Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Reality Show With Real Consequences

The quadrennial race for President of the United States is a reality show, but with real consequences for the world.

Whenever a President of the United States has served two consecutive terms, and can't run again, I look forward to the next presidential election cycle. Both the Republicans and the Democrats have to come up with a nominee for their respective parties. One of these two individuals will become the next President. Of course, from time to time there is a viable third party candidate, but none have ever succeeded.

The energy level is these elections is palpable. Candidates of each party are motivated and work to win primary votes. The first primary occurs in February, with the final elections held in November. At the beginning of this election cycle, there were over 15 Republican candidates at the beginning. Over a period of time and primaries, the number has continued to drop. Candidates who don't perform well drop out.

This is exactly like a reality television show. Television watchers have been inundated in the past several years with reality TV shows. Survivor, a CBS show, was one of the first. Each week viewers tuned in - and still do - to watch contestants struggle to stay on the island until the there is only one survivor left. Each week a candidate gets voted off the island.

Another popular show is ABC's The Bachelor. In this show, a single man meets several women in the hope of finding true love. The women (or men if the roles are switched) participate in one-on-one dates, group dates, and activities. Women vying for the final proposal must receive a rose to stay until the next episode. Those who do not receive roses leave.

There are always contestants who return for the reunion special no one remembers. The same is true for the Republican candidates in this election cycle. Note: while the Democrat party has fewer candidates, but just as much drama, I have elected to focus on the Republican primary process for this post.

Why is reality TV so popular? Beyond the fact it is relatively inexpensive to produce, the main reason is that views like to watch what is going on with other people. This is exactly like real life. If our neighbor is experiencing domestic problems, we will likely keep our eyes focused in that direction. Once we start to identify with certain characters, we invest time to see if they will succeed to the end.

At the time of this writing, these candidates have withdrawn during the primary process.

Contests have always fascinated people. Only the medium has changed from the village square to the electronic rectangle of the TV, computer, or mobile device screens.

Each political party holds a convention every four years. The official purpose of the convention is to elect the candidate to represent the party. The unofficial reason, because the nominee is usually determined before the convention starts, is to generate enthusiasm and interest in the candidates. The conventions are usually televised, but few actually watch. Why? There is no conflict. We already know the outcome.

If the parties really wanted people to tune in, both the Republicans and Democrats should have contentious conventions where the outcome is unknown at the start. All of the elements of high drama would be present: a raucous group of convention delegates, motivated candidates, mystery, and desire.

As of this writing, these candidates remain for the Republican primaries.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Weekly Update Feb 19-25

Blog Posts

VideoScribe Anywhere Whiteboard Drawing App
Animated whiteboard drawings are popular. This post features an overview the VideoScribe Anywhere whiteboard animation app.

Massive list of story prompts, Part 1
Books of lists are popular. This post features lists from various writing books to use as prompts for writing stories.

Writing 365 Tracking - Behind the scenes, Part 2
To help with my project of writing 1,000 words per day in 2016, I use a Microsoft workbook to track progress. In this post you will see how I created the various measurements.

Writing 365

In the book 11.22.63, by author Stephen King, the protagonist was introduced to a time portal by a cafe owner who discovered the portal. The cafe owner asked the lead character, Jake, to travel back to 1960 - the time portal only went to this one specific date - and hang out for up to three years to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. One of the phenomenon Jake experienced was push back from the universe whenever he tried to alter significant events.

This week sort of felt like that to me. I feel tremendous forces at work trying to prevent my writing at least 1,000 words per day. A couple of times during the week I wondered, Do I really need to do this? Can I make it through? However, I pushed myself to write, and successfully met my daily goals.

Bible Project

In order to track my progress in writing out the entire Bible by hand, I added a new bar line on the chart to display progress from the previous chart. Thus, I can easily see I only completed two chapters for this week under review. This serves as gentle reminder for me to pick up the pace. I'd like to complete at least three to four chapters every week.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Writing 365 Tracking - Behind the scenes, Part 2

To help with my project of writing 1,000 words per day in 2016, I use a Microsoft workbook to track progress. In this post you will see how I created the various measurements.

In Writing 365 Track - Behind the scenes, Part 1 I shared how I use Microsoft Excel to track my writing progress. In Part 1, we looked at the Log and DailyCount worksheets. In Part 2, I will walk you through my Summary worksheet, which contains several tables and charts.

