Best Practices

Tools and Tips for Success
WorkSMART Blog

BUILD Strong Teams

Get off to a good start. Avoid dreaded icebreakers, pick the right game for every purpose, and use data to explain why playful learning works!
How to Pick a Team Building Game Infographic

Increase Participation

Give every participant ways to get-up-and-learn, play competitive games that don't distract from your lessons, and chime in with an answer.
How toincrease participation infographic

Foster Conversation

Find the perfect conversation prompts, whether you're meeting for the first time, or diving into difficult conversations
Thumball conversation starter infographic

Encourage Fidgeting

Understand the benefits of fidgeting, explain why "toys" are important, and choose the right ones for your group.
How to Pick the best Fidget Toys Infographic

Debrief & Review

Reinforce learning with exercises that draw out "ah-ha" moments & encourage participants to commit to next steps.
How to debrief a learning experience Infographic

Facilitate with Ease

Learn from expert facilitators, the best ways to make your meetings enjoyable, memorable, and effective.
How to have Amazing Meetings infographic

FREE Advice!

  • Because first impressions matter, a good start to your training session can make a world of difference in the overall effectiveness of your event.

    Before the Meeting Starts...

    • Arrive before the rest of your group - Arrive well in advance and greet every participant as they enter. Have small talk to set a comfortable tone. It also relaxes you and them.
    • Welcome slides - Be ready with a PowerPoint or presentation deck with conversation prompts AND intersperse names of each participant (i.e. "Welcome to... Susie Eastwood”). Set the show on auto-pilot until you're ready to start.
    • Play a game - Doodle on a virtual or real whiteboard as participants arrive and ask them to guess what it is
    • Create a playful, welcoming environment - Put a bunch of fidget toys on the table. They make a strong visual impression and functionally help people relax as well.
    • Music - Play some music to relax or invigorate your group.
    • Parking Lot ideas you can't address - So all feel hear, introduce a “Parking Lot.” If ideas come up, but take away from the task or topic, tell the group you’ll write them down on a sticky note, place them on the "parking lot" board. Then you can address these ideas when appropriate or at the end of the workshop or meeting.

    Powerful Intros for a strong start

    Participants feel better if they have a sense of the flow of the session. Consider yourself the host or concierge of the day and roll out the red carpet for your guests. Consider integrating many if not all of these agenda items into your opening.
    1. Very warm Welcome - make it personal and share why you're excited to be there... and happy to be with the group.
    2. "Housekeeping" Messages - let people know when they will take food, phone, and comfort breaks.
    3. Introduction - explain what you hope to accomplish and ask the group about their goals, so you can tailor the session accordingly
    4. Personal Experience & Credibility - share a bit about yourself and your experience, to communicate that the group is in your good hands!
  • To break up a long presentation and make your session more participatory, consider your material in terms of "Chunks." The goal is to break up the session, take lots of breaks, and increase participation. After all, most people can't focus for more than 20 minutes or so. Online, our attention spans are even shorter. Plus, beginnings and endings tend to be most memorable so you're wise to create lots of them! Consider adding these 5 approaches to your repertoire:

    1) Introduce material

    In place of lecturing, ask questions and have learners think through the material before divulging answers.
    • Quick Response Answer Boards allow every participant to think up and jot down an answer. Have them raise their boards so you can quickly scan the room and get a sense of the group's understanding.
    • Audience Response Clickers give every person a chance to guess an answer, usually A-B-C-D or True-False. With these, facilitators can easily tabulate results. If everyone knows an answer, they can move along to the next topic. If not, they can take more time to delve into the correct and incorrect answers. Sometimes incorrect answers can lead to extremely interesting conversation.
    • Jeopardy games aren't just for reinforcement. They can be a super fun way to introduce new information. By chunking their presentations into categories and questions, facilitators can help learners begin thinking about material to which they've never been exposed.
    • Flash cards aren't flashy, but they can be a great way to activate the mind and body, as they can require writing, flipping, shuffling, sorting, walking, folding, etc.

    2) CHECK understanding

    Use tools that will allow EVERY participant to think of an answer, not just your fastest thinkers.
    • Audience Response Systems (ARS) equip every participant with a clicker (or phone), so that players can key-in a response. Many ARS are best-suited to multiple choice and true/false answers, but some do allow players to give more complex answers.
    • If you prefer open-ended questions and free-thinking questions, rather than prompting the group with multiple-choice answers, try dry-erase Answer Boards. Find ready-made boards or create your own. A variety of dry-erase surfaces are readily available.
    • Write it and Show it on Paper. If you don't have the time or budget to get fancy, plain ol' paper works really well too -- and can be recycled!

