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If you have been a trainer for any period of time, you’ve been there…sitting at your desk…big training session or meeting coming up…and you are in need of something different – something cool – to open and close your day.  Ceremonies and team building exercises are a great way to create bonding and networking within a group without a lot of pain on your part.  When I design in-person training sessions, I always try to incorporate an opening ceremony, closing ceremony and/or a team building activity to really bring home a point about the learning or to inspire actions when participants leave the session. 

Over the years I have had the opportunity to learn and create experiences using the principles of experience design.  Creating not just training, but memorable experiences through use of a creative venue, activities and storytelling.  Why not use our natural ability to learn through storytelling to gain an advantage from an educational standpoint?  I believe in the power of inspiration to encourage learning and change.  Whether you start small with the ideas listed below or go all out with inspiration that includes candle lighting, actors portraying inspirational figures telling stories, prayer flag creation or even using copper orbs to inspire conduction of energy, your creativity will inspire the work that you wish to accomplish through your training or meeting.  Trust me, if I can make a grown man cry – which I have known to do through such inspiration – I know this works!

So what are some of the ways that you can jump in right away and start opening up communication in your next training or meeting?  I have a lot of things that I love to do, here are a few simple ones that I will share now, Lucky Penny, Take What you Need and Yarn Toss are ones I picked up from a mental health training program.  I am happy to share more complicated ones (true ceremonies) if you are interested or perhaps at Impact Nation – I am a sucker for a great glass of wine.

Opening Ceremonies

Lucky Penny
Each person takes a penny or other coin out of their pocket and looks at the date. When it's their turn, they tell the year that's on their coin and recall something spectacular that happened that year.

Take What You Need
The facilitator passes a roll of toilet paper around the room, telling everyone to "tear off as much as you need." Once everyone has torn off a sheet or two or 10, the facilitator announces that for each square they've taken, they must share something about themselves. Example: I've torn off 3 sheets of toilet paper, so I say, "I was born in Cincinnati, my real name is Suzie, and I have a weakness for chili dogs." This is an especially great team builder-try it.

Read an inspiring Poem or Story  (these make great closing ceremonies as well)

A GREAT resource is Simple Truths where you can find inspiration like the one below.  (follow the link to see the book and video).  There are TONS of amazing inspiring stories on this site!


212º the Extra Degree

At 212º water becomes steam. Pushing ourselves one extra degree in all we do may be the difference between good and great.

At the end of the day or session, I usually ask for some kind of written commitment, usually given to the participant’s manager for follow-up and coaching.  (Start, Stop, Continue is always a good one)  I am a big believer in the fact that you participate in training and leave with the intent of putting that training to work.  When appropriate, I also like to include a closing ceremony to really inspire the attendee to go out and do great work.  Here are a few examples of simple ones you can do.

Closing Ceremonies

Yarn Toss
Everyone stands or sits in a circle, with the facilitator holding a ball of yarn. Hanging on tightly to the tail of the yarn, they toss the ball to someone else while completing the sentence, "I appreciate you for…." After the ball of yarn has been passed to everyone in the circle, the group slowly raises and lowers their part of the yarn to reveal the intricate web of relationships in the group.

If you are doing a multiple-day training – especially one that includes the importance of personalization and knowing your clients – this is a really great one to bring home the point.  Attendees feel really special that one, you listened to them when they mentioned their favorite snacks or desserts and two, that you actually made an effort to go out and get them what they wanted!

Sweet Endings
Remember when you did introductions at the beginning of the meeting, and everyone told their favorite dessert? A terrific way to close the meeting is to bring in a dessert cart and present each person with that favorite thing they mentioned. This, of course, requires a bit of fast footwork during the lunch break, but is well worth it when you hear those squeals of delight.

Finally, I am going to leave you with a story that I love to close with.  When I tell this story, I actually have carrots, coffee beans and eggs handy so it becomes a little more real for the participants.   Of course, I know the story, so I don’t read it – I tell it so it feels like a story and by using the actual carrot, egg and coffee it adds interest. Enjoy!


The Carrot, the Egg or The Coffee Bean


A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her.
She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up.  She was tired of fighting and struggling.  It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.


Her mother took her to the kitchen.  She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire.   Soon the pots came to boil.  In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans.  She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.


In about twenty minutes, she turned off the burners.  She fished out the carrots and placed them in a bowl.   She pulled out the eggs and placed them in a bowl.  Then she ladled out the coffee and placed it in a bowl.  Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see.”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.


Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots.  She did and noted that they were soft.  The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it.  After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.   Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee.  The daughter smiled as she tasted its richness and savored its aroma.  The daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”


Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity — boiling water.  Each reacted differently.


The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting.  However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile.  Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.  The ground coffee beans were unique, however.  After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.


“Which are you?” she asked her daughter.  “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond?  Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?”


Think of this: Which am I? 
Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? 
Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff?  Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain.  When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor.  If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst; you become even better and change the situation around you.

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level?

How do you handle adversity?  Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?

The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of things that come their way.

I would love to hear what all you do!


Do Great Things!!


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