Thursday, 17 November 2016

Learn in weeks, what usually takes years.

A little fun fact: 

Whenever a Mormon missionary chooses to serve in a foreign country, he or she has to learn a completely different language to be able communicate in the assigned area. Therefor they enter a Missionary Training Center (MTC) where they can learn the new language from Mormon teachers. Usually they attend the MTC for 2 to 10 weeks, right before they go out on their mission.  
Now just let that sink in...
Between 2 and 10 weeks to master a different language?!?!

Quite impressive isn't it? 
How does the Mormon church train their young missionaries to speak a foreign language so efficiently? These students learn in a few weeks what takes most college students three or four years. And being a non native English speaker myself, I would happily add a few more years to that to even become fluent.

But these students are mostly fluent within a year.   
The technique used to train these missionaries is called "Context-Based Learning.(CBL)" The CBL method uses real life and fictitious examples in teaching environments in order to learn though the actual experience with a subject rather that just it's mere theoretical parts. 

And luckily today, not only the Mormons use this technique but it has found it's way into corporate training organisations, schools and universities and even military and police training.  

The 5 step system is simple:

1.     Learn a concept
2.     Practice in role plays or real life scenario's
3.     Get coaching and feedback
4.     Repeat
5.     Get coaching and feedback

CBL proves over and over again the powerful results that Experience Based Learning can achieve.  

Researchers have often examined the effects of role-playing, a big part of CBL, in adults and adolescents. In a recent study one group got traditional discussion-based training while another did role play-based training. The group that did the role-plays experienced a significant positive change in their self-concept, which has a significant impact on their behaviors.

Additionally, the research has found that getting consistent, well formulated feedback is essential to effective learning.

So those that argue face-to-face training should be replaced by online programs, or those businesses that buy on cost only, don't ignore the unique (and incredibly valuable) advantages of having a face-to-face, hands-on training program that provides learning by doing with an experienced facilitator.

If you use the CBL method correctly, people CAN learn in weeks what normally takes years! 
Just ask the Mormons...

Thursday, 3 November 2016

3 Skills for Better Communication from Professional Actors.

You are about to have an important conversation. You want it to be effective - really effective. So where do you start? 

As an actor, my choice is biased, but I truly believe the world of acting has everything to offer when it comes to the best techniques for effective communication skills.  

So below are 3 ways you can use the skills of an actor to improve the impact and influence of your own speaking. 

1. Choose an intention
Before delivering their messages, actors must understand with great clarity how they want their audience to react to each message. They think deeply about how they want their audience to feel as a result of their communication. 
In day to day life however we often develop a message focusing primarily on the words and content we are delivering. What we fail to ask ourselves is why that overall message should be important to our listener. Why should they care? What would make them care? This very common mistake is usually fatal to effective communication.
Understanding the importance of choosing intention and deploying it effectively is the cornerstone of brilliant acting but also the key to an effective conversation. 

2. Find your light. 
Every actor knows the expression: 'Find your light'. It means if you're in the dark on stage, you need to step into the light source so you can be seen. So let's tweak this idea a little. When we have conversations we can feel vulnerable by 'stepping in the light' when we communicate. How will the other person react? Will I be able to respond in a correct way? The best way to become comfortable with being in the spotlight is by being congruent. This means that everything you do with your voice and body must support your intention. When you offer mixed signals, or there is a disconnect between what you are saying and how you are saying it, your audience can become confused or distracted. This is called in-congruence and it is the enemy of effective communication and great acting.

3. Learn the art of being present. 
This means developing 'conversation sense' - an awareness of how your partner in conversation is responding. Naturally actors cultivate this attribute until it's a finely tuned instrument. But you can benefit from awakening this awareness in yourself. 

How can you do so? By practicing the ability to communicate while sensing how that information is received. Pay close attention to how your listener is responding and learn how to address these observations. Allow people to respond. For that's when you'll be truly present and able to really connect with someone.  

Now go out there and shine!

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Dating my clients...

Ok. I'm not really dating my clients, but i figured that headline would make you curious enough to read this article...

Because you know what?
I sometimes do FEEL like I'm dating my clients.

