"The means is dialogue, the end is learning, the purpose is peace." ~ Founder Dr. Jane Vella

Posts tagged with "Tips & Tools"

Participatory Decision-Making* : Dot-mocracy

Often when you are faced with a number of good ideas in a meeting, it is impossible or even undesirable to choose just one from a list of brainstormed options. Multi-voting is one way to poll the support that group members have for multiple options. To facilitate it, do the following:

  1. List the various choices on separate wall charts.
  2. Ask people to express their relative preferences by placing stickers or dots (hence “Dot-ocracy”) next to their preferred choices. Each person can choose to put all of their votes on one option or spread their votes over several options.
  3. Tally the number of dots that each option received to get a sense of the group’s combined preferences.

Multi-voting is good for taking a “quick read” of where the group is at, but take care to provide enough time for discussion in situations where understanding differences of opinion is important. Two further cautions:

  • Pay careful attention to how many votes each person gets. Generally, the number of votes per person can be calculated by dividing the number of choices by 3 (n/3).
  • Be careful not to assume that the “winning” option is automatically the group’s preference since the difference between two competing options may not be statistically significant. For example, if Option A received 39 votes, and Option B received 37, for all intents and purposes, it is a tie and the group would do well to acknowledge that choosing one over the other is really only meeting the preference of about half of the group.


Where/when may this tool be helpful?


Jeanette Romkema is a Global Learning Partners (GLP) co-owner and Managing Partner of Communications and Marketing, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.

10 Ways to Minimize Resistance

Resistance is normal:  resistance to what is being taught or how it is being taught. What we want to do is minimize it so that it does not negatively interfere with learning. Here are 10 ways to do this:

  1. Early agenda. Tell learners in advance what they will be learning or meeting about. Getting rid of the element of surprise will minimize resistance.
  2. Choice. Offering learners choices on how to learn or how to do something, can minimize resistance. They will appreciate the feeling of having input in their learning.
  3. Transparency. Explain to learners why you are doing something if it is different from what they are used to. Once they understand there is a reason, they will resist less.
  4. Relevance. When learners do not understand how something is important in their life they will resist the learning experience. Help learners know why this content is important for their lives or work, and why it matters.  Relevance is key for adult learners.
  5. Check in. You can check in with learners privately during a break or with the entire group at the end of a session. If you invite them to honestly tell you how a session is going and they see you respond to what they share, resistance will be reduced.
  6. Stick to the program. Don’t change the learning agenda unless you have a good reason and explain it to the group. Flexibility is important. However, unless the change will benefit the learners and their learning, you should stick to the plan.
  7. Show respect. Showing respect to all learners can minimize resistance. People will react negatively to feeling left out or undervalued, and when seeing others experience this.
  8. Affirmation. Everyone likes to be appreciated and affirmed. The more you do this, the less resistance you will have from your learners.
  9. Safety. Learners need to feel emotionally, physically and psychologically safe enough to authentically engage with new content and with each other. If they don’t, they may start to resist the process or not fully engage. Learning new content takes courage and a willingness to be vulnerable—learners need to feel safe for this to be possible.
  10. Welcome it! Minimizing resistance is helpful. However, never avoid it when it shows up because it will most likely build and come back stronger. Sometimes the best learning happens from tough debate, uncomfortable challenge and surprising questions.

Why do most people fear resistance?

* * * * *

Jeanette Romkema (jeanette@globallearningpartners.com) is a Global Learning Partners (GLP) co-owner and Managing Partner of Communications and Marketing, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP. She loves talking about the topic of resistance, so don’t hesitate to email her with your questions or thoughts.

Five Tips for Strategic Communication

Strategic communication can encompass so much. In this brief tip sheet we focus specifically on e-newsletters. However, they can be helpful for any strategic communication.​




1.  Start with a creative brief

A creative brief clarifies what you’re going to develop and why. Even if you think everyone’s already clear about what you’re creating and why, write it down – and refer back to make sure you are staying true to your intent. Decide the sequence of topics in a series so they build on future ones.

Example:  If your organization is writing a monthly e-newsletter, ask everyone involved to comment on a creative brief, plan out the year, and keep that creative brief handy as the letters are crafted and edited. If the intent doesn’t stay crystal clear to you, it won’t to your readers.


Key Items in a Creative Brief

  • overall aim of the communication
  • intended users
  • desired action(s) for users
  • tone/ look/ feel of the communication.

The brief may also include other items such as key promise to users and obstacles they might face. 


2.  Anticipate your readers’ time constraints 

People are overloaded with information so keep your communication short and the size of the average computer screen. The subject line should be the most important information you want to convey; something that makes the reader want to open your email. Write main points first, so readers do not have to scroll down to get what you want them to learn. Add links to additional information at the end of your content.

Example:  If you have a longer topic to write about, create a blog post and link to it in your e-newsletter. Videos should also be a link and not included in an e-newsletter.

3.  Give them something

It’s tempting to try to persuade people and sell things to them – especially when we feel passionate about what we are selling! But, people tire of that and may unsubscribe permanently. They are most drawn to communications that give them something they want. What would entice your clients to keep receiving your communications over time? What would be truly useful and/or inspiring for them? Balance that with messages you want to send or things you want to sell.

Example:  If your organization has helpful resources, make them available to people virtually – even if just a snippet of something they’d enjoy, use, or pass on. End your email with a thought-provoking question, quote or action item.

4.  Make it easy

We get so much to read each and every day, no one will complain if you make your communications easy to digest. Follow a few basic Plain Language guidelines, and check for readability. 

Example:  As you draft e-news, follow the guidelines in the box. Ask two people to review it and mark out anything they feel can be simplified further.​


Five Plain Language Guidelines

  • Write content the way you would say it.
  • Keep sentences short; divide longer sentences.
  • Be concise; go back and remove unnecessary words and phrases.
  • Speak in active voice versus passive voice (ex: the Board will present the strategic plan vs. the strategic plan will be presented by the Board).
  • Share with one other person to read for understanding before sending out


5.  Time it right

There’s a lot to consider on the topic of timing! On one level, think about when the focus of each communication could best lead the user to take an action. For example, if there is a deadline for an application, send the communication so that it is received in plenty time for them to decide and complete the application – but not so far in advance that they might set it aside. Finally, think about when you can send a communication ahead of other, similar communications.

Example:  If your organization is writing a newsletter to solicit end-of-year funds, best to get it out well before the deluge of solicitations hits them late December. You can send a very short reminder email closer to the date that refers to the previous email.

6.  Test it out

Usability tests can sound quite complicated and costly, but they need not be. Even if you have one person use it, you can gain valuable feedback on its usability. Make little tweaks based on what you discover.

Example:  If you are sending e-news with hotlinks send it to a few people and (if possible) watch what they do with it. Do they click? If so, where do they go? What do they do next? Is that what you intended?

Once you get going with your e-newsletters, you can keep an eye on what percentage of people are opening it, when they open it, and what they click on. You always have opportunities to continually improve the effectiveness of your emails.

Which tip is especially helpful in your work? What new tip can you add?


Valerie Uccellani (valerie@globallearningpartners.com) is a GLP co-owner and Managing Partner of our Consulting network, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP; Rachel Nicolosi (rachel@globallearningpartners.com) is a Partner and Core Consultant with GLP. Feel free to contact either of them to learn more about strategic communication.

Tips for Entering and Staying with Tough Dialogue

The toughest conversations often offer the most important learning. Sometimes we really need to enter the conversations we work hardest to avoid. Tough conversations can be hard to navigate and risky. So how do we “go there” in a healthy way?

Below are some tips for entering and staying with tough dialogue. Tough dialogue ought not be feared, and can bear gifts to those who dare the journey.

1.       Be genuinely curious. When we don’t want to learn, understand or see the viewpoint of another, we won’t. Enter dialogue with open questions you really care about and with a real desire to deepen your understanding of where the person is coming from and what is behind his/her position. Expect information that may actually challenge your ideas in a healthy way and encourage personal positive growth.  

2.       Don’t enter to “win.” Open and honest dialogue is not about winning a fight or taking sides:  it is about hearing each other, respecting one another’s viewpoints, and believing we can both move to a better place as a result of the interaction.

3.       Talk less, listen more. When we are passionate, especially when the person we are talking to is not as passionate as we are, we can get excited, talk faster and fill more of the time. This can shut the other person down or make them defensive. Watch how much you talk, and know you will learn more by listening. It takes courage to share what we are most passionate about. Work hard to invite people in; help them feel safe; ensure they know you are genuinely curious about their viewpoints. In other words, be quiet.

