Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Discussion About Facilitation Skills

Writen by Chris Stowell

Interview with Julia Apple-Smith, Manager of Employee Development at Sauer-Danfoss Ames, Iowa about Facilitation Skills:

Q: Would you tell me a little bit about the culture at Sauer-Danfoss?

Julia: About nine years ago, Dave Pfeifle, President and CEO had a vision for us to change our culture. We, at one time, were part of the Sundstrand Corporation, and as such, over time, had evolved into a company that was fairly autocratic and not very customer focused. It was not only Dave's vision for that to change, but it was also a time when our customers were beginning to let us know that if that was the way we were going to do business, they were going to need to find other companies to provide the same type of product that we provide. Dave's vision then became what is now known as Reaching for Excellence. It is not a program. It is our company's vision statement. It represents our philosophy of who we are. There was not a training program here at that time. Part of Dave's vision was to have a learning base to help promote and support that kind of cultural changes. It's really been an evolutionary process over the last eight or nine years. It is something that CMOE has played and integral part in.

Q: How did your relationship with CMOE begin?

Julia - One of the first things we did was to preview the Coaching Skills Workshop in California. We decided that it was a class that we wanted to bring in-house. That class and a Customer Awareness Class, that I created, were really the cornerstone classes for what now has become one of our core courses in the whole training program. As time evolved, we continued to build on that foundation of learning with other classes such as Teamwork I and Teamwork II and other types of learning. So there was a lot of internal training going on.

Q – Can you tell me about how Facilitation Skills came about?

Julia – About five years ago, I was getting feedback from team leaders, facilitators (supervisors), and when I sat in on meetings, it was clear that we were still struggling. We had structured ourselves into teams throughout the organization, but we struggled, when we got people together, to make those meetings as effective as possible. From (my) observation and from feedback, it was very clear that we needed to be doing some thing to build on the Coaching Skills training to give these people some skills on how to facilitate a group. Coaching, I think does a superior job of giving people skills for one-on-one coaching situations. You can even apply a lot of those skills to a group session, but we really wanted something that was more specific to facilitating groups. So a couple of managers went with me to Des Moines to preview a two-day class on Facilitation Skills, and we found that it was pretty typical of what is out there in the industry. We wanted more of what I would call the soft side or the behavioral side of group facilitation. In other words, when people were facilitating groups, they wanted to enhance involvement, help to focus the group without directing the group, how to help the group feel good about what they were doing and actually have fun with it, while helping the group be more effective and efficient.

Even as we started to develop this Facilitation Skills program with CMOE, we struggled. Early on, I remember getting on the phone with Steve Stowell to just talk out some of the issues because it was so different from anything either of us had seen in the consulting industry. Steve and I continued to struggle with how we should put this course together, and what it should look like, because for me, it is really on that soft side. It is not a skill. It's being able to use your intuition and read a group and read the dynamics in a group and know how to react to the flow of what is going on in a group, and pull people in or help to redirect other people if they are not contributing in a positive manner, again without controlling the group.

Q – So is there just not a lot of material out there on Facilitation Skills?

Julia – There is a lot of courses out there on Facilitation, but nothing like what CMOE has created. If you look at what is out there on the market they don't have the same focus that CMOE's course does. A lot of what we were seeing out there under the name of Facilitation Skills is really meeting management. There is a big difference. This is really more facilitating group interaction or 'high performance' facilitation.

Q – What is the target audience for Facilitation Skills?

Julia – The plan was that it would end up being for everybody. The original goal was to first give the skills to management, and then give it to all employees. When managers were first going through the course, the feedback we got was that it would be extremely useful for the team members to have the same skills. It would make facilitating the group so much easier if everyone understood what was going on in terms of task, climate, and behavior.

Q – Can you see any improvement in your facilitators as a result of being committed to the Facilitation Skills Workshop?

