Make training fun and increase learning retention with puzzles and games

My number one compliment at trainings comes from my live, interactive elements like my Mentimeter quizzes. But I’m branching into a new type of interactivity that might begin in the training classroom but carries on with attendees after they leave.

I’m talking about handouts. Attendees are more likely to remember sessions, topics, and facts if they had a little fun along the way. Not every handout has to be a glossary. Bingo, for example, challenges end users to explore various capabilities in SharePoint they otherwise may not have considered.

SharePoint Bingo and O365 Crossword: These two downloadables encourage attendees to listen up and have certain prompts in mind throughout your talk such as “how could I add a new list?” or “we can live stream events?? with what?” They can work on these throughout the session as they learn, or take it back to their desks. A great way to encourage participation is to offer an incentive such as “add your name and turn it in when you’re done for a chance to win a Surface Go.”

SharePoint Sudoku: This one is just for fun and is a great “added bonus” handout for your session. It’s also great for those attendees that show up 15 minutes early and might appreciate something to do in the meantime.

3 Puzzle Pack (SP Bingo, SP Sudoku, & O365 Apps Crossword)

$10.85 $7.99

Get three puzzles in a bundle (saving over 25%) to improve attendee engagement and training reinforcement.

  • SharePoint Sudoku #1
  • SharePoint End-User Bingo
  • Apps in O365 Crossword (Editable)

Premium members save an additional 10% (discount reflected automatically when logged in).

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Get three puzzles in a bundle (saving over 25%) to improve attendee engagement and training reinforcement.

  • SharePoint Sudoku #1 (great for occupying early arrivers)
  • SharePoint End-User Bingo (hands-on practice during or after training)
  • Apps in O365 Crossword – Editable version (have “ah-ha!” moments during, and reinforce learning after)

Premium members save an additional 10% (discount reflected automatically when logged in).


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Get a customized puzzle from me

I’m happy to create a custom crossword or bingo downloadable for your needs at the same cost of these examples (no setup fee). DM me on Twitter or send me a message via he form below with your scenario and let’s work together to make training fun!

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 “plugged in, not charging”

Alas, I reached a day where I thought I was done with my Surface. It powered on when plugged in just fine but was at 0% battery and would, of course, instantly shut off when disconnected from AC power. When I hovered over the battery indicator in the task bar, it told me it was “plugged in, not charging.” The nerve!

After some troubleshooting and trying:

  • Making sure devices, particularly under “Batteries”, were all updated
  • Uninstalling and reinstalling power related devices via Device manager
  • Running anti-virus checks
  • Installing latest Windows updates

I found out that if I plugged my surface dock into the surface “upside down” it worked fine and charged as usual. So, long story short, if your Surface isn’t charging just try connecting the power source in the opposite direction.

Also, once it “remembers how to charge itself,” you can reverse this and put the charger in the normal direction (just double-check that it still says charging). Think of it as a quick “refresh” of the surface power connector.

Why I’m not interested in becoming a Microsoft MVP

Update 2/1/2019: I am an MVP now, and there’s still room for improvement in the nomination and acceptance process. I continue to hear similar stories to the one I shared below and am doing what I can in my limited capacity to improve the process and communication. I encourage you to reach out to your program or community managers directly if you haven’t heard anything for several months.

For the last three years, I’ve been updating a nomination form with my latest activities and contributions to the Microsoft community (basically logging volunteer hours and impact). I love what I do, truly, and it was kind of fun to “journal” my contributions.

People pursuing the Microsoft MVP award often put a lot of their own time, money and energy into getting it. I’ve given over twenty sessions in 2018. And this past October, traveling to a different SharePoint Saturday event every Saturday to speak, I found myself burnt out by the end of the month. I had to stop and ask myself:

Am I still doing this for me? Or for some external validation?

I didn’t like the answer. I was having a hard time enjoying my work anymore, or speaking at events, because I was so focused on the MVP award. And the first of every month became a date I dreaded because Twitter would become alive with:

  • “I’m so honored…”
  • “Can’t believe it!”
  • “So grateful…”

While happy for those tweeting good news, I waited for an email to arrive that wasn’t coming.

So in October when I found myself burnt out, I realized that if I kept pursuing the MVP award I would undoubtedly get to a place where I no longer enjoyed speaking, or writing, or doing any of the things I was tracking on the nomination form. And then each summer would become a time of stress, wondering if I’d “make the cut” to keep it another year. The joy I get from sharing with others, building communities and networks isn’t worth losing.

To top it off, my (many) attempts at contacting someone (anyone) in the award program for guidance or advice were futile, and went unnoticed. Why did I want so badly to belong to a program of people who serve others, administered by people who wouldn’t take time to serve others? Was it because they didn’t recognize my name? Knew I was gay? Saw I was from Kansas? Didn’t get nudged by a buddy to look for that Chamberlain guy? Welcome to my brain. I sincerely hope the program, with its subjective nature to begin with, wouldn’t be so loose as to let opinions on identity or demographics interfere with fair evaluation (or even minimal communications).