4.       Use good questions for understanding. Ask open questions to gain understanding: “What do you think about … ?” or “What has been your journey to … ?” Ask digging deeper questions to encourage deeper sharing: “Tell me more about … .” or “You mentioned …, what more can you tell me about that?” Ask powerful open questions: “What would you need to hear or see to have you … ?” or “What would have to change in your work or family to enable you to more fully … ?”  These types of questions (and taking time to truly hear the response) tells the person you are with that you care and want to understand.

5.       Ask head and heart questions. Our beliefs and passions are directly and deeply connected to our heart and our emotions. It is helpful to ask what people “think” about things as well as how they “feel” about them—both will offer insights. Head and heart questions shed light on what they believe and why they believe it. Both are part of who we are as human beings.

6.       Be gentle. Talking about issues we care deeply about and feel strong about is not easy, for either side. Be attentive to energy and know when it is enough for now. If the dialogue was respectful, then seeds have been planted and there will be other opportunities to further our learning journeys.

7.       Prepare yourself. We don’t always know when we will enter tough or challenging dialogue. However, when you are aware this is likely to happen preparing yourself for it is wise. Calm yourself, know deep listening will be needed, and enter the dialogue with genuine curiosity.

8.       Stay humble. We all know and believe what we do because of our personal experiences, education, faith, family and environment. Since this is unique to each of us, it makes sense that our beliefs are also our own. We all have insights to offer others and also have much to learn. Enter with humility and know life is a journey of surprising discovery.  


Entering into dialogue with someone about challenging topics that are important to us can be rewarding. Which of these tips do you find especially helpful?

How Can We Design and Facilitate for Hospitality?

To feel a sense of belonging is important because it will lead us from conversations about safety and comfort to other conversations, such as our relatedness and willingness to provide hospitality and generosity. Hospitality is the welcoming of strangers, and generosity is an offer with no expectation of return. These are two elements that we want to nurture as we work to create, strengthen, and restore our communities. This will not occur in a culture dominated by isolation, and its correlate, fear.

Peter Block, Community: The Structure of Belonging (2009), p3


Ten graduate students from Wycliffe College in Toronto created the list below of ways to build hospitality in courses, workshops, conferences, and meetings. Indeed there is much we can do to create a sense of community and connectedness, and grow a sense of belonging in our learning events.

The Space and Place

  • Arrange the furniture to help people connect easily with each other and the content
  • Bring flowers and/or plants in the room
  • Orient the room for warmth, comfort and learning
  • Have snacks and drinks in the room
  • Buy snacks with the uniqueness of the group in mind
  • Open the curtains and let the natural light in
  • Cover tables with colourful table clothes
  • Remove unnecessary clutter from the room i.e. extra furniture
  • Strip the walls of distracting visuals and items
  • Have a welcome sign outside the room, welcoming people in
  • Set up a variety of seating areas for people to use during breaks.


The Facilitation

  • Warmly welcome people as they arrived
  • Smile!
  • Set ground rules that help ensure safety and respect
  • Use the language of your audience
  • Listen for cues and be flexible to respond
  • Connect authentically to people before, during and after the event
  • Call people by name
  • Affirm all stories, questions and ideas shared
  • Be genuinely curious about what the group has to offer
  • Listen deeply
  • Speak authentically.


The Learning Design

  • Give people choice in how to engage, where to sit, etc.
  • Use a diversity of learning tasks to invite all types of learners in
  • Ensure all voices are invited in and heard
  • Check in with the group from time to time re: energy, pace, etc.
  • Include a warm welcome in the learning design and/or printed material for learners.


A Few More Ideas

  • Give people clear instructions to the venue
  • Welcome people in advance and invite their input
  • If learners are new to the city, have maps and restaurant ideas on hand for them to take with them
  • Arrange child care, if needed
  • Have the room and all resources ready when people arrive, so you can focus on welcoming each person
  • Chat with people during the breaks
  • Have name tags so everyone can use names.


QUESTION: What ideas can you add to this list?

Tips for Effective Time Management

Managing time is a challenge for even the most seasoned facilitators. Here are a few tips to help you ensure you facilitate the planned learning design in the designated time:

  1. Start on time. When learners don’t arrive on time, it can be challenging to know when to start. It’s okay to wait a few minutes, but in general work to start on time. This will also show respect to those who are there.
  2. Use two time pieces. Having a clock on the wall is critical and having a watch or other timing device with/near you at all times, helps you for 100% awareness of the minutes and hours. Time has a way of passing by quickly unless you monitor it constantly.
  3. State how much time each task is when you give it. When learners know how much time they have, it will not be a surprise when you call them back to the large group after engaging in a learning task. If timing is short, stating it can also help energize learners.
  4. If you are working with a co-facilitator, ask him/her to be your timekeeper. It is sometimes a challenge to monitor time when there are other things demanding your attention i.e. questions from learners. Relying on your co-facilitators in this way can be easy and helpful.
  5. Mark the time breakdown in your workshop design. Making notes to yourself about timing, materials and things to mention while facilitating can help you stay fully focused.
  6. Use learners. Sometimes asking a learner to let you know when a certain amount of time has passed, can be helpful. In some cases this request can help a learner focus and feel validated.
  7. Be flexible. Sometimes a learning task will take more or less time than you expect – don’t be afraid to adjust your workshop accordingly. You are responsible to ensure learners are meaningfully engaged and have enough time to work with and personalize the new content. Although a well-though out learning design needs to be followed and trusted, as you learn more about the people in the room and their needs, changes may need to be made.
  8. Check outside factors that may impact your planned time and timing. Although you may have the learning event perfectly planned out, life has a funny way of throwing curve balls. Check with those in the building and in the group for things like: lunch bells, outside meetings, others using the room, or events in the area. The fewer surprises the better.

Using Dialogue Education in One-to-One Situations

By Karen Ridout and Michael Culliton

In preparing for a one-to-one situation, we have found the principles and practices of Dialogue Education to be sound and reliable. Based on experience, here are our suggestions.

  1. Use the structure of the 8 Steps of Design to prepare for both the overall one-to-one plan and each session.
  2. Sketch out the first seven steps: Who, Why, Content, Achievement-based Objectives, So that, When, Where and How.
  3. In a one-to-one event, consider two kinds of content:
    1. External content: skills, knowledge and attitudes that are drawn from research and the study of best practices.
    2. Internal content: the skills, knowledge, attitudes, experiences and perspectives that the person coming to the session brings.
  4. Build a catalog of useful learning tasks—Step 8—for external content. Remember to consider all three domains: cognitive, affective and psychomotor.
  5. Design thoughtful open questions that will elicit internal content.
  6. Decide if you will be explicit about the structure. The question to ask yourself: Will sharing the Design Steps (the structure) help or hinder the work we need to do together in the one-to-one session?

    If it will help, share the design. If it will create confusion or get in the way, don’t share your design; just use it as a guide for your work with the person.
  7. Be prepared to improvise. Preparing a design for a one-to-one session is like writing a musical score. During the session, you may draw on this score. With the internal content, you’ll also need to be able to improvise, like a jazz musician. However, as we improvise, we thoughtfully draw on the Four A’s, creating opportunities for sound learning and change through meaningful and skillful use of learning tasks (Anchor, Add, Apply and Away).

What has worked for you in one-to-one situations?

[Here is the “cheat sheet” that GLP Senior Partner Karen Ridout uses for planning and facilitating her one-to-one coaching sessions.]


You can join GLP Partners Michael and Karen in Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Raleigh, North Carolina or San Diego--just a few of our at upcoming 2015 workshops!

The Art and Skill of Engaging People

As more leaders recognize that working in silos does not achieve the extraordinary results that can come with cross-department, cross-discipline, cross-sectoral collaboration, the question then becomes: “How do we engage people?” 

Humanity now seems to be shifting beyond me to we, beyond sales to service and beyond ambition to inspiration. Many people seek meaningful contribution—more than just a job.  So the art and skill of engaging people becomes critical as people awaken to new opportunities to make a difference.




















