Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What I learned from the Circus

What can you learn from attending the circus? Here's my list.

Years ago I kept notes in Yahoo! Notepad. I believe the last time I reviewed these notes was probably ten years ago, until tonight. While looking through the list, my eyes were drawn to the note "Carson & Barnes 5 Ring Circus." The content of the note, which I wrote after taking my daughter to the circus, was an itemized list of things I thought could be applied to business and marketing. Many years later, these ideas still seem viable.

1. Always have action going. At a recent business meeting, there were several presenters, but frequently, pauses occurred during the transitions between presentations. Additionally, some of the presenters let their talks lag in the middle. This is not just a problem in presentations, but also often occurs in drafts of books. The characters maintain action up to a certain point before the author can figure out how to propel them forward to the end of the book.

Within a speech or presentation, action can be maintained by featuring co-presenters or changing modes of presenting every few minutes. If multiple presenters are scheduled in succession, have a producer or host to keep events moving.

2. Have something for everyone. At the circus, acts in each of the rings were designed to appeal to different audience segments. While one act might feature acrobatics designed to impress adults, a clown might be presenting in a different ring. The circus also had a center ring, for the main action, and two rings with less impressive acts.

3. Have the next act ready to go. In this modern age of instant access and continuous information flow, even though many complain about receiving too many inputs, people don't like pauses or outages. I once attended a presentation where the presenter had the wrong slide deck. We had to wait 15 minutes for her to retrieve a USB drive from her hotel room.

4. Give the people an offer they can't refuse. The circus has mastered sales by setting prices low ($1.00 for a bag of peanuts) and using associations to elicit memories for parents and create memories for children. The circus offered coloring books for $1.00 delivered by clowns.

When presenting, think in terms of what your audience wants. Make associations and use metaphors and analogies to connect your content to previous memories and experiences.

5. Open big and finish big. The circus started with a fantastic display of many acts rotating in and out of the rings. It ended in similar fashion. The circus was memorable because of so much action.

By starting your presentation with a compelling story, fact, or incident and ending in similar fashion, you can increase the likelihood your audience will remember what you talk about. At my daughter's school, senior students are expected to deliver a 30-minute speech. One student started with a story which illustrated the points of her talk. Another student just jumped right in to his points. A week later, I could only remember the one speech, because I could recall the opening story.

Title image created in Canva. Photo credit: Yan Renucci "Pender Circus"

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Weekly Update Jan 29-Feb 4

Blog Posts

Variations on Mind Mapping, Part 1
In this first of two posts, I review the Cell Storming app, a visual brainstorming tool similar to mind mapping.

Webinar Review: Create and Use Object Lessons
This post is a review of the webinar Aha! Some Object Lessons presented by Becky Pike Pluth and sponsored by Training Magazine Network.

Writing 365

The Writing 365 project is progressing well. Thus far, I have surpassed my daily writing goal of 1,000 words per week. This week under review has been the best yet: 9,571 words! In some upcoming posts I will share a behind-the-scenes look at the Microsoft Excel workbook I use to track my progress. I also created a formula to estimate how many total words I will have by 1-1-2017 based on my average words written per day. If I stay maintain the average of 1,250 words per day, the total number of words may be closer to 456,000 words rather than 365,000. It always surprises me to see how a relatively small number of words per day can accumulate to such a large total.

Bible Project

When I started the Bible Project, to write out the entire Bible by hand, my goal was to write a minimum of ten verses per day. For the most part, I been able to consistently achieve this goal. This week I completed the book of Joshua. There are 25 books that comprised 80% of the words in the Bible, and Joshua is one of these. Before starting on Judges, another book in the 80% group, I decided to visit the New Testament and write I, II, and III John, small books just before the book of Revelation.

In my writing of the Gospels, I decided to group Matthew, Mark, and John together, so that Luke and Acts, both written by Luke, could be in the same volume. As a result, a few pages remained in the volume containing Matthew, Mark, and John. Since the apostle John wrote the Gospel of John as well as the epistles of I, II, and III John, I felt it appropriate to write them in the small space in the Gospel volume.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Variation on Mind Mapping, part 1

In this first of two posts, I review the Cell Storming app, a visual brainstorming tool similar to mind mapping.

Mind mapping

In a couple of previous posts I wrote about creating mind maps by hand and using an iPad. Mind mapping is a visual brainstorming and planning tool that is extremely useful. The term "mind map" was coined by Tony Buzan, but the general idea of using a series of branching nodes for visual outlining has been around for a while.

Cell Storming

In a recent search for new mind map apps I came across Cell Storming. It is available for $1.99. The description from iTunes reads:
With Cell Storming you create mind maps (cell maps) by connecting hexagonal cells together and then adding media elements to these cells. You can add images, videos, voice memos, text, web links, files, and Address Book contacts to each and every cell on the map, which can then be viewed when browsing your cell map later on.

The structure of a cell map is created by starting with a central cell and linking other cells to it. Cells can be added in any of six directions. By activating arrows, you can specify directional flow. Eight colors are available for cell variation and to create patterns.

