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

In Memoriam
We lost a friend.

Double Exposure
Humor in Presentations
Make them laugh.

Principles into Practice
An interactive lecture on the Internet.

Back to Back by Tracy Tagliati
A fast-paced game for debriefing.

Say It Quick
Focus of Attention by Brian Remer
Distant view is a temptation.

RAPT: Attention and the Focused Life by Brian Remer
Your attention, please.

Technology and Attentiveness by Brian Remer
Filtering out unwanted stimuli.

What Is Your Focus Now? by Brian Remer
Paying attention to attention.

Singapore Workshops
Thiagi and Tracy in Singapore
With Stanis Benjamin.

Dallas Workshops
Attend Thiagi's Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training Workshop and become a Certified Trainer by Tracy Tagliati
Our next public workshop in the USA.

Single Topic Survey
Is there really a generation gap in the workplace? by Tracy Tagliati
Can Baby Boomers work with Generation X?

Survey Results
Politics in the Workplace by Tracy Tagliati
A summary of your responses.

Check It Out
TED Talks
Diverse examples of excellent presentation skills.





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

Editorial Roster

Author and Editor : Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan

Assistant Editor : Raja Thiagarajan

Associate Editors: Jean Reese and Tracy Tagliati

Contributing Editors: Brian Remer and Matthew Richter

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 2010 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 © 2010 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!

In Memoriam


This issue of TGL is dedicated to the memory of

Carsten Patrick Gehrke
a kind and brilliant man
31 July 1958 - 26 September 2010
Husband of Ellen Gehrke and friend of The Thiagi Group

Double Exposure

Double Exposure Activities enhance the instructional value of training videos. In a typical double exposure, participants watch a video and then take part in an activity that helps review and apply the new concepts and skills.

Humor in Presentations

TED lectures on the Internet provide rich and diverse examples of presentation skills. We have used them to explore such techniques as opening and closing a presentation and encouraging audience participation. Here's a double exposure activity that deals with the use of humor in presentations.

Basic Idea

Teams watch different video lectures, paying particular attention to what makes the audience laugh. Based on these observations, participants create sets of guidelines, first within the teams and then across the teams. They apply these guidelines to plan and rehearse a humorous presentation.


To discover, discuss, and apply best practices for injecting humor in a presentation.


Minimum: 8
Maximum: Any number
Best: 12 to 20


1 hour


Four computers connected to the Internet (or four devices that can play back TED videos)


Set up four computers to play different TED lectures. These computers should have Internet access. Make sure that all team members can watch the monitor and listen to the lectures. Place the computers at different tables so that the teams do not interfere with each other. Pre-select four different lectures, one for each device. Select lectures that have good content presented with an appropriate amount of humor. Do not select comedy shows for this activity.

(Note from Raja: You may not need full-fledged computers with Internet access. For instance, if you have iPads, you can install the official TED app and save [download] videos for later viewing.)


Round 1. Working with original teams

Brief the participants. Explain the importance of adding humor to presentations. Briefly discuss different ways of making humorous presentations.

Divide participants into four teams of approximately equal size. It is not critical if a team has one more participant than the other teams. Assign each team to one of the four computers, each ready to play a different TED lecture.

Ask teams to watch the lecture presentation. Help the teams to play the appropriate TED lecture. Instruct the team members to take notes on what makes the audience laugh. Encourage them to write down guidelines for adding humor to lecture presentations.

Ask teams to analyze the techniques for adding humor in lecture presentations. After the TED lecture ends, instruct the team members to share their observations and come up with a set of guidelines for adding appropriate humor in a lecture presentation.

Round 2. Working with new teams

Re-organize the participants into new teams. Explain that you are going to facilitate sharing of best practices for adding humor to lecture presentations. Create new teams that consist of one member from each original team. If you have extra participants (because some TED lectures were watched by more participants than the others), add them to one or more of the new teams. You will end up with some teams having two people who watched the same TED lecture, but this does not present any problem.

Ask the new teams to share their guidelines. Begin by asking each team member to share the humor techniques that she observed in the TED lecture. Encourage participants to continue sharing and consolidating their guidelines.

