Issue 32
Learning CAN be fun. Training SHOULD be fun. Training Games ARE fun!
If you are having problems viewing this newsletter, you may also view it online here.

In this Newsletter...

PowerPoint - A Learning Tool?
As I sat in a rather long "hold your questions because we have a lot to cover" business meeting counting to myself slide 46…, slide 47…, oh darn, look at this, slide 48 has a graph and 11 lengthy bullet points, I started to reminisce on my high school days. Okay, I'll admit to not being the best of all students in high school. It seems then, as now, my mind was prone to wandering a bit. I'm certain that I would have been diagnosed as suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder had I been in school today. But perhaps it's for the best, because without much help from the early educators, I had to figure out a method of focusing my thoughts so that I might better learn! What I discovered was that within classes I had a natural interest in, I eagerly asked questions. And my questions lead to small discussions and an even higher level of interest on my part, which lead to more questions and in time, voila, better grades! It doesn't sound revolutionary, but for me it represented a sort of epiphany which I could transfer to less interesting classes. Just ask a simple question. Obviously I became one of the more obnoxious students to attend class with, but I figured it was all for the greater good.

Back in my boring meeting, I risk breaking the presenter's rule on audience participation and get in a quick question related to slide 48. Unfortunately I'm told ALL questions will be covered in depth at the end of the program. The presenter again reiterates his mission – "Not rain, sleet, nor will a ‘bored out of their minds' audience keep me from reaching slide number 92!" I may have never gotten out of high school with the ubiquitous presence of PowerPoint today. It's hard to get in a decent question amongst the torrential flow of information embedded in the multitude of cryptic bullet points all pounded out by some monsoonal sadist. That's right, it's that demon PowerPoint residing on over 250 million computer systems today, and according to Microsoft, responsible for over 30 million dynamic presentations daily. And it all started in 1984 when Bob Gaskin, a Berkeley Ph.D., went to work for a small Silicon Valley firm called Forethought. Bob hired a software developer, Dennis Austin, and together they developed an amazingly powerful and poignant software application named, yes, you guessed it - "Presenter" (which was later change to PowerPoint due to a legal dispute over the name). Then Forethought accepted a 14 million dollar acquisition offer from Microsoft, and in 1990 the first PowerPoint for Windows was launched, regrettably destined to become the monster piece of software it is today.

Why "regrettably" you might well ask. Well, it's due to the fact that PowerPoint, as it is used today, perpetuates a very traditional, well-entrenched and extremely poor model for learning - an endless decree of information dumped into classrooms and meetings in which content is king, lording over innocent listeners in fear of interrupting the next enigmatic bullet point. We've all experienced this event. The presenter comes to the front of the room; the projector is turned on, as a gasp is heard throughout the audience – "He's got 75 slides to get through!" The lights dim, the intro slide appears, and 20 minutes later a sea of drooping eyes and sagging heads struggle to comprehend the explanation for an endless stream of bullet points. IT IS EXHAUSTING!

But perhaps I'm being a bit hasty, blaming, after all a software application, for what is most likely a more human predicament. We've set the standard. Let's face it, showing up at a presentation without a PowerPoint ready to go in all its colorfully animated glory is like entering the room wearing nothing more than your birthday suit. It's just not done! How else are we supposed to judge this presenter if not upon their witty presentation quotes, clever transitional slides, and "funny but poignant" cartoons?

And although there are many different presenters' styles, many fall into one of only two categories: the "Shine that light a little brighter, I'm on" speaker, and the "Boy I didn't know a human being could perspire that much" presenter. Our "bright light" loves to hear the sound of his or her own voice. They're constantly astounded by the amount of information they know, and even more amazed that it is possible to deliver it all in only 90 detailed slides packed into one tiny little hour. These folks won't hesitate to tell you, "I may have to move a bit faster here, so hold your questions until you've passed away and then send me a message from beyond the grave. I'll get back to you as soon as you're reincarnated as a Japanese beetle." And while pearls of wisdom pour from this presenter's lips, indeed a downpour of perspiration drenches our next speaker type. If it were not for the sweet control afforded to this speaker by the knowledge that they and only they know what's on the next slide, they would anxiously melt like the Wicked Witch of the West into a puddle behind their podium. In effect these are speaker junkies, spared cold sweats, nausea, dry mouth and palpitating hearts by that PowerPoint monkey and his henchman the remote mouse. The regrettable point regarding both speaker types is that we, who are here to learn, never have the opportunity to actively participate in the learning process. The net result is of course, we simply don't learn much.

