, here are the categories we used during a recent training session on outsourcing:

Countries used by US corporations for outsourcing and offshoring

Different functions that are outsourced

Common criticisms leveled against outsourcing and offshoring

Major advantages of outsourcing and offshoring

Trends in outsourcing and offshoring

Techniques for improving the effectiveness of outsourcing and offshoring



Organize participants. Divide them into groups of three to five and seat them at different tables.

Distribute supplies. Place a packet of category cards in the middle of each table, written side facing down. Give a copy of the handout to each participant.

Demonstrate play of the game. Walk participants through the steps in the handout. Read the category on a card, select a player to play the role of a contestant, and ask all other players to listen carefully to see whether you or the contestant makes a mistake and loses the round.

Let participants play the game. Get the game started at each table. Walk around the room to clarify the rules, if necessary.

Handout 1

How To Play Dozens

How Does the Game Begin?

The tallest player becomes the first player. Other players take turns to be the first player in subsequent rounds.

What Does the First Player Do?

The first player picks the top card of the packet. She reads the category aloud and shows the card to the other players.

The first player selects any other player to compete with her. This person is called the contestant.

The first player says an item that belongs to the category.

The contestant immediately says a different item that belongs to the same category.

The two players take turns alternatively supplying another new item that belongs to the same category.

What Do the Other Players Do?

All other players listen carefully to the items supplied by the first player and the contestant. One of these two players loses the round if she commits any of these three errors:


John hesitates too long because he could not come up with a new example of a country to which US corporations outsource. He loses.

Chris say “Sri Lanka”. During a later turn, Pat says “Ceylon”. Since this is just another name for Sri Lanka, the other players point out that the country was already used. Pat loses.

Roger says “Iraq”. The other players claim it to be an error because no US corporation is using Iraq for outsourcing or offshoring.

When a player loses, the other person wins. She picks up the card and places it front of her.

How Does the Game End?

After each round, the next player (on the left of the previous player) becomes the new first player. The game proceeds as before.

Game ends when all cards are played out. The person who has won the most cards is the winner of the game.


Other Games Based on Dozens

Dozens, the card game described above, is a framegame. You can remove the current content (of outsourcing) and plug in any other training content. The key is to come up with category cards that are related to your topic.

Here are some sample category cards related to the topic of critical thinking:

An Invitation

Try your hand at creating you own Dozens games on some popular training topic. If you would like to share your game with other TGL readers, email me ( ) the list of your categories. Include your name and other information you would like to be included in the byline.

Guest Gamer

This column features interviews with outstanding designers and users of interactive experiential activities. Our guest this month, Susan Otto, a talented and creative training designer, is the owner of . She has been developing customized corporate training and coaching materials for more than 10 years.

An Interview with Susan Otto

TGL: Susan, what do you actually do at ?

Susan: I license training modules. I provide training coach services. And I create, enhance, revise, and document customized training.

TGL: What do you mean by “training coach services?”

Susan: Most of the time it means that my clients show me their material and tell me what they plan to “teach” and then they ask me to review it and give them feedback on how to make it more adult-learning focused or more interactive.

TGL: What is your special niche in training?

Susan: I'd say my niche is creating detailed instructor manuals and participant guides for clients who want their employees to facilitate the training content. I emphasize performance outcomes through the use of highly interactive games and activities.

TGL: What if someone wants you to facilitate a class?

Susan: I do not want to be everything to everyone; I believe networking and creating partnerships are very critical to success. So, in most cases, I'll find someone who is willing to do the facilitation. I rarely teach any of the modules—however, I do have my favorites.

TGL: Which modules are your favorites?

Susan: The DiSCovering Why module would probably be my favorite because it's fun to both facilitate and participate. And it affects participants' behavior in the workplace.

TGL: Earlier you said that you “document customized training.” What do yo mean by this?

Susan: Customization might mean documenting the client's existing programs, enhancing and revising a client's existing programs, working with the client's Subject Matter Experts to create material, and researching and designing the content based on my own expertise. After creating the content, I look for innovative ways to make the content relevant and memorable by adding activities and games. I believe that games and activities enhance the flow of any content and ensure retention because participants love to have fun.

