Video and transcript from Ghalia Aamer’s talk at Control the Room 2022

Control the Room 2022 was an absolute success! We hosted our annual facilitator summit last week, and our makeup sessions this week, alongside our partner MURAL. Our wonderful connection between the live event and the virtual world, hosted by Mark Tippin, Director of Strategic Next Practices, Mark facilitated “Mind Shift” sessions, where he guided our attendees through a dialog about how everyone was impacted by the talks. He engaged both in-person and virtual attendees through our various activities in our conference mural. It was inspiring to have so many people joining in different ways and everyone getting the chance to communicate.

We also partnered with SAFE this year to support and honor a lost colleague, Jenni Robertson. The dedication of this summit comes after losing a coworker, mother, and friend to family violence and Voltage Control has pledged to work with SAFE to stop family violence for everyone. We wanted to take a moment and look back on all of the moments of insight, knowledge, and growth we all took part in over the course of the summit.

This year’s summit theme was SHIFTS, and as we move into 2022 we have seen shifts in the way we work, the way we connect, and the way we honor one another.

This year we hosted 18 facilitators in a hybrid space. We were live in-person, on Zoom, and even created our own Control the Room VR space, and we must say the event, even with a few technical issues, turned out to be a hub of idea sharing and growing with each other. 

Each speaker delivered a 20-minute lightning session, and each session was filled with a sense of community, play, and story-telling.

How To Use Gamify Techniques To Engage Your Audience

Conquering differences and dealing with those discussions can definitely be used for gamification and using things like art or role playing or activities that engage people in that conversation can really help.

Ghalia Aamer

There is nothing wrong with being a shy individual, but often it can make you feel your voice goes unheard. Public speaking and debate bring empowerment and confidence to oneself. Ghalia has journeyed from finding her voice in debate and public speaking clubs to sharing her found confidence with the youth by developing programs within the schools in her community. To take that a step further, working in the gaming industry she discovered she was able to encourage positivity and retention within her youth groups.

Watch Ghalia Aamer speak on How to Use Gamify Techniques to Engage Your Audience:

You can have fun roles, even if you’re having a serious discussion. We’re having a serious discussion about gamification techniques, but we still have superheroes and wizards. It still adds a lot of fun into what you’re doing. And it keeps people engaged. When I said superheroes, I could see everyone’s ears perk up, but we’re still just having a discussion on gamification techniques.

Ghalia Aamer

Ghalia Aamer:

Thank you. Hello, everybody. Super excited to be here. My name is Ghalia, I am the founder and CEO of TalkMaze and we help schools around the world build public speaking programs. I’ve been doing public speaking and debate for about eight years. But before I tell you more about that, let me tell you about several years ago. Let’s take you all back several years. That was me. I was extremely shy to the point that there’s no way I could have imagined being here today. I remember on my second grade report card, it said that Ghalia needs to speak up more and engage with her classmates. My parents were getting called in to parent teacher conferences, not because they were worried about my grades, but because they were so worried about how quiet I was. I would go and hide in the corner at recess, so I could talk to my sister because I just did not want to talk to anybody else.

What changed? Well, I joined the debate team in seventh grade and that changed my life. I gained self confidence like I never thought I could. That’s a picture of nerdy me in seventh grade, I think, doing debate, but it was absolutely life changing. And I soon realized that less than 15% of schools in just my city, and even less in many others, even offer these kind of speaking or debate programs, despite the fact that according to the National Institute of Mental health, over 73% of people are afraid of public speaking. When I changed my life at such a young age, I thought I wanted to give back. I started coaching a group of students at that same junior high school, and they were about 12 to 14 years of age. And I was 15 at the time that I started coaching at this school.

And this was a group of maybe 20 students. Soon that kept growing and growing, more kids were interested, to the point where we had about one coach to 40 kids. I was there managing a room of 40 children, 12 to 14 years of age, trying to keep their attention and teaching them debate and public speaking. And one thing to know is that a lot of kids will come into the program, not necessarily knowing what debate is, but I wanted to teach them and show them how life changing it is. I’d love for someone to tell me what is the one thing that 12 year olds often don’t have. They’re awesome. 12 year olds are awesome, but it’s very difficult to do something with them. What’s one thing that 12 year olds really lack? Attention. Yes. Attention span. Now 12 year olds really lack attention span, and the amount of times that they are always talking in the class and not listening to us was countless.