Let me relinquish my "not so clever" sense of humor for a moment to introduce a bit of science. We'll turn to some real experts on just what is needed for us to learn. Did you know that our short term memories only have the ability to retain information for about 10 to 15 seconds? It kind of acts like a buffer zone, and must make room for new information by passing the old new information onto our long term memories, or just dropping it altogether. But studies show it's not so easy to get information into our long term memories, and typically facts must be revisited and reinforced, before synapses are strengthened and thus retained. Now think of a PowerPoint presentation and its fast and endless information flow. There is literally little time to engage, challenge, analyze, question, converse, and more importantly LEARN!

According to Judith E. Fisher, PhD, in her article entitled Active vs. Passive Learning, within a traditional classroom lecture "The listener's attention does not remain constant. In fact, after just 10 – 20 minutes of trying to pay attention, the average listener's attention slips and waivers. Even the most compelling presenters and the most dynamic content information will not be able to sustain attention from average listeners for longer periods of time." In fact it has been shown that although it may be administratively convenient for listeners to be seated in meeting and classroom settings, such sedentary postures do little to help us learn. When our brains become active and alert they require a higher level of oxygen and adrenalin. However, when seated, oxygen and adrenalin levels decline. In addition, if adrenalin levels fall too low our ability to learn will simply stop. Dr. Fisher goes on to state in her article "Active Learning implies that students engage in some kind of learning activity that forces them to remain mentally alert as they manipulate the content information in a variety of ways. They won't be simply hearing what you present; they'll be analyzing, restating, interpreting, reflecting, considering and applying the information."

Richard Hake, "Measuring Teaching and Learning Performance: Interconnected Issues" further explains, "The fact that Interactive Engagement (IE) methods are far more effective in promoting conceptual understanding than traditional passive-student methods is probably related to the "enhanced synapse addition and modification" induced by those methods". This idea is further reinforced by Leamnson (Teaching and Pedagogy - 1999) who writes " Teaching must involve telling, but learning will only start when something persuades students to engage their minds and do what it takes to learn." With all this said then, is Edward Tufte "spot on" in writing his article "PowerPoint is Evil". Tufte goes on to infer that PowerPoint induces stupidity, turns everyone into bores, wastes time, and degrades the quality and credibility of communications." Yet with all this stinging criticism of the Number 2 software in the world, who comes to our rescue, moving faster than a speeding bullet point, infusing learning into our otherwise boring presentations in a single bound, saving sleepy audiences from a multitude of uninformed informers and fights for truth, justice, and a better way to learn? It is none other than our hero, that application behind the mask, and I'll bet you never guessed it, Microsoft PowerPoint. Hold on, did I say PowerPoint?

Indeed just like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, or Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean this bad guy may still do good! Indeed PowerPoint has been the victim of a bad rap. It is really the way we choose, or better yet, choose not to use this very dynamic application. In effect teachers and trainers have chosen, for whatever reason, to use PowerPoint as an instructor-centered versus learner-centered tool. If real learning requires learner engagement, participation and interaction with the material to be learned, PowerPoint is just right for the job. Consider just a few ideas for using PowerPoint to engage your audience. You begin your program presentation with an interactive icebreaker built in PowerPoint. Perhaps it is a word search game highlighting key words within the upcoming program, or a "Family Feud" slide, in which your class is charged with coming up with the top 10 qualities found in great leaders or in providing outstanding customer service. You decide to turn you entire presentation into an interactive game by periodically introducing stimulating program questions and scoring teams as you move through your presentation. You cleverly insert flow charts, graphs and mind maps into your presentation and challenge members of your audience to step up and attempt to present these back to the group. Towards the end of your program you decide to insert one of a myriad of great quiz show games built in PowerPoint to review materials you've just presented. Your effort is to creatively turn a boring data dump into an enjoyable, even fun and interactive presentation, using our new best friend MS PowerPoint. You find your learners are more relaxed, better able to learn, and in the end, have really retained a lot of the information you were always trying to convey.

Gary Trotta is the founder and CEO of Training Games Inc. ( Training Games Inc. develops games for speakers, teachers and trainers in MS PowerPoint and MS Excel including the TGI Presentation Game which "Turns Your Presentation into a Training Game".

Free TGI Icebreaker Game

Import pictures from your training meetings and place them in this PPT slide show format. This program allows you to enjoy your meeting pictures enhanced by an attractive PowerPoint background, continuous background music and the ability to caption each digital photo for your audience. It's easy and it's FUN!
FREE download here

Products From TGI
Contact [email protected] or call 602-750-7223

Training Circus
Lessons from a Professional Clown-Turned-Trainer
By Susan Landay, president of Trainers Warehouse and former Ringling Bros. clown

More than 200 clowns attended the 40th reunion of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College recently. Although today I am president of Trainers Warehouse, I'm proud to say I was one of them.