Ever since I started my own business InterACT WA two years ago, I can't help but think courting new clients isn’t that different from courting a potential mate. You’re nervous as hell, but you still want to make a good impression and hopefully seal the deal. We all know the feeling of that first date that can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking.

So I dusted off the good old date rules that served me well back in the days that I was single. Funny enough they still prove to be very useful in running my own business.  
Rule #1: It takes two to tango.
We’ve all been in relationships where we felt we were giving 110% and the other person was giving nothing. It stinks, right?
I try to remember this when I'm chasing down a client who can’t commit or when I'm trying to please someone who seems like they just can’t be pleased no matter what I do: It’s smart business to follow up a few times and always carry out your end of the bargain, but at some point you have to accept that “they’re just not that into you” and move on to clients who can appreciate and value your work.
Sometimes it’s not you, it’s them.
Rule #2: You’re most desirable when you’re taken.
Success begets success, whether you’re a newly engaged woman suddenly surrounded by eligible bachelors or a freelancer who just landed a big project and has several more clients banging down the door.
When I'm in a period of stability and success, I tend to attract more of it – sometimes more than I know what to do with. The nice thing about freelancing is that I can juggle multiple clients without feeling guilty for cheating ;)
Rule #3: Don’t settle for Mr./Ms. Wrong.
Just as some people tolerate an abusive boyfriend or a gold-digging girlfriend so they can stay in a relationship, I often face a similar temptation to work for demanding or low-paying clients because I need the money or I'm afraid I won’t get better clients.
Don’t fall into this trap! These clients will only sap your creativity and eat up time that could be spent finding Mr./Ms. Right. Have some standards and hold out for projects that fit you. Believe me, they are out there.
Rule #4: There are plenty of fish in the sea.
It’s easy to lose perspective when you’ve just been dumped or you’re stuck in a bad relationship that destroys your confidence. But remember that break-ups can free up your time to find something better. There are always other potential mates or clients when you’re ready for them, and they’re out there waiting for you.
So keep these rules in mind while you are dating your clients. Would you like to go on a 'date' with me so I can tell you more about InterACT WA? Contact me here or check out my website

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Captivating every audience.

Last week I was asked to read a book to all the kids at my sons daycare because of Children's Book Week. I decided to bring one of my favorite books on all the things you can do with cardboard boxes. They might even learn something, I thought.

Full of excitement I sat down in front of the group of two year old's until I felt a butterfly in my stomach. The butterfly then quickly turned into a knot and seconds later I concluded with a shock: I AM NERVOUS! 
I immediately had a firm inner talk, telling myself that it was ridiculous to be nervous and that a group of 2 year old's would be peanuts in comparison to the groups I usually face as a corporate trainer. But I still felt a bit unsure.
You see, for every person who loves group facilitating the ultimate quest is always to unlock the secrets of engagement. How do we engage others, and then keep them in that state? I'm confident in dealing with adults but suddenly engaging 15 toddlers felt like a herculean task. 
So I decided to approach it the same way as I do in all my training workshops. 
These are my 4 golden rules:  
* Stimulate curiosity. I think that we, as trainers, are so eager to get to the answers that we don't spend sufficient time to developing the question. But it’s the question that piques both adults and toddlers interest. Being told an answer doesn’t do anything. Take the information you want your audience to know by the end and frame a question that will direct your listeners toward that answer. 
*Introduce change and surprise. Both adults and toddlers quickly become habituated to the status quo. When something in our environment shifts, however, we start paying attention again. So tell a joke, show a picture or address your topic in a different way.
*Relevance and concreteness. Toddlers and adults can’t handle too much abstraction. Bring your ideas down to earth by explaining how they connect to your listeners’ lives, and by embedding sensory details — what things look, sound, feel and taste like — into your account.
* Tell stories. Researchers who study human cognition say that stories are “psychologically privileged” — that is, our minds treat them differently than other kinds of information. We understand them better, remember them more accurately, and we find them more engaging to listen to in the first place. When planning your presentation, think about how to capture your ideas in a narrative.

