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

Interactive Lecture
Words and Pictures
Two types of intelligence.

99 Seconds
As easy as ABC.

Guest Gamer
Interview with Steve Sugar
A conversation with a prolific designer.

High Score by Steve Sugar
Maximum impact from mini-tests.

Event Alert
Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication
More than 40 workshops.

Teamwork, Evaluation, and Motivation
Three books on different topics.

Pithy Saying
Too much of a good thing.





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

Managing Editor: Brenda Mullin

Editorial Advisory Board: David Gouthro, Diane Dormant, Julie England, Kat Koppett, Les Lauber, Matt Richter, Steve Sugar, and <type your name here>

Copyright Info

The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2003 by Workshops by Thiagi, Inc. 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 PLAY FOR PERFORMANCE. Copyright © 2003 by Workshops by Thiagi, Inc.

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

Subscription Info

All registered subscribers receive PLAY FOR PERFORMANCE 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 Workshops by Thiagi, 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!

Interactive Lecture

Words and Pictures

Here is an interactive interlude that can be inserted after each section of a lecture presentation. This activity involves a poster preparation contest that taps into the listeners' linguistic and visual intelligences.


To review the content presented in different sections of a lecture.


8 or more, divided into four teams


10-15 minutes for each round of the activity.


Flow of the Activity

Brief participants. At the beginning of each section of your lecture presentation, encourage participants to listen carefully and take notes because there will be a contest at end. Proceed with your presentation.

Organize teams. After your presentation, organize participants into four teams so that each team has two to six players. (If you have more than 24 participants, organize them into six teams.) It does not matter if a team has one more (or one fewer) members than the other teams. Ask each team to stand around a flip chart.

Give instructions to the teams. Give the following “Words Only” instructions handout to two of the teams. (If you have six teams, gives the instructions to three of the teams.)

Poster Contest Instructions

Your job is to design a poster that presents the key points of this presentation.

Here are four rules:

Give the following “Pictures Only” instruction handout to the two (or three) other teams:

Poster Contest Instructions

Your job is to design a poster that presents the key points from the presentation.

Here are four rules:

Ask team members to read these instructions. Briefly answer any questions. Emphasize the 5-minute time limit.

Begin the activity. Start your timer and blow the whistle to indicate the beginning of the poster-preparation activity. Keep announcing the remaining time at the end of each minute.

Conclude the activity. After 5 minutes, blow the whistle again to indicate the end of the time limit.

Compare the posters. Place the “Words-Only” posters side by side. Invite all participants from the “Pictures-Only” teams to study the posters. After a minute, ask participants to indicate their preference (by raising their hands or through applause) as you point to each poster in turn. Repeat the same procedure with the “Pictures-Only” posters by polling members of the “Words-Only” teams.

Combine the posters. Ask participants to return to their original seats. Place all posters in front of the room. Conduct a brief discussion on how elements from all posters can be combined to create a single poster.

99 Seconds


In the April 2003 issue of PFP, we introduced a strategy called 99 Seconds in which a presenter makes a brisk, self-contained presentation that lasts for less than 99 seconds. In the same issue, we presented short descriptions of 35 different formats for 99-Seconds sessions. Here's an expanded exploration of one of these formats:

Key Idea

A mnemonic is a word or sentence or a formula that helps you recall relevant information. For example, the well-known mnemonic Roy G. Biv helps you recall the colors of a rainbow in the correct sequence: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. In this 99-seconds strategy, you present a mnemonic and explain its application.


Here's a transcript of a session that we presented in the 2003 ASTD International Conference and Expo:

To help you recall and apply what audience members like in 99-second presentations, we have created a mnemonic: ABCDE. Please memorize this complex acronym now.

A is for auditory. Remember that 99-seconds presentations depend primarily on spoken words. So use radio broadcasts or oral stories as your models.

B is for balanced. Blend education and entertainment. Deliver solid content but don't bore the audience. Add exciting elements but don't smother the key points.

C is for complete. Don't use your 99-seconds presentation as a trailer for another presentation or as a commercial for your book.

D is for deliberate. Deliver your message at a purposeful and slow pace. Don't sprint through 99,000 words in 99 seconds.

E is for engaging. Get audience members participating in your presentation. Remember, intellectual stimulation is better than mindless discussions.


Here are a couple of ideas to enhance a mnemonic presentation:

  1. Use a co-presenter. You and your co-presenter can alternate among the items of the mnemonic.
  2. Use a bullet slide. Reveal mnemonic items one at a time.

Sample Applications

You can use this 99-seconds strategy with lists of items in any content area:


Problem: I cannot come up a mnemonic.