TGL: What if someone wanted to see one of your modules?

Susan: My Business Ethics module is a sample download on my website. I encourage anyone who is interested in any of my modules, or interested in working with me, to download the module from my website. It provides an example of the overall look and feel that is consistent across all my modules.

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

Susan: I happened upon the North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA) conference in Portland, Oregon 10 years ago. Since then I have attended every conference and was a board member for three years. The NASAGA conferences are the best conferences, and they continue to remind me of my commitment to making games an integral part of the training process.

TGL: So, do you create your own games?

Susan: No. However, I do tweak existing games to meet the needs of the content. And another thing, I never pigeonhole games since I believe that all games can be molded or modified to meet the needs of other content, if you emphasize the key points appropriately.

TGL: What should your clients keep in mind when using games?

Susan: Though I love the use of games, clients should never use games unless they are relevant to the content or purpose of the class. I work to ensure that my clients understand the purpose of the game and are able to facilitate good debrief sessions that explore the connection of the game to the work situation.

TGL: Where do you use games?

Susan: Let me respond with a piece of poetry:

I use games inside and out
For learning, fun, and removing doubt
I especially like when participants shout
“Oh, I get it, that's what it's about!”

I use games throughout the design of my class content. I plan the classes strategically to have good content flow, sprinkled with a variety of activities to make sure that participants have the ability to fully experience and absorb their learning in a variety of ways.

TGL: How do your clients respond?

Susan: Most of my clients love games. However, until they fully understand how the game works and its application, they, at times, walk with trepidation. Once they feel comfortable with the game, they are ready to give it a try. In most cases, the games work better than they had ever expected—and they get rave reviews and many kudos.

TGL: How do your clients' participants respond?

Susan: The participants love the interaction. A client, with whom I worked recently, mentioned that after a team building session where the Egg Drop game was used, participants were actually heard in the hall talking about “the great experience” for several weeks!

TGL: What advice do you have to newcomers about using games?

Susan: Know how to play the game, give it a try, get feedback, and never quit trying—even if your experience was disastrous.

TGL: What do you think is the most important characteristic of a facilitator?

Susan: A good facilitator should have fun running the game and allowing the game to happen. Most importantly, the facilitator should help participants link the game to a real world application (to the content) and apply it back on the job.

TGL: What is one thing that you hate the most in a facilitator?

Susan: Not helping the participants make the correlation between the game experience and the content of the class. When facilitators don't make the game relevant to the content, it gives gaming a bad name. Even if the game did not produce the desired outcome, there is still so much learning, if not more learning, to be had than if the correct outcome had occurred.

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

Susan: I have a few favorites…but remember, if they don't fit the content I'm working on, I don't use them. In fact, I don't get to include some of my favorites very often.

TGL: So, what's your most favorite game?

Susan: One of the most popular games that I have used with my clients is Becky and Chris Saeger's Oh No! The Planning Game.

TGL: Who are your favorite game designers?

Susan: Thiagi, of course. And Chris and Becky Saeger create excellent games. However, I have to admit that I love how Kat Koppett has taken Improv and helped us translate it for use in the business environment. Her book, Training to Imagine, is excellent. And though I don't have anywhere to use his games with my corporate clients, I love Sex on the Beach and The Drinking Game by Chuck Petranek. Oh, and then there are Brian, Kevin, Dave, Lesley, Mel, Sonia, Matt, Deb, Les.

TGL: Any other pearls of wisdom?

Susan: Chart your course, let the games and learning begin, and shoot for the stars!

Simulation Game

Do You Remember?
by Susan Otto


To explore how note-taking and teamwork increases our ability to remember more.


30 minutes


Flow of the Activity

Prepare a tray of 25 items. Cover the tray with a cloth.

Tell participants that you are going to show them a tray of miscellaneous items and they should remember as many items as they can without writing down anything.