    3) Get Physical & Have Fun!

    If your goal is really just to get people moving around, you may not need to tie the movement to the learning curriculum. Simply getting the blood moving to different parts of the body can have a positive impact on learning.
    • Move Your Body Thumball. Catch the ball and act out the movement described on the ball.
    • Touchdown Learning. After a team answers a question correctly, they stand up and advance their player the appropriate "yardage."
    • Tabletop Jeopardy. Have teams write questions for each other or come up and turn over a question card. It's more active than listening to a question read by a teacher, for sure!
    • Prize Wheels. Spinning a prize wheel can help groups pick questions, teams, categories, and prizes . . . or it can be a good excuse to get learners up and moving around. They can even spin to determine how many points they'll get if they answer a question correctly. Be creative!
    • Scratch & See. For maximum movement, have players stand up and pick a custom-made card, then scratch away. Make-your-own scratch tickets can also be great for prizes, team assignments, question categories and more.
    • Paper airplanes and paper balls. Rather than having learners raise a hand to ask a question, ask them to write it out on paper then fold it into an airplane or squeeze it into a ball. They can then toss it to someone else to read.

    4) Practice and Quiz

    Play quick-response games to improve memory and retention. Be warned, however, that you run the risk of leaving slower thinkers behind. Following are some tools that reward quick recall, and ways to adapt them to include folks who need more time to think through their answer or feel shy about answering questions in a big group.
    • Jeopardy game with Who's First or Me First buzzer. Game buzzers add excitement to competitive games as teams race to buzz-in and answer questions first. They also help facilitators focus on the game content, rather than defusing arguments about who gets to answer a question.
      • Adaptation: to engage slower thinkers in the game you might require every player on a team to come up with (or understand, or be able to explain) an answer before the team rings in.
    • Toss and Recall games. Toss a ball or Koosh and have them remember a fact or answer a question.
      • Adaptation: invite recipients to consult with someone next to them before sharing with the bigger group.
    • Create-Your-Own Thumball / Beachball / (or Write and Toss Dice). Write questions or discussion prompts on the ball. Then, give it a toss and ask the recipient to respond to the prompt or answer the question under their thumb.
      • Adaptation: have student teams write on the content reinforcement questions/prompts and see if they can stump one another.
      • Adaptation: create three balls of varying difficulty.

    5) Commit to Action

    Ensure that learning is applied by asking participants to write down (and commit to) next steps.
    • Start-Stop-Continue-Change. At the end of a learning module, discuss the take-aways. Ask the group what they'd like to START doing in the future; what they should STOP; whether they want to CONTINUE or CHANGE other actions.
    • What? So What? Now What? The focus of these questions is: What have you learned? So what, what is the significance of the learning? Now what are you going to do or change going forward?

    6) Spark Conversation

    For some, coming up with stuff to say can be a daunting challenge. A variety of tools call on visual metaphors, quotes, or discussion prompts to spark creativity and the flow of new ideas. And, they can be adapted to any topic in any discipline. Favorites include:
    • Photo Decks, which offer an array of thought provoking images. Challenge your group to find an image that reminds them of an important fact or concept or have them choose an image that reflects how they're thinking or feeling. Then they can discuss why they picked the image they did.
    • Discussion Prompt Cards. On each card is an open-ended question. Pick a card and ask someone else the question or go ahead and answer it yourself. With discussion prompt activities, the facilitator can decide whether everyone should answer and discuss the same prompt, or let each person pick a different topic. Using the later approach, you might cover more material, but not dig in as deeply or engage in rich dialogue.
    • Thumballs. These require players to toss a ball, catch it, and respond to the prompt under their thumb. When using a tool like this, consider how well the group knows each other and what sort of discussion topics would be welcome. Do you need to avoid uncomfortable silences? Get to know each other better? Or, dig into more difficult topics about Stress, Diversity, Goals, Team Dynamics, etc.?
  • To blend divergent company cultures brought together by mergers and acquisitions, try one of these powerful metaphors. Each is designed to promote rich conversations about current and preferred situations.
    • Road to There – discuss where you are, where you’re going, and the roadblocks to getting “There.”
    • Vision Tree – use the metaphor of a tree to discover the roots that ground you, the systems that support you (trunk), and the fruit you hope to bear.
    • Iceberg – talk about the unspoken ideas and assumptions that lie below the surface, but still affect work processes, environment, and relationships. Differentiate the visible (Actions, Outcomes, and Results) from the invisible (Attitudes, Perceptions, Unwritten Rules, Unconscious Biases, Values, Beliefs and Anchors)

FREE Game Ideas

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