See @, Say Worm?

February 25th, 2009

Did you ever wonder where the site name came from? Rencsi (pronounced wrenchy) was my nickname when I was a business English trainer in Hungary. Hungary is a very interesting country and some say Hungarian is one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn, but I learned that English can be difficult too.

For example, one entire business English lesson is needed to teach people learning English as a second (or third or fourth) language what to say in English when you see symbols like the ones we use everyday in email addresses. My email address

would be read by a Hungarian as

rencsi kukac rencsi pont com
(pronounced wrenchy coo-cots wrenchy poant comb).

That directly translates to

rencsi worm rencsi point com

This phrase would not be recognized as an email address in any English speaking nation!

I learned this the hard way. I was collecting my students email addresses verbally and realized with the first student, an IT professional, that he had probably seen the @ symbol a million times, but never had to say it out loud in English to anyone. We immediately stopped and collected a list of common email and internet symbols on the flip chart and labeled them how they should be read out loud in English.

@ is at
. is dot
_ is underscore
- is dash
: is colon
/ is slash
\ is backslash

At the same time, I learned that @ is kukac or worm in Hungarian (and some also say the sound a chicken or rooster makes). Living abroad was full of experiences like this. I think everyone should do it at least once in his or her life.

How to Write SMART Goals and Make SMART New Year’s Resolutions

January 5th, 2009

A SMART goal and New Year’s Resolution is one that is:


Decide in advance exactly what you want to accomplish. Ask yourself, “What am I trying to do? How am I going to do it? What am I assuming is true? What if my assumptions are not true? What is Plan B?”

Incorporate specific ways and dates to measure your achievements. Measuring your progress will help you stay on track and give you a sense of satisfaction when you hit a milestone. The feeling of success will also help you stay motivated.

How can you make your dreams come true? Achieving your goal might require baby steps. You might have to start by simply developing the skills, abilities, and financials to reach your goal, and that is a goal in itself. Break a big goal into bite-size pieces to make your resolution more attainable. Also prioritize your goals or multiple parts of a large goal to make it more attainable.

Be in control. Make your goals doable, but not easy. Achieving goals requires personal effort and change. Are you willing to make an effort and tolerate the changes that will take place as a result? You will only achieve results with your own enthusiastic agreement that the effort and change required are necessary and important to reach your goal.

The timing of your goal must be all of the above: specific, measurable, attainable, and realistic. Set a specific date you would like to reach your goal, and also dates to check your progress. Be realistic to give yourself the best chances to achieve your goal.

Now… Get started! 
Brainstorm. Don’t worry about the SMART principals and write down whatever goals for yourself that come to mind. Prioritize the goals in order of what is most important to you. Apply the SMART goal principals and make the goals you select for yourself specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

Print or write copies of the SMART goals and carry it in your purse or wallet at all times. Post it around the house, office, cubical, car, or wherever it needs to be so you are constantly reminded of your objectives.

Check your progress at the specific, realistic dates you incorporated in your goal. If you are not progressing like you had planned, make changes asap! What’s Plan B? How can you make your dreams come true?

“I’m SUGAR. Where’s SPICE?” — Forming Pairs or Small Groups

November 10th, 2008

So, you would like to break your large group into pairs for an activity because as we all know, working in pairs ensures participation (or at least makes it obvious who is participating and who isn’t)…

Write each component of a common pair of items (see list below) on small, individual pieces of paper. Put as many pairs as your large group can make in a box and mix up the papers. Have each participant to draw a piece of paper. Ask them, when you say the word go to stand up and find the person with the other half of the pair to find their partner for the next activity.

This method acts as a mini-energizer since the class is getting up, walking around, and finding new seats with a partner. It’s also fun for everyone to hear people walking around the training room saying things like, “I’m Romeo. Where’s my Juliet?”

Collect the papers so you can use them throughout training to make new groups. You could also write the pairs on name tents, name tags, worksheets, etc. If you have the time and resources, use pictures of the items instead of words or physically have the items in the room for participants (for example, salt and pepper shakers).

Here are lists of common pairs, trios, and foursomes you can use to form pairs and small groups:

Ball & Chain
Bread & Butter
Front & Center
Ketchup & Mustard
Nuts & Honey
Peaches & Cream
Peanut Butter & Jelly
Rock & Roll
Salt & Pepper
Skull & Crossbones
Sour Cream & Onion
Stars & Stripes
Sugar & Spice
Sweet & Sour
True & False
Yin & Yang
Zig & Zag

Adam & Eve
Batman & Robin
Beauty & The Beast
Bonnie & Clyde
Cain & Abel
Captain & Tenille
Chip & Dale
David & Goliath
Fred & Barney
Gumby & Pokey
Hall & Oates
Hansel & Gretel
Jekyll & Hyde
Joanie & Chachi
Laverne & Shirley
Lewis & Clark
Mario & Luigi
Romeo & Juliet
Samson & Delilah
Sonny & Cher
Starsky & Hutch
Thelma & Louise

Bacon, Lettuce, & Tomato
Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner
The Butcher, The Baker, & The Candlestick Maker (”Rub-A-Dub-Dub” Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme)
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
The Father, The Son, & The Holy Ghost (The Trinity)
Hook, Line, & Sinker
Larry, Moe, & Curley (The Three Stooges)
Me, Myself, & I
Morning, Noon, & Night
Nina, Pinta, & Santa Maria (Christopher Columbus’ ships)
Past, Present, & Future
Peter, Paul, & Mary
Planes, Trains, & Automobiles
Reading, Writing, & Arithmetic
Ready, Willing, & Able
Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle
Red, White, & Blue
Snap, Crackle, & Pop
Stop, Drop, & Roll
Sun, Moon, & Stars
Wynken, Blyken, & Nod (children’s story by Eugene Field)