Round 3. Preparing and rehearsing humorous presentations

Ask each participant to prepare a short humorous presentation. Explain this presentation should not take more than 3 minutes and it could be a segment from a longer presentation. Encourage participants to incorporate as many of the humor guidelines as possible.

Pair up the participants. Ask the two members of each pair to take turns making their humorous presentations. Invite the listener to give appreciative feedback by identifying the things she found to be especially humorous in the presentation. Also ask the listener to give useful and constructive suggestions.


Do you have more time? Ask each team to watch two different TED lectures. This will enable them to discover how different presenters use the same humor technique.

Do you have less face time? Ask participants to watch different TED lectures before they come to the face-to-face session. Also ask them to come prepared with individual lists of humor guidelines.


A Live Online Learning Activity (LOLA) is a structured technique that increases—and improves—interaction in virtual classroom sessions. Specific types of LOLAs may incorporate interactive stories, jolts, structured sharing activities, interactive lectures, and textra games. Here's a LOLA that uses the interactive lectures format.

Principles into Practice

Recently Tracy and I conducted a virtual training session on rapid instructional design by using a LOLA that incorporated a case study. It was a successful session, and (as we always do) we analyzed the structure of the LOLA and came up with a new and improved version for conducting live online sessions for training people on a set of principles.


To identify how different principles are applied to a real-world project.


20 to 45 minutes, depending on the number of principles and the length of the case study.

Technical Requirements

Polling and text-chat features. Ability to keep the poll results hidden.

Sample Topics

Principles into Practice works effectively when you have a set of related principles, rules, guidelines, heuristics, tactics, or whatever you call them. This LOLA is not particularly useful for mastering the steps of a procedure but rather principles that are embedded in various steps. Here are some topics that contain sets of principles.


To effectively conduct this LOLA, you need a set of principles. The ideal set should contain five to ten items. You also need an authentic case study that incorporates as many of the principles as possible. Feel free to create a composite case study by borrowing elements from different (and relevant) projects. Prepare an outline for presenting this case study.


Present the case study. Use a chronological sequence. Do not explain or highlight how different principles were used in the project.

Present a principle related to the training topic. Explain the principle briefly. Use appropriate examples, but do not borrow examples from your case study.

Conduct a poll. Ask the participants how heavily this principle was used in the case study. Use this four-point poll:

  1. Not used
  2. Used slightly
  3. Use moderately
  4. Used heavily

Ask the participants to individually select the most appropriate response. Announce a 1-minute time limit.

Invite justification. Keep the poll results hidden. After selecting their response, ask the participants to type-chat the reasons for their choice.

Reveal the results. Display how the participants' choices were distributed among the four alternatives.

Express your opinion. Comment on the participant's choices and their typed justifications. Explain which alternative you would have selected and why you would have done so.

Repeat the procedure. Present the other principles, one at a time. Conduct the poll, invite justifications for the participants' choice, display the poll results, and present your opinions as an expert.

Conclude the activity. Present the complete set of principles. Encourage the participants to ask questions and respond briefly to clarify the principles.


Are you co-facilitating? One of you can act as the subject-matter expert and present the case and the principles. The other person can be the game facilitator and run the polls and elicit type-chat responses. Alternatively, you and your partner can take turns presenting one principle at a time.

Want more spontaneity? Have one person present a case study and the other person present the principles. Let each of these two facilitators prepare their content materials (the case study and the set of principles) independently and not share them with each other before the session.

Want to reinforce the principles? Use two case studies, as different from each other as possible. In our rapid instructional design session, we presented a case study involving a technical topic (how to program a telephone-exchange switch) and another involving a soft-skill topic (leadership development).

Want to conduct this activity in a face-to-face classroom? Use the same procedure as in the LOLA. Project the principles and rating scales on the screen. Ask the participants to raise their hands. Alternatively, use an audience response system.


Back to Back
by Tracy Tagliati

This is an energetic improv game that can be used anytime during a training session. My favorite time to use it is at the end of a session for debriefing.


Participants pair up and stand back-to-back. The facilitator asks a question. The participants turn around and face each other and take turns sharing their responses.


To encourage reflection and debriefing of a training session. To provide an opportunity for structured sharing and networking in an active and fun fashion.