Julia – Absolutely! The people that were in the first class have definitely noticed an improvement in their facilitation skills. We haven't done any structured observations, but just from our ad hoc types of settings where they are leading the group and I am a part of the group, I have definitely seen an improvement. I think it plays out, not only in terms of a structured meeting, but also in how they go about doing their jobs on a day-to-day basis, because the principles that are taught in Facilitation Skills, as with Coaching, go beyond just the structured setting. Yes, I have seen a lot of improvement in those people, and it mainly has to do with their confidence level.

If you would like to learn more about CMOE's Facilitation Skills workshop titled Leading Groups to Solutions, please contact a CMOE Regional Manager at (801) 569-3444 or visit their website.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ten Commandments Of Powerpoint Presentation Design

Writen by Debby Gilden

Ever wonder why everybody equates "PowerPoint" with "bullet points"? It's because Microsoft® made the default layout for new slides automatically create a bullet-point list of text.

Don't be lured into the bullet point trap. Experiment with different slide layouts – especially with "Blank"—and with placing text and graphics in different locations. Your slides are actually blank canvasses on which you can put anything any place. If you find that scary – like too much freedom – gain some confidence by learning some elements of good design. An excellent source of ideas for color combinations, as well as for the density and placement of text and graphics, is magazine ads, and even billboards. The subject matter is irrelevant. Simply identify ads that you find pleasing and effective, note their color schemes and structure, and you will soon discover some common characteristics, e.g. simple, uncluttered layouts; easy-to-read text; etc.

To give you a quick start on how to design presentations with a bit of polish and pizzazz, I've developed the Ten Commandments of PowerPoint® Presentation Design. They are the first steps to designing heavenly presentations.

1. Thou shalt not place more than 6 lines of bullet points on a slide.

2. Thou shalt use text and graphics colors that have high contrast with the background.

3. Thou shalt ensure that text is large enough to be read by those sitting in the back of the room.

4. Thou shalt never use animations gratuitously.

5. Thou shalt choose transitions that reveal slides in logical ways.

6. Thou shalt design only uncluttered, balanced slides with white space to ensure aesthetic composition.

7. Thou shalt use graphics rather than bullet points if it more clearly transmits information.

8. Thou shalt design slides that are pleasing to look at.

9. Thou shalt never need to say "I know you can't read this but…".

10. Thou shalt honor thy audience by designing presentations that are interesting and engaging.

This article was written by Debby Gilden, Ph.D., freelance PowerPoint® designer and instructor. Please visit my Web site

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Right Speaker Makes A Big Difference

Writen by Khoo Kheng-Hor

MORE and more corporations in Malaysia have awoken to the necessity of training and developing their people these days. Hence, many local speakers have emerged in recent years just as many foreign ones have already been flocking to Malaysia as far back as two decades ago. With so many speakers available in the market, the success of your event lies in selecting the right speaker who would make a big difference in your conference or seminar.

Here are some tips.

First, discard the "white is superior" mindset. Although there are some really good foreign speakers from the West, there are also many who are unable to deliver. To select a speaker to grace your conference or engage one to run an in-house seminar primarily on the basis of skin color alone could end in disappointment.

Selection of a speaker should be based on the desired content appropriate to your conference theme or meeting your training needs, and the competence of the speaker to deliver. If you care to look around our own backyard – Malaysia – you may find some local speakers who are really good in their respective specialization.

The next thing to consider is: Can you afford the really good ones?

There are many people representing cash-rich corporations and yet could become quite niggardly when it comes to paying for good speakers.

Just as luxury cars and branded time pieces don't come cheap, don't expect the top speakers to work for peanuts. And don't try the "while we won't pay you much but think of the exposure we can give you if you were to speak in our conference" approach. The really top speakers would just walk away even if they are too polite to laugh in your face.