But the funny thing is it’s not just 12 year olds. Humans in fact have an average attention span of seven seconds. It’s not just them. It’s all of us. As I started my company, I ventured onto the business world and I realized that a lot of the techniques that I use to teach these kids how to debate and public speak can actually be used in our meetings and the way that we facilitate our workshops. That’s where I translated the gamification techniques that I was using to teach 12 year olds debate and public speaking into the real world. And that’s what I’m going to talk to you about today. When we use gamification techniques like roleplaying, teamwork, rewards, levels, I’ll talk about all of that deeper later, we increase engagement, develop a culture of positivity, and most importantly, increase attention retention. Keep people engaged in what you’re doing, have fun.

We’re going to start off here with an activity and I’d love for you to you pick a partner. We’re going to actually play a game that I love to play with the kids. It’s called the ABC game. We’re going to do a bit of a twist to it. Pick a partner that you don’t know too well in the audience, and you’re going to play the ABC game with them. Let me tell you about how that works. One person’s going to start, so say I start, I’m going to start my sentence or question with an A. That next person responds, but it has to start with B, then C, D, E, F, so on. The purpose of this is you want to get to know at least three things about the other person. Your conversation has to be centered around getting to know each other.

It cannot be about random things. You’ll have two minutes. Your goal is you want to get as further into the alphabet as you can. If anyone gets to Z, let me know, because that would be incredible. We are going to get two minutes to do that, to get all the way to Z. You want to go as fast as you can, but you don’t want to be saying random things. You also want to get to know the other person. Okay? Pick a partner. You don’t know too well and start the ABC game and we will start now. You have two minutes. I hope that was a fun game. And I hope you all got to know somebody a little bit better. Who here got past M? Past M, wow. What comes after M? Past P? You got past P? No, you got past P? What’s the furthest you got?

The whole alphabet. Okay. A round applause. Woo. You really know your alphabet. That is awesome. Okay. When I do this activity with kids, I won’t tell them what we’re going to do. We’ll be practicing public speaking, so they’ll go A to B to C. Usually this is how it goes. Apples are great. Bananas are better. Can you see that apples are delicious? Don’t you see that bananas are better? The conversation doesn’t really go anywhere. What’s really important, whether it’s in this game, any activity you’re doing, or a meeting is ensuring that we have a final outcome that’s defined. You want to get to know person, you don’t want your conversation to be scattered. That’s the first thing that we’re talking about when it comes to gamification techniques and how do you go about building your own? I’m going to be breaking this down into some very simple, basic building blocks that can simplify our meetings, make them quicker, and make them more fun.

The first thing you want to ensure you have is simply your desired outcome. Defining that whenever you’re doing some sort of activity, whenever you’re conducting a meeting is really important and something that’s often ignored or overlooked by a lot of meetings. I’ve been in several meetings myself where conversations keep going, discussions keep happening, but there’s nothing actually being decided. And I’m sure a lot of you can relate. All you need is your desired outcome. How long do you have? Do you have two minutes for the activity? Do you have 10 minutes? Do you have an hour? How many people do you have? Three simple things that will allow you to now use some of these gamification techniques. Work backwards from those simple, basic building blocks and look at gamification techniques like the ones that we just used, teamwork, roleplaying, rewards, levels. These are just a few of the ways that you can gamify your meetings, your icebreakers, your workshops. We played a game today called the ABC game where you had certain rules.

That’s something you’ll often see in games. And when I’m talking to 12 or 13 year old, they’re thinking of Minecraft or Fortnite. I’m taking activities they’re already used to, they’re used to rules. They’re used to different levels, roleplaying, teamwork, but we’re building that back into our meetings and it doesn’t have to be a game completely. It can simply be using specific techniques, putting you into roleplaying situations, getting you to start trying different activities as if you were there. When you’re trying to understand a customer’s problem, how about you put yourself into that situation rather than just having a discussion about it. When you’re getting your employees through training workshops, how about you put some rewards or levels into it? Adding incentives adds this gameplay into it, which makes work more fun. And that is something that definitely works with younger kids when I’m working with them.