Word count by category

My writing this year fits into four categories: journal, devotional, blog post, and e-book. Theoretically, by the end of the year, each category should have at least 91,250 words. In the top left corner of the worksheet is a summary of the word counts for each category. The SUMIF formula is to calculate this (see Part 1)

Weekly word count

For each week (staring on Friday and ending on Thursday) the word count is automatically calculated using the SUMIF formula. SUMIF is an extremely convenient formula, which I use frequently. The columns in this table are week, actual (words), start date, and end date.

Writing 365 weekly summary

I post a weekly summary on this blog each week. Although I write the post on Friday, I delay publication until Sunday. For the Writing 365 portion of the summary, I put together the following chart.

It is a combination of three elements:
  • a bar chart depicting overall progress towards 365,000 words
  • a sparkline using columns which depicts the total for each week
  • summary of the week by day

The overall progress bar chart is about as simple as charts come in Excel. I used the chart wizard to create a chart and eliminated everything but the essential elements. Everything in an Excel chart can be edited or deleted. Of the spreadsheet programs available (Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, Google Sheets, etc.) Excel is by far the most powerful from the perspectives of analysis and charting.

The sparkline data is pulled from the weekly word count table. A sparkline is different from traditional charts in Excel because a sparkline is designed to provide trending information while contained in only one cell. Sparklines options are line, column, and win/loss. In the image below, the Line and Column sparklines use the data from the Words column, while Win/Loss uses data from the Change column.

The word count table uses SUMIF to pull the daily word count from the DailyCount worksheet discussed in Part 1. I use conditional formatting to generate a red dot for days with no words, a yellow dot if any words have been written, and a green dot if the daily goal of 1,000 is surpassed.

Track your work

You don't have to utilize Excel or any spreadsheet application to track your writing goals. However, I encourage you to at least create a basic spreadsheet with columns for date and the number of words you write each day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Massive list of story prompts, Part 1

Books of lists are popular. This post features lists from various writing books to use as prompts for writing stories.

Over the course of several years, I have collected a variety of storytelling prompts. Until now, my list has been stored on Google Drive as a Numbers spreadsheet. For the first time, I am sharing part of the list in this blog post. The second part of the list will come at a later date.

These prompts are ideal for writing memoirs, but could also work as prompts for fictional writing, especially when experiencing writer's block.

Stories: The Family Legacy

Stories: The Family Legacy: A guide for recollection and sharing, by Richard Stone, is a short book filled with story prompts. Stone uses stories from his own life as examples for each section of story prompts.

Forty Categories

I do not recall the source of this list, but it is a nice list of forty story prompts.

Writing for Your Life

Writing for Your Life: Discovering the story of your life's journey, by Deena Metzger, is another excellent book to assist with writing your memoir.
  • Stories from your childhood
  • Stories your parents and siblings tell about you
  • Stories your parents, siblings, and children tell about their lives
  • Morality tales your parents told to shape your behavior
  • Stories you habitually tell about your life
  • Traditional family stories
  • Stories you tell strangers about your family to reveal character
  • Stories you tell to strangers to introduce yourself
  • Stories you tell about travel and adventure
  • Cultural tales - teaching stories, inspiring stories
  • Stories that reflect your beliefs
  • Stories for your most intimate associates
  • Stories so intimate you believe they will bind you to someone forever
  • Lies you tell so often they become truths
  • Stories you will never tell anyone
  • Stories you will never tell, not even to yourself

Dale Carnegie

I am a fan of Dale Carnegie's approach to communications and influencing others. I have read several of his books including How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking, and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. The prompts in this list appear to be from Carnegie's biographical sketch, but I do not recall how I came to develop this list.
  • Early years and upbringing
  • Early struggles to get ahead
  • Hobbies and recreation
  • Special areas of knowledge
  • Unusual experiences
  • Beliefs and convictions

My List

This short list is comprised of categories. Each category can be further expanded to create additional prompts.
  • Elementary: teachers, students, and classrooms
  • High School: teachers, students, and subjects
  • College: teachers, students, and activities
  • Jobs
  • Places: specific locations such as Grandma's house or a backstreet of Tijuana
  • States
  • Countries

Sunday, February 21, 2016

VideoScribe Whiteboard Drawing App

Animated whiteboard drawings are popular. This post features an overview the VideoScribe Anywhere whiteboard animation app.

Videoscribe Anywhere Overview

VideoScribe Anywhere Demo

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Weekly Update Feb 12-18

Blog Posts

Presentation Rehab Tip 1
This is Tip 1 of several tips to create presentations and deliver them more effectively.

Writing 365 Tracking - behind the scene Part 1
To help with my project of writing 1,000 words per day in 2016, I use a Microsoft workbook to track progress. In this post you will see how I created the various measurements.

