#astd2013, A-Z of training techniques: 26 proven tricks to engage and enliven training

This high energy presentation given by Marc Ratcliffe was my last presentation at ASTD 2013 conference. All in all, it was a great conference with a wealth of wonderful ideas and inspiration. I could think of no better presentation to end on.

As participants were gathering for his presentation, he kept us engaged with presession warm ups. He mentioned that it was like going to the movies and participating in the questions before the film. He considers his activities as a soft opening. If you wait for people to arrive, that becomes the new start time. Instead, use a pre-session session. During our pre-session, we built a training mascot out of pipe cleaners.

Training Mascot
Training Mascot

Radcliffe feels it is important to develop instruction that integrates the head – cognitive, heart – motivation,  and hands – practice.

In this presentation, Radcliffe provided us with 26 techniques that we could use in our instruction. Naturally, we would have to tweak the techniques to our situation. Radcliffe stressed games are not antithesis of content. They can help to challenge, reinforce, persuade, refocus, and reassure participants.

Ask it basket

People pop in questions during the day. Can be a virtual basket. Facilitates the asking. You can slyly post your own question.


Twitter, Yammer, LinkedIn, etc. Backchannel originated with therapists.


Closing activity. Numbers count down and revisit key points. E.g., five things for this key point. Query audience.

Deal with the dominator

Give the rest of the group their voice back and balance the interaction.

  • Scribe – Dominator writes down ideas
  • Observer – Dominator observes reports out
  • Structure – place rules of game to get points eg. one group goes before next.

Elevator pitch

You have 30 seconds to explain your concept to the rest of the group. For example, each person has a theorist, and then reports out to group. Later ties it back to a current project.

Find your partner

Common Pairings:

  • Famous couples
  • Food that goes together
  • Song and artist
  • Quote and author
  • Term and definition
  • Language


  • Favorite country
  • Favorite food
  • Favorite car
  • Favorite celebrity

Individuals write answers on a card. Collect and mix cards, and redistribute to find other half.

Game shows

  • The rich list
  • Millionaire
  • Jeopardy
  • Wheel of Fortune
  • Family feud

Human treasure hunt

Find x number of evidence. Questions like someone who has children, someone wearing gold, someone with the same shoe size, etc. Can be a scavenger hunt type game.

I am famous

Use quotes to as a game to lead into new content. Or students can look for quotes

Jargon Jungle

Terms and definitions on cards jumbled but brought together.

Killing them (Micro)softly?

Less is more for PowerPoint

Laughing rounds

  • ha ha ha
  • ho ho ho
  • hee hee hee
  • haw haw haw

Can be used as a response for answered questions

Movie Quotes

Find a movie quote which gives a reference point to the content but acts as a reinforcement.  http://www.imdb.com/sections/quotes

Never Ever


  • been on a plane
  • been overseas
  • sung in public
  • had a parking fine
  • used facebook
  • lied to a friend

Helps to know your audience.

Out of the box

How to pick people for a random group and how to develop a group story.

Example question

  • Who has the oldest car
  • Who is wearing most buttons
  • Who has come the longest distance


Have them write one or two things they have learned and put their address on them. Collect cards and send them back to each person.

Questioning techniques

Let question hang 6 seconds


Start of the day activity. Write all the key takeaways from yesterday. As you go through the list, have them line them out as you go around room. Last person standing.


End of the day activity to highlight key items. Pass ball around.

Take home pay

What is your take home pay from today.


Give everyone a u-turn card. Look at things from different or opposing perspectives. Supports creative problem-solving.

Velocity of thought

List topics that you train in. Favorite activities from today. Select item 3 from list 1 and item 2 from list 2 and think of a way to use that activity in training that topic.

What’s my flavor?

Describe your self as a dessert.


Ask a question needs external answer… 60 seconds to answer. Can use technology.

Your Turn

Show a picture and ask question, eg. how is this picture like our topic.


Spell zoom with backside.

This was a fast paced, highly energetic presentation. Marc Radcliffe did a great job!