Solution: You are not thinking creatively enough. If you cannot come up with an acronym, try creating a sentence in which the initial letters of each word are associated with the initial letters of the listed items. For example, here are the characteristics of effective facilitators: confidence, creativity, inclusiveness, listening skills, objectivity, open-mindedness, and sense of humor. By rearranging these items, we can come up with this sentence: Children love oily scoops of ice cream. The initial letters of the words in this sentence correspond to the initial letters of the eight characteristics. Never mind that the sentence is absurd. This absurdity makes it easier for people to remember it.

Problem: I have too many items in my list.

Solution: Reduce the list to the most important four or five items. (Children like ice cream?) Or limit your explanation to just a word or a phrase per item. Alternatively, split the items between two 99-seconds presentations.

Guest Gamer

This column features interviews with outstanding designers and users of interactive experiential activities. This month's guest gamer is Steve Sugar. As the president of the Game Group, Steve designs learning games and teaches others how to adapt games with their topic. His games include RAT Race, and the wall games: Wall Bingo, A Question Of…, and Duel Identity. Three of games, LearnIt!, QUIZO and X-O Cise were published by HRD Press in the 1990s. His four best-selling books (published by Jossey-Bass) include Games That Teach, Games That Teach Teams, Primary Games, and Retreats That Work.

Interview with Steve Sugar

Thiagi: When did you get started with games and how long have you been working with them?

Steve: Since 1979. When I was teaching at San Diego State, I became tired of those scripted games found in published annuals. I wrote my first team game and called it RAT Race. My first “public” game experience was a board game on sexual harassment presented at the 1981 ASTD Regional Conference and then at the national 1982 ASTD Conference. Since then I have developed over 100 training games.

Thiagi: What's your specialty area in gaming?

Steve: Reinforcement games—games that create a review experience for the classroom topic. I am now growing comfortable with other forms of games such as card games, games played on walls—using charts or overheads—and games using props, such as egg cartons.

Thiagi: How do people respond to your games?

Steve: Most clients are generally positive about playing games, viewing games as a way to experience the topic. They have a critically open mind, that is, they play with enthusiasm but reserve the right to openly critique the design and conduct of the game. This is understandable, since they are previewing the game for their audience and topic.

Thiagi: What was the most embarrassing moment you had in conducting games?

Steve: So many moments, so little time. The worst “melt-down moment” was when four boxes of pre-shipped game materials weren't found for a one-day pre-conference workshop (1998 ASTD conference San Francisco). My partner and I improvised by making last-minute photocopies and drawing game boards on newsprint. Then, when the boxes finally arrived during the PM coffee break, participants joined instructors in giving the deliveryman a standing ovation.

Thiagi: What advice do you have for beginning game designers?

Steve: It is far, far easier to adapt than to design from scratch. If you must design, then try to learn as much as you can from those who have preceded you—from their writings, their games, their websites, and their workshops.

Thiagi: What advice do you have on using games?

Steve: Test your game with a friendly group. This is a good reason to teach a credit course at a local university since students will endure almost anything in pursuit of a grade. Try simple versions of a longer game to understand how the game plays and how players react. Don't be afraid to fail: a less-than-successful game can be artfully debriefed into a more-than-meaningful learning experience. If necessary, call the game an “exercise” or “activity” to gain a greater base of support from both players and their managers. Start with simple fail-safe exercises and expand, as necessary.

Thiagi: What advice do you have for facilitators?

Steve: Try to enjoy the experience. A stern-faced facilitator won't reflect a fun-filled activity. Be open-minded about feedback; sometimes this feedback contains precisely the type of information you need to adjust the game. Be sure to leave enough time to debrief the activity. Most gamers believe the real learning occurs during debriefing.

Thiagi: What do you like in a training game?

Steve: I like any game that invokes a “smile quotient,” where participants want to continue playing the game. I like games that are easy to set-up and play. I like games that are open to many topics. I like games that are “user-friendly,” that is, immediately understandable to the audience.

Thiagi: What do you see in an ideal participant?

Steve: A willingness to take a risk and participate; to abandon their own comfort zone to risk playing within the rules and roles of the game.

Thiagi: What things do you dislike as a gamer?

Steve: Inflexibility and defensiveness on the part of the facilitator (and this includes me). The facilitator is a model for the game. If you aren't enthusiastic and not having fun, how can you expect the participants to willingly enter the learning arena? Think of it this way, if you are enjoying the experience, then at least one person is enjoying the game.

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

Steve: Reinforcement games. I use these games in my University of Maryland class to escape from the dreaded “lecture-and-learn” format. I frequently borrow Thiagi's Beyond Bingo frame, requiring teams of students to match a term on the Bingo sheet to the definition shown on the overhead. Another popular game is Wall Bingo, a simple version of the TV game show, Jeopardy®. A surprising favorite is Mental Math, where students actively listen to simple mathematical instructions and then write down the solution.

Thiagi: Who are your favorite game designers?

Steve: I like children's games because they are usually user-friendly and associated with “fun”.