Display the tray with 25 items for 60 seconds. Then talk to the group about some other topic for a minute.

Have participants write down as many items as they can remember.

Reveal the items on the tray and determine how many correct items participants listed.

Do the activity again, displaying a new set of 25 items for 30 seconds. Allow participants to take notes.

Ask each participant to count the number of items listed.

Organize participants into teams of four and ask them to combine their lists.

Reveal the new items on the tray and determine how many correct items individual participants and teams listed after the 30-second viewing.

Debrief participants and emphasize the following points:

Conclude the activity by asking participants how they would apply the principles of note-taking and working in teams to other situations that requires memorizing and recalling such as:

Event Alert

Thiagi's Workshop in Switzerland

Last month, Thiagi invited TGL readers to attend his 3-day workshop on designing and conducting training games and simulations, along with a one-day workshop that he will co-conduct with his Swiss colleague Sam (on Managing Diversity and Inclusion in High Performance Teams).

Please consider joining us at this workshop.

Location: Winterthur, Switzerland. Fly to Zurich from anywhere in the world. Take a 15-minute train ride (or a taxi) to Winterthur.

Dates: Thiagi's 3-day training games and simulations workshop: June 12-14, 2007. Sam and Thiagi's 1-day workshop on Managing Diversity and Inclusion in High-Performance Teams workshop: June 11, 2007.

Additional Information: Check out the December 2006 issue of TGL.

Here are five features that make Thiagi's workshops unique:

  1. Accelerated. Thiagi keeps you totally absorbed with a unique blend of expert presentations, reflective discussions, and creative activities
  2. Functional. Thiagi uses the techniques that he teaches. Just by watching him in action, you pick up several effective strategies.
  3. Authoritative. Thiagi knows what he's talking about. His workshop is based on sound theory, validated principles, and solid experience.
  4. Practical. Thiagi has spent decades in organizational firing lines. He empowers you with realistic tools and techniques for immediate use in today's workplace.
  5. Fun. Thiagi's contagious enthusiasm, inclusive humour, and irreverent flexibility make you enjoy every moment of the workshop.

See you in Switzerland.

Textra Games

Textra Games: 26 to 30

A textra game maximizes the learning from handouts and other reading assignments. Using peer pressure and peer support, this type of game reinforces learning from printed materials. In the August, September, October, November, and December issues of TGL, I presented brief descriptions of five textra games each. This month, I describe five more. You may expand and modify these descriptions to create your own activities that incorporate printed resources in training sessions.

26. Team Bingo

Basic idea. After completing a reading assignment, participants are organized into teams. Each team is given a Bingo card. Facilitator asks short-answer questions. Teams that gave the correct answer mark a square that corresponds to a number announced by the facilitator.

Reading materials. Articles, brochures, handouts, booklets, or summaries.

Sample reading assignment. Information about a new pharmaceutical product.

Learning outcome. Ability to quickly and accurately recall factual information.

Flow. Ask participants to read the material. Organize participants into team and give each team a poster-sized Bingo card. Each card has the numbers 1 through 25 arranged in a different random order. Ask a question and ask each team to write the answer. Read the correct answer. Announce a random number between 1 and 25. Ask teams with correct answers to mark the square with that number. Repeat the process.

27. Thirty-Five

Basic idea. Participants complete their reading assignment and summarize an important point on an index card. They repeatedly exchange the cards, pair up with each other, and award score points to the different summaries.

Reading materials. Chapters, books, articles, evaluation reports, or proposals.

Sample reading assignment. A short book on critical thinking.

Learning outcome. Ability to identify, summarize, and evaluate the key points.

Flow. After completing the reading assignment, ask each participant to write a brief summary of the most important point on an index card. Ask participants to repeatedly exchange the cards with each other (without reading the summary). Ask participants to pair up with any other nearby participant, review the two summaries, and distribute seven points between them to reflect their relative value. After a suitable pause, ask participants to repeat the process of moving around, exchange cards, find a new partner, compare the two summaries and distribute seven points. After five rounds of this activity, ask participants to add the five score points and write the total. Count down from 35 to identifying the top five highest-scoring summaries. Read and discuss these summaries.