The program seems to have a “boys club” vibe from where I’m sitting. I don’t need to stress about the reasons I may be overlooked, or speculate about overly-subjective politics and selection processes and I never want to get somewhere in life because I have an “in.” I want to get there because I earned it. And now I’ve decided I want to get somewhere else.

I’m withdrawing my nomination after three years of trying, and doing what’s best for me (and, ironically, Microsoft).


  • I’m still going to speak at events.
  • I’m still going to write and make video tutorials.
  • I’m still going to run the Lawrence SharePoint User Group.
  • I’m still going to applaud those who get the MVP award and do amazing things every day.
  • I’m still going to help organize SPS Kansas City.
  • I’m still going to provide free resources to readers and event organizers.

The only thing I’m doing differently is I’ll be doing it for pure enjoyment and the benefit of my attendees, my viewers, my readers and my co-workers and not for recognition. I started this journey to serve others and got lost along the way, doing it for the wrong reason and getting bummed out on a monthly basis for no good reason.

Perhaps there will be a day where the MVP program functions a bit more like certifications. And it would be great to get an email, even once a year, with a status update or some personalized tips. And the selection process could be a little less subjective and more structured. There is such a thing as too general. Because let’s be honest, this could be my grandma on a good day:



How to give SharePoint link lists a professional look out-of-the-box using the icon library

In the modern SharePoint experience, you can clean up ordinary link lists with very little effort, thanks to SharePoint’s icon library.


Whether you need a Teams icon (teams), dog (fangbody), tooth (teeth) or football (football), you can search for icons and use those for adding visual cues and iconography to your sites. Here’s how you can implement this on your page(s):

Continue reading “How to give SharePoint link lists a professional look out-of-the-box using the icon library”

Set multiple choices as default values for checkbox fields in SharePoint forms

default checks

I recently worked on a project for a client that needed 2/3 checkbox options checked by default on a new form. While not as straight-forward as other field types, it’s still certainly possible.

  1. Go to List –> List Settings (server/on-prem) or settings wheel –> List Settings (online/O365)
    list settings
    list settings o365
  2. Click the name of your checkbox/choice column to edit its settings or create a new checkbox column
  3. Change “Default value:” from “Choice” to “Calculated Value”
  4. Enter a formula like: =”;#Choice;#Choice;#Choice;#”
    =”;#Printed Statement;#E-Statement;#Pick Up in Office;#”
  5. Click OK

That’s it! Now on new forms/items, everything you entered in the formula as a default choice will be pre-checked.

Automatically open SharePoint 2013 workflow tasks in Edit mode for easy one-click approvals

one-click approval

On one of my recent projects, a client asked if it would be possible for the link to a task within a workflow notification email to open the task in “edit” mode instead of “display”. If you’re unfamiliar with SharePoint 2013 task processes built in SharePoint Designer, here’s what their process looked like prior to our change:

  1. Someone submits form
  2. Approval request sent to manager
  3. Manager clicks link in email to open task
  4. Manager clicks “Edit”
  5. Manager clicks “Approve”

They wanted to eliminate step 4 to make the process as easy as possible (one-click after opening link in email). Here’s what we ended up doing:

Continue reading “Automatically open SharePoint 2013 workflow tasks in Edit mode for easy one-click approvals”

Rearrange OneNote 2016 so pages pane and sections are visible on left


This post illustrates how you can accomplish adding sections to the left pane, and moving the pages pane from the right-hand side to the left as seen above.

Move Sections from Top to Left

In a recent training session, I was asked if it were possible to move sections from the top to the left in OneNote. The answer is “sort of”. We can get sections on the left also, but we can’t get rid of them from the top. There are two ways to accomplish this:

Continue reading “Rearrange OneNote 2016 so pages pane and sections are visible on left”

How to create a powerful date table or DateKey in Power BI

DateKeys are essential for relative time measures. In “manage relationships” you tie the ‘DateKey'[Date] to a date field in each of your data sources. Giles Walker shared an excellent solution for a robust DateKey that includes measurements and calculations you’re sure to find useful. Here’s that same solution I’ve modified and expanded to be as useful as possible.

Continue reading “How to create a powerful date table or DateKey in Power BI”

Dealing with &#39 and &amp in SharePoint Designer document library workflows

If you’re using a document Name field in a workflow but it’s not working as expected, it could be because there are apostrophes () or ampersands (&) in document names. In this case, SharePoint evaluates apostrophes () to &#39semicolon and ampersands (&) to &ampsemicolon As you can see here, most other punctuation evaluates perfectly well:


Note: This problem only occurs when using apostrophes and ampersands in document names, in document libraries. And we can fix the issue without needing to rename the files.

Document names cannot contain these punctuation marks: \ / . : * # “

Regular lists and document library fields aside from the Name field shouldn’t experience this issue. But if you’re using & or in your file names, and calling those file names in workflow, here’s how we can make it work:

Continue reading “Dealing with &#39 and &amp in SharePoint Designer document library workflows”