Thiagi: What do you predict about the future of training games?

Steve: As long as there are topics that are dull or dry and as long as there are teachers who want their students to experience the topic, there will be a need for training games.


High Score
by Steve Sugar

Here's a multi-purpose review game that can be used to follow up a reading assignment, a training video, or a lecture presentation.


To help participants to recall critical information from the training content.


Two or more, divided into pairs. If you have an odd number of participants, have the extra person “pair up” with you.


15-45 minutes



Form pairs. Pair up participants and ask members of each pair to sit next to each other.

Explain the procedure. Use your own words to present this information:

Conduct the first round. Distribute the first mini-test, face down. Ask participants to turn over the test sheet and begin writing the answers. Blow the whistle at the end of 3 minutes to announce the end of the first mini-test. Ask participants to switch the test sheets with the other member of the pair. Go over the correct answers to each question and ask participants to score the test sheets. After the fifth answer, ask each pair to compare the number of correct answers and award scores depending on whether or not both participants had the same number of correct answers.

Repeat the procedure. Conduct four more mini-tests.

Conclude the activity. Identify participants with the highest score and declare them to be the winners. Ask participants for disputes about the correctness of any answers. Discuss the topic to correct any misconceptions.

Event Alert

Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication

July 16 - August 1, 2003
Portland, Oregon, USA

The 27th Annual Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication offers a range of state-of-the-art workshops for professionals on strategic diversity planning and training, global human resources, intercultural healthcare, cross-cultural negotiation, intercultural conflict management, global leadership, and related topics. With a faculty drawn from leaders in the field, the Institute presents a unique opportunity for you to develop skills, update programs, gather resources, and network with colleagues from all over the world in a stimulating environment.

ICI also offers three levels of certification documenting your exposure to knowledge and skills, completion of a balanced set of SIIC workshops, and demonstrated growth as a professional. These certificates (Foundations, Practitioner, and Professional) represent your participation in the ICI network and commitment to professional standards.

Choose from more than 40 in-depth workshops and seminars. The institute also features evening programs, 17,000-item intercultural resource library, and intercultural bookstore.

Contact: Intercultural Communication Institute, 8835 SW Canyon Lane, Suite 238, Portland, Oregon, 97225, USA
phone: 503-297-4622
fax: 503-297-4695


Teamwork, Evaluation, and Motivation

Avery, Christopher M. (2001). Teamwork Is An Individual Skill: Getting Your Work Done When Sharing Responsibility. San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. (ISBN: 1-57675-155-4)

Here is the main message of the book: Effective teamwork is not only a group skill but also an individual skill. Avery helps you develop teamwork skills to thrive in any team. Teamwork is essentially a series of conversations between people who share responsibility to get something done. Sample practical suggestion from the book: When you get upset at someone or something, stop blaming. Move away from the excuse-mentality to responsibility-mentality. Ask “What can I learn from this?” and “How did I create this?” to harvest value from an upset.

Brinkerhoff, Robert O. (2003). The Success Case Method: Find Out Quickly What's Working And What's Not. San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. (ISBN: 1-57675-185-6)

Brinkerhoff shows how to conduct evaluation (or needs analysis) by asking real individuals to share their best stories of how they actually used innovations. These stories help us answer organizational questions such as: Why are managers losing staff? Is the new training program accomplishing its goals? Why is the product launch faltering? Sample practical suggestion from the book: In interviewing people for their success stories, use these four questions: What did you use that worked? What results were achieved? What good did it do? What helped?

Wlodkowski, Raymond J. (1999). Enhancing Adult Motivation To Learn: A Comprehensive Guide For Teaching All Adults. San Francisco, CA, Jossey-Bass. (ISBN: 0-7879-0360-4)

I found the original edition of this book to be very useful and the revised edition to be much more useful. Wlodkowski explores the factors that trigger participant motivation and explains how trainers can create learning environments that stimulate and maintain the motivation to learn. Sample practical suggestion from the book: When participants require coaching, think out aloud. For example, work through a problem-solving procedure by stating the actual thought process that you are using.

Pithy Saying


I once sat through a 14-hour long lecture. It was a conference session on Wednesday from 2 to 3:30 PM.

I heard this comment from a participant at the recent ASTD conference. I decided that this sarcastic one-liner contains a valuable piece of truth.

Lecture presentations frequently appear to be much longer than they really are. Part of the reason is that audience members don't actively participate in a lecture.

Before you feel too smug about your interactive approach to learning, let me add that the same participant complained about being terribly bored during a game conducted in another session. He could hardly wait for the game to come to an end.

Here are two reasons why training sessions become boring:

You can use a single simple strategy to handle both of these causes of boredom: Employ a variety of techniques in your training session. Alternate between passive formats and active ones. Try to shift your training mode once every 20 minutes.