But now when I work with my team at TalkMaze or I conduct workshops for the coaches that we work with at TalkMaze, those same techniques work with all of us because at the end of the day, we’re all human. We have shorter attention spans and incentivizing roleplaying, levels, rewards, and teamwork can really help with that. We’ll put it into action with another activity today where I want you, in 30 seconds, to get into a group of four and then figure out what your birth months are. Okay. Whoever’s born earliest in the year, so if you were born in January, you’re the superhero of your group. Okay. Superhero is the person who was born earliest. If you two people are born in January, just rock paper, scissors, pick a superhero from your four people. If there’s an uneven amount, we can have up to five. If you were born later in the year, so if you’re December, whoever’s the latest in your group, you are going to be the wizard. Okay. Everybody else is side kicks.

All right. Superhero is the earliest. Wizard’s the latest. And then the middle is the side kicks. You have 30 seconds. Put yourself into four people, figure out superhero, wizard, and sidekicks. Then I’ll explain the activity. Okay. Wow. 30 seconds. And everyone’s into groups. That’s awesome. Okay. Now you have two sidekicks, you have a wizard, and you have a superhero. Superhero you’re in charge of facilitating your discussion today. You’re the facilitator at your table. The wizard is our awesome note taker and timekeeper, and the sidekicks are the ones who are being facilitated by our superhero. Today the superhero is going to share with you the answer to this question, what is the biggest struggle that you have within your work? You can share what your work is. And what’s the biggest struggle in those meetings, those workshops, anything you’re facilitating, and how can we use gamification techniques to solve those?

Your sidekicks are going to help you come up with some ideas, but you can feel free to facilitate that discussion however you want with your sidekicks. If you want to use some of the gamification techniques within this discussion itself, feel free to, but the job of the superhero is to facilitate the discussion. And the sidekicks are going to help the superhero come up with all of these solutions, using gamification techniques on how they can address that biggest struggle within their meetings. And our incredible wizard at each table will take some notes for our mural and also time keep to make sure that there’s no one going over time. Okay. Four minutes for this discussion and wizards better make sure that everyone’s on time and superheroes facilitate the discussion. Go ahead.

Okay. I need one superhero, one brave superhero, to volunteer to share their table’s discussion and what solutions they came up with. Do we have a brave superhero in the room? Ooh. Awesome. What’s your name?

Anna Maria:

I’m Anna Maria.

Ghalia Aamer:

Anna Maria. Do you want to share your table discussions and what is your superhero solution?

Anna Maria:

Yes, so we discussed a couple of them. We did not discuss solutions and that’s okay. And I think one of the most interesting one was dealing with the interest of two countries while trying to sell among each other. But we did not discuss [inaudible 00:10:56]

Ghalia Aamer:

Dealing with the interest-

Speaker 2:

The art was a strategy.

Anna Maria:

The art? Okay. Use art to try to-

Ghalia Aamer:


Anna Maria:

…Conquer differences.

Ghalia Aamer:

That’s awesome. Yes. Conquering differences and dealing with those discussions can definitely be used for gamification and using things like art or role playing or activities that engage people in that conversation can really help. I love that example of the problem that you’re facing and some examples that we can use. I also heard some people talking about issues of having certain people talking in meetings versus other people not speaking in meetings. Things like incentivizing people to speak up in meetings or building an environment where everyone is a allowed to speak up and feel safe to speak up, using some techniques like putting people into teams, getting people with partners, setting up mentorship pairings, and getting people more involved in what they’re doing can really help. I wish we had more time to dive deeper into all of these gamification techniques, but these items like role playing, like interactive activities, setting time limits like we did with the ABC game, or even with the superhero and wizards game, defining roles.

You can have fun roles, even if you’re having a serious discussion. We’re having a serious discussion about gamification techniques, but we still have superheroes and wizards. It still adds a lot of fun into what you’re doing. And it keeps people engaged. When I said superheroes, I could see everyone’s ears perk up, but we’re still just having a discussion on gamification techniques. We’re not having a superhero battle, but little items like that can incentivize people to speak up. They can help people feel engaged and also just help people feel more relatable because they remember their 12 year old self when they’re playing Minecraft or Fortnite.

And it brings them back to those times, allows them to feel engaged because the techniques that work on kids like 12 to 14 year olds, they also work on all of us. At the end of the day, we’re all human, and gamification techniques can definitely help interact to engage your audience and have more successful meetings. That’s all for me. My name is Ghalia. I’m the founder and CEO of TalkMaze. If you have more questions, please feel free to connect. I would love to answer and have more conversations with you and even learn from you on how I can apply some more gamification techniques to the students at TalkMaze and help them build their skills. Thank you so much, everyone.