Writing 365

After a one-day slip last week when I did not complete my daily goal of writing 1,000 words, I regained the momentum this week, maintaining my average of around 1,250 words per day.

However, I realized my output for blog posts appears to be considerably less than for the other categories, at least for the week under review. I can see I need to resume writing a post every night, or at least more regularly throughout the week. If I wrote at least 250 words for blogs each night, the weekly total would be 1,750 words.

Summary for Feb 12-18
Blog Post: 1,059
Devotional: 2,338 words
eBook: 3,013 words
Journal: 2,354 words

Bible Project

The Bible Project, where I am writing out the entire Bible by hand, also progressed along at the expected pace. The lengths of each book and chapter vary. Even the verses themselves are inconsistently determined. Monks in the Middle Ages first developed the current structure of chapters and verses. While helpful for study and group activities, chapter and verse determinations seem rather arbitrary.

In the book of Joshua, for example, there are a series of verses with only three city names per verse. However, in other books, a verse might have 100 words. In writing out the book, I have also encountered many situations where the flow of a story is cut by a chapter break. It is unlikely a new structure will ever be developed, but perhaps it is time after hundreds of years.

When I first started with Genesis, I preserved the verse structure. About half-way through Deuteronomy I moved to a narrative structure using paragraphs, as defined by the version I use, the New King James Version.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Writing 365 Tracking - Behind the scenes, Part 1

To help with my project of writing 1,000 words per day in 2016, I use a Microsoft workbook to track progress. In this post you will see how I created the various measurements.

In an earlier post I described the Writing 365 project. With an end goal of writing 365,000 this year, my daily goal has to be a minimum of 1,000 words per day.

I created a Microsoft Excel workbook to track my progress. Using four basic data points, each with its own column, I have created everything you see below.

Layout of the workbook

Microsoft Excel provides the ability to have multiple worksheets, also known as tabs. For this project, I have four worksheets: Summary, Log, DailyCount, and Lookup.


The four fields I populate with data are the week, date, category of writing, and number of words. Each week starts on a Friday and ends on a Thursday. The date is fairly self-evident. The four categories of writing are devotional, journal, blog post, and e-book. I enter in the number of words as provided by Apple Pages (devotional and journal), Microsoft Word (e-books), and Mozilla Firefox (blog posts) using the Word Count Tool add-on.

When I type in the date, the week number is automatically populated using a VLOOKUP formula. This is a convenient way to keep a table of related data and pull various bits of information from it. To use VLOOKUP, you first need a table of data. In my case, this is a simple table located on the Lookup worksheet.

The formula reads: =VLOOKUP(B2,Lookup!A:B,2,FALSE)

What it means
  • Find the value in cell B2 (from my Log worksheet).
  • Take this value and find it in Column A in the lookup table.
  • When the matching value is found place the value from the second column (Column B) into cell A2 (Week) of the Log worksheet.

For the Words column, I use the solid data bars from the Conditional Formatting options. Conditional formatting is an easy way to highlight cell values in comparison with one another or to highlight the highest or lowest number.


Using the SUMIF formula, I total the number of words per day and use this information to update a chart of my progress.

I entered a date (column A) for each the the 366 days in 2016 (this is a leap year). Using the Date, in column B, I wrote a formula to total the number of words for each of the corresponding entries on the Log worksheet. Typically, there are four entries (journal, devotional, e-book, and blog post) for each date on the Log worksheets. The SUMIF formula totals numbers if they meet certain criteria.

The formula reads: =SUMIF(Log!B:B,DailyCount!A3,Log!D:D)

What it means
  • Look at the entire column B (Date) on the Log worksheet and find values that match the values on the DailyCount worksheet (column A).
  • For any matching values, total the numbers.
Using the Excel chart wizard, I created a line chart with the number of words per day and my daily goal (1,000) words per day.

These simple tools help to analyze my progress and visual the results. In the Part II, I will discuss the Summary worksheet.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Presentation Rehab Tip 1 - Allow enough time

This is Tip 1 of several tips to create presentations and deliver them more effectively.

For several years I have been working on a project to help others with presentation design and delivery. There are numerous books on both topics, and I have probably referenced them in this blog on more than one occasion. However, my list is based on my own experiences both as a consultant in working with others and as an attendee at numerous presentations.

The project has evolved over time from a short e-book to a long-form printed book to its current state, a series of blog posts.