To create a new cell map, click Create new cell map. After entering a title, you will be taken to the work area and prompted to double-tap in the center to create a new cell. Once you have have entered the text and designated the color, you can then double-tab to add an adjacent cell on one of the sides. For each cell, you can add voice memos, files, contacts, images, and videos.

When your cell map is completed, you can export it with all of the attachments, export just the image, or export the cell map folder to iTunes.

Cell Storming is a fairly intuitive app. It took me a few minutes to figure out the various features, but now I can navigate around fairly quickly. One of the aspects of Cell Storming that I like is the simple fact of the differentiation from other more traditional mind map apps.

If you like mind mapping, you will definitely like Cell Storming.

Title image created in Canva. Photo credit: Chris "iPhone App Magnets"

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Create and Use Object Lessons

This post is a review of the webinar Aha! Some Object Lessons presented by Becky Pike Pluth and sponsored by Training Magazine Network.

Training Magazine

Training Magazine is a professional development magazine that promotes training as a workforce tool. The magazine provides content for the Training Magazine Network website, where you can find an ongoing series of webinars on various topics. By simply joining the Training Magazine Network website, you can register to attend future events and access the archives of past events. From there you can download handouts and watch recorded learning events.

Yesterday I attended Aha! Some Object Lessons. The idea of object lessons is not new, but in this current electronic age, it may be easier to forget about using objects from the world around us to help participants better remember what we’re trying to teach.

About the presenter

Becky Pike Pluth has been working as a training professional for over 15 years. She has written two books, Webinars with WOW Factor and 100 Movie Clips That Teach and Train, and is currently the President and CEO of the Bob Pike Group, which incorporates a participant-centered approach  focuses on the needs of learners.

What is an object lesson?

An object lesson is something that serves as a practical example of a principle or an abstract idea, a lesson taught by using a material object. In infants, senses of sight and hearing are the first to develop. When learning can be associated with already-familiar objects, there is a greater likelihood that the training will be remembered and applied.

Some of the benefits of using object lessons we discussed include memorability, engaging, visual, emotion pull, and effect of curiosity. Using objects also has some drawbacks, including having extra physical items to carry, the possibility that the lesson may be lost, and objects, if not effectively managed, could serve as distractions.

When possible, the strongest associations with learning occur when real objects are able to be engaged by all the senses. I once attended a seminar by Ed Tufte on the effective presentation of data. One of the exhibits he displayed was a 400-year old copy of Galileo’s book. While he wasn’t using it as an object lesson, being able to view the physical book locked this experience into my long-term memory.

If you are training in a virtual environment you can still utilize objects. Photos of objects work well. Our presenter on this webinar suggested that over-sized objects and images of objects are particularly effective.

Our webinar started with the presenter playing a card game. She displayed a card so that only we could see it, and then proceeded to ask us several questions about the card. Of course, she knew the identity of the card (facilitators must remain control), so if we participants did not answer correctly, she would still be able to redirect us.

Three steps to designing an object lesson

Follow these three steps to help find appropriate object lessons.
  1. Determine content with a moral, value, or story.
  2. Take any common household object and tell how it is used. Does it relate to any value or moral you want your participants to learn? If so, it will work.
  3. Determine the logistics of your object lesson: materials, duration, what you will say, and what you will do.

Our presenter suggested to use a template during the planning process when using objects in learning. Create a template with the following columns:
  • Topic
  • Object
  • Do Ideas – how you will utilize the object
  • Say Ideas – what you will say to set the stage and guide participants
  • Other Ideas

Tips for using objects

  1. Utilize objects strategically. Object lessons will have the most impact if they are used sparingly in a training session.
  2. Throughout a training session, connect back to the object lesson.
  3. Ask reflective questions to help your participants form the connections and applications.
  4. Have the objects on hand, either one per table or one per participant. If possible, have one object for each attendee, as this maximizes engagement and ensures full participation.
  5. Allow participants to form their own conclusions about the connections between the object and its application to the learning objectives. Once you have heard some ideas from the audience, you can then share your thoughts and/or help them get back on track.
  6. Practice your object lesson with coworkers and family prior to introducing in a public forum.
  7. The object lesson should harmonize with other learning objectives.
  8. Bring excitement to the object lesson.

Emotion and Content

The final point our presenter made was that both emotion and content are important. Most business meetings are filled with content. By adding the emotion and engagement of object lessons, you can reinforce learning objectives and make life-long connections to the content.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Weekly Update - Jan 22-28

Blog Posts

Webinar Review: Shortcut to Creativity
This is a summary of a webinar on creativity. The webinar was based on the six thinking hats developed by Edward De Bono.

Creativity Blogs to Follow
In this post is a list of creativity blogs I follow on a regular basis.

Genius Scan App
Use the Genius Scan app to scan from anywhere and share the files as images or PDFs to the cloud or others.