While in the reunion spirit of reflection and reminiscing, I realized that the lessons learned from clowning and the mottos that were ingrained in me 20 years ago when attending Clown College have influenced both my training style and my product recommendations, as we search for great new tools to add to the Trainers Warehouse catalog. It occurred to me that these lessons might also resonate well for teachers and trainers.

  1. KISS - Keep it Simple Stupid
  2. Make it BIG!
  3. Get in, get the laugh, get out
  4. Relax and let it happen (I was a slightly uptight Yale grad when I started in Clown College)
  5. Laugh at yourself
KISS - Keep it Simple, Stupid
As human beings, we are complex creatures with complex minds. Language allows us to communicate nuanced thoughts and complex theories. This usually works well when we are talking one-on-one with another person. Even so, consider how many times we've had miscommunications with a spouse, family member, friend, or colleague. The challenge of clear communication is magnified when we address larger audiences. In fact, the more people involved, the greater chance for misinterpretations. Hence, the clowning motto, "keep it simple."

Clowns perform in an arena with audiences of tens of thousands, seated in as many as five balconies. When performing before groups of this size, it's critical to simplify both the content of our "gags" and our movements in performing them, so that every person in the audience can "get it," without working too hard to interpret what they see.

Teachers and trainers should keep it simple, too, and understand that it's hard to learn new material. Just like a clown gag, simplicity is important as it relates to both content and the presentation or explanation of it. Cut down the clutter and boil your material down into easily digestible parts. Practice your delivery so that it is concise. Make sure directions are clear and easy to follow.

Make it BIG!
For clowns, everything we do must be big-again, so that everyone can see it, even those in the highest balcony. Every movement and facial expression is exaggerated. Each clown's makeup is tailored to the individual's face, emphasizing the person's natural facial contours. Good make-up will help the clown broadcast a range of facial expressions, be it a frown or a smile, to large audiences.

The "Make it BIG" lesson for trainers is to keep their eye on the big picture and not get muddled in the details of the lesson plan. Stay focused on the goals and purpose of the training and periodically check in with your group to ensure they're picking up the biggest, most important points.

Reinforce your big points with exercises, activities, examples, and simulations that illustrate and emphasize their importance, thus making them memorable.

In the spirit of clowning itself, remember, too, that gestures, props, and vocal volume should be scaled to the size of the group. Subtle gestures or quiet asides will be lost on larger audiences.

GET in, GET the laugh, GET out!
In clown vernacular, the motto "get in, get the laugh, get out," refers to the goal that we keep our gags quick, tight, and funny. The rest is unnecessary . . . especially given the number of acts awaiting Ring Two (commonly referred to as the center ring.) Don't waste time meandering without a purpose.

This stay-on-task lesson is a good one for trainers concerned with the ROI of their training. Every aspect of the training session-each game, icebreaker, and activity-should have a content-related purpose. Help your group appreciate your sense of purpose. Be transparent. Tell them exactly why they are doing an exercise such as a role-play or icebreaker.

The "get out" aspect of this principle is one I'm least comfortable with as a trainer. Teaching and training are not finite processes with a precise endpoint. Learning requires frequent reminders and follow-ups to ensure success. Still, we must recognize that in each phase of teaching and training, there is a point at which the teacher should "get out" and let the implementation of learning happen. It doesn't mean you'll never be back, only that you are done for now.

Relax and let it happen
My Clown College dean Steve Smith once told me, "I can always see the gears spinning in your head. Just relax. Let it happen." At the time, we were practicing chair falls. It probably didn't help that in the early years of my life I studied the precise movements of gymnastics and ballet, and that at Yale I simply studied, studied, studied. But the lesson was important nonetheless. Whatever was going on in my mind shouldn't be the concern of my audience. I needed to make it look natural and effortless.

As a clown, this meant I needed to be able to "take a hit" or "put a pie in someone's face," juggle, walk stilts or fall on my face without having the audience worry that I would get hurt. Since medieval times, performers like clowns and jesters have been tasked with this same challenge: to entertain the royal court and help reduce their stress. The funny antics should take their minds away from everyday worries, not add to them.

As teachers and trainers, we need to do the same for our audience of learners. Create a stress- free environment that will enable maximum learning.

Brain researchers have asserted that one of the biggest destroyers of memory is stress. When we are stressed, our bodies release high levels of cortisol into the bloodstream. Cortisol is known to destroy glucose, our brain's only food source (T. Konstant, "Teach Yourself Speed Reading").

