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Best meeting openers. (Review).

Editor's note: For individual reviews of programs in this review, go to and use the Advanced Search. Enter the product name, click the "Video" radio button, and then click "Search."

Meeting openers make sense. Training time is scarce. Companies like to incorporate brief training into work events. Attention spans are shorter. Employees don't take kindly to heavily didactic content. Meeting openers answer many of these concerns. They're brief and made to be incorporated into meetings with a purpose other than training. They're entertainment as much as training, yet they deliver a point -- usually a very focused one. They also help distressed training budgets because they cost less than full-length videos.

This genre of training product belongs exclusively to the video medium. You could get everyone watching on a laptop. But why bother? Technically, popping a video cassette or a DVD into a player makes more sense. And, for the time being, VCR or DVD video is a far better visually than streaming video.

As always in the fragmented training industry, finding the right product is a challenge. We want to make the task easier by pointing you toward reliable choices.


A series of meeting openers has the obvious advantage of one-stop shopping. There are two good quality series that cover a range of topics and feature well-known characters.

Muppet Meeting Films

Now that Dilbert isn't making any new videos, it's time for a coronation: the Muppets are the king of meeting openers.

The Muppet videos are the classic opener formulation: brief, funny, and teaching through the gentle art of suggestion, not by the heavy hand of prescription. These videos lead strictly by example. The Jim Henson group has honed its business video making to a fine art. The characters are familiar; they can charm a snake. The full line includes over 40 different films, meaning you don't want for choices.

The Muppets can have a downside in business. Some adults may feel patronized by these Sesame Street regulars. If you think that might be a problem, check the next series on the list. Dilbert is definitely for adults.

We've recently reviewed the latest of the Muppet meeting films, Teamwork in Action. In it cacophonous Muppets learn to form a harmonious whole--well, sort of harmonious. Teasing the dual points out isn't hard: leaders and teams need each other to get the work done.

Dilbert Meeting Breaks

One of the best-known figures of the contemporary business scene, Dilbert stars in his own line of openers. Dilbert can cut too close to the bone in some organizations or for some managers--certainly those firmly committed to denial. And the sardonic humor may not jibe well with cultures that are trying to cultivate enthusiasm.

In places where people are open to laughing at themselves (the bosses too), these videos can do wonders. Dilbert, of course, is the comic strip brainchild of the been-there, done-that refugee from modern day American business, Scott Adams. Dilbert is the readily identifiable hero of the vast plebeian majority who, like himself, are subject to the whims of those personifications of the Peter Principle, the overpaid, under-competent denizens from the upper reaches of the corporate Adminisphere, as so eloquently characterized by the DeVito-esque pointy-haired boss.

If you like, you can also discern another point. Why is this guy taking it? Why doesn't Dilbert do something? Is it that everywhere he'll find the same cube hell?

You can deploy the series of 12 training videos that showcase the Alpha Nerd of the cube farm and his faithful sidekick, Dogbert, who serves as animated protagonist for the real-life central figures who facilitate each of the videos.

You had better hurry, though. Word has it that the series may soon be pulled from distribution.

Single topics

Here are the best videos we've found on high-priority topics.


Simple is usually good. As used by Why Change? it's very good. Quotations show how risky it is to assume that the future will be a carbon copy of the past. Viewers will be astonished and delighted at the fallibility of self-appointed prognosticators. In the end they should see that most of us are more comfortable keeping things as they are rather than preparing ourselves for change. Highly recommended as a brief wakeup call for everyone.

Producer: The Training Edge, 800-292-4375,


Using Village of 100, you can do something remarkable. You can prove the inescapable fact of diversity in two minutes. Initially, some uncertainty surrounded the compelling statistics on which this video is based, but they have been verified by respected sources. The show will make an impression on all viewers, guaranteed. You'll need other perspectives to make the full case for diversity, but this is a very good place to start. Just be ready to finish what you start.

Producer: A Step Ahead Productions, 877-706-9671,


Training on email isn't going to excite anyone. Why not do it through a meeting opener? Truth about Email cruises through guidelines with sassiness, tongue-in-cheek humor, and stylish graphics.

Distributor: VideoLearning Systems, 800-622-3610,


Produced in 1981, Zea: A Study in Perception is like Hollywood stars: it does not show its age. You watch a scene that's mesmerizing as well as mysterious. You can only show this video once to a given group, but it can become an enduring counter example to conventional thinking and groupthink and a spur to innovation. Distributor: Monad Trainer's Aide, 800-344-6088, fax 718-352-1305.


Ride the High Places unashamedly champions old-fashioned values as reflected in an environmental comeback story. Viewers with a value-based core will appreciate the implications for the business world. Skeptics and cynics are likely to gag.

Producer: Enterprise Media, 800-423-6021,


For those of you looking for a different or upbeat way to start a program, Smart-Start Motivation Meeting Opener may be an answer. Its music, quotes, and graphics can get a group going. It's a good buy too.

Producer: VisionPoint Productions, 800-300-8830,


Implode! stands out because of its explosive content. We mean that literally. The video features a team that takes down buildings all at once. Talk about a team that needs to be on the same page! It's longer than most openers (15 min.). Just don't implode at the price of nearly $600.

Producer: Enterprise Media, 800-423-6021,

Bill Ellet is editor of Training Media Review. Lynda Ford SPHR, is president of The Ford Group, an HR consulting firm. Hank Stanley is a technical training and writing consultant with Document Production Solutions in San Diego, CA.

January -- February 2002

Title Description

Five easy pieces E-learning providers
 offer joint product

Muppet Meeting Films: New meeting opener
Teamwork in Action video

Online content provider A major source of
closing its doors online training
 content folds

The new profession A redefinition of the
of training training function

Vendors blend on Two major e-learning
blended learning companies sponsor
 free seminar

Wealth, Innovation Diversity video by
and Diversity Joel Barker
COPYRIGHT 2002 TMR Publications
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Stanley, Hank
Publication:Training Media Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Previous Article:TMR's 10 best.
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