In this same training, I had planned an activity where participants are given a paddle and ball attached with a rubber band. The instruction is to talk about 3 points made in the class while keeping the ball in motion. Most people will try to bounce the ball against the paddle - a difficult task. And fun to watch.
Eventually, someone flailing the ball or watching in the audience realizes they could have easily followed my instruction by swinging the ball like a pendulum. This leads to a discussion of how we often over complicate tasks and can sometimes come up with better ways of doing things by thinking outside the box.
Things didn't go quite as I'd planned. I'd wound the bands and balls around each paddle individually so they wouldn't get tangled up in transport. As I handed them to the participants, I said,
The first thing you need to do is untangle your balls and let them dangle.
Amidst the resulting group crack up, it seemed a good time to take a break.
Become a figment of your imagination.
Did you ever pretend to be somebody else when you were a kid? I'd organize the neighborhood kids and we'd star in long, involved plots from TV and books. We played Daniel Boone (I got the lead after getting a faux coonskin hat and powder horn for Christmas), Man From U.N.C.L.E., Black Stallion, etc. We didn't need any sets except backyards, basements and the nearby woods. We made our props. We were totally engaged. It was serious fun.
You can similarly engage yourself and your learners.
No discussion of alternate egos could go without mentioning J.D. Buck Savage (aka Dave Smith). If you haven't seen Buck, there's a link to his videos at the end of this article. Buck, I mean Dave, is one of my heroes. Once I saw how he made great training points by becoming a mix of Dudley DoRight, Charlie Chaplin and all three Stooges, I found the courage I needed.
I train on courtroom testimony - countless times. I get bored easily. If I'm bored, I have little hope of engaging my learners. Fun is engaging. So I invented
Xavier Steele, dominatrix prosecutrix, her friends call her "X.S." for short.
X.S. appears and gives some courtroom testimony tips and leads some cross examination scenarios - complete with black leather suit, stiletto heeled boots, and a riding crop (all purchased at a local thrift store). She's even appeared on a Law Enforcement Television Network training video.
Making blood borne pathogens fun.
I had a train-the-trainer participant challenge me to make his topic - blood borne pathogens - fun. He confessed even he was bored with the training videos. We brainstormed.
I suggested he begin with some cranked up jazz rock by Blood, Sweat and Tears (if you're Gen X or Y, google the band). Then he would appear as Mr. B - dressed completely in red (black leather pants are okay as long as he wears red shoes, and red turtle neck or red long, sleeve shirt and tie). The universal symbol for bio hazards is way cool.
It had to be on the turtle neck, or tie, or, even better, a cape or BIG belt buckle.
A couple of months ago, I had an IT guy lament about having to train every cop in the department on some new software. He said their eyes glazed over at the mere mention. We brainstormed. I learned they had some dispensable, obsolete computers.
I suggested he tap into everyone's stereotype of a geek (which he fit) and our universal feeling at times that we'd like to kill our computer.
Hidden underneath a snap button long sleeve shirt he'd wear the "Got Geek" t-shirt shown above.
Set up in the training room would be one of the department's obsolete computers with a sheet underneath the computer table. With no introduction, he'd walk up to the computer, stand, and look out until everyone quieted. Then he'd say,
Before we begin, I'd like to give expression to something we've all felt.
Then he'd rip off the snap-buttoned shirt, flex his scrawny arms and proceed to smash the computer to smithereens with a heretofore hidden sledge hammer. (Now you know why the sheet is there.)
When he was done, still panting, he'd quietly explain that he was going to give them the tools to reduce those feelings of computicide. And he could hand out stickers through out the training that said I've got geek.