Video and transcript from Johnny Saye’s talk at Austin’s 2nd Annual Facilitator Summit, Control the Room

This is part of the 2020 Control The Room speaker video series.

In February we hosted the second annual facilitator summit, Control The Room, at Austin’s Capital Factory. We launched the summit last year in partnership with MURAL to create a space for facilitators to gather, break down the silos, and learn from one another.

The three-day summit is a rare opportunity to bring together an otherwise unlikely group of highly experienced and skilled professionals across various industries and crafts—from strategy consultants and negotiators to Scrum Masters and design thinkers.

Anyone interested in deepening their knowledge on how to successfully facilitate meaningful meetings and connect with other practitioners is welcome. Together, we dive into diverse methodologies, expand upon perspectives, and learn new insights and strategies that enrich our expertise.

This year we had the pleasure of welcoming 24 speakers, all innovation professionals, who shared their insights and strategies of successful facilitation.

One of those speakers was Johnny Saye,

an Innovation and Design Thinking Coach at Alliance Safety Council.

Johnny shared his facilitator’s guide to energizing groups. Through a series of interactive games and activities, Johnny demonstrated the necessity of lateral thinking to come up with creative solutions to problems, creating better and faster results.

He spoke about three strategies to avoid TLDR and best stimulate a group:

  • Play with purpose
  • Make it a memory
  • Never grow up

Watch Johnny Saye’s talk “I’m an Attention Seeker” :

Read the Transcript

Johnny Saye:

Can you all hear me? Yeah? We’re good? Okay. I have tiny ears, so this thing doesn’t fit me. Thanks for the intro. So, who am I? He gave a little taste of it, but how did I get here? This is intro I usually do. The goal of this is just to show you as many tools that you can use in your workshops to get people energized, back on target, focused, whatever you might need just to get people moving again. Okay? So how did I get here? I was a pro soccer player. I’m a little rounder than I used to be, but that didn’t work out, right? Then I was a journalist. My mom always said I had a face for radio. That didn’t work out either. I was a vodka salesman, got really good at it, lost my taste buds, but did sell a whole bunch of vodka.

Johnny Saye:

It just wasn’t for me. So I stopped that because I actually fell in love with a girl, a Spanish girl in Philadelphia while I was selling vodka door to door. And so I was like, screw it. I’m moving to Spain. So now with the vodka money, I moved to Spain and I’m studying a masters in innovation, right? So I got this Spanish girlfriend, I’m living the dream. I’m by the beach. Didn’t work out either. I did learn Spanish and in fact I was studying a masters in innovation because I had no idea what to do with my life. I could sell vodka and I could kick a soccer ball and pretty much nothing else. So I get to Spain, I’m by the beach, don’t have a girlfriend, don’t have a job. Start working at a design studio. There I learn about design thinking, kind of controlling the chaos that is creativity.

Johnny Saye:

I learned from one of the masters of innovation strategy. He came from [inaudible 00:01:56], which was the number one restaurant in the world. And they used innovative strategies to create their plates. So now I learn from him and another guy and I got really good at design thinking. We built flavors of juices, we built bottles and packaging, we built buildings and marketing campaigns. We did everything in the desert of Spain, right? Except giving me a visa. So I was stuck in Spain with no visa and I got another job to build other types of things with a company called IBM. There I built apps. I built conversations, I built anything that helped IBM make money. Right? That’s what they do there, right? Guys, where are you all? Yeah, no, we had a great time and we came up with a lot of stuff, but unfortunately the visa ran out there, too. Was not making enough money.

Johnny Saye:

So they kicked me out of the country. Where I ended up was here, not here, in Louisiana at Alliance safety council and at Alliance safety council I do innovative strategy for anything, whether it be human resources like employee experience or building new digital products. We use a process for creating and solving problems. [inaudible 00:03:01], just like that. Right? And there’s me. I was a little rounder then, too. So we’re going to get into it. The objective of today, why am I here is to share warmups and energizers and this is all going to be a workshop experience. So this is the most I’m going to talk the whole time. All right? So to start off, why even bother with these creativity, we’ve all seen this it’s kind of complicated. Well it’s worse because in workshops people, they get distracted a lot and they’re adults, but they get distracted all the time.

Johnny Saye:

They did not grow up. They complain about the same things and they get in your way. My little participants get in my way and I need to boss him around, right? So you got to lead them. Because they’re not really great at leading themselves. So this is why the warm ups work, because more comfort, good vibes means better ideas. More energy means more engagement and more positive attitudes mean more positive results, right? So we want to connect their experience through positive memory that makes them more committed, that makes them more dedicated. That means execution phase that we don’t control gets done. Right? So we’re on the clock. I’m going to set the stage. This came from one of my friends at IBM. I’m sure it’s probably a normal practice, but this is my favorite rule breakdown. So these are the rules for the workshop we’re about to do.

