Icebreaker: Yes vs. No

Change efforts can be difficult. Sometimes you have people who are true believers in the change from the start. Sometimes you have people who will never believe in the change. Often you have people who say they believe in the change, but in their minds and hearts they are thinking “this can’t be done.”

People don’t always appreciate how their (dis)belief in change can impact the effort. In order to illustrate the mindboggling power of the words “yes” and “no”, the  CEO of my organization used an activity to wrap up a two-day meeting revolving around important changes that needed to be made. I’ve done my best to re-create that activity in the following 3-minute video: Continue reading

If You Can’t Draw It, You Don’t Understand It

It’s said that if you can’t draw it, then you don’t really understand it. This is the philosophy under which I operate when I’m facilitating a meeting or workshop that needs to accomplish one of the following two things:

1)      Identify a core problem that needs to be solved, or

2)      Identify what success would look like at the end of a project or initiative

The instructions for this type of activity generally resemble something like this:

  • “Using a piece of blank paper and the markers at your table, take the next 10 minutes to draw (without using words or numbers) what you think success will look like two years from today. Once everyone has finished, you will be asked to present your artistic representation to the rest of the group.”

Or it may look like this:

  • “We have identified ‘respect’ as a core team value. Take 5 minutes to draw what ‘respect’ looks like when interacting with other members of the team or organization.”

I’ve used this as both an icebreaking activity at the beginning of a session and as an anchor activity that helps transition into a new topic at some point during the course of a meeting. Breaking out blank paper and markers holds a number of benefits:

  • Every participant has an opportunity to be involved and to express their thoughts in a way that works for him or her
  • It challenges individuals to find ways to represent their observations and thoughts without using words – this means they ought to understand the issue extremely well
  • There’s no time to email or text or check Facebook when you know you’ll have to present your artwork to your fellow participants in the next few minutes
  • Even though people often use the same words to describe a situation or problem or experience, this activity allows participants to see what specific aspect of the situation or problem or experience is truly important to other people in the room

Know of someone else who’d like to get some ideas on how to get an audience to really show you that they understand a situation, problem or concept? Pass this along!

As for you, if you want access to a steady stream of articles to help improve your presentation skills then you should probably follow this blog.

Training Tip: The Messy Start

Imagine a world in which the training session begins as soon as each individual learner enters the room.  The learners don’t have to wait for the official start time.  There’s no awkward sitting and waiting and passively watching other learners enter the room, wondering who (if anyone) will sit next to them.

Imagine a world in which a facilitator can break the ice without eating up a single minute of precious classroom time.

This is the world of the “messy start”

The messy start is a strategy I first experienced in grad school.  My professor (Jean Singer) posted a flipchart with the following instructions at the entrance of the room:

“Welcome.  As you enter, please grab a marker and write your response on each of the flipcharts posted around the room.  Then walk around the room and read what your colleagues have written.”

Normally there’d be a series of 4 or 5 questions related to the day’s topic posted on flipchart around the room.

I’ve adapted this strategy to my training sessions – I’ve found it a useful way to get my learners thinking about the topic at hand as soon as they walk into the room.  Participants who show up 10 minutes early now have something to do.  Even before the session begins, I get an idea of how much my participants know about the topic at hand, what their expectations for the session are and I have a host of participant thoughts to reference throughout my session (“When it comes to getting organizational change to stick, several of you wrote that there need to be adequate incentives.  This is true, but even before we think about incentives, there are several other things to keep in mind…”).

How does the messy start work?

flipchart with people
  1. Come up with 3 or 4 or 5 questions related to the topic you’d like to have your audience think about.
  2. Write each question on a separate piece of flipchart paper.
  3. Hang these flipcharts around the room prior to participants entering.
  4. Distribute markers around the room for each participant.
  5. Post instructions for the messy start activity outside the entrance on a flipchart and/or on the projection screen.
  6. Greet participants as they enter the room and encourage them to pick up a marker and begin writing.
  7. Be sure to refer to the comments that participants have written – during your introduction and during the session as each topic arises.

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Icebreaking Activity: How To Introduce Knowles’ Theory on Adult Education

No Train-the-Trainer class would be complete without mentioning Malcolm Knowles and his theory on how adults learn.  Unless your audience is full of true training geeks, not many people are going to dote on the theory part.  They want to connect the theory to their jobs, how it’s going to help them better reach their audiences, how it can be applied in real life.  And they want all of this to take effect tomorrow, whether or not they can regurgitate what Knowles had to say. Continue reading