28. Superlatives

Basic idea. Facilitator repeatedly asks participants to come up with different types of key points from the reading assignment and discuss them with members of their team.

Reading materials. Chapters, articles, reprints, or reports.

Sample reading assignment. A proposal for new product development.

Learning outcome. In-depth understanding of the assigned reading material.

Flow. After completing the reading assignment, organize participants into teams. Ask participants to individually come up with the most important point in the assigned reading. After a suitable pause, ask each team to jointly arrive at a consensus response. Repeat the same procedure with other appropriate adjectives such as the most useful point, the most radical point, the most counter-intuitive point, and the most complex point.

29. Authors Roundup

Basic idea. Different participants read different articles on the same topic. Working in teams, they prepare answers to half a dozen key questions, emphasizing the similarities and differences among different authors.

Reading materials. Three or more articles, news items, research studies, opinion papers, or editorial comments on the same topic.

Sample reading assignment. Five different editorials from newspapers around the world about the impact of globalization.

Learning outcome. Better understanding of different perspectives on a topic.

Flow. Assign one of four or five different articles (on the same topic) to each participant. After participants have completed reading the assigned article, organize them into mixed team to ensure that each contains readers of each article. Give a set of questions related to key themes. Ask participants to respond to these questions based on their assigned reading. Later, ask members of the team to compare the answer and summarize the similarities and differences among different authors.

30. Cross Examination

Basic idea. After completing a two-page reading assignment, participants pair up. In each pair, participants take turns quizzing each other on the contents of one of the two pages.

Reading materials. Any two-page document in which the content is equally distributed between the two pages.

Sample reading assignment. A set of frequently-asked questions about workplace violence.

Learning outcome. Recall of factual information.

Flow. Distribute the handout to all participants and ask them to study both pages carefully. At the end of the assigned time, ask each participant to find a partner. Assign the first page to one partner and the second page to the other. Instruct partners to take turns asking questions about the content on the page assigned to them and to give feedback to the other partner. After 5 minutes, ask the partners to switch pages and continue the activity. (It's okay if the questions become a little repetitious.)

Reading More with Les

My friend Les Lauber, who's the Organizational Development Manager for the Kansas Department of Transportation, is one of the most voracious readers I know. Since Les's taste in reading is similar to mine and since he is a contributing editor to this newsletter, I have bullied him into reviewing a couple of useful books each issue.

Here are his first two reviews. Click the book covers to order them through Amazon. (We receive a small commission if you do this.)

Creativity Techniques Galore, and Useful Advice for New Trainers
by Les Lauber

[Book Cover] Higgins, James M. (2005). 101 Creative Problem Solving Techniques: The Handbook of New Ideas for Business. Winter Park, FL: New Management Pub. Company.

James M. Higgins packs every one of his 220 pages with solid content. He collected problem-solving techniques from organizations and individuals from all types of business and several countries. He wrote them up, summarized them, and presented them to us in easy-to-read, digestible format. Most importantly, he explains each technique so that they can be immediately used.

Higgins spends two short chapters discussing problem solving and innovation, then he gets down to the techniques. He has techniques for recognizing and identifying problems, analyzing the environment, brainstorming problem-solving ideas, and choosing solutions. One of my favorite facts about this book is that he has 38 techniques for individuals to brainstorm ideas, yet also has another 32 group brainstorming techniques. He really includes something for everyone in this smorgasbord.

I have adapted and used a number of these techniques successfully: the Lotus Blossom and Two Words Techniques have been excellent brainstorming processes for me. I have shown the Why-Why Diagram for uncovering the root causes of problems to a large number of people.

I have shared my copy of this book with five or six people, each of whom went out and bought their own copy.

If you're looking for an easily read book that gets you started on formal, process-oriented problem solving (as advocated by Quality Management philosophies), this is a great starting point.