On average, you should expect to fork out anything between USD5,000 to USD15,000 for any of the internationally-acclaimed speakers, even for just an hour's presentation as in a conference. Although some people had made some noises when I gave them the same quotation for an hour's presentation just as I had quoted for a day's work, they had overlooked that whether a professional speaker spoke for an hour or a day, that very day could no longer be offered to another client. This is especially so when some traveling is involved. For an example, to speak in another city, say Beijing, a day before the event and a day after the event would be spent in traveling.

In Malaysia, good local speakers are available for RM7,000 to RM10,000 for up to a day's presentation although for RM3,000 to RM6,000, you may still be able to get some who are relatively quite good albeit they may not be in the "internationally-acclaimed" league.

Speaking of "internationally-acclaimed" speakers, don't be fooled by those who claimed to be "internationally-acclaimed" speakers from having spoken abroad. Find out who they have spoken for. If they spoke for multinationals that are household names like Cisco Systems, Citibank, GE, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, etc., then you could take their word for it. Just be aware that there are many event organizers who pay peanuts to local speakers to speak at overseas events, and such speakers would subsequently pose themselves off as "internationally-acclaimed" ones.

As I have mentioned, getting a good speaker makes a big difference. An inexperienced or incompetent one would either send the delegates to sleep or fail to get the key learning points across.

Last but not least, you ought to keep up with the times. Make use of the Internet in your search for the right speaker. There are many websites, e.g.,,, etc., where you can browse through a panel of speakers and peruse their resumes.

And just as you are in keeping with the times, make sure your selected speaker is also technically-inclined. As a self-respecting speaker will ask for an LCD projector since he or she will bring along a personal computer loaded with presentations on PowerPoint, you should discard the one who still uses transparencies on overhead projector.

Khoo Kheng-Hor, a best-selling author of several books on the application of Sun Tzu's Art of War in contemporary business management is a sought-after speaker in conferences and seminars throughout Asia. He can be reached at or

For more tips and tricks resources, log on to

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hocus Pocus Focus Part 1

Writen by Lenn Millbower

"The first impulse of people is to believe." Dr. Harlan Tarbell

The magician, stands center stage as various assistants enter and exit. Usually a piece of exotic apparatus is introduced. The story line calls for the magician to don a hood. He does so, as do his assistants. The magician grabs the leading lady by the arm and places her, usually bound, into the apparatus and locks it shut. The assistants make a great show of tying ropes around the box. Once the box is thoroughly tied, the dancers strut around the stage. They turn the apparatus side- to-side and end-to-end as the magician walks around the box. When the box stops turning, the dancers prance around it. At an appropriately suspenseful moment, the box is opened. Surprise! It's empty. The magician takes his hood off. Surprise. It's the assistant. But where's the magician? At this moment, the magician appears, to the breathless amazement of the audience, at the back of the theater and run down the center isle of the theater. He runs to the stage and receives a well deserved round of applause.

Magicians and trainers: two artists with more in common than you might think. This month and next I will explore the similarities between these two art forms and identify the lessons magicians offer trainers as we focus on hocus pocus.

The First Illusion We don't know when the first human magic was performed any more than we know who the first trainer was. We can however assume that the first "miracle worker" was viewed with awe and wonder. In ancient times, conjurers were highly regarded as communicators to gods, predictors of the future and advisors to kings. As humanity grew to understand science, magic became a less relevant source of miracles. It became instead what it should have been all along, an entertainment art form. Harry Houdini delivered the death knell for magicians as miracle workers. After Houdini's mother died, Houdini attended séance after séance in a forlorn attempt to contact her. Unfortunately for the mediums, their tambourine shakings, bell ringings, table liftings and ghostly writings did not fool Houdini. He felt betrayed and conducted a single-handed crusade that destroyed the mediums and completed the transition from magician-as-miracle-worker to magician-as-entertainer.

Although trainers were never regarded as communicators to gods, they were once upon a time regarded as miracle workers. All a manager had to do was send a problematic employee to training and the trainer would work learning miracles. That perception is long gone, along with the bubble. In today's tighter times, traditional training is often viewed as the equivalent of the medium with the ability to do little more than rattle tambourines.