So facing my 2 year old audience, I took a deep breath and started by asking what they thought you can actually make out of boxes. Then halfway through the story I decided to grab a real cardboard box from the kitchen and put in on my head. Giggling toddlers galore.  I ended the story with telling them that I once made an awesome puppetry out of a cardboard box. 
And what do you know? 
The loud, little devils turned into engaged, little angels, listening to a story told by a complete stranger about all the things they could do with cardboard boxes.
Hopefully you can use these strategies too during your presentations or training workshops, so you won’t need to worry if your listeners are fully engaged.

Whether they are 2 or 42 years old. ;)

Would you like to know more about our interactive workshops on Communication, Leadership or Emotional Intelligence? Contact me on or have a look at

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

5 Strategies to improve Role Play

Today I saw this video on social media.
It's showing a role play simulation taking place during a seminar and boy, did it make me cringe...

Not because of the lovely people doing their absolute best, but because of the lack of roleplay techniques. I guess that when you work a professional role-play actor every day you deal with a lot of people who fear role-plays and had very traumatizing experiences. This made me extremely passionate about making sure role-play simulations are being done correctly.

Because in a world of e-learning, learning bites, blended learning and brain based learning, the simple act of role-play is still one of the most effective and impactful ways of changing behavior.
If... done correctly.

So what can we learn from this video?

1. Roleplay needs to be voluntary. 
In the video we see Stuart being forced to do the role-play scenario. The presenter puts him in front of an audience without any consent. Stuart jokes to the audience "I never signed up for this..." and you can see his discomfort. Even though Stuart is an absolute professional about it, a role-play should never feel unsafe for the participant. And you should never ever force people into it.

2. Roleplay is fun but not to be laughed at. 
The presenter states she looks forward to "seeing Stuart sweat" and the description of the video speaks of a 'Hilarious live role play". Maybe you were laughing yourself watching the video. But role play is essentially about practicing and developing new behaviors. People should feel free to laugh and have fun, but it should not be at somebody else's expense, exposure or failure.

3. Role play needs a purpose 
So why did this role play take place? To "watch the master work?" like the presenter says? Without a clear focus (purpose) it quickly turns into a role-play just for the sake of doing a role play.

If the purpose indeed was to "watch the master work" it would have been more effective to inform Stuart prior to the seminar that they would like to show a demonstration of the right way to sell a car. That way Stuart could have prepared for it.

If the purpose was to improve Stuart's skills on dealing with objections it would have been more effective to ask Stuart what skills he actually wanted to improve. The role play then should have stopped once Stuart has dealt with an objection. The key is then to focus on what Stuart did successfully and what he can improve.

4. Work with professionals
Diann plays the customer in the video. She is absolutely lovely and didn't give Stuart a hard time at all. But role play acting is a true art and it requires a lot more then you initially think.
So what would a professional role play actor have done differently?

Firstly he or she would have laid down the rules. How are we going to tackle this together?

Secondly, they would have provided more learning opportunities. (In this case: objections)

Also, they would have spent less time talking, as a professional role-play actor only speaks a maximum of 20% of the time as it is the participant who needs to shine.

Finally, a role-play actor would have been able to display professional acting skills to create a real-life scenario that comes very close to reality and therefore increases the impact of the learning experience.

5. Follow up
In the video, the role play ends and Stuart is complimented by the presenter that "He sold the car!".
People applaud and everyone goes back to their seats and on with the show.
A missed opportunity!

The most powerful aspect of a role play is the feedback afterward. Providing constructive feedback on the effect of verbal and non-verbal communication during the conversation is the only way people will learn what works for or against them.

So next time you think of doing a role play, think about these five strategies and make sure your role play becomes effective, safe and fun!

Want to know more about InterACT WA? Check out our website or visit our facebook

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

I hate role play.