 Consider these 15 tips to set the stage for effective engagement:

  1. Power.  Know that your power as a leader is in how you influence the network of conversations you are a part of.  Engagement is implicit in all you do.
  2. Positivity.  Deepen self-awareness by reflecting on how can you expand your influence effectiveness by becoming fluent in positive self-talk.
  3. Clarity.  Reflect on who you want to attract to your vision or project by clearly defining the ideal audience.  Who are the natural champions with a similar interest?
  4. Authenticity.  Rather than use the ‘sales’ paradigm in trying to get others to buy-in, speak authentically about what you care about.  Resist the urge to manipulate, convince or cajole.
  5. Non-Attachment.  Be prepared to let go of the outcome you want and instead co-create what is mutually desirable.  This way of co-constructing typically generates more ownership. 
  6. Connection.  Two universal human needs are connection and creative expression.  Frame your project as a way for others to get and receive support and a way to share their unique talents.
  7. Meaning.  Help people make meaning out of their situation by asking how they can be a part of creating something new.   Transform complaints by generating action with a powerful ask.
  8. Value.  A principle of engagement is that people will take action if there is perceived value.  So communicate from that place, meeting people where they are and speaking to what they desire.
  9. Trust.  People will take part in new ventures if they trust you.  So practice trust-building by saying what you mean, doing what you say, listening with empathy and following through on promises.
  10. Motivation.  Understand the pain/pleasure principle as it relates to motivation.  People will take action if there is sufficient angst and/or if there is an enticing vision.    
  11. Vision.  When speaking about your vision, paint a vivid, compelling picture using words, images and metaphors to help people understand the fullness of what you are offering.
  12. Listen.  Notice the field of listening of your audience.  Tune into the music between the notes or the message behind the words.  Get curious as to their background conversation and interest. 
  13. Possibility.  Do not be seduced with scarcity thinking in assuming that others will not be interested or be too busy. Explore what’s possible by uncovering creative strategies to collaborate.
  14. Requests.  Get clear on your request and make it positive and do-able.  Have a back-up request just in case you hear a decline.  Be sure to make a promise as a sign of your commitment.
  15. Commitment.  What precedes action is commitment.  If people have competing commitments, tease apart their needs hierarchy.  Get clear on expectations and celebrate success.

Elizabeth Soltis is the founder and director of Bridges Global, a community and organizational development company that specializes in empowerment, leadership and collaboration services. As a bridge-builder in all regions of the world, Elizabeth has a passion for connecting people to their sense of purpose, to others and to the earth.  She enjoys facilitating and coaching people as they expand their thinking, express their creativity and live their potential.  Engaging people in a transformational process that is meaningful, liberating and uplifting is how Elizabeth defines success.  Visit www.bridgesglobal.net for more resource offerings.



10 Tips for Managing Data to Document Learning & Change

By GLP Senior Partner Jeanette Romkema and GLP Partner Christine Little.

It can be challenging to collect meaningful data from participants while facilitating dialogue. There we stand at the flip chart with markers in hand, racing to get their insights up on the wall while the dialogue flows past us. The conversation starts to go off track while we try to recall what someone said a minute ago. And the chart starts to look like a jumble of words. It is important to remember that the conversation itself is a meaningful product! Facilitators need to be intentional about what gets documented and know that it’s not necessary to capture all that is said. Here are 10 helpful tips for documenting ideas, decisions, and insights.

  1. Use participants’ own words. If you don’t have a scribe, consider having the participants write it out themselves and post their work. Using a co-facilitator for this role can also be effective and easy.  Remember, ask learners to repeat when something is unclear: “What word did you use just now to describe the theory? I want to capture your thought exactly.”
  2. Ask people to be specific and descriptive in their answers. People tend to synthesize their thinking to the point where it can lose meaning. To get important detail in learners’ work, you may need to ask questions of clarification and probing questions. Setting the task clearly is critical. Remember, be specific in your instructions: “Write the feedback you are hearing about the method your organization is using. Be as comprehensive as possible.”
  3. Leave space between points as you scribe.  As people inquire into the point you can use this space to add a richer description and fill in the details. As you continue to unpack ideas on a chart or visual you will want to add words, phrases, pictures, and thoughts. Remember, be transparent: “I am going to leave lots of space between your ideas so we can add thoughts and examples as we unpack this throughout the day.”
  4. Make it moveable. If you will be categorizing, capture data on Post-it Notes or cards—one idea per note—so that they can be easily clustered or moved into columns. Let participants do the clustering, sorting and meaning-making when possible. Remember, be clear: “Write one idea per Post-it Note so we can move ideas around and categorize after we hear everyone’s input. We are going to be working with this for the next hour or so.”
  5. Label your charts. It may sound obvious, but a flipchart without a title may be hard to identify by the next day and when you need to use the data again. You and the group need to know what a collection of data on a chart is about, at a glance. Remember, details count: “When you are finished add a title to the top of your chart and your names at the bottom. We want to remember whose ideas are on each chart.”
  6. Use graphic organizers.  Graphic organizers help individuals and groups to make sense of the data they generate. Some examples of these include: T-charts, mind maps, matrices, Venn diagrams, timelines and pie charts. Remember, maximize this tool: “Use the full paper to make your chart and write large enough so that we can read your ideas from a distance. This will be important for our further work together.”
  7. Leverage technology. For some data, typing it directly into a computer (possibly visible to all on the screen), is a good way to scribe. Only use this if the data does not need to be visible in the room later. If you will need to refer back to it with the group, put it on a wall or flip chart. Remember, technology is not our enemy: “We are going to collect your ideas on the screen so I can email it to everyone during the break and we can work all work on unpacking the idea on our computers during our working session this afternoon.
  8. Put the data in their hands. Participants will feel more accountability for the product to the extent they own it. Invite them to write, post, enrich, sort, cluster, categorize, prioritize, eliminate, and add to the data. This keeps them meaningfully engaged, adds more credibility to the outputs, and makes your job easier. Remember, be prepared: “You will find all you need to do this work on your tables: markers, Post-it Notes, and scissors.”
  9. Keep visuals up that you plan to continue to work on and refer to. Visuals are not to be treated like wallpaper, and should only be kept when/ if it will further the learning and work that needs to be done. Be selective in what you record, how and how long you keep it up. Remember, refer to what has been kept visible: “Remember our work on this yesterday [gesturing to the chart]? How does that inform this new model?”
  10. Be transparent and clear. Whether you are collecting data verbally or in writing, in advance or in the moment, individually or as a group, be clear what will be collected, when, where and by whom. Clarity and transparency on process and expectations will help ensure rich data and minimize assumptions. Remember, avoid “faci-pulation” (facilitation + manipulation = faci-pulation): The process of facilitating decision-making that will not be used later. Be clear who has deliberative or decisive voice and what will happen next.

What tips would you add?

The Importance of Written Tasks

Blogger Saba Yassin teaching with GLP Senior Partner, Peter Noteboom, in Amman, Jordan.

Why do we have to create a visual of our learning tasks?

Can’t we just give out verbal instructions?

Why do students need more than that?

I can’t begin to count how many times I have heard these questions from my learners while teaching Dialogue Education courses. I used to explain that the importance of having the tasks in both verbal and visual form helps those who are visual learners, and shows respect by providing the learner with an easy reminder, and . . . much more. I knew it was important, but now I really know why.

I was in the final stages of certifying a group of university professors as Dialogue Education Practitioners in Saudi Arabia (yes, these professors are working to embrace DE at the university level!). As I assessed their sessions using their full learning designs and their practice facilitations, I quickly started noticing big differences. Each candidate who had the learning tasks well-written and presented visually during her class had a very organized, smooth session that was clear to the students; the students easily followed the learning tasks. The dialogue was rich and the learning deep.

On the other hand, some facilitators didn’t reveal the learning tasks visually, and only related them to the students verbally, from memory. While the facilitators clearly knew the learning tasks themselves, they weren’t as clear for the students. I noticed that the sessions were not as organized and the learning tasks were not as well sequenced or presented. There was a tendency towards monologue (where only the professor spoke) and the learning seemed questionable and less authentic.

Wow, what great learning for us all! Writing well thought out written tasks, with all the needed resources, offers us important guidance. It is our “road map” for the session, the gateway to a room full of Dialogue Education practices and principles that lead to meaningful learning.

Now, when my learners ask why it is important to share learning tasks visually with the learners, I have proof. It’s all about the learning.

Saba Yassin is a GLP Certified Dialogue Education Teacher who lives in Cairo and teaches licensed Dialogue Education courses in the Middle East.

6 Tips for Using PowerPoint to Engage People in Dialogue

PowerPoint. We love it. We hate it. We abandoned it to flirt with Prezi. Then we came back.

It's like that relationship we know is not good for us, but we keep it on speed dial.

So, we won't give you the long list of how not to use PowerPoint. You've been there and you could write that one. (But this Gettysburg Address example is worth seeing if you haven't already).

Here is a list of how to use PowerPoint and still get the kind of engagement you want with your presentations.

