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1.2 How to Run a Successful Workshop

In the second lesson we look at some of the practicalities of running a successful workshop. We address questions such as who should be involved and how to keep attendees motivated, and I’ll also give you some great advice about approaching different exercises.

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1.2 How to Run a Successful Workshop

Hi folks and welcome back to this course on how to workshop your way through the web design process. In our first lesson we looked at why workshops are such a powerful tool. A tool that can help us define business objectives, understand our audience, shape our content and even influence our site's appearance. But before we get into how to do all of this in future lessons, I want to take a moment to look at how to run a good workshop. I shared a few thoughts in the last video, and I wanted to build on them further in here. In particular, I want to share with you some practical tips about how you can make your workshops run smoother. For example, pay a lot of attention to who is attending your workshop. Find out if anyone is particularly dominate because if they are that could cause a problem. I recently ran a workshop where the managing director turned up for part of the day. And as soon as he entered the room everyone else stopped talking. If that happens to you, then you need to make sure you've got some exercises up your sleeve that don't involve people expressing their opinions individually or publicly. For example, try and exercise where people vote or can spend points on particular ideas. And that means that the managing director's opinion or whoever the dominant person is, is no more important than anyone else's. It also is great for those quieter members of the workshop, people who feel uncomfortable sharing their ideas in public, but could go away feeling disgruntled or ignored. In fact, having a variety of exercise is an important element of any successful workshop. Different groups respond in different ways to different types of exercises so you need to be able to adapt your workshop accordingly, and sometimes to do that on the fly. Now that isn't particularly easy so don't worry too much about it, especially when you're starting out. But do plan in a series of different exercises to keep the workshop interesting. A great resource for exercises that you can do pretty much in any workshop setting ,is Gamestorming.com. This and its associative book is a great source of workshop activities, that can help make your sessions more interesting. But whatever exercise you adopt, the vast majority should follow a fairly similar pattern really. You want to begin almost all exercises by encouraging as many ideas to be generated as possible. Don't worry about their viability. This isn't the moment to analyze their practicality or to criticize them in any way. But once everyone has exhausted their ideas, then you can start to filter and prioritize them. This kind of exercise of creating a lot of ideas and then filtering them down is known as the opening and closing parts of any particular exercise you do. I'm also a fan of adding a competitive element into the exercises. Especially around idea generation. It encourages more ideas and makes the sessions more fun. And that's so important. Try to keep your workshops light-hearted, entertaining, and fast moving. Don't get bogged down in heavy duty discussions or allow a session to become to intense. It's just gonna zap people's enthusiasm for the project. And in time, that could lead them to become more critical. Don't forget to take a lot of breaks. Give people a chance to get up and stretch, and revitalize themselves. It also gives them an opportunity to check emails, which I would otherwise make sure you ban in workshops. Moving around is a big part of successful workshop. Don't let people stay in their seats. Get people working on the walls. Use Post-It notes and flipcharts to express ideas. This gets people up and mixing with one another, and also moving around keeps them more engaged. The other thing about using Post It notes in the wall, is anyone can contribute. I've sat in too many meetings where one person is in front of a laptop. Updating things that people have said that's being displayed on a projector. This kills the momentum of a workshop, and also limits how people can be involved. Instead, get people sketching ideas out, scribbling down thoughts, and moving post it notes around. Try splitting people into groups as well throughout your workshop. Group work encourages quieter people, who may be uncomfortable talking in front of everyone, to get involved. It's also a time saver if you've got to cover a lot of ground. But just remember to leave time for the group to feedback and discuss. Ultimately everybody needs to be bought into every decision. And that means time to discuss as a large group is really important and has to be included. Make sure you vary your groups too. This keeps things interesting but also encourages everyone working as a single team and not in different silos. Don't allow groups to be formed around departments. If you have two marketers for example, make sure they're in different groups. We want to encourage departmental collaboration wherever possible, and cross disciplinary collaboration. Think carefully about your agenda for the day and in particular what objectives you have. Have a clear set of deliverables you want by the end of the day and make sure you communicate those in advance of the meeting. Expressing these upfront will help keep the workshop on track and allow you to shelve those damaging tangents that will inevitably arise from time to time. Although sticking to your objectives is important, you should also be flexible about your agenda. Timing in particular will vary. If a group is particularly enjoying one exercise, don't close it down too early. Equally, if something is not working, then just move on. Just remember you want to maintain momentum. Don't allow an exercise to extend too much, because otherwise, people will start to switch off. And that is particularly important If the conversation starts turning into a debate, or even worse, an argument. Remind attendees that nothing needs to be set in stone today. No decision is irreversible. Encourage them to come up with an interim decision and then move on. Many points of contention could be easily resolved a few days later. And on a one to one basis, and often they stick with the interim decision. Make sure your agenda begins with you setting the context to the day. This will allow you to reiterate the objectives for the day and to emphasise that nothing is set in stone. You may also need some kind of icebreaker if the group isn't particularly comfortable with one another. Now personally I hate icebreakers especially when they bare no reference to the discussion. But they do have their place. What I tend to do is to take a more, a less important objective from the agenda and create a fun and fast exercise around it to kick things off. For example, one objective might be to decide on a set of categories for a new blog they're setting up. In stead of endlessly debating what these categories should be. Start your workshop with a fun exercise where people write as many blog titles as they can think of in three minutes. The person to come up with the most wins a prize. You can then use this list to discuss possible categories by grouping the titles together. But most important, it kicks off the day in a fun way and rewards idea generation. And that's what is really the key lesson for this video. Make sure your workshops are fun, fast, and focused. know what you want to achieve, but do that in a fun way that maintains momentum. Don't allow your workshops to get bogged down in endless debates. Of course, all of this sounds good in principle, but how do you do it in practice? For example, how do you make something as dry as deciding on your business objectives enjoyable and fast paced? Well that's what I'm gonna discuss in our next video. But for now, thanks for watching.

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