For many it's a modern, workplace form of torture by humiliation. The idea alone of having to do a role play. I notice this every day when I present myself to groups as a Communication Trainer and Professional Role Play Actor.  
"I never learned anything from a role play" or "Oh no. I hate role play..." are frequently heard comments from people participating in one of my workshops.   
So why doe people hate it so much? 
Possibly because people imagine that they will have to 'act' and, as most do not see themselves as performers, this equates to being asked to do a school play...  at the office... in front of all those people who are about as afraid as you are. 
More often than not, role-playing scenarios with colleagues do not work due to a variety of reasons. 
People in the same team know each other well so it becomes impossible to see colleagues as that supposed frustrated customer, eager-to-please supervisor or whoever they are supposed to be portraying.
Luckily it doesn't have to be counterproductive or heighten people's fears of experiential training.
By using skilled and experienced actor/trainers who can utilize a range of creative learning methods in a safe and professional way, role play can develop interpersonal and communication skills extremely effectively. And there is a different form of role play that works for everyone. 
In this blog I will share the four most popular forms of Experiential learning with use of role play:

1. Forum Theatre
Forum theatre relaxes a group of participants as there is no expectation to 'act' whatsoever. 
What is forum theatre and how does it work? To begin with, two actors will play a short scene - for example, one actor is a manager and has to give her team member some less than fantastic feedback about his recent client presentation. We see an ineffective meeting in which the manager is, let's say, so averse to telling it like it is that nothing is communicated and the team member leaves with the feeling that it was a great presentation. Now the audience has an opportunity to question each character in turn about that meeting, what they each want, what difficulties they encounter, their communication styles etc.
The scene is then re-run with the audience given the power to stop the action - much like a film director - each time the manager does or says something that is not as effective as it could be, to give the actor some top tips. And so we go on a journey of stop-start, advising the manager, observing how this new behavior affects the team member' s behavior, getting our teeth into some healthy debate along the way and continuing until the characters have at least found some understanding of each other and a more effective means of communicating.
Forum theatre works well as we all have an opinion, especially when watching a scene being played out and there is no pressure for participants to perform in any way. It acts as a catalyst for lively conversation and debate around personality and communication styles.

2. Role Play Case Studies
Pre-prepared case studies are born out of diagnostic research. The actor/trainer has his own secret brief that directs him to challenge at times and guides him about 'what good should look like' in a particular instance.
Experienced actor/trainers can easily facilitate this process, explaining the set-up and then playing whatever character(s) the briefs direct them to, offering time-outs if the delegates get stuck. In that case, he facilitates some tips from peer observers or gently coaches the delegate into trying something different than his habitual response.
A safe, supportive environment is absolutely essential in ensuring that this interaction works successfully. The participants just have to be themselves and try to deal with whatever challenges and objections the actor throws their way. Role plays can be one-to-one or even one actor with a small group of participants, all of whom can chip in at will. 

3. Bespoke Role Play
Bespoke role plays focus on real instances taken verbatim directly from the individual participants themselves. This may be a challenging situation that someone has already been faced with, and wants to re-visit to see how he could try different approaches, or an upcoming situation that he wants to rehearse and train up for instead of jumping in and hoping for the best.

Bespoke role play is not therapy, although key moments can certainly be therapeutic. Epiphanies are common. You often hear people comment after doing a one-to-one role play, or even just watching as an observer, that "oh, that's exactly what my boss does..." It can feel spookily real at times.

4. Critical Conversations
Role playing very simple, straightforward, mundane situations will not yield much in the way of growth or development, whereas focusing on critical or crucial conversations is where potential personal growth may well exist. The more there is at stake and the less one wants to explore a given situation, the more that optimum learning can be extracted. Critical conversations are those in which the stakes are high so clear, effective communication is imperative.
Critical conversations can range from a manager needing to motivate a team member, to addressing an instance of bullying in the workplace. In short, if we deem a conversation to be critical, there must be something sizable that we stand to lose and something of equal size and importance that we stand to gain. High stakes, in other words.
Apparently, the most critical situations for many people are telling a subordinate that they have a body odour problem or dealing with a crying male employee. It's not surprising that we tend to avoid dealing with critical conversations, then.
So there you go!
Four examples of experiential learning using role play.
Needless to say there are many advantages in using an actor/trainer: 
They possess a wealth of practical knowledge about behavior models, emotional intelligence, personality styles, motivational drivers and coaching tools and are flexible enough to incorporate the client company's learning models. Naturally the actor/trainer will also have a solid theatre background, drama training and screen credits. 
They can adapt the level of challenge to appropriately match the participant's skill level, ensuring that he provides a level of realistic challenge without being too easy or unnecessarily tough.
And no matter which form of experiential learning is chosen:
The greatest benefit is that it provides participants with an opportunity to feel what it's like to do things differently. And nobody ends up hating that! 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Let's play!

