Workshops create emotional impact to provoke belief and behaviour change. One easy way to do this is to bring inspiration to life in multi-sensorial ways to truly make people feel different, which will help inspire them to think differently too. Decorate the room, make it smell different, have music playing, provide products to eat, drink, wear or try. Anything that makes the room not feel like your average business meeting as soon as people walk in.
Design and print A2 paper templates to help people structure their thinking and ideas. This helps cut down on the amount of instructions you give (because the templates help people follow a particular order), and helps to make sure that each team’s ideas are roughly structured in the same way. Workshops should never involve writing on a blank flipchart, for the facilitator or the break out groups. Templates can be fun, colourful, friendly and bespoke to the topic – the little effort you put into these will be useful on so many levels during the session and afterwards for the output
Research shows that constructive conflict helps teams to get to better ideas. Set up times when people are asked to disagree with each other, do exercises when people are asked to switch sides or be the devil’s advocate, or ask what’s the worst that can happen. Conflict that is positive, structured and encouraged early will make the ideas stronger from the start.
Resist the urge to interrupt groups as they are working, either with instructions, questions or to hurry them up. The more time and space you can give people to feel that they are truly working through the issue, able to think and discuss, and not feel pressured or put on the spot, the better. Never ever shout, ring bells, rush people or make them feel they are being told off. Prepare to give time updates to each individual table, not shouting them to a big group. Go to each table and say “there are 5 mins left, is that going to be ok?” is far better and less intrusive than shouting “5 minutes to go!!!”
Instead of energisers, one easy way to keep the energy in the room up is to change the working groups every round. Start with groups of 4-5 at the beginning of the day, then go down to groups of 3 then pairs by the end of the day. Change the members of the group each time so they are always working with new people. Because people are moving around, you will need to keep the room free of bags, coats on the back of chairs and clutter. Explain to people at the beginning of the session that coats, bags etc will be kept in a cloakroom or separate space, and during the session tidy up cups, papers and clutter as people move tables.
To prevent energy and momentum from being lost, ban the breakout room. It is better to keep people in one big space than to lose time, attention and focus by sending them off to different break out rooms where they will check their phones on the way and get lost on the way back, and lose valuable thinking and working time together. The energy of working in the same room is far more valuable than giving teams space in a quiet room alone.