Johnny Saye:

You ready? So know the rules. No cell phones, right? We don’t need those. You got your laptop built in. So just leave that to the side. Write down as much as possible. And sometimes you’re going to have to draw. Don’t be a Picasso, but it’s a process that you’re going to have to get used to. Okay, I’m going to be a policemen. Normally I’m nice, I’m hilarious. It’s what my mom tells me, but I’m going to push you all for time. Okay? That ring, I’m not going to propose to anybody, but I need you all to be engaged, right? That’s a hilarious joke. That’s where you laugh. Okay? Don’t miss the bus, right? This is the opportunity for us to learn tools that we can apply to our day to day. Stay engaged, stay involved. Right? So let’s get to action. Last rule. It’s very important. We’re going to be like this giraffe, right?

Johnny Saye:

We’re going to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Huh? That’s very clever, too. Okay, so let’s get started right now. All right? So everybody stay at your tables. Great job. Give yourself some claps. You all did it. Incredible. Incredible. It’s getting pretty intense. Okay. It’s going to be fun, I promise. All right, so lateral thinking. We all know what lateral thinking is. This is super common over there. A super common illustration, right? Lateral thinking, linear. We walk straight forward. The path is blocked. We don’t know how to get around it. The only way is to go through or over the barrier, right? Lateral thinking is we create more options to get around that barrier by creating more options. Sometimes we get to a better result faster, right? Basic lateral thinking. So let’s test it. Let’s see, I got this over here. Oh man. Not very flexible. Okay, so let’s test it.

Johnny Saye:

All right, so I’m going to give you a little brain burner. I’m bad at counting. So let’s say let’s say Roman numerals, right? Roman numerals. What number is this?

Speaker 2:

Nine.

Johnny Saye:

Nine? Okay, cool. Nine. That’s what I wanted to write? So how… You only have one line. Okay? How can we turn this with one line, one line into a six? One line. It could be like that. You’ll be like [inaudible 00:06:28] you can cut it in half. How could you turn this into a six?

Speaker 2:

Turn it around.

Johnny Saye:

I could turn it around, right? You’ll have one minute. Write it down. Try and test it out real quick. You know what, you have 30 seconds. I’m on the clock. What am I talking about? 30 seconds. Anybody come up with a solution? Let’s see. Show me your solution. She says cut it in half, right, so then we… That’s what… Oh, that’s a clever way, but that’s not what I’m looking for, right? That’s close. What do we do? Yes.

Speaker 2:

[inaudible 00:07:03].

Johnny Saye:

So with one continuous line, I’ve come up with a six right? So the problem with that was I gave you context and I forced you into a box, right? Let me skip this. I forced you into a box. And so we don’t want to get focused and lose the overall perception of the problem, right? That’s a lot of times what we do when we’re designing a solution. Also, it’s best to be open minded. Anything can happen, try different things. That’s why I encourage you all to write it down. If you all had sat and thought about it, you never would have came up with a solution. And last thing, I’m very sneaky. I knew how to write that number down, guys. I just pretended I didn’t. Okay, so one more time. Here’s another example. A man walks into a bar and asked the bartender for a glass of water, right? The bartender pauses and smiles, then he reaches under the bar, just grabs out a big shotgun, shoots right past his face. Woo. The man says thank you and leaves. What happened? Maybe some of you have heard this before, right? What happened? Why did he say thank you? The dude just shot at his head, right?

Speaker 2:

He missed.

Johnny Saye:

He missed, right? That’s what most people say. Thank you for missing. Actually he had the hiccups he came in was asking for a glass of water to solve his hiccups. He scared him so bad the hiccups went away, right? So without the context to the situation, we can’t propose solutions, right? So don’t go around blind trying to solve problems. Get the context first people, let’s do it. Lateral thinking. Don’t think of the direct answer. See of all the opportunities before you dive in. Okay? So I’m going to jump through so we have more time. So idea juice, it’s like WD 40 for your brain. Lincoln said that. Here’s another one that I really like: More energy than a kid on his second liter of Mountain Dew. I don’t know if they still have Mountain Dew, it’s chemical whatever. But Cleopatra said that, so it must be true. Okay, so these are simple hacks for the creative sections of your workshops, right?

Johnny Saye:

These are whenever you get back from lunch and people are just being pretty crappy and don’t want to do anything. They’re just playing on their phones or their ideas are just real low level. Okay? So this is what we’re going to do now. So we’ve got table story. I need each table. So you’ll be number one for your table. Okay? So Emily, what would that make you if she’s number one? Two? Okay, so then we’re going to go all the way around. Okay? So everybody do the same thing at your table. Start with the number one. Get everybody a number around the table. You got five seconds. Good. So this, this table has it ready? One all the way to six, right? So you would be first, raise your hand. You’re first. Okay. Now what she’s going to do as first, she has to write one word down to start a story. One word.

Johnny Saye:

Okay? You have, you’re the last guy, right? You have one word to end the story. Okay? Write it down. Right now you have five seconds. Could be once. It could be, nope. All the other people that aren’t the first person or last person, stay still. If you’re not the first or last stay still. Did you write your word down.

Speaker 2:

I did.

Johnny Saye:

Okay, don’t pass it on. Everybody does the first person and the last person to have a word? Okay? Now what you’re going to do as the first person, you’re going to save your word. Then the rest of the table has to continue the story. But in order to make it a little more complicated, you also have to say your word at the beginning. So now we know where the story starts and we know where it ends. Your job is to connect it. Okay? Does everybody understand? So first person starts with the first word. You have one sentence starting with that word. You have one sentence going all the way around to finished with your sentence that ends with the last word.

