Instructional Design Lessons from the Tokyo Airport

In a frantic effort to spend a few last yen before boarding my flight from Tokyo to Seattle, this display outside of an airport toy store caught my eye.

Airport - Bear

I stopped to take a closer look. I wondered what would happen if I talked with it. My wife, throwing caution to the wind, stooped down and said: “konnichiwa!”

The bear immediately repeated: “KONNICHIWA!” and started moving around. Passersby laughed. A few other people came by and tried talking with the bear, too. It was surprising. And fun.

A few minutes later I came across this display.

Airport - Ball

I picked it up and threw it in the air. The ball changed shape in the air, then re-formed into ball shape as it descended. Several other children saw what happened and came over and began to play with these toys. I had to wrestle the toys away from the children and chase them away from the display for a moment so I could get a photo for this blog.

Fun and Surprising

Can you imagine walking past a shop in the airport and seeing something more like this?

Airport - PPT

It’s not fun. It’s not surprising. It’s quite a turn off, actually. Have you guessed where I’m going with this by now?

Yes, I’m comparing toy store marketing displays with presentation skills. As presenters, why can’t we create learning experiences that are fun and surprising and pique our audience’s interest and entice them to want to try out a new skill or a new tool?

The next time you have to train someone on Salesforce or some other software, why not invite them to play with the program and discover how intuitive it can be before you throw PowerPoint slides at them?

The next time you present on… well, anything… why not allow the audience to play with the content or tool or policy or procedure or product or concept or little toy bear or shape-shifting ball? Let the audience decide for themselves what the benefit is before you tell them what they should think.

What was the lesson I took from a string of toy stores in Narita Airport? Presentations need more intrigue and fun and surprises.

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