Magic and training both suffer what the psychologists call cognitive disconnect. We are suspicious of magicians. The very word "illusion," originally Latin, means "to make fun of, and most people don't like to play the fool. And yet magic's lure remains. We may have lost our belief in the divinity of magicians, but not the desire to believe. We watch a fake, and knowing its fakeness, still fall for the illusion.

Magicians have responded to this disconnect by downplaying the trick. Granted, magic is performed through trickery, but audiences rarely leave a magical entertainment bragging about how well they were tricked. The trickery is a tool, not an end in itself. People do not want to be tricked; they want to be entertained. And yet, in order to entertain, the magician must manipulate.

In a similar vein, adults often enter the training environment full of suspicion. Admitting the need to learn implies admitting a lack of completeness, in a strange room, in front of strangers, to an instructor who can exert control over the trainee's fate. The trainer, like the magician, must present his or her art form to an often suspicious audience who deep down inside want to learn. Like the magician, the trainer must manipulate to teach.


When people watch magicians perform, they see the manipulation of cards, billiard balls, silk handkerchiefs, and other paraphernalia. With trainers, they see the manipulation of logistics, electronic media and classroom materials. There is a level of manipulation that neither audience sees: the performer's manipulation of the audience. Consider the magician. The extraordinary effort that the magician puts into directing the audience's attention is hidden from view. The audience sees magic: the magician sees deception. Likewise, the best trainer takes constant care to hide the class mechanics from view so that the trainees can focus on learning. The trainee sees illumination: the trainer sees controlled sequences. The trainer must influence the trainee's mind in order for learning to occur. Both magician and trainer must use two fundamental principals to manipulate the audience: direction and suggestion. The story that opened this article made extensive use of both principals. Let's look at that story again. Only this time, we will examine the illusion from the magician's point of view.

Hocus Pocus Refocused.

The magician, stands center stage as various assistants enter and exit.

The first time a spectator sees an assistant enter, they notice. They may even notice the second entrance. But soon, the comings and goings become routine, and no longer warrant attention. They become invisible. The magician directs attention away from these entrances, suggesting their lack of importance.

Usually a piece of exotic apparatus is introduced.

The box is not the focus of this illusion, the upcoming switch is. By directing attention towards the box, the magician directs the spectator's attention away from the various personnel on stage. The magician suggests the box is important. This false focus makes the switch a total surprise.

The story line calls for the magician to don a hood. He does so, as do his assistants.

No magician wants to wear a hood. It's hot, sweaty and unattractive. The nature of this illusion is a switch, and a switch cannot occur if the magician is easy to spot on stage. The magician dons a hood so that the switch can occur, but audience knowledge of that purpose would telegraph the illusion. A story line that suggests a logical explanation is invented for the hood.

The magician grabs the leading lady by the arm and places her, usually bound, into the apparatus and locks it shut. The assistants make a great show of tying ropes around the box.

The ropes are inconsequential as a barrier to escape, but important as a directing tool. They play no role in the illusion, except to suggest that escape is impossible. In addition, the rope by-play allows the leading lady time to escape her bonds, take off her outer layer of clothes to reveal an assistant's costume and hood, and slip out a trap door in the back of the box. As the last of the ropes are tied, the leading lady, now dressed as an assistant, exits stage left with the other assistants, who are by now not important enough to watch, as the hooded magician directs attention to him by walking towards the audience.

Once the box is thoroughly tied, the dancers strut around the stage. They turn the apparatus side-to-side and end-to-end as the magician walks around the box.

With all the whirling, twirling, circling, and strutting, it is had for the spectator to remain focused on the critical details. There is just too much stimuli directed at them. At this point, while the spectators are in stimuli overload, the magician boldly walks toward the wings.

When the box stops turning, the dancers prance around it.