Writing 365

With an end-goal of writing 365,000 words in 2016, my daily goal is to write 1,000 words per day. I exceeded this goal every day this week, setting a new record of 1,840 words on January 27. Although writing blog posts is one of my four categories of writing - the others are journal, devotional, and e-book - I have decided to post less frequently rather than daily. This simply means I will need to write more words per day in the other categories if I don't write a blog post. I also hope to write longer posts, perhaps splitting up the writing over multiple days.

At 1,000 words per day, the target for January was 31,000, which I exceeded on January 27.

Bible Project

As I wrote last week, I am still trying to incorporate action on the Bible writing project into my daily routine. I completed three chapters this week. Currently I am working on chapter 22 of Joshua, almost to the end of the book.


It doesn't seem possible that I have already been writing consistently for a month. January seemed like it went by quickly. I am happy to have reached the first month milestone.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Webinar Review: Shortcut to Creativity

This is a summary of a webinar on creativity. The webinar was based on the six thinking hats developed by Edward De Bono.

In my book list review for 2015 I included the book, The Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono. I was surprised when I participated in a webinar on creativity and discovered that the primary content covered was the six thinking hats approach as a way to respond to change.

In a rapidly changing environment, creativity is a key attribute needed to recognize opportunities and be ready to adapt.

What do you see?

In the webinar, we were asked the question, "How creative are you?" After rating our creativity levels, the presenter shared several images to solicit our input on what we saw. Here are the images that we studied:


The presenter used this exercise to introduce the paradigm of different perspectives. Each participant noticed different details, and we could not agree on the number of faces in the third image. How many do you see?

Another exercise was also simple: how many uses can you think of for a paperclip? Obviously, a paperclip is designed to fasten papers together, but it can also be used as a key, to clean out your ears (as more than one person responded), a temporary fastener for clothing, a tool to open CD/DVD drives (and the SIM card tray on your smart phone).

The presenter used these examples to illustrate that each of us is creative and able to see the same situation from different perspectives. This was an excellent transition into the six thinking hats.

Six Thinking Hats

Edward De Bono developed the concepts of hats, probably based on the saying, "She wears a lot of hats," meaning that one person can hold many roles. The six hats approach quantifies perspectives about a particular situation into six hats, each represented by a different color.

Designed for individual thinking and group interactions, the six hats, when taken as a whole, allow a group to think about all aspects of a problem, situation, or opportunity. When "wearing" each hat, consider the situation only from that perspective.
  • White refers to the objective analysis of facts.
  • Red refers to feelings and emotions. Intuition, exploration of positive and negative emotions should be discussed while wearing the red hat. Especially in business situations, there may be a tendency to minimize feelings, but it is necessary to acknowledge the existence of feelings about a particular situation.
  • Black refers to the evaluation of risks and barriers, a critical judgment while keeping a holistic view. Think about the hazards and other negative connotations to identify potential problems before they arise.
  • Yellow refers to an optimistic view where opportunities and benefits are explored. Analyze the benefits of options to improve a situation.
  • Green refers to new ideas. Brainstorming without censoring ideas helps get additional input from the group. As always with brainstorming, quantity is better than quality. Once many ideas have been generated then they can be reviewed for quality.
  • Blue refers to the big picture. Focus on the goal. In the 7 Habits paradigm developed by Stephen Covey, this is Habit 2, "begin with the end in mind."

Whenever you are evaluating an opportunity or problem, take some time to try the six thinking hats approach.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Creativity Blogs to Follow

In this post is a list of creativity blogs I follow on a regular basis.

For me, reading online often leads to other websites and blogs. While www.PersonalChange.info is my primary blog, I also maintain a couple of private blogs. On one of those I keep a list of favorite blogs. Blogspot's list functionality displays the last update for a blog, and also sorts the list by the most recent post.

Blog | iMindMap

iMindMap is the software and training site for Tony Buzan, creator of the term mind map and evangelist for visual techniques to improve memory and brainstorming. While the iMindMap blog  often focuses on features of the iMindMap software, there are also articles on creativity and how others creatively use iMindMap.

eLearning Learning

This blog features articles and posts from experts on the topic of e-learning. The blog usually provides summaries and links to 8-10 articles. eLearning Learning is updated every day.

Presentation Zen

Garr Reynolds is the author of Presentation Zen and The Naked Presenter. His blog, titled after his book, focuses on issues related to professional presentation design. He frequently includes posts on storytelling techniques as well as design tips.

Austin Kleon

Author of Show Your Work and Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon writes about creativity and design.


The company Anecdote is an Australia-based company specializing in business storytelling. The blog features articles written by the company's principal partners.

Sacha Chua :: living an awesome life

I first came across Sacha's blog while learning about sketchnoting, creating visual notes. Sacha is in the middle of a five-year experience where she is exploring personal interests without working. She posts on life hacking, computer programming, visual design, and other interesting tidbits. Sacha usually posts every day.

Nieman Storyboard

Nieman Storyboard is a publication of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. It explores the use of nonfictional storytelling. I discovered this blog while searching for articles on storyboarding, a the visual technique created by Walt Disney. However, this was a serendipitous find, and I learn something whenever I visit this blog.