Trainer’s Toolbox: Bribe them into participating

I’m adding a new series to Library Trainer, Trainer’s Toolbox. Trainer’s Toolbox will feature activities that you can incorporate into training sessions.

Here’s a simple activity that you can do to get more participation from a group. Best of all it costs nothing!

I saw this activity done very well tonight at my local ASTD chapter meeting. The speaker began by stating that he would be giving out gifts during the session. The premise was simple. Ask a question or contribute to the discussion and you receive a gift. During the session you can keep the gift, pass it on, or share it with everyone. After the first person receives the first gift and unfolds this mysterious piece of paper everyone else wants to know what it is so they start contributing to the discussion. By the time all the gifts are passed out, the participants are so engaged in the discussion they forget about the gifts.

Since I said this activity costs nothing you’re probably wondering what the gifts are. The gifts were cleverly folded pieces of paper that had motivational quotes on them. So you get an additional chance for audience contribution when someone speaks up to share a quote with everyone. It’s interesting to see how people will make the quotes apply to their lives. It’s kind of like reading a horoscope–when it’s generic enough it will fit.

I ended up with three gifts tonight (I’m an ENFJ after all–heavy emphasis on the E). I’ll share them now with you.

For knowledge itself is power. -Francis Bacon

None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. -Thomas Stearns Eliot (widely attributed to Emerson, possibly anonymous)


Time Needed to Prepare: 30 minutes

Cost: None

Materials Needed: Quotes that apply to the training session, paper, creative paper folding technique


  1. Print each quote on a separate sheet of paper.
  2. Fold into a creative design – paper hat, paper boat, origami.
  3. At the beginning of session say, “I’m going to be giving out x number of gifts today. You can keep the gifts, pass them on, or share them with the group at any time.” The less you say the better. You want them to wonder what the gifts are.
  4. During the session hand out a gift each time someone participates or adds to the discussion.
  5. At the end of the session bring the exercise to a close by by asking, “What gift have you received today?” There is no right or wrong answer.
About Lori Reed

Lori Reed, coauthor of Workplace Learning & Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Non-Profit Trainers, is a learning and communication strategist with more than twenty years experience in learning and development. A 2009 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2010 "One to Watch" for paralibrarians, Lori graduated cum laude from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. Lori is a certified Synchronous Learning Expert and a North Carolina Master Trainer and has traveled across North America speaking about libraries and training.


  1. I LOVE this idea and will definitely be using it!

  2. Stephanie let me know how it goes! I’m looking forward to having you in my session next week!

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