The alluring dancers direct attention away from the magician, who, having reached the wings, exits stage left. At that precise moment, the dancers execute their most provocative dance step. Almost immediately, the leading lady enters from the exact area where the magician exited, and by manner of walk and attitude, suggests that she is the magician.

At an appropriately suspenseful moment, the box is opened. Surprise. It's empty. The magician takes his hood off. Surprise. It's the assistant.

The suggestion is that the switch occurred at that instant. Of course, the switch is minutes old, but, because the magician purposely directed their attention away from the critical events, the spectators completely missed it. They now begin focusing on possible solutions for the switch, but it is too late. The trail has already gone cold. Besides which, their attention is about to be directed away from the puzzle with an even more enticing stimulus.

But where's the magician? At this moment, the magician appears, to the breathless amazement of the audience, at the back of the theater and run down the center isle of the theater. He runs to the stage and receives a well deserved round of applause.

To the spectator, the switch is made all the more miraculous by the appearance of the magician at the back of the theater. The unstated suggestion is that the magician has just now magically appeared at the back of the theater. A closer look would reveal his fast breathing. For, he has just run all the way around the theater. But the magician isn't the only one gasping for air. The audience has been left breathless.

What seemed like a true miracle was accomplished through direction and suggestion. We will overview each of these fundamental principals in turn, and examine the ways they relate to the learning environment.


To create magic, magicians must bend the laws of nature. Or rather they must seem to bend the laws of nature. Control isn't necessary; the appearance of control is enough. That appearance of control comes from directing the audience's attention away from items that would destroy the illusion, and towards those that reinforce it. Direction can take many forms but is invariably a physical action: a nod, a gesture, a change in posture, or a verbal statement.

To foster learning, trainers must also control the environment. Bulgarian psychotherapist Dr. Giorgi Lozanov, the father of Accelerated Learning theory, believed that adult suspicions about the classroom block learning. He viewed joyful direction on the part of the instructor, one in which the instructor positively directs the trainees toward the learning goal and away from negative behaviors, as critical to learning.

And old training saying suggests trainers should "tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them." Magicians tell the audience what the magician wants them to see, tells them what they should be seeing, and then tells them what they just saw. Where trainers direct attention towards positive learning outcomes, magicians misdirect attention away from truth.

A simple example is the magician's statement, "Nothing up my sleeve." This is an intentional ploy. Calling attention to the obvious preempts future "It was up his sleeve" comments. It also gives the audience something irrelevant to think about, thus pulling their attention away from the bulge in the magician's pocket, or in the case of the switch, away from the critical events of the illusion.

Attention was directed towards the box, and away from the assistants. The hoods were explained in the story. Because no extra attention was paid to them, they seemed unimportant. The attention placed on the tightness of the ropes implied importance when there is none, and stalled for time while the assistant changed clothes and slipped through the trap door. The alluring dance steps directed attention away from the switch. The appearance of the magician at the back of the theater directed attention away from the true secret of the illusion. All these events were planned to control what the audience saw. Without this direction, the illusion could not have happened.

In a similar fashion, every stimulus in the learning environment sends a message about the value of the training. The savvy trainer orchestrates all those stimuli so as to direct attention towards the learning goal.

Suggestion The second of our two fundamentals is suggestion. Where direction is often a physical, via gestures, posture, and verbal statements, suggestion is the art of implication. Dariel Fitzee Explained suggestion as "… A subtle but positive act of putting something into the mind of the spectator."

This definition parallels Giorgi Lozanov's comments about Suggestopedia. Lozanov's defined suggestion as:

"A constant communicative factor which chiefly through paraconscious mental activity can create conditions for tapping the functional reserve capacities." Lozanov believed that adults bring personal learning barriers into the classroom with them, and that facilitators should create an aura of joyfulness and then use that aura to suggest positive learning outcomes.

In the Hocus Pocus switch example, the magician employed several suggestions:
• The comings and goings of the assistants were not important
• The box was a major focus of the illusion
• Hoods needed to be worn because of the story
• Ropes make escape from the box impossible
• The hooded assistant was the magician
• The switch occurred in an instant
• The magician magically appeared at the back of the theater Each of these suggestions was false, but was accepted as true by the audience.