We can reduce learning stress in several ways:

   * First, trainers must know their material and practice their presentation and facilitation techniques. We should come to sessions prepared. If our group has confidence in us, and our ability to help them learn, they'll feel more relaxed about the process.

   * Second, trainers can help individuals relax by using icebreakers to introduce them to fellow students, by playing relaxing music, by integrating humor into workshops, and by putting stress-toys on the tables for learners to fiddle with.

If we, as trainers, are relaxed, and we help our students to relax, the learning WILL happen.

Laugh at yourself
As clowns we're taught to laugh at ourselves, at human weaknesses, and at any kind of difficult situation. Clowns aren't too worried about embarrassment or helping people save face. To the contrary, if someone spilled soup on their fancy tie, tripped on the way down the aisle to receive an award, or got a really bad haircut, we laughed. We didn't politely ignore it. We looked for humor in everything, purposely embarrassing ourselves with the goal of getting a laugh.

As facilitators of learning, we can appreciate the vulnerability that people feel when pushing their comfort levels and trying new things. The truth is, foibles are an important part of learning. So, trainers and teachers must create mindsets and environments that encourage and celebrate students' efforts.

Here are some ways to set a tone of acceptance:

   * Purposely trip on your way up to the front of the room . . . and laugh at yourself
   * Poke a little fun at yourself and encourage laughter
   * Give a prize or award to the first person to answer a question incorrectly
   * Discuss ground rules with the group (for example, when is it appropriate to laugh at a gaffe? When is it hurtful?)
   * Insert cartoons or humorous graphics into your presentation, with Don't Worry, Be Funny
   * Pull out a rubber chicken

As a clown and as a trainer, my job has been to entertain people and help them grow. Based upon the brain research I've read, I believe that entertainment and learning go hand in hand. Individuals are more receptive to learning and better at absorbing new materials when they feel good. So, whenever I train I'll continue to keep my Clown College mottos in my back pocket, along with my rubber chicken.

About Susan Landay

Susan Landay is president of TRAINERS WAREHOUSE, a women-owned business that offers hundreds of effective, innovative and fun products for trainers and educators across all industries. Prior to joining Trainers Warehouse in 1997, Susan was a consultant and trainer in the field of negotiation and business. She is a graduate of Yale University and The Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. Early work experience included being a professional clown for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

About Trainers Warehouse

Trainers Warehouse offers hundreds of effective, innovative and fun products for trainers, educators, and presenters across all industries. Established in 1993, Trainers Warehouse remains a family owned and operated business that develops exclusive new products and searches the world for the best tools to help trainers and trainees achieve their goals. Trainers Warehouse is based in Natick, Mass., and can be reached at 800-299-3770 or by visiting

TGI Easy Audience Survey Program - Uses your own Fast Response Buzzer System!
NEW from Training Games!

Audience Survey Knowledge (ASK) Tool lets you do instant audience surveys using your USB fast response buzzer system. Real time surveys without the need for expensive keypads! It's easy to use, PowerPoint-based and includes 10 editable survey questions. See results instantly posted, tallied and graphed.

From $99.99

Download a 14-day trial version, get more information or Purchase Here

Famous Quotes
Unknown — "The average girl would rather have beauty than brains, because the average man can see better than he can think."

Henry David Thoreau — "Humility like darkness reveals the heavenly lights."

Charles Lamb — "Humility, that low, sweet root from which all heavenly virtues shoot."

TGI Word Search Icebreaker (NEW!)
Build one of the 5 word search grids in about 2 minutes with this easy-to-use PowerPoint game. Players and teams find the hidden keywords that can then be discussed as part of your training session. Game options include a timer, curtain to hide the grid and the use of a buzzer system.

From just $59.99

Download a 14-day trial version, read more details or Buy Now

Visit our Website at
Download the TGI Catalog

Featurette #4 - PowerPoint and Excel Games
This month I would like to talk about the different types of game formats and why we use them. First, we write all of our games using Microsoft Office programs – Excel and PowerPoint. I should mention that we are also in the process of developing many of our games for use on Mac Office as well. We have found several advantages to creating our games using Microsoft Office as our base. These include:

1. A short learning curve for our users because they are familiar with MS Office products.
2. Our games are easily edited, and you can therefore customize them to fit your organization.
3. TGI can, at a very reasonable price, make special request game modifications for our customers.
4. Minimal IT issues arise because Excel and PowerPoint are already on most business machines.
5. You can use TGI games over and over again. Just add a new set of questions, and SAVE AS! One game literally becomes many!
6. Best of all, we can keep our prices low and still develop a wide variety of different games for you to choose from.