Last week I asked my partner to get our son dressed for daycare. 
After 10 minutes they still weren't back. I decided to wait another 5 minutes. Then I started to get annoyed. What was taking so long?

I opened up the bedroom door and there they were. 
My partner, covered in a sheet, crawling over the floor, pretending to be a tiger. And our son hiding in the wardrobe, giggling out loud. 

Needless to say, my son was still in his pajamas. 

When we were young, we used to do it all the time: Playing games with others. 
And I remember vividly how it made me feel. 
School was just an annoying interference with my play time.

Now, as adults, unfortunately we don’t play that much anymore. Yes, we play with our kids, but when it comes to work we don't play tag during our lunch breaks. 

And you know what? 
That’s a shame because play gives energy, boosts creativity and is lots of fun. 

Fortunately, more and more people rediscover the power of play and they even have their own professional name: Energizers!

Energizers are exercises to get the fire back into people when there are drops in energy. This can be during a meeting, training workshop or presentation. Or even during a lunch break. 

Often energizers include a physical element so that people literally have to move. And personally I think energizers are an invaluable tool for any business.

So here are four simple energizers you can start using today: 

Line up

A very simple exercise. Make people line up accordingly to age, years of experience, height or even level of power in the group. To make it more fun: Do it blindfolded or without speaking.

Murder murder!

Give everyone a note. One person will receive a note with a cross on it, making him or her the murderer in the game. Everyone gets a blindfold and moves around. If you meet someone you shake their hand. Everyone squeezes once, except the killer, he or she squeezes twice. If you feel you're being squeezed twice: you're dead. You need to give a short, sharp yell as proof that you're killed.


Send one person to wait outside. Let the rest stand in a small circle putting their hands in the air. Let everybody grab two random other hands making a human knot. The person who was standing outside has to untangle this knot.

Walking and standing still

Sometimes it is difficult to bring back the concentration after a group energizer. This exercise is focused on concentration. The whole group walks through the area. Without it being said out loud, the whole group stops at once. Then the group tries to start walking again without it being announced. This exercise requires a high concentration of the group. Everyone should watch each other constantly. 

If you like to discover more energizers have a look here for 100 ways to energize groups in workshops and meetings.

By the way: Needless to say we were late for daycare that day. 
But we sure dropped of a happy boy! :)

Would you like to know more about how InterACT WA keeps the energy alive during Training Workshops and Coaching Sessions? Visit our website here or just give us a call on 0487 693 349.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Learning Styles

We've just bought a new remote control for our television.
Our toddler managed to destroy our old remote, so there was no way around it:
We had to go buy a new one.

A universal one.
One with lots of unfamiliar buttons...

Now something you should know about me is that whenever a new electronic device enters our household I get a bit uneasy. Because it means I have to learn how the damn thing works all over again.

Here is a snip-it of the conversation that took place between me and my partner last week after buying the new remote:

Me: (pressing all buttons hysterically): I can't change the channel!!!
He: I'll grab the manual so you can look up what to do.
Me: Nah. (disgusted face) Too many pages.
He: Well there's no logic in just randomly trying things.
Me: I don't understand... This used to work with the old one.
He:  Just take your time. Turn it off and start from the beginning.
Me: Never mind. I'll just keep trying and see what happens.

Needless to say my partner and I have two different learning styles.
A learning style is the way you approach a new learning situation. Like learning how to use a new remote control. Or drive a car. Or how to manage people.

And learning styles are neither good or bad, they are just different.

These are the 4 different learning styles:

Dreamers learn by experiencing something first and then observe and reflect. They have a great imagination and have many different ways of looking at reality. In learning situations they like to have group discussions and moments of reflection. They often work as Artist, HR Professional, Adviser or Counselor.

Thinkers learn by reflective observation and logical thinking. In learning situations they need their time and logical steps to take or theories to use. They often work as Scientist, Financial expert or Researcher.