[Book       Cover] Charles, C. Leslie, and Clarke-Epstein, Chris. (1997). The Instant Trainer: Quick Tips on How to Teach Others What You Know. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

The first time someone has to train coworkers, there are lots of questions about how to do it.

How should I handle stage fright?

How can I jazz up a dry topic?

How do I use a flip chart?

If only there were an advice columnist who could help me out.

With this book, there are advice columnists for new trainers: Leslie Charles and Chris Clarke-Epstein.

The first part of the book, What Every First-Time Trainer Needs to Know (Critical Factors That Can Make or Break You!) is 35 pages long. This section is a crash course on how adults learn.

The second part, Questions and Answers on Training Basics, is 186 pages of pure experience-sharing. The question-answer format makes for easy reading: the questions are a paragraph long and the answers are concise and information-packed. This format has another advantage: When a new trainer wants information on a specific subject (Is there some strategy for using humor in training?), she need only read one or two pages on that specific question, then get on with the job of preparing for the training.

The well-done index makes it simple to find the topics quickly.

The appendices are a gold mine for someone new to training. They include resource lists and contact information, an excellent bibliography, and sample evaluation forms.

This book is usable, readable, and the content is dead-on. When non-trainers or new trainers ask me for a resource, this is the first book I suggest.

Brian's Words

Brian Remer is Creative Learning Director at The Firefly Group ( ) where he invents games and interactive strategies to expand learning and deepen insights. He also shares his practical advice in exactly 99 words.

What's Your Contribution?
by Brian Remer

What's Your Contribution?

Bob hated meetings. You could see it in his tone of voice, his body language, his demeanor, and his droll, sarcastic comments. He was famous for his opinion about meetings. Yet as head of his department, attending and leading meetings was a big part of his responsibility.

Surprisingly, Bob taught me the secret to having a great meeting. He would often leave a meeting grumbling that he hadn't gotten anything out of it. But I noticed that he hadn't put anything into the meeting either!

If you want a great meeting, plan to make a contribution!

Check It Out ( )

According to Time Magazine, 2006 is the year of digital democracy. Time's 2006 Person of the Year goes to everyone around the world who is creating content on the World Wide Web. (I guess that includes us.)

The Wikipedia is an example of people creating and sharing text materials. YouTube is an example of people creating and sharing video clips. ( ) is a recently launched website for sharing slides. At this site, you can find stacks of PowerPoint slides from different sources covering different topics. Trainers can upload their slideshows. Conference organizers can upload presentations from their conferences.

Here are a few titles that I browsed at the site a few minutes ago:

At, you can flip through different slide sets. You can add tags to the sets that you like so you (and others) can find them faster. You can upload your slide sets for use by others.

I don't know whether this repository will perpetuate death by PowerPoint™ or bring about a significant improvement in the creation of digital slides.

But right now you can visit the website and check it out.

99 Seconds

Bilingual Joke

In 99 Seconds, the presenter makes a brisk, self-contained presentation that lasts for less than 99 seconds. For more details about this format, check out the April 2002 issue of our newsletter.

One type of 99 seconds presentations involves telling a short joke. But this should not be a joke just to make the participants laugh. Rather, it should be a joke with a punch line that reveals an important truth.

Listen to an audio version of a 99-seconds session that incorporates a joke. For non-auditory learners, here's a printed version:

Transcript of the Audio Recording

I made a keynote presentation in Bogota, Colombia recently. I don't speak Spanish but I had a talented interpreter doing simultaneous translations.

I was careful not to use any jokes because I knew they would lose something in the translation.

But a joke did come out of my mouth.

Surprise! All participants laughed instantaneously and uproariously.

Later, I told a bilingual friend who was in the audience about my stereotypical assumption that jokes are difficult to translate.

This is what my friend told me. The interpreter did not translate your joke. She merely said, “The speaker is telling a joke which is not good. But please laugh and make him feel happy!”

What's the point? Don't make stereotypical assumptions. But remember sometimes your assumptions may be correct. So always keep an open mind.