  1. Consider not using it. (Sneaky, I know, but at least consider it). If it does not enhance your presentation in meaningful ways, don’t use it at all. It has a bad reputation and people have come to expect that they will be passive and unengaged when the first screen comes up. You will have to work against that in the first few seconds.
  2. Set it up with an open question (i.e. “As you look at the numbers, be thinking about how they will impact the work in your own department in the short term.”).
  3. Use it to visually communicate what you are presenting (that is not the same thing as “textually” communicating). Images stick in our minds, for instance, and some graphs can help people to make meaning of complex concepts.
  4. Use text that the group needs to see in order to react to it. (And then give them time to do just that). i.e. “Read through this description of the product we are considering purchasing. What jumps out at you from this description? What features are most important to your team?" (Hint, if the text is too long to fit on a slide, use a hand out or a pre-read instead.)
  5. Intersperse it with dialogue (i.e. "Which of the policies that we’ve outlined so far might be a challenge for you? Why?").
  6. Divide it into short chunks (no more than 10 minutes) around core concepts. People won't stay with you much longer than that.

Above all, remember this.

Your PowerPoint is not your presentation. It is a visual aid to your presentation.

What are your best PowerPoint tips? Worst cases?! Show us some examples in the comments section below.


Hey, good news! We messed up the original Early Bird deadline for The Art of Facilitation, which means you have until September 10th to save yourself $80 on registration! The course is October 10-11, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.

How to Facilitate Introverts and Extroverts in Your Group or Class

Thanks to Karyn Greenstreet of Passion for Business for allowing us to repost her original blog post!

Whether you teach classes, run mastermind groups, or offer group coaching programs, understanding what makes introverts and extroverts tick will help you run your group better.

We all know there are two personality styles that are polar opposites of each others, right?

I wish it were that simple.

Introversion and extroversion are on a line, a continuum. Sometimes people will be strongly to one side or the other on that continuum, but often people exhibit mixed tendencies, especially in a group setting where there is rapport and trust.

For example, an introvert like me (yes, I consider myself an introvert!) might be quiet around new people, but very gregarious when with my mastermind groups. I might be quiet when I’m the student and trying to absorb new information, and highly extroverted when I’m the teacher. We all fall somewhere on the spectrum, and often it’s situational.

So let’s define what we mean by these terms:

An introvert gains energy by being alone, and expends energy when in a group setting, like a mastermind group. Being an introvert doesn’t mean a person is shy; it means he needs quiet time alone to process the outcome of the group meetings and recharge his batteries before he wants to get back into the group-mode again.

An extrovert gains energy when she is out in the world, especially brainstorming with a group of people. She’s excited to share ideas and to process her thoughts verbally in the group. Sometimes she gets her best ideas while talking through a problem with other people.

How do you facilitate a group that includes both types?

An introvert needs quiet time, even a minute or two, to collect his thoughts and reactions to a given problem or situation. Giving the entire group a few minutes to write down their ideas on their own, before sharing, can give the introvert the space he needs to process.

On the other hand, the extrovert needs time to talk out loud, to process her thoughts while she’s actively communicating with others. Knowing this, you can allow the extrovert a few minutes to explain her situation: she just might find clarity — or even solve her problem herself — simply by talking openly about it.

Between meetings, give each of these types a way to communicate with the entire group, possibly through an online message forum. The extrovert will appreciate the ongoing connection to the group and the introvert can take his time to process internally, then communicate at his leisure.

How can you tell if a group member is an introvert or an extrovert?

It’s not possible to pigeon-hole someone and label them as “all introvert” or “all extrovert,” but there are tendencies the psychologists have identified that you can (and should) pay attention to:

  • an introvert makes more and sustained eye contact
  • an introvert will appear to think before she speaks
  • an introvert may disappear during breaks, or talk deeply with only one person during breaks
  • an introvert may seem shy around the group in the beginning, until he gets to know everyone better
  • an introvert needs quiet time away from the group to relax and process
  • an extrovert will appear energized by being in the group situation
  • an extrovert jumps right into the conversation and thinks while he speaks
  • an extrovert may prefer to talk with 3 or 4 people during breaks
  • an extrovert will interact with everyone in the group, even in the beginning, because she loves to meet new people
  • an extrovert may enjoy additional social time with the group after the official group meeting ends

As a mastermind group facilitator, teacher, or group coaching mentor, you will foster a tight, powerful group by being aware of these two personality types and giving each what they need.


If you'd like to learn more about the Art of Facilitation, join us October 10-11, 2013. (Note - early bird deadline expires August 10th!)

And learn more about facilitating both introverts and extroverts at the Learning & Change: International Dialogue Education Institute, October 24-27, 2013, during the session Solo Flights of Thought: The Power of Introversion in a World of Learning with Valerie Uccellani and Jeanette Romkema.

Upping the Ante on Brainstorming: 5 tips to increase group creativity and productivity

Next time I’m planning an idea-generating session, I’ll consider suggesting that we invite a few new people to the group who can offer a novel take. Maybe I’ll even throw a rubber chicken into the circle when things are running along a predictable path! ~ Michael Culliton

For years I have used “brainstorming” to help groups generate creative responses to important and challenging situations. Recently, I’ve run across several things that have led me to realize that if I really want to help groups cultivate and amplify creativity, then I need to do some things differently.

The journey began with reading James Zull’s The Art of Changing the Brain as preparation for Dr. Jane Vella’s plenary session, “The Biology of Learning,” at the October 2013 International Dialogue Education Institute. This has heightened my curiosity about learning, creativity and the brain and led me to, among other things, a fascinating interview with Rex Jung, a professor of neurosurgery and a clinical neuropsychologist talking about creativity and the everyday brain.

It was in the interview with Dr. Jung that I heard the bad news:  my beloved brainstorming was not a healthy host for creativity. The studies supporting this conclusion are presented in a New Yorker article by Jonah Lehrer, “Groupthink: the brainstorming myth.” (If you are interested in a thorough and nuanced explanation of the research mentioned below, I highly recommend the article.)

Based on the research presented in the article, here are five things I plan to do differently.

  1. STOP using the term “brainstorming.” As far back as 1958, a study at Yale University showed that the process doesn’t yield the best results within a group. So, I think it’s time to give it up. I’m not sure what to call the revised process of creative idea generation just yet (any ideas?).
  2. Ask people to engage in “solo” idea-generation first.  Subsequent research at Northwestern University confirmed the Yale study and also showed that a group produces a greater number and better quality of ideas when people generate a solo list of ideas first and then bring them to the group. (Sorry fellow extroverts!)
  3. When the solo ideas are brought to large group, introduce a “debate condition.” Studies done in 2003 at Berkeley found that ideas and actions are more effective when they are vetted via a process that allows for questioning and challenge. (Farewell my sweet brainstorming guideline of “No judging, analyzing, or evaluating of ideas!”) Given the principle of “safety,” as a Dialogue Education practitioner I’ll need to experiment with structures that allow ideas to be vetted while honoring this important principle.
  4. In group idea-generating conversations, experiment with ways to interject “errant responses” that have the potential to interrupt predictability and foster “aha’s.” The same Berkeley researcher mentioned above found that “unfamiliar perspectives,” as well as “unexpected” – even wacky – responses, can help groups think their way off of well-worn paths. Next time I’m planning an idea-generating session, I’ll consider suggesting that we invite a few new people to the group who can offer a novel take. Maybe I’ll even throw a rubber chicken into the circle when things are running along a predictable path!
  5. Structure meeting and break-times in ways that foster more mixing and happenstance. Recent studies at Harvard University suggest that physical proximity and spontaneous interactions foster creativity. This has led me to wonder how I as a Dialogue Education practitioner can better structure meeting and break-time environments to increase the opportunity for people to interact with a greater number and variety of people. For starters, in designing meeting processes, perhaps I’ll make greater use of tasks that invite people to share “cocktail party style” or “speed-dating fashion.” Maybe I’ll put the beverages at one end of the room and the snacks at the other.

I’m looking forward to playing with these changes in the idea-generation process and to discovering how these revised practices help me and the groups of which I am a part to be even more creative and productive.

What ideas come to mind for you?

What might a Dialogue Education-based idea-generation process, one that puts the research outlined above into practice, look like?

How might a Dialogue Educator introduce such a practice to a group or in meeting?


Michael Culliton, GLP Partner, is co-facilitating a session entitled Educational Jujitsu for the 21st Century: Applying User Research and Design in Learning at the Learning & Change International Dialogue Education Institute, Oct 24-27, 2013 in Baltimore, MD, USA, where he's also offering one-on-one private consultations.