In the learning environment, the trainer offers several suggestions that aid learning:
• The subject to be learned is critical to job success or personal or professional well-being
• The time spent together will be well spent
• The subject is not too difficult to learn
• Anyone who applies themselves can learn the material
• The class will be an enjoyable experience

These suggestions can be critical to classroom success. Suggestion calms the anxious right hemisphere, creating positive emotion. The end result is a more attentive brain. Regardless of the field, be it magic, vocal performance, or instruction, the goal and the technique for reaching that goal is the same. Subtle, positive, focused suggestion that creates an atmosphere of trust.

Acceptance of Manipulation

Finally, we come to the trust required for acceptance of direction and suggestion. For, if the audience believes that the magician or trainer does not have their own benefit at heart, direction and suggestion are doomed to fail. The audience subconsciously condones and willingly accepts the manipulation as long as two factors remain in place:
• The manipulation must be clearly for the audience's benefit
• The audience must not be reminded of the manipulation

The manipulation must be clearly for the audience's benefit

Magicians place great emphasis on communicating benevolence to the audience. They suggest supernatural powers but with their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks. They present their illusions as harmless concoctions for the audiences' enjoyment. And the audience, knowing the intent is pleasurable emotion, allow themselves to be fooled.

Trainers also communicate benevolence. Trainees who mistrust the trainer will not engage in the learning. Trainees allow themselves to be controlled as long as they trust the trainer. The moment they suspect the trainer is more concerned with his or her ego then with their benefit, the level of trust plunges. The instructor must additionally focus the learners on the subject at hand, keep the focus on the subject throughout the learning process, and create an environment in which the learners amaze themselves with what they have learned. Instruction is manipulation for the learner's benefit.

The audience must not be reminded of the manipulation

A willingness to be manipulated is not the same as a conscious awareness of that manipulation. Audiences and trainees will only accept manipulation if they are not consciously aware of it.

In order to manipulate the audience without calling attention to that manipulation, suggestion must be employed. The audience's reluctance to be tricked, and the learner's reluctance to be coerced, dictates the need for suggestion. Both Fitzee and Lozanov felt that dictates would be doomed to failure. Fitzee stated:

"It is utterly impossible to force the spectator's reason or judgment directly. The spectator must believe he has made his own decision [original emphasis]. This makes it necessary for the magician to use inducement rather than persuasion."

If you reread that quote with the classroom in mind, you can easily see the parallel:

"It is utterly impossible to force a class to participate directly. The trainee must believe he has made his own decision to learn. This makes it necessary for the trainer to use inducement rather than persuasion."

With these comparisons between magicians and trainers in mind, we will next turn our attention to the placement of magic in the learning environment. Next month's article, Hocus Pocus Focus Part 2 will focus on four applications of magic in the learning environment.

To Be Continued in Hocus Pocus Part 2

Visit Lenn on line at

Lenn Millbower, BM, MA, the Learnertainment® Trainer is an expert in applying show biz techniques to learning. He is the author of the ASTD Info-Line, Music as a Training Tool, focused on the practical application of music to learning; Show Biz Training, the definitive book on the application of entertainment industry techniques to training; Cartoons for Trainers, a popular collection of 75 cartoons for learning; Game Show Themes for Trainers, a best-selling CD of original learning game music; and Training with a Beat: The Teaching Power of Music, the foremost book on the application of music to learning. Lenn is an in-demand speaker, with successful presentations at ASTD 1999-2005 and SHRM 2006; a creative and dynamic instructional designer and facilitator formally with the Disney University and Disney Institute; an accomplished arranger-composer skilled in the psychological application of music to learning; a popular comedian, magician and musician; and the president of Offbeat Training®, infusing entertainment-based techniques into learning to keep 'em awake!