Four or more


10 minutes or more.


Whistle or another attention-getting device.


  1. Pair-up participants. Ask each pair to stand back-to-back. If there is an extra person, they can form a group of three.
  2. Ask a debriefing question. Some debriefing questions you may want to consider are:
    • What do you think was the most important point in today's session?
    • What do you think will be the most challenging idea to implement when you go back to the workplace?
    • What do you think will be the easiest idea to implement when you go back to the workplace?
    • Which idea do you think will receive the most resistance?
    • Which idea will you implement first?
    • What questions do you still have about this topic?
  3. Reflect on the question. Ask each student to reflect on the question and prepare a response.
  4. Blow the whistle. Ask each participant to turn around and face their partner.
  5. Identify who will start the conversation. Use this selection process as an opportunity for the participants to learn a little known fact about each other. For example you might say:
    • The person whose birthday is next in the calendar year will share first.
    • The person who travels the furthest to work will share first.
    • The person who has the most, (oldest, youngest) children (pets, car) will share first.
  6. Identify time limitations. Tell the participants they each have about 30 seconds to share.
  7. Blow the whistle. After about one minute, blow the whistle and ask the participants to find a new partner and stand back to back.
  8. Ask a new question. Continue as above. If time allows, ask three to five questions.

Say It Quick

Reprinted from the September 2010 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

Focus of Attention
by Brian Remer

With neon signs that take up the side of a whole building, vendors and musicians on every corner, traffic racing through the streets, and faces from seven continents, a stroll through Times Square was a night of entertainment all by itself. But trying to find the restaurant where my friend was waiting, I walked right past it—twice!

I realized it's actually easier to ignore the frantic details up close and focus on what's happening across the street instead.

With the distant view as a temptation, we easily overlook the people and opportunities closest to us.


Reprinted from the September 2010 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

RAPT: Attention and the Focused Life
by Brian Remer

RAPT: Attention and the Focused Life
by Winifred Gallagher, Penguin Books, 2010, ISBN 978-0-14-311690-5

With its black cover and bold yellow print, Winifred Gallagher's book, Rapt, caught my eye immediately. But what drew me to pick it up and eventually read it was the subtitle and the promise of an increase in clarity and purpose. Did I achieve that? Well, not yet, in all honesty, but Gallagher's book offers ideas about why I haven't and how I might in the future.

Rapt is an exploration of our attention, what attracts it, what holds it, and how to use it to be more purposeful. Gallagher approaches attention from two directions. She writes about the role of “bottom up” attention for survival and its purpose to alert us to danger and opportunity in our immediate environment. Bottom up attention relies upon novelty to pull our focus in a particular direction. It helps us identify and prioritize what's important in the moment from staying safe to finding a mate or keeping a job.

Gallagher also spends time explaining the way in which our “top down” attention can help sustain energy and, in so doing, shape the way we experience our circumstances. This top down control of attention is what determines the quality of our lives. Choosing to focus attention on a person's positive intentions rather than the last time they offended you, for example, has a strong impact on how you are likely to view them in the future. Additionally, it's also likely to color your experience with the next person you run into.

One of the interesting features of attention is the variety of ways it plays out in our lives—mostly below our awareness. With chapters on relationships, productivity, decision-making, creativity, motivation, health, and meaning, the book offers explanation and insight. Some examples:

Using the qualities of attention, a characteristic we usually take for granted, Rapt offers a helpful window to the workings of our mind.


Reprinted from the September 2010 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

Technology and Attentiveness
by Brian Remer

During the past few months, the concept of attention has gained a lot of traction in light of the rocketing popularity of social media and its ability to insert itself into our lives at any moment.

“Is Tech Rewiring Our Thinking?” from the Christian Science Monitor, July 26, 2010, questions whether “ … technology [is] making us dumb and distracted or turning us in to expert information finders and magnificent multitaskers.”

As the 99-Word Story illustrates, it's not just high tech gadgets that cause us to lose control of our attention. Too much focus on one thing becomes an obsession. Dan Bern's song “Jane” (lyrics; opens in a new window) is a humorous example of what can happen when our attention circuits fixate on a single topic. (See Brian's website for more about “Jane”.)