You can also work with Michael is an upcoming workshop:  Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach   |   October 1-4, 2013   |   San Diego, California

3 Tips for Engaging Presentations (Hint: It’s not about you!)

Want engaging presentations? Here's a hint. Stop thinking it’s about you.

Presenters often think of “engagement” as an adjective; we believe we must be engaging when we present. It is much more useful to see engagement as a verb, applied to the people you're addressing. And – this is important – we are not the actors. They are!

Sure, we need to have some content. We need to have a message. And it helps if we have style. But engagement doesn't happen because our story is so compelling. It happens when the people we’re addressing see themselves in the story. And it’s much easier for that to happen when we put them into the story from the get-go.

Below are three easy shifts you can make to start engaging your audience.

  1. Before you touch that slide deck or open up your PowerPoint, spend some time thinking about who is in the room. Why are they there? What would they being be doing if your presentation really hit the mark? (This thinking is way more valuable than thinking about what content you want to share. Think about your audience first, and keep coming back to them throughout your planning.)
  2. Define the Big Question you have for them and be sure to ask it. (Hint:  that question should not be "any questions?”) Once they are engaged in answering the question, they become the protagonists of your presentation. Yes, that cuts into your presenting time, but think about this:  if your goal is for this group to take some action or learn something specific, having them simply listen passively won’t help you achieve your goal.
  3. Be selective -- really selective -- about the content. In fact, just enough information to help them dig into the Big Question and no more. If they walked out remembering just three things (which is likely!), what would they be? How about one thing? You probably know a lot more about your topic. You may really love it. And most likely you have done a lot of thinking about it. You want people to understand everything you understand. But guess what? That's about you!

Your presentation needs to be about them.

Christine Little is a Partner at Global Learning Partners. You can work with Christine at the International Dialogue Education Institute - with Peter Perkins she's co-facilitating a 3-hour workshop entitled Your Self as an Instrument of Change. You can also sign up to work with Chris in a one-on-one private consultation at the Institute.



Dialogue Education Essentials: The Right Bit of WHAT for the WHEN


"If I only had enough time I could cover this subject!"

You may have said this yourself. And I'd be surprised if you hadn't heard other teachers say it! If the content of a learning event is worth its salt in meaning and significance, you'll never have enough time.

The fourth step of the 8 Steps of Design allows you to consider the time and timing for your learning event (the WHEN). It assures that you know how much time you have with a set of learners for them to learn the content of the event (or the WHAT).

We all know how easy it is to design too much content for the alloted time, or what we who use Dialogue Education like to call "too much WHAT for the WHEN." Skilled educators are aware of this danger to learning, and they design with it in mind. Less is more! (As a little aside, see why GLP Senior Partner Peter Perkins loves the axiom less is more.)

The end is learning, not sharing buckets of information!

It is skilled and difficult work indeed to select those items of content that are essential to developing knowledge, attitudes and skills for the purpose at hand. I have not discovered a perfect magic formula to avoid too much WHAT for my WHEN. But I do know it helps to be aware that too much content in a given time frame is a danger to learning.

And, to help you out with this challenge, my colleague Darlene Goetzman has written a terrific chapter (download it here for free!) about how to select the "best" content for your learning event in her helpful, downloadable coaching guide, Dialogue Education Step by Step: A Guide for Designing Exceptional Learning Events.

All of this explains why this is one of my Dialogue Education Essentials:

Cuidado! Be careful! Beware! Attention! Angalia! DANGER!!!     


What tips do you have for avoiding this danger?


Join Jane Vella October 24-27, 2013 at the International Dialogue Education Institute for her plenary session, The Biology of Learning.

An Interview with Peter Perkins, GLP Senior Partner

This is the first in a series of interviews conducted by Joan Dempsey, GLP's Dialogue Education Community Director, with people who believe deeply in the power of dialogue to influence learning that lasts. She starts the series with members of the GLP core consulting team.

We as DE practitioners do not arrive; we journey into our practice, continually deepening our practice and adding our own meaning. ~ Peter Perkins

Joan Dempsey (Joan):  What’s your favorite axiom, and why?

Peter Perkins (Peter):  “Less is more!”

This axiom actually comes from schools of architecture, where the less that’s built into a home or office, the more comfortable and usable is the resulting space. I see myself as a designer of effective and sustainable learning, in much the same way an architect designs efficient, beautiful and enduring buildings. To do this, I must be careful and intentional about not over- or under-building the learning design for the learners.

Joan:  Name some of your favorite facilitation skills. Describe what you use them for and why they’re favorites.

Peter:  Silent Listening - I have moved from using primarily active listening (from Carl Rogers' person-centered-therapy) to silent listening, in which my silence allows me to listen more intently for the learner’s threads of meaning and new discovery. I listen for when I can add to the learning without usurping the deeper reflection and meaning-making by the learners themselves. I still have an important role with my voice, but I find it more useful to the learner if I listen deeply throughout.

Joan:  Of all the Dialogue Education principles, which 2-3 do you like the best? Why?

Peter:  The 6 foundational principles of Dialogue Education (DE) and learning:  Respect, Relevance, Immediacy, Safety, Engagement, and Inclusion

These principles are the basis of all the other principles and are simple, clear, and powerful when steeped into a design for learning events or consulting work with organizations. Malcolm Knowles and Jane Vella gathered these principles for two different types of research:  in formal university- and field-based discovery. These principles hold up over the test of time, culture, geography, class and content. For example, designing consultations or workshops that truly respect the participants’ knowledge, skills, attitudes and cultural settings will be far more successful than disregarding (disrespecting) them.

Joan:  When you attend learning events that are not learning-centered, what’s your biggest pet peeve?

Peter:  The monologist simply reading his notes or slides with little regard for those in the room … I can read on my own and save time and money, and forgo the illusion of learning.

Joan:  Why do you love DE? 

Peter:  I don’t love DE; rather I am thankful and indebted to those who contributed to its creation and its continued development as a gathering of ideas, theories, tools, and considerations in how I do my work.

Joan:  When you think about all of your work as a facilitator/teacher/consultant, what learning transfer makes you the most proud? Share the story(ies).       

Peter:  SURE-Fire meetings workshop – Following a successful redesign of a statewide directors meeting, the executive identified an issue and asked when we might meet to address this issue. A graduate of the SURE-Fire Meetings workshop paused and then – in true SURE-Fire fashion – rebutted:  “Do we need to meet?” They talked it through and in only a couple of minutes realized that meeting in person was not the best approach for what they hoped to accomplish; they set up a short phone conference-call instead.

Another time I was facilitating an organizational learning event and partway through our work, a participant blurted out that she still goes back to the Steps of Design every time she designs a workshop or other event. She had graduated from our foundational Dialogue Education course, Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach, seven years earlier!

Joan:  What would you say to someone who’s new to DE to explain the essence of DE?

Peter:  Dialogue Education is an accumulation of theory and practice from many practitioners tested across myriad cultures and content to deepen a learner’s engagement, increase meaning making by the learner, and result in more sustainable learning that is more likely to transfer in their own setting as they need it. DE is a way to transform facilitation and teaching to be more effective for the learner.

Joan:  What tips do you have for someone who’s been practicing DE for a while?

Peter:  DE is not static. We as DE practitioners do not arrive; we journey into our practice, continually deepening our practice and adding our own meaning. Continue to develop from within your integrity as a practitioner!

DE is not a set of tools; rather it is a way of thinking and being with learners. Use the principles – rather than the techniques – as your guide. Do your work differently on a regular basis – don’t let DE be defined only by sticky notes, or – as valuable as they are – the 4As for designing learning tasks (Anchor, Add, Apply, Away.) Let your work be defined by decision making to best meet the strengths and needs of those in the room.

Joan:  If you use other teaching methods that you feel complement DE, what are they and how are they complementary?

Peter:  I most often draw on studies and practice in human organizational development, sociology, and psychology to steep my DE work into a larger context of theory and meaning of being human in our individual contexts.


Peter Perkins is co-facilitating a session entittled "Your Self as an Instrument of Change" at the Learning & Change International Dialogue Education Institute, Oct 24-27, 2013 in Baltimore, MD, USA, where he's also offering one-on-one private consultations. He's also teaching two upcoming workshops in Stowe, Vermont:  Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach (September 23-26, 2013) and Advanced Learning Design (November 18-20).