Earth, Wind, Fire, & Water
John, Paul, George, & Ringo (The Beatles)
Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John (Books of the New Testament)
North, South, East, & West
Pestilence, Famine, War, & Death (Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – popular culture)
Summer, Fall, Winter, & Spring

First Job Opening Activity

November 5th, 2008

My classes are full of “technical” men of all ages from all over the country and world. When they arrive at our facility, they often have preconcieved notions of what training will be like, they are resistant to change, and they don’t want to be told how to do their job. This “first job” opener has been a successful, light-hearted way for me to relieve tension and get people talking.

First Job Name Tent
Class Size: any
Time: 20 minutes

Method: Give everyone in the class a piece of paper and a marker. Tri-fold the paper like a letter and ask the class to do the same.

Write your name nice & big on the center section so that if you set the folded paper on the table, you create a triangular name tent. Show the class and ask them to write the name they’d like to be called on the center section of their name tent.

Refold the name tent like a letter again. With the marker, divide one of the two remaining blank sections into 4 quarters and show the class. In one corner (it doesn’t matter which one), ask everyone to write their company name as you write yours.  In the next corner, write your job title and ask the class to do the same. In the third corner, write the years (or months, weeks, or days) you’ve been with the company. And in the remaining corner, write your first job ever.

Now, tell the class that when you say “go”, you want them to stand up, move around the room, and introduce themselves to 7 other people (or more, depending on class size) by carrying the name tent they created in front of them and sharing the information they wrote on the back. Give an example: “Hello Eddie. My name is Rencsi. I work for XYZ Training Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota where I am a Training Specialist. I’ve been with the company for 4 years. My first job was grocery store cashier. Nice to meet you!” Start the activity with, “Ready, set, go!” and participate in the activity with the class.

Important: Make the goal number of people unattainable, but not obviously impossible. Cut the activity short before they have time to complete the given number of introductions. This is the Zeigarnik Effect – people better remember activities that are interrupted or not completed.

Debrief: Stop the exercise before anyone can talk to the required number of people. Ask everyone to take their seats and bring the class together for a large group discussion. Some questions to ask might be:

  • Did anything surprise you? What? Why?
  • Did you find anyone with the same first job as you? What was it? Why was it common?
  • Did anyone have the first job you wanted when you were younger? Why did you want that job? Does it still sound appealing?

Depending on time and group size, you may also want to go around the room and hear everyone’s names, companies, locations, and roles as part of the opener.

Why Use an Opener?

November 3rd, 2008

Think you don’t need an activity to open your training session? Think again.

Chances are, not everyone in your class likes participating in training as much as you. Incorporating an opener activity at the beginning of training will: a) break preoccupation, b) build self-esteem, c) peak curiosity & interest, d) allow networking, and e) help you get to know your audience.

Even a 1-hour training session should include a 5-minute opening activity to relieve tension. Half-day sessions should incorporate up to a 10-minute opener, and 1- or 2-day trainings allow for up to a 20-minute activity.

Make it fun for the participants (and for you), but be sure to make it relevant to the course content. Otherwise, the activity is an icebreaker and your class is just a party.

3 Truths and 1 Lie Opening Activity

November 3rd, 2008

“3 Truths and a Lie” is the most successful opener I have used in my technical & industrial product and service training sessions.

Participants in my classes are mostly men – service technicians, technical salesmen, etc. They are resistant at first, but this opener quickly takes the pressure off and allows me to get to know them and allows them to get to know each other.

3 Truths and a Lie
Class Size: any
Group Size: 4-6 participants
Time: 20 minutes

Method: Break the class into small groups of 4-6 people. Give each participant a piece of blank paper. Instruct them to fold the paper in half as you fold your own piece of paper in half and show the class.

Next, tell the class they’re going to write 4 facts about themselves on the top half of the paper – 3 should be true and 1 should be false. Repeat the instructions - each person write 3 truths and 1 lie about him/herself in any order on the top half of the paper.

Give the class 5 minutes to write 3 truths and a lie. While everyone is writing, write 3 truths and a lie about yourself. (For example: 1) I’ve never had a broken bone. 2) I’m an avid fisherwoman. 3) I speak Hungarian. 4) I have a pet rabbit. The lie is #2.)

At the end of 5 minutes, you go first. Share your 3 truths and 1 lie with the class. Instruct them to write your name, the statement they think is a lie, and why it’s a lie on the bottom half of their papers. Ask everyone for the lie and ask for a couple different explanations why. Then reveal the lie.

Now it’s time for everyone to share their 4 facts with their teams, one person at a time. The others in the group should write down their teammate’s name, the statement they think is a lie, and why they think it’s a lie on the bottom half of their papers. When everyone has written a guess, that person can expose the lie.

Debrief: At the end of 10 minutes, bring the class together for a large group discussion. Some questions to ask might be:

  • Did anything surprise you? What? Why?
  • Did you ever change your answer after you heard a teammate’s guess?
  • Were some of the statements given by different people similar? Why do you think that is?

Depending on time and group size, you may also want to go around the room and hear everyone’s names, companies, locations, and roles as part of the opener.