On the other hand, the inability to filter out unwanted stimuli can be just as debilitating. The 2009 film Sherlock Holmes, directed by Guy Ritchie and staring Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes, features a character who is unable to ignore sensory input. While this gives Holmes the ability to notice details and extract clues from them for his investigation, it also becomes a source of overwhelming stimulation that drives Holmes to binge drinking and drugged blackouts lasting days at a stretch. Watch the film with special attention to a short scene in which Holmes, while waiting for Watson and his fiancée, is nearly overburdened by the stimuli in what most would describe as a stately, polite restaurant setting.

For me, the question becomes one of being intentional about how and to whom we focus our attention. What role do we assign for technology in our attentiveness? Do we focus on the tweets and IMs we are receiving or to the person in the room with us now; the glitz and dazzle of Times Square or the important information under our nose?

Then, once we are aware of our present focus, what are we thinking about? Will our thoughts enable us to make a difference in the moment or will they perpetuate a cycle of distracted worry, fear, or stress? Being attentive can help us choose.


Reprinted from the August 2010 issue of Firefly News Flash by permission of the author.

What Is Your Focus Now?
by Brian Remer

To gain more awareness about your own level of attention and your ability to filter out what's unnecessary or to create a flow state of focus, you might try this experiment.

Place your watch on your opposite wrist. Wear it that way for several days or a week. Now, every time you check your watch you'll be reminded to check your attention too. Whether you want to know the time or you simply notice the naked feeling on your other, empty wrist, you can make a mental note of what has been occupying your thoughts.

Each time you are reminded to pay attention to your own level of attention, here are some things you might do:

When practicing this activity, you are tapping into Gallagher's notion that our bottom up attention (looking at your watch) can continually refocus your higher-function top down attention.

Some mystics tell us we create our own reality. Whether that's true or not, we do at least create our own experience of it. If you try this experiment, please let me know (email Brian) what you create!

“It's hard to keep the world's attention for more than half an hour, and I've managed to do it for more than half a century. But in a world that is becoming more and more surreal, it is going to be more and more difficult to shock.”
—Salvador Dali

Singapore Workshops

Thiagi and Tracy in Singapore

Tracy and Thiagi will be conducting their workshops in Singapore. Here are brief descriptions of two workshops organized by our colleague Stannis Benjamin.

3-Day Workshop

Interactive Training Strategies

Agenda: Day 1: How To Design Training Games and Activities. Day 2: How To Design Different Types of Training Simulations. Day 3: How To Conduct Training Games, Simulations, and Activities.

Dates: January 11, 12, and 13, 2011.

Venue: Grand Park City Hall, 10 Coleman Street, Singapore 179809.

Registration fee: Singapore$2250 (approximately US$1650)

1-Day Workshop

Follow-Up and Certification Workshop

Requirement: Completion of the 3-day workshop on Interactive Training Strategies within the past 2 years.

Agenda: Advanced interactive strategies: online games and simulation, outdoor adventures, and positive psychology exercises. Facilitation challenges: intercultural participants and controversial topics. Training design: Rapid prototyping and levels of evaluation. Design clinic.

Date: January 14, 2011.

Venue: Grand Park City Hall, 10 Coleman Street, Singapore 179809.

Registration fee: Singapore$450 (approximately US$330)

For more information, download the brochure.

Dallas Workshops

Attend Thiagi's Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training Workshop and become a Certified Trainer
by Tracy Tagliati

Did you miss out last year? Here's your chance to attend Thiagi's Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training Workshop. Attend the fourth day and become a certified Thiagi trainer.

This event sold out last year.


March 28-30, 2011


Courtyard by Marriott Dallas Central Expressway
10325 North Central Expressway
Dallas, TX 75231
(214) 739-2500

Planning on staying at the hotel? We have blocked off a limited number of rooms at a discounted rate of $99. Mention “The Thiagi Group” to get the best price when booking your room.

The 1-day certification workshop (that licenses you to conduct this workshop) will be held on March 31, 2011 at the same location.

If you register now, you save $370 for the 3-day workshop and $125 for the 1-day certification program.