Dialogue Education Essentials: Verbs for the Learners

Verbs in the Learning Tasks Are for the Learner

My good friend Agnes took the course Learning To Listen, Learning To Teach years ago. She had a hard time, as a professor, moving from telling to teaching, using Dialogue Education. We walked around the lake in Raleigh N.C. many a time while I gave examples of learning tasks, explained what she was reading in my books, laughed with her about her keen sense of wanting to do this in her classroom and her frustration at not grasping it.

One spring afternoon, as we chatted amiably on our lake walk, Agnes stopped and turned to me.

"Oh, Jane,” she exclaimed, “I see! A learning task is a task for the learner!"

We danced the rest of the way around the lake to the tune of : By George, she's got it! (From "My Fair Lady," with Rex Harrison, shown above.)

One way to sure you've got it is to be certain that the verbs in your learning tasks are verbs for the learners; verbs that tell the learners what they are to do.

Here’s a sample learning task – note that the verbs tell the learners what they are to do:

  • Read and mark up the story on page 18.
  • Describe in pairs your best learning experience. Analyze it by telling one another what you think made it work for you.
  • Find a URL that will be useful in showing the form and functions of the amygdala.       
  • Create - as a team of two - a four picture cartoon illustrating the importance of verbs for the learners.

Create. Find. Analyze. Describe. Read. Mark.  All are verbs for the learners!

By George, she's got it!

Join Jane Vella October 24-27, 2013 at the International Dialogue Education Institute for her plenary session, The Biology of Learning.

Dialogue Education Essentials: Safety

The system that is Dialogue Education demands safety. Learners must feel safe with the content, with the teacher, with the environment, with their colleagues. The designer/teacher must feel safe with her partners, with her design, with the group of learners, with the environment. Safety is not merely a nice aspect of the system:  it is absolutely essential. The brain cannot work if you’re not safe; when the amygdala is churning out adrenaline because a person is scared, mad, or sad – at risk, in danger – then synapses shut down and new dendrites cannot grow.* No new learning.

Fear is never a tool or a condition for learning.

Safety throughout a learning design invites challenge:  Bring it on! Safety is seen in the beauty of the materials, the sequence of the learning tasks, the visible relationship between partnering teachers, the relationships developing in the small groups and in the large group, the setting up of the environment, the fragrance of good coffee or cinnamon buns, the sharing that took place before the event in the Learning Needs and Resources Assessment, the positive framing of feedback, the timing of learning tasks . . . in short, the whole design, the entire system.

Did you notice how these principles and practices cling together, and connect? The shin bone connected to the foot bone…We can dare to call this an organic system, the means congruent with the end:  learning.

*Thanks for the brain ideas, from James E. Zull’s, 2002 book, The Art of Changing the Brain.

Join Jane Vella October 24-27, 2013 at the International Dialogue Education Institute for her plenary session, The Biology of Learning.

The Surprising Truth About Moving Others: An Interview with Author Dan Pink

Recently, bestselling author Daniel H. Pink took some time out of his wildly crazy schedule to answer GLP's burning questions about his compelling new book To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others. Why should you care about sales? You'd be surprised . . . read on!


GLP:  Your book – To Sell is Human – is all about sales. Our community is filled with trainers and consultants who think “sales” is conducted by the world’s used-car salespeople, not by trainers and consultants. Why should they care about sales?

Dan:  Well, like it or not, they're in sales, too. If they're independent trainers and consultants, they're selling their services all the time. If they're in-house, they're selling in a broader sense. That is, they're spending an enormous about of their time, persuading, influencing, and convincing others to make an exchange. They're trying to get the boss to free up resources, their colleagues to do different things in different ways, and so on. We have survey research showing that American workers are spending about 40 percent of their time on the job -- 24 minutes of every hour -- in what I call "non-sales selling."

It's understandable that some people in your community might not like that idea. Lots of folks think of sales as sleazy, cheesy, and slimy. But that view is outdated. Selling has a bad rap because most of what we know about it arose in a world of information asymmetry -- where the seller always had more information than the buyer and therefore could rip off the buyer. But today, information asymmetry is giving way to something at least close to information parity. That's changed the game in ways we've scarcely recognized. We now live in a world not just of "buyer beware" -- but also of "seller beware."

GLP:  One tenet central to our Dialogue Education approach to training and development is the power of the open question to ignite learning; in your book you hit upon the power of self-talk and self-questioning, which caught our interest. Tell us more!

Dan:  “Interrogative self-talk" was one of the most intriguing ideas I ran across in my research. The conventional view is that before an important pitch meeting or sales call, the smartest move is to pump ourselves up -- to tell ourselves, "You can do it." That's certainly better than doing nothing. But new research shows it's not nearly as effective as turning the declaration into a question -- and instead asking ourselves, "Can you do it?" The reason is that questions, by their very nature, elicit an active response. So when I ask myself "Can you do it?" I have to answer -- and I have to explain how I'm going to do it. In those answers, I rehearse and prepare in a way that's far more muscular than mere affirmation.

GLP:  We’re all familiar with the terms introvert and extrovert. In your book you introduce an intriguing new term—ambivert. What can you tell us about ambiverts?

Dan:  We have this notion that some people are "born" salespeople -- and, by extension, that certain types of people do it best. Many of us believe that extraverts make the best sales people. But new research from Adam Grant at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School calls that into question. In his research, which I write about here, he found that strong extraverts were only slightly better at sales than strong introverts. Why? Strong extraverts can talk too much and listen too little and overwhelm people with their forceful personalities. The people who did the best -- by far -- were the "ambiverts," those in the middle. These folks, who are somewhat introverted and somewhat extraverted, are the most attuned and therefore make the best salespeople. What ought to be heartening is that most of us are neither strong introverts nor strong extraverts. Most of us are ambiverts, which suggests that most of us are reasonably well-positioned to sell effectively.

GLP:  We love that your book includes sample cases at the end of each section! Imagine that you were opening the doors to Dan Pink’s One Day School of Business Thought. What are the top three exercises you would share with our trainers to help them increase their sales acumen (without feeling smarmy)?

Dan:  To Sell is Human contains about 70 tools, tips, and exercises that build on the social science to give people practical ways to get better at selling. Here are three that might help:

  1. Pull up a chair. This is a technique used by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com. In any meeting, he includes an empty chair at the table, to remind those assembled who’s really the most important person in the room: the customer. Your empty chair might be a client, a trainee, or a company executive. Once you get used to including that person in your thinking, you’ll have gone a long way toward understand their thinking.
  2. Try a question pitch. Questions often pack a surprising punch – In 1980, Ronald Reagan made effective use of a very simple question: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Yet questions are underused when we try to move others, despite a raft of social science that suggests we should deploy them more often. Beginning with research in the 1980s, several scholars have found that questions can outperform statements in persuading others. The reasons for the difference go to the core of how questions operate. When I make a statement, you can receive it passively. When I ask a question, you’re compelled to respond, either aloud if the question is direct or silently if the question is rhetorical. That requires at least a modicum of effort on your part. Can you come up with a great question pitch for your product or idea?
  3. Ask yourself the two most important questions. At every opportunity you have to move someone, be sure you can answer the two questions at the core of genuine service: (1) If the person you’re selling to agrees to buy, will his or her life improve? and (2) When your interaction is over, will the world be a better place than when you began? If the answer to either of these questions is no, you’re doing something wrong.

Daniel H. Pink is the author of five provocative books– including the long-running New York Times bestsellers, A Whole New Mind and Drive. His latest book, To Sell is Human, is a #1 New York Times business bestseller, a #1 Wall Street Journal business bestseller, and a #1 Washington Post nonfiction bestseller. Dan’s books have been translated into 34 languages. He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife and their three children.

What Good Are Warm Ups?

When I was in 9th grade I attended an encounter group weekend designed to get us teenagers more comfortable with ourselves. The first thing we did was a “warm-up” exercise so we could “get to know each other.” What did we do?

We stood in a circle and passed an orange around the circle, not with our hands, but by holding it under our chins and passing it to the next person’s chin! Whoa! Talk about getting to know one another quickly.

What did the orange passing have to do with what we were there to learn? Nothing. In fact, it very likely made most of us less comfortable with ourselves. These trainers were unclear on the principle of SAFETY!

So what good are warm-ups? When well-done, they’re great. At GLP we do some learning tasks with warm-ups during our Advanced Learning Design class. Here’s what we like to say about them.

Warm-ups are thoughtfully created tasks completed early in a learning event that:

  • Directly relate to the content that will be learned;
  • Gently bring people’s attention to the work at hand;
  • Invite the learner’s perspective, linked to the event’s content;
  • Engage while building respect and safety;
  • Begin modeling facilitation skills such as waiting and affirming;
  • Honor the primacy principle (what comes first is most remembered);
  • Bring people in; connect them to each other, and to the topic;
  • Activate prior learning.