Allow enough time to plan, create, and practice your presentation

One of the classes my brother had to take during his service in the United States Army was a planning class. In the class, soldiers learned to take an event and work backwards to ensure  there was sufficient time for planning, acquiring needed resources, and any logistics required to successfully achieve the stated goal. This was an easy class for my brother because our mother was a planner and we learned early in our childhoods the importance of planning and how to make solid preparations.

This experience helped me during college because I utilized - and probably many do - a "just in time" system for completing papers and projects. Once a project was assigned, I estimated how much time it would take me to conduct the research, write, and edit any required assignments. For the most part, this strategy worked well. However, on one occasion, I had to turn in a printed draft of an English paper. At the time I attended college personal computer technology was still in its infancy, and we still used 5.25-inch floppy diskettes. Time did not permit me to print the assignment, but I handed in the floppy disk. I assured my teacher the file for the assignment was on the disk, but he wasn't impressed, nor did he accept it.

When developing your presentation, ensure that you allow sufficient time to create slides, handouts, and practice time. Obviously there may be times when you are called upon to speak or deliver a presentation on short notice. However, even in extenuating circumstances it will be helpful to think about desired goals of your presentation before working on a final set of slides or your presentation outline.

Three phases of preparation

Like constructing a building, creating and successfully delivering a presentation – with or without slides – requires some preparation time. For presentations, the essential preparation steps are planning, creating, and practicing.

In planning, the prework of determining the desired outcome of your presentation and your goals are determined. The initial steps of logistics, such as identifying a point of contact, selecting a venue, and assessing technical resources (computer, projector, etc.) also occur during planning. The planning step is where initial design of your presentation will begin. Techniques such as storyboarding and brainstorming can be helpful prior to building in PowerPoint.

Building out slides and creating handouts will occur during the create phase of preparation. If you elect not to use slides, walking through the steps to develop a series of points and determining how to expand and illustrate those points will be helpful.

Finally, in the practice phase, you will informally share parts of your presentation with others, ensure that backups have been created, and spend time mentally preparing for your presentation,

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Weekly Update Feb 5-11

Blog Posts

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

Variation on mind mapping, Part 2
In this second of two posts, I review the Mindly app, a mind mapping tool based on a concentric circle design.

Writing 365

Yesterday was the first day in 35 days when I did not meet my daily goal of writing 1,000 words. I spent the day traveling, with little downtime to finish my writing tasks. The only writing I completed was my journal entry. However, as a result of the activities of the day, I had a longer journal entry than usual. In situations like this, I believe, the best thing to do is keep moving forward. I would like these days to be few and far between, but recognize that things pop up from time to time.

As a whole, the week was successful because I wrote over 7,000. Additionally, from the perspective of progress, a yellow dot on the chart means at least some words were written. The conditional formatting status indicators in Excel are extremely convenient for creating visual cues to assess progress.

Bible Project

The Bible Project, where my goal is to write the entire Bible by hand, proceeded well. I completed 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John. These are short books requiring only a week to complete all three books. I am currently on Chapter 5 of Judges. Judges is an action packed book with many lessons. The pattern of the book is a pattern of apostasy and worship, repeated for each judge appointed to lead Israel.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Variation on Mind Mapping, Part II

In this second of two posts, I review the Mindly app, a mind mapping tool based on a concentric circle design.

In Variation on Mind Mapping, Part I, I reviewed the Cell Storming app. It applies a honey-comb style of design to visual brainstorming and mind mapping activities. Mindly is another mind mapping app, and uses a series of concentric circles to arrange bits of information. The Mindly website describes Mindly as a planetary system with a central sun, series of planets, and orbiting moons around each planet. Ultimately, it is a hierarchical organizational system.


Created maps and the option to create a new map are displayed on the home screen. After initiating a new map, you are prompted for the central idea or "sun," using the vernacular of Mindly. The central idea is set with a circle which displays four plus signs. You can add primary categories by clicking on the small plus signs. This same type of pattern continues throughout the multiple levels of organization.

Completed maps can be exported in Mindly format, a PDF, text outline, and image. Only the Mindly format and PDF are available in the free version.


I like the idea of organizing in this format. Mindly provides the opportunity to display information visually in a new way. However, two details preclude me from downloading the full version.

First, I could not find an option to edit the font size. Like PowerPoint, Mindly's default appears to decrease the font size by organizational level. I would like to have the option to keep the font size the same throughout the map, and I would like to be able to increase the overall font size.

Second, the full version is $6.99. Given the lack of editing options, including no choices of image type on export, this is an app I will use sparingly, if at all.

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.