Great workshops are all about great planning, so if you’re asked to facilitate an idea generation session, these are the four things you need to get right
1 Clarity on the Nature of the Outputs
Ideas come in many shapes and sizes, so when you get asked to help come up with some new ideas, you need be sure of their format and structure. Are you looking for a large number of rough ideas or a small number of polished ideas? Will they be written as standard idea concepts or detailed storyboards? You may not be sure what ideas will emerge, but you need to be sure of the idea format.
2 Getting the Right People
So what’s the ideal number for a creative workshop? Having a small number of people means that the session is easy to handle..but there’s a lot of pressure on them to come up with the ideas. Lots of people creates a lot of energy…but it makes it difficult for a facilitator to handle everyone.
On balance, for a creative session I prefer the energy of big groups. However, what’s crucial is to have a diverse group people with bendy brains. Similar people will come up with similar ideas. Mix and match the experienced with the inexperienced, agency and client, young and old, technical and non-technical. Ensure that at least some have good visualisation skills. As long as they’re willing to throw themselves into the session, then they’ll come up with great ideas
3. Providing the Right Pre-work
What you want to avoid is (a) people turning up not knowing what the session’s about (b) wasting lots of valuable idea generation time of listening to presentations. You want to make a fast productive start, so spend time thinking about the ideal pre-work. I always give people 3 tasks. 1. something to read – so they get the essential background to the project. 2. something to think about – so they’re already generating ideas before they arrive. 3 something to do – e.g. a store visit, an interview – so they’re really engaged in the topic. As I’ve written in a previous post, the ideal is for people to produce and send you ideas in advance of the session. Make sure it’s interesting and fun, otherwise they may not do it
4 Choosing the Right Venue
What you need in a great venue is space, light, BIG walls and flexible furniture. Avoid uber-cool hotels. People feel uncomfortable and are worried about messing it up. Equally, avoid traditional boardrooms with oil paintings screwed to the walls. The ideal space needs to be a blank canvas. A large photographer’s studio or warehouse or art gallery are perfect as you can mould it to suit your needs and you’re immediately in a creative zone when you enter it
So, spend time thinking about these 4 areas. If you get these things right, then you’re well on the way to creating a fabulous workshop. Now, you can focus on developing the detailed session plan