Warm-ups are meaningful, robust and have a purpose related to the group and the content; they are not activities that, once completed, are quickly forgotten (unless there are oranges involved.)

Take a look at these 17 Warm-Up Examples, developed by Darlene Goetzman, Certified Dialogue Education Teacher and co-owner of GLP.

What warm-ups have you successfully employed?


If you’d like to discover more about warm-ups for yourself, please join us in Raleigh, North Carolina on June 19-21 for Advanced Learning Design. This course is unique because only in Raleigh can you have dinner hosted by Dialogue Education founder Jane Vella on her back porch!

10 Axioms for Learning Design (and just what IS an axiom, anyway?)

If you’ve been kicking around Dialogue Education circles long enough you’ll have heard a bunch of axioms bandied about. You might have read Dr. Jane Vella’s A Few New Axioms, about the new truths that have become apparent to her during her retirement years, or seen the results of the experiment Dan Haase and Kyle Tennant undertook as a result of an axiom.

But what is an axiom, really?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines it this way:

  • A self-evident or universally recognized truth; a maxim.
  • An established rule, principle, or law.
  • A self-evident principle or one that is accepted as true without proof as the basis for argument; a postulate.

In the world of Dialogue Education learning designs, we have ten favorites that we explore in our Advanced Learning Design course and we invite you to ponder them for a moment as you read them here:

  1. Don’t tell what you can ask; don’t ask if you know the answer:  tell in dialogue.
  2. Even a group of 4 (or 400) can be broken down to pairs: let every voice be heard!
  3. A warm-up is a learning task related to the topic.  It is not an extra.
  4. A learning task is an open question, put to a small group with the resources they need to respond.  It is for the learners, not you, the teacher.
  5. A critical incident (case study posing a problem) needs to be far enough away to be safe, and close enough to be relevant.
  6. Pray for doubt!
  7. The more teaching (professing), the less learning.
  8. We should generally be teaching half as much in twice the time.
  9. Aim for the proper sequence or flow, from simple to more complex.
  10. The design bears the burden.

In Advanced Learning Design we do a task together towards the end of our three-day course that’s focused on the axioms:

Think about what you have found most stretching and provocative during the past three days. Create your own pearl of wisdom to express your learning in the form of an axiom!  Write or draw it on the paper provided and bring it to our axiom wall.


Take a Gallery Walk and express your reactions to what you see.

While we can't have a typical Gallery Walk here on our blog, we do have a comments section below that will suffice. A lot of you are very experienced teachers, facilitators and trainers – what are your favorite axioms related to learning designs? We invite you to share your comments below.

If you’d like to discover more pearls of wisdom for yourself, please join us in Raleigh, North Carolina on June 19-21 for Advanced Learning Design. This course is unique because only in Raleigh can you have dinner hosted by Dialogue Education founder Jane Vella on her back porch!

10 Tips for Using Guidelines

Guidelines in Life

Using guidelines during a learning or work event can be extremely helpful (and sometimes paramount to a successful session!). Below are a few things to keep in mind for ensuring they are relevant, needed, and meaningful.

  1. Use Guidelines for especially difficult groups or topics, multi-day events, or when you think issues around power may arise. Generally, shorter events don’t have Guidelines.
  2. Use Operational Guidelines that everyone understands will always be used for regular meetings. It would be healthy to create these with the group initially, and then check in again as needed. They can be read aloud and changed as needed.
  3. Always invite the group to suggest most of the guidelines. It’s good to start off with one or two that are important to you, but then the rest should come from the group.
  4. Always make sure that every individual agrees to the list generated. I sometimes ask people to raise their hands or nod their head if I know the guidelines are critical or were not easy to write. This should be done quickly, but then you really know everyone has agreed and you can hold them accountable.
  5. Post the guidelines somewhere visible to all. It is important that you be able to gesture to them as you read them, and that people can remind themselves, as needed what they promised.
  6. Take time agreeing on “the cellphone issue.” Everyone has different ideas about this and the issue can carry emotional “energy,” so it is best to really open it up to make sure there is true agreement.
  7. For a multi-day event, check in at the beginning of each day to see what needs to be added or changed, and to make sure everyone is still in agreement.
  8. On the first day of a multi-day event or even on a 1-day event, check in with the list (quickly) after lunch. Sometimes things change or something happens around which people realize they need a new guideline.
  9. If someone is not following the guidelines, it is best to first check in with them privately. Sometimes people forget or misunderstand guidelines and just need to be reminded. Sometimes they don’t really believe they are “serious,” in which case you will need to clarify this.
  10. I always include a guideline about personal needs:  “Attend to your personal needs.” This gives people “permission” to stand when needed, get a coffee or go to the bathroom without having to ask.

What would you add?


Blog post author Jeanette Romkema is teaching Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach in Toronto, Ontario, Canada November 13-16, 2012. Please join us!

15 Tips for Effectively Working with Interpreters

By Jeanette Romkema and Christine Little

TranslatorInterpreters are crucial partners when facilitating dialogue in multilingual groups. The goal of any training, workshop, presentation or meeting is to build understanding. This is much harder when the facilitator doesn’t speak the language of the group, or a subset of the group does not speak the main language of the event. But it can be done, and language barriers may even improve dialogue when people are more intentional about really listening and trying to understand each other. Here are some road-tested tips for facilitators when working with interpreters.

Three kinds of interpretation

Simultaneous interpretation – Via headphones, listeners hear a session in their own language as interpreted by someone in the interpreter’s box, or through someone whispering in their ear almost at the same time as the original speaker is sharing it. This allows for almost ‘natural’ conversation between the speaker and the group.

Asynchronous interpretation – Listeners hear a session in their own language from an interpreter at the front of the room after it is first said by the speaker. This usually means your time is doubled because everything is shared twice.

Whisper or elbow interpretation – The interpretation is simultaneous but there is no equipment and no interpreter’s box. A whisperer literally whispers in the trainer’s ear everything that is being said in the large group, or sits near and interprets for a small subset of the group which doesn’t speak the main language used in the event.

NOTE: The terms ‘interpreter’ is often confused with ‘translator’. However, they are not the same. An interpreter works with spoken language and a translator works with written language.

  1. Budget more time. Even if the session uses a lot of dialogue in small groups, conversations in the large group, questions, and instructions for group work take more time. Budget twice as much time for asynchronous interpretation.
  2. Use pair, trio, and group work more often. This gives everyone a break from listening to the interpretation (regardless of which type is used) and gives needed breaks to the interpreter. Working through interpreters is tiring work for all involved. Small group work, in their own language, will get everyone talking, build engagement and increase the energy level.
  3. Give participants a translated copy of the workshop/course/meeting design. Writing the entire plan, activities, and resources out on handouts or in a course binder will help the group stay on track and reduce confusion. Bilingual people often find it especially helpful to have the entire course or meeting proceedings in both languages. 
  4. Give all of your written materials to the interpreter in advance. The more you can give to your interpreter beforehand, the better able that person will be to effectively interpret for you. He or she can study and ask about key terms, highly referenced theories, or critical charts. A prepared interpreter is a valuable asset!
  5. Meet with your interpreter to talk through how you want to work together. For example, the interpreter may want you to speak more slowly. You may want the interpreter to let you know (aloud and in the moment) when they sense something is still unclear in the group or if they are unclear about what you are saying. If you haven’t worked with interpreters before, ask them what works well in their experience.
  6. Write up and translate all in-the-moment changes. As we work our way through a session, we may need to make changes based on what we see and hear in the room. To minimize confusion,  ask someone to write these on flip chart paper or a slide so everyone knows what is happening.
  7. Ask the interpreter for advice. Ideally your interpreter is intimately familiar with the culture and language of the people you are working with. He or she may offer insights about how your content or activities will work with the group. This valuable information can help you plan.
  8. Budget time to test interpretation equipment. There is nothing worse than wanting to get started and having technical difficulties! Budget time in advance of the session to make sure everyone has the proper equipment, knows how to use it, and knows what to do if it is not working.
  9. Check in often to be sure the technology is working. People will experience technical difficulties. They may suffer in silence. Check in, and be sure to tell people it is okay to stop everything till the issue gets resolved. (Remember, this is about dialogue!) Once the norm is firmly established, people will help themselves when technology fails.
  10. Insist that people use their equipment when others speak an unfamiliar language. Sometimes we get lazy or think we know more than we do, so we take our headphones off, and “wait it through” while others speak their language. This may create pressure for others to take their headphones off. Besides the obvious cost in understanding, this trend limits participation. Speakers from other language groups will soon stop speaking, when they see that others are not making the effort to listen. 
  11. Use a ‘whisperer’ instead of asynchronous interpretation. Using simultaneous interpretation is wonderful when the trainer is speaking and everyone is wearing headphones. However, if you are working with 2-way asynchronous interpretation (often for budgetary reasons), using whisper interpretation when the group is speaking can keep the energy up, save time, and make the conversation more natural.
  12. Choose your small groups intentionally. Form small groups in a way that learners can really communicate with each other. Find out who is bi-lingual and use them as a resource. If possible, have a bi-lingual person in each group so that you have the option of joining in with groups when/if needed. This will also help when writing on flip charts or using other untranslated materials.
  13. Trust your participants. It can feel lonely when learners are all engaged in a dialogue and you are sitting outside of it. However, give yourself permission to see the exciting dialogue in the room as the sound of learning happening! As good facilitators of learning, we want to see learners engaged in the content – and doing this in their mother-tongue will make this easier and more engaging. 
  14. Trust your instincts. You know the sound (and look) of people who are un-engaged. When you notice the energy in the room is going down interest is wandering, or people are finished, it is time to check in or move on or change the task. It is amazing what we can understand without knowing a language!
  15. Don’t translate all the group work. We naturally want to know/see everything that is written on flip chart paper and other visuals, but choose carefully what you spend time translating and when. Some written work is important for the group or individual, but you only need to hear the summary shared in the large group (or maybe not at all!). Translate the written work that you need to refer to or build on later. Bilingual participants or your interpreter may be able to translate on the same paper during a break.