We build MS PowerPoint games both with and without macros. Macros are prerecorded instructions that are assigned to various parts of the game to perform automated instructions. This is why you have to enable macros for some of our games. All TGI MS Excel games use macros, which help to make these game very "Feature rich". And of course, ALL games are tested regularly to make sure they are virus-free. This includes our installer program as well. Here's a bit more detail about our different types of games.

There are actually some user advantages in not deploying macros when developing a game in PowerPoint. For example, you can post any of the TGI 6 Pack Games (w/o macros) ( on an internal server or on a limited access webpage (password protected site designed for your organization). The games are easy to use and edit because they rely on PowerPoint's custom animation, embedded sounds and custom graphics to create them. There also very inexpensive. Our 6-Pack games (some of our best sellers) are priced as low as $99.99 (for a single trainer or user license) or just $16.50 per game. Not bad when you consider you can use the game to train 100's of classroom participants for a multitude of different training programs. The entire 6 Pack of games costs about as much as a set of ink cartridges for an office printer.

If you want a game with all the bells and whistles, macros, are indeed the way to go. With many TGI (macro enabled) PowerPoint games, there is no need to advance points on the scoreboard because the game will do that for you as well as tell you whose turn it is to play. These games may also feature a fast response buzzer system, which is certainly a fun feature when playing a quiz show type game. Two examples of TGI PowerPoint Games that incorporate macros can be found at and

Given the power of Excel combined with the extensive use of macro coding, these TGI games are simply packed with features. We call these XF games - that stands for Xtra Features. These games can be used as pre-work applications, for your program presentation and as a program review tool. They can be used as team games or allow single players to compete against the computer. With our Excel games we include a multitude of optional game strategies like, passing on a question, removing one incorrect answer selection, providing a double points option and many more. This is done so you never have to play the same game rules twice. These games also come with a selection of 25 different question sets (75 questions within each set) including popular business topics (Customer Service/Diversity etc.) and trivia questions for icebreaker games.

No matter what you are looking for in games to train – TGI has it. We guarantee all of our products and offer customer service that will exceed your expectations. We also provide up to a 60 minute FREE train-the-trainer session with the purchase of any of our games. We use GoToMeeting (web conferencing software) to let you see our computer from your computer. This makes it easy to review many of the great features found in our games. I am hopeful this article helps to explain some of the differences in our MS PowerPoint and Excel products and hope you'll be considering a TGI game for your training program soon.

Brain Facts
Your brain only weighs about 3 pounds, about 2 % of your total body weight, but uses 1/5 th of your body's energy.

The adult brain has about 100 billion neurons, each with approximately 10,000 synaptic connections.

The brain is composed of 4 lobes; the frontal lobe which contains your primary motor cortex and is the area responsible for problem solving and decision making, the parietal lobe, in which primary somata-sensory cortex (your body's ability to sense touch and temperature), the temporal lobe, in which primary auditory cortex resides, and finally the occipital lobe, which contains our primary visual cortex.

Strokes are the third largest cause of death in the U.S. and are the number one cause of debilitation in our country.

TGI Quiz Show Game XF
Quiz Show XFQuiz Show Game XF, a TGI Top Seller, contains 4 games in 1 with the ability to change the configurations of the 4 base games to over 40 different game variations.

It features team play with up to 8 teams and as many as 20 players per team. Input your own training questions or download popular business, educational, and trivia Question Sets available FREE for our XF Game purchasers - literally thousands of pre-written questions.

Single User License from $99.99
Read more and buy now

MAC Testers Needed
Mac users, TGI NEEDS YOU! We're converting some of our great MS PowerPoint 6-Pack Games for use on Macintosh computers. We need BETA testers for our various 6-pack products ( i.e. ). You'll be sent the finished product free after our test effort is complete just to thank you for your efforts. Just contact [email protected]. Let me know your current Mac operating system, and the version of Mac Office you will be testing on. Testing involves answering an extensive question survey as well as your enthusiastic effort to break our application! Contact Gary now!

Training Games Inc.
Gary Trotta, CEO
4545 E Hedgehog Pl
Cave Creek, AZ 85331
[email protected]
The sole intention of this email is to introduce you to our company and our products. If you do not want to receive ANY future emails from TGI, please CLICK HERE to REMOVE your email address. We respect your privacy and believe in keeping the Web a wonderful place for all.

Over time some of the links within our newsletters may become disabled. If you have interest in a particular URL or download please contact us at [email protected]
© Copyright 2008. Training Games Inc.