Speaker 5:

Sentence or-

Johnny Saye:

Yes. [inaudible 00:10:47]. Says one sentence. Each person says one sentence.

Speaker 5:

I thought it was a word.

Johnny Saye:

I know. I was seeing where you all were going with it. It’s all right guys, we’re jumping to the next exercise just because it’s a lot of people asking questions, okay? All right. So find a partner please. Everybody find a partner right now. Find a partner. Okay. Does everybody have a partner? Awesome. Now get on your feet. Everybody get on your feet. We’re going to play Ninja tiger grandma. Ninja tiger grandma. Has anybody played ninja tiger grandma? Awesome. Okay, so rock, paper, scissors, right? But instead of rock, paper, scissors, we have movements. Okay? So we have a ninja, right? Then we have a tiger, [inaudible 00:11:41], go LSU. Then we have a grandma, right? Okay. So here’s the order of victory. Easy enough. Ninja beats tiger, right? Slices and dices. Grandma, oh, eaten by the tiger. So tiger beats grandma and grandma bores Ninja to death. Okay? So I’m going to count it down. I’m going to say three, two, one.

Johnny Saye:

And you just like in rock, paper, scissors have to pick what you’re going to use. But if you don’t make a sound, you automatically lose. Okay? So you got to make sure you follow your movement with a sound. Okay? We’re going to play one round. Ready? Three, two, one, go. Very good. Very good. All right, everybody back in your seats. Back in your seats. I only have 20 minutes so I’m cramming in way too much in 20 minutes. Okay, so great job. You guys rock. So now you’re still in with your partners, right? Still with your partners? Okay, now you have one hands. Each person grab a piece of paper. Each person grab a piece of paper. Excuse me. Each partners, you need one piece of paper between the two of you. Okay, there we go. All right, so now what you have to do is you have 60 seconds using only one hands per person. You and your partner must construct an airplane, a paper airplane using only one hands and one minute that is two hands total. One hand per person. You must, with one sheet of paper, make a paper airplane.

Johnny Saye:

Oh, you only have 30 seconds. You better hurry up. Three, two, one. Get those hands away from those airplanes. Get them away. Very good. Exactly right. Now we throw them. Great job everybody. So here’s how you can use that game. Quick debrief. That game is just to talk about communication. Collaboration. Can we quiet down for a second everybody? See all the energy we have right here. This is my specialty, right? So all that collaboration, that communication, that’s important for teams to function. That’s kind of the debrief that you would do there. But since we’re going so fast, we don’t have time. Not going to do much of that. All right, so now everybody, each person needs a piece of paper, okay? Each person needs a piece of paper.

Johnny Saye:

Everybody got it? All right, so you all remember that giraffe from earlier? That was chilling on a tree? All right, cool. He’s back. All right, so now I need everybody with their piece of paper stand up on their feet, right? We’re going to make an origami giraffe. Don’t move. Don’t touch your papers yet because you have 45 seconds to make this origami giraffe and you have to put the piece of paper behind your back to do it. Okay? So put the piece of paper behind your back. Everyone. You need to make this giraffe that’s on the screen and you have 45 seconds. Three, two, one, go. You can fold it. You can rip it, you can bend it, you can break it. Do what you must, but make that giraffe and you only have 30 seconds left.

Speaker 3:

[inaudible 00:15:05].

Johnny Saye:

Of course. 10 seconds. We’re going really quick. 10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one time. Everybody show your table what you made. Very good. We got a few good ones. All right guys, now we need everybody sitting down for one last exercise. We don’t have much time. So we’ve already done four exercises. We’re trying to cram in more. All right, so now there are cups on your table. Does everybody see the solo cups on your table? You’re going to need a little space for those solo cups. I need you to take them out, spread them out across the table every single cup and put them right side up.

Johnny Saye:

They have them the opposite way so the numbers are facing down. So the numbers are facing down. Okay? You might want to put them close together. This is our minute to win it except it’s going to be in 10 seconds because I’m out of time. All right, so you’ve got the cups on the table, right? Everybody have them? Everybody have them? Now mix them around a little bit. Real quick, mix them around. Mix them around. Mix them around. All right guys. Now here’s what you have to do. On the bottom of the cups are numbers one to 15. You as a team have to go as fast as possible. Stacking those cups from one to 15, okay? You’re going against every other table starting now. One to 15. One to 15. Winners.

Johnny Saye:

Very good. We’ve got three seconds. [inaudible 00:16:57] right now. All right everybody sit down, sit down, sit down. All right, so I crammed in six exercises in 18 minutes. If you want more about those and learn how to do them, when to use them. I just created a YouTube page, allies of innovation. Self-promoting. Has no videos, so don’t go there yet. Go there tomorrow, okay? And they’ll be there, but great job. Success. We did it. Now you all are all masters. Here’s a random picture of me. Summed up, all right. Lessons, play with a purpose. Make it a memory and never grow up. All right, thank you. That was magical.