What tips would you add?


Both authors have worked extensively in languages other than their own and Jeanette Romkema is teaching Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach (in English, but open to non-English speakers) in her home town of Toronto, Ontario, Canada November 13-16, 2012. The course is filling up quickly, so register today!

8 Questions for Understanding Your Learners

When designing any learning event, the Dialogue Education 8 Steps of Design method demands that you develop in advance a deep understanding  of who will participate, taking into account their individual experience and needs so that you can tailor the design specifically for them; any learning event that makes too many assumptions about the participants is bound to disappoint.

In our foundational course, Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach, we use a simple tool called the ASO Triangle – Ask-Study-Observe – which provides you with a straightforward way of truly getting to know your participants so that you can develop an exceptional learning event.

This blog post gives you a snapshot of the first leg of the triangle:  ASK!

(What follows is excerpted from the new, downloadable book, Dialogue Education Step by Step:  A Guide for Designing Exceptional Learning Events – the e-book covers the full ASO Triangle, with helpful examples and suggestions for work you can do with this tool).


In the ASK dimension, you will need to decide who you will ask, what you will ask, and how will you ask it.


Who can tell you about the situation, the learners, and what content is most important for this particular learning event? You want a range of opinions and insights, acknowledging that there are some decisions that will have been made for you and the learners. Here are a few examples of the types of people you might consider speaking to, depending, of course, on the field in which participants are working and the content you will be teaching : 

  • Clients
  • Former clients
  • Family members
  • Staff
  • Supervisors
  • Case counselors
  • Department directors
  • Lead trainers
  • The CEO
  • Nurses
  • Foremen . . .


Here are 8 suggested questions to ask your learners - what would you add?

  1. Which content is most important? Why?
  2. What is missing?
  3. What could be omitted?
  4. What information will help you make choices about the content you’ll be teaching?
  5. What are the expectations of the leadership, the learners, and the other stakeholders?
  6. What would make the greatest difference for this group of learners? Their lives? Their work? Their health?
  7. Who could be a resource to help you create relevant case studies or provide other types of examples to make the content real and engaging?
  8. For the more experienced people involved in the learning event, what challenges have they have seen or experienced when they were first learning how to (or learning about) ___________? What helped and would have helped their progress the most?


Consider how much time you have and how best to learn what is needed during that time by soliciting a range of views to give you the big picture. Even with very little time you can always take a sample that represents the full range of views. You can conduct surveys that ask a variety of questions (open, ranking, multiple choice) or conduct formal or informal interviews. Each of these methods can be completed face-to-face, by phone, e-mail, or mail.

What might you add to the task of asking? What’s worked for you?

If you’d like to learn more about the full ASO Triangle . . .

  1. Purchase a copy of Dialogue Education Step by Step:  A Guide for Designing Exceptional Learning Events and read Chapter 3.
  2. Sign up for Dialogue Education Step by Step: An Introduction (or Refresher) in Learning Design. (No travel involved; work on your own from home and with other participants by phone in teleconferences - starts Oct 8, so register today!!)

4 Steps for Learning that Lasts

When you’re designing any kind of learning event – a workshop, seminar, class, meeting – one of the most important components of your design is your learning tasks, those elements of the event in which the learners do something with the content they've set out to learn. For learning that lasts, use the 4-A Model, a foolproof tool.

(What follows is excerpted from Dialogue Education Step by Step:  A Guide for Designing Exceptional Learning Events, by Darlene M. Goetzman.)

The 4-A Model - ANCHOR  |  ADD  |  APPLY  |  AWAY

  • ANCHOR the content within the learner’s experience;
  • ADD new information;
  • Invite the learner to APPLY the content in a new way or situation;
  • Ask the learner to decide how or what he or she will take AWAY and use this learning in the future.

To design your learning tasks, it’s helpful to use the model in the order laid out above. It’s also helpful to view the 4As as though each ‘A’ is one of four components in a single learning task; these four parts – ANCHOR, ADD, APPLY and AWAY – complete a single learning cycle.


The ANCHOR part of the 4-A Model connects the topic you’re teaching to the learner’s experience. This component of a learning task ensures relevancy for your particular group of individuals and begins to indicate to them why this information is important to them right now. Through a well-crafted anchor question learners will be telling you and others in what way the content is relevant or connected to their experience.

The newest research on how the brain creates and stores information (creating memories) indicates that relevance, especially an affective (emotional) connection, enhances the likelihood of knowledge retention and of learners being more open to new learning.


In the ADD task, the emphasis is on adding new and vital information, and on inviting learners to do something with the new material to make it their own. One way to increase attention to important dimensions of the material is to preface a presentation with an instruction, such as:

  • As you watch this video clip, decide which features might be challenging and which may be easiest to implement at your site.
  • As you listen to the reader, circle what you see in the text box as most important for your work.
  • As you watch, decide which feature might be most useful to your clients.
  • As you study the diagram, write your questions about . . .

This provides a clear focus for the learners, makes them an active participant in the task, and reminds them of a meaningful reason for participating in this activity. (Notice that meaningful reasons come from what the learners decide in each of the above examples.)


Depending upon the content, the amount of time you have, and the level of proficiency the learners and you are aiming for, a variety of ways in which the learner works with the content are necessary for learning that sticks.

In the APPLY part of the 4-A Model you will create an additional meaningful opportunity for the learner to decide and do something with the content in order to cement his or her learning. Here are three APPLY examples:

  • Create a visual graphic of your responses to the questions; we’ll hear and consider these ideas.
  • At your table, share what you circled as important; together create a three-column poster, naming the important items, why you see each as important, and one way you could integrate this content into your daily schedule.
  • With your co-teacher, design a thirty-minute session that incorporates and reflects all you have learned about this topic while your taught it.


Research indicates that when learners make verbal and written commitments to new behaviors or practices, the likelihood that they will follow through on these commitments increases. What will help learners make their own unique decision to do something different or new later?  An ideal AWAY provides learners with an opportunity to:

  • Select a new behavior or practice;
  • Commit to it; and
  • Create a reminder that will hold them accountable to their commitment.

In others words, an AWAY task sets learners up to be more successful at practicing their learning when they’re back at home or at work. In reality, not every learning task has or even needs an AWAY, but every great design for a learning event has at least one! It is good practice for you to get into the habit of including an AWAY so that you are always considering what it is you hope the learner will do differently because of engaging with the content through the learning task you created.

How have you used the 4As in your work?

This is just an overview of the 4As. If you’d like to get into more depth, here are a couple of options:

  1. Purchase a copy of Dialogue Education Step by Step:  A Guide for Designing Exceptional Learning Events and read Chapter 11.
  2. Sign up for Dialogue Education Step by Step: An Introduction (or Refresher) in Learning Design. (No travel involved; work on your own from home and with other participants by phone in teleconferences - starts Oct 8, so register today!!)