Decision makers are focused on applying ideas. Their learning style is a combination of  abstract thinking and active experimenting. They like to learn in a structured and goal orientated way. They learn less from other people and tend to be more technical. They often work as Engineer, Manager or Project Leader    

Doers learn by active experimenting and experiencing. Their learning style focuses mainly on executing plans or goals. They can imagine what it's supposed to look like and then they try. They are very practical and usually don't overthink things. Doers often work in action orientated professions like Sales, Hospitality or Marketing. 

So did you figure out which learning style I have based on this information?
And what about my partners learning style?

It can be very helpful to know your learning style, to help understand your own talents and working methods.

As a Trainer I believe it's crucial to know the learning styles to be able to connect the learning content with the different ways of learning. It can be very tempting to give instructions solely based on your own preference.

The trainer who explains one theory after another? Probably a Thinker.
The trainer who exhausts the group with activities? Probably a Doer.

So balance is key.

Would you like to know more about our learning style based workshops?
(Or how our remote control works? ;)

Have a look at our Training Programs for 2016 here.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

5 reasons role play fails

Role playing is one of the most effective learning methods. Especially when you choose to work with a professional actor. Surprisingly it’s also one of the most misused techniques. 

So what goes wrong?

Well, pay attention and learn which 5 failures make role play fail miserably:

1. Unsafe practice environment
Most people are not dying of enthusiasm to do a role play simulation. That is why its extremely important to invest time and effort in creating a safe practice environment. Never ever push people intro a role play scenario if they really don't want to. They wont learn a thing and will only be more reluctant to do so in the future.

2. No alignment between learning goals and role play.
 The role play has to be completely dedicated to the learning goal of the participant. Unfortunately sometimes people are eager to change the role play into an interesting theatrical scene. Perhaps fun to look at, but not very helpful to the participant. No role play should ever start without a clear learning goal.   

3. Using fellow participants as role play actors
A colleague is not an actor. He or she is not trained in the so called 'double awareness' that makes role play actors so special. Double awareness means the ability to act, improvise to create learning opportunities, observe behavior and provide effective feedback.

4. Too much feedback
The role play ends and everyone wants their saying. With the result that the participant most likely is completely overwhelmed and doesn't remember any of the feedback. So choose your feedback wisely and dosed. And most importantly: relevant to the participant's learning goals.

5. No success experience
Should people not be happy with their accomplishments after the role play it's crucial to provide them with a second chance to experience success. Only that way someone can learn from their mistakes. 

At InterACT WA we make sure non of the above fails will happen. Instead we like to make sure a training workshop is not just a workshop but it's a fun experience!

We bring theories to life by using theatre based learning methods. In these Actor-led training sessions you can improve your skills by DOING. We let you ‘practice what you preach’ by simulating a real experience in which you can safely practice new behaviours and appreciate their actions’ impact, without risking relationships or reputation in a non-destructive testing environment. 
Want to stay updated? 
Like our Facebook page here and stay in touch.  

Monday, 18 January 2016

That's not right...

My 1 year old son received a book about the four seasons and this morning I decided to read it to him.
On the first page Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street say:

"Summer starts in December. It's a great time to go to the beach!"

I instantly stop reading out loud, thinking: That's not right...
Summer starts in June, not in December. December is wintertime.

Having lived in Europe for the first 35 years of my life, this is still my truth.
And after being in Australia for three years now, I'm still not used to the reversed seasons.

So my first impulse to that truth, that's different to mine, is with judgement...

The same thing can happen with cultural differences in the working place.
With so many people in Perth coming from different cultural backgrounds, there is a wide variety of truths. It's worthwhile to learn how to deal with these differences and avoid the judgement to become a more emotionally intelligent person.

As a simple start these three steps can help:

STEP 1. Become aware of your own judgement.
By knowing your own beliefs, values and personal biases you are able to reflect on how these traits might impact your understanding.

STEP 2. Remember that everyone is a person FIRST.
No matter their cultural background, all people have different opinions, habits and ways of life.

STEP 3. Learn about different cultures.
To create understanding engage in a bit of online research or talk to someone from a different cultural background.

And perhaps that way you will find that summer CAN both start in June and December.

Would you like to know more about InterACT WA's high impact Effective Intercultural Communication workshops? Contact us here.