Here are some additional details about these workshops. You can also download a detailed brochure (194k PDF).

Registration Fees

Early Bird Discount

If you register before January 15, 2011

Group Discount

Groups of three or more who enroll at the same time will get a 15 percent reduction of their registration fees.

Two Easy Ways to Register

Online. Visit our online store at and click on “Workshops: 2011”. (You will automatically be given the early bird discounted fee.)

Telephone. Call (812) 332-1478.

What You Get for Your Registration Fee

3-Day ITILT Workshop

1-Day Certification Workshop

More Information

For more information, please download our detailed brochure (194K PDF)

Single Topic Survey

Is there really a generation gap in the workplace?
by Tracy Tagliati

Some people feel that generational differences in the workplace are vastly overdramatized. They argue that “generation gap” is a misleading term that implies that people within a generation are inherently similar and people from different generations are inherently different.

Others feel that the differences of the four generations—the Veterans, the Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y—often collide in the workplace. They believe that each generation has its distinct values, ideas, communication styles, and ways of getting things done, and in order for an organization to be effective, each generational style needs to be accommodated.

What do you think?

Poll Question

Are generational differences in the workplace a myth?


(The poll opens in a new window.)

Open Question

What are your thoughts about the different generations in the workplace?


(The survey opens in a new window.)

Feel free to include your opinions, anecdotes, guidelines, suggestions, or anything else on your mind.

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

We asked our colleagues this question, and here is what some of them had to say.

Tricia: I don't think of it so much as a generation gap, but rather a technology gap. The tools and practices that the veterans use are based on the pre-digital analog era. The Baby Boomers use entirely different tools and practices based around the PC, while the X and Y generation exist in the world of mobile devices.

Jon: I think the conflicts in the workplace have less to do with generational differences and more to do with influence and power.

Tanya: Instead of focusing on the conflicts that the generational gaps may bring, I think it is more important that we learn how to benefit from the generational differences, work effectively together, and learn from one another.

Franco: Individual differences in the workplace have always existed. So, how is this any different now?

Survey Results

Politics in the Workplace
by Tracy Tagliati

Last month we asked if you thought politics belonged in the workplace. Here's how you responded:

Yes: 41% No: 59%
(Percentages reflect votes received by October 29, 2010.)

We also asked you for your thoughts about politics in the workplace. It not surprising that some of you had strong and contradicting opinions. Here are some of your comments.

Response 3) Never a good idea! A good political discussion involves freedom, safety and respect. Those three are often NOT present in the workplace so someone ends up angry or resentful. It's especially egregious when one person is subordinate to the other. That's a misuse of power.

Response 6) The whole notion of “avoiding the topics of religion and politics” in the workplace frustrates our ability to share ideas. How else can we learn to communicate ideas fairly and unemotionally if we don't practice in the workplace?

Response 7) Acting as organizational consultant and post graduate professor on O. D. (forming internal and external consultants) and being Venezuelan I think politics is part of the context, pressure groups, suppliers, competitors and suppliers are in that specific environment; if you act with a systemic, domestic and global perspective you could talk about it. The issue of dilemma is how, and my answer is with tolerance, respect, accepting others points of view, avoiding discrimination.
María Elena Hoffmann Kidon

Response 12) I'd rather have harmless discussions about politics in the workplace, than have to deal with workplace politics!

See the reader's responses or add your own.

Thank you for your responses.

Check It Out

TED Talks

If you are not regularly watching TED lectures on the Internet, you are missing a very valuable resource.

More than 700 TED talks are available in on ( ) for free viewing. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted (unmodified and not for commercial purposes). You can also see a convenient spreadsheet listing of the TED talks (including a short summary of each talk).

The acronym TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. TED is a non-profit organization with the mission of spreading ideas.

The first TED conference was held in 1984. Every year, in spring, TED holds a conference in Long Beach and Palm Beach and in summer, a global conference in Oxford, UK. TED conferences feature the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give their presentation in 18 minutes.

Over the years, TED has launched many other projects including TEDActive, TEDIndia, TEDWomen, the TED Prize, and the TED Open Translation Project.

In addition to watching TED talks for their brilliant content, you can also watch them for the application of powerful presentation skills.