Workshops are becoming a more and more popular forum for brainstorming, planning and learning, whether it’s a new business idea, project or program.
When done well, they are super productive and a great way to engage people, maybe in a way they haven’t before.
They also can be entertaining.
However, organising them well is vital to save you from getting caught out at the last minute.
Here are our six simple tips for organising a successful workshop.
Define and communicate the goals
Ahead of the workshop, make sure the project lead and facilitator clearly set the workshop’s goals.
The organiser should share this ahead of time, and on the day of the workshop, it’s a good idea to write up the goal clearly so others can see it.
An idea to kickstart participation is to encourage participants to add feedback with their comments.
Decide and know the attendees.
Suppose your workshop is to discuss or brainstorm a more complex problem.
In that case, you may want to limit your workshop to smaller numbers, i.e. 6-8 participants.
If it’s a more general, widespread topic or an interactive workshop, you would want to consider more participants, e.g. 8-15.
However, limiting the number is essential so you can keep control of the agenda and timekeeping.
Prepare and share the agenda.
At least 48 hours before the workshop, you should share the agenda with all attendees.
If you want, ask for comments/feedback, giving you enough time to make any last-minute edits.
Allowing for early input on the agenda demonstrates that you are willing for attendees to participate and sets the tone for the workshop.
A clear plan and participation are critical!
Pick a perfect location.
The location of your workshop is crucial.
Ideally, depending on the nature and topic, they are best held off-site, as this physically removes you and the team from distractions.
If you are choosing an off-site location, make sure you visit the space ahead of time to check for size, AV equipment, catering etc. and that it will cater to all your needs.
Plan your tools and props
This is a significant step for preparing a successful workshop, having enough tools and props to allow for successful engagement and participation!
Make sure you have plenty of Sharpies, markers, sticky notes, whiteboards, paper etc.
Or check out the pre-made workshop kits from Myndflo.com, which takes the hassle out of planning tools and props!
Vary engagement methods to encourage participation
Finally, as already mentioned, you want to set the tone for participation.
Remind participants before and during the workshop that you want their opinions, feedback and ideas.
An excellent way to get input from everyone is to vary the engagement methods, i.e., ask for open feedback forum where you invite the room to make suggestions.
Or set time limits, i.e. 5 mins and ask everyone to write their thoughts independently and ideas before sharing them.
What is the purpose of a workshop?
Workshops are a great way to get all the stakeholders involved in a project, i.e. key client members, team members, management, etc.
A workshop allows participants to add their two cents to a project.
It is particularly good at generating ideas, feedback and solutions to problems.
Sessions addressing multiple questions can stimulate creative thinking and set the ground for an innovation-friendly work environment that creates as many ideas as possible to overcome complex problems in one conversation.
It’s an excellent creative problem-solving technique that encourages group work and imagination.
How can you measure outputs from workshop sessions?
The first step is to agree on your workshop’s desired outcome or goal.
It’s essential to set this out clearly with the whole group of participants at the beginning.
You can then more easily measure your progress towards achieving it through, e.g., compiling all ideas for change/improvement on flip charts, recording them in a shared document or presenting them orally, i.e. “we achieved x and y”.
It’s all about being able to measure your workshop’s progress towards a successful outcome, and the tools you use should allow for this throughout.
What makes a successful workshop?
A successful workshop is where all participants generate ideas and add meaningful input and actionable feedback that you can use in the project.
To ensure this, you want to keep the participants engaged and allow them to contribute at their own pace.
What does a facilitator do?
Check out our article on What is a Workshop Facilitator?
What are the benefits of brainstorming sessions for participants?
Participants get a chance to add their ideas and suggestions for change, which can be really powerful.
It also encourages participation from everyone in the room, creating a more open work environment.
When should I have a group brainstorming session?
Brainstorming sessions are a great way to generate ideas and solutions for problems or challenges within a project and build consensus.
These sessions allow the group to develop innovative ideas, which you can then analyse and process later.
Offering participants an opportunity to get creative is also likely to increase their engagement in the project overall, which can only be a good thing.
How long should a workshop be?
Workshops are typically held over a day or half-day.
However, longer workshops can be effective if broken up with short breaks to keep energy levels high.
How do I kick off a workshop?
Your workshop will flow smoothly from start to finish when you have the proper preparation.
Having an agenda is a clear sign that you’re prepared and provides a structure for the flow of the event.
Your agenda should include all aspects of your workshop, from start/finish times and meeting venues to who is attending and who needs to be there.
How do I prepare for an ideation workshop?
The first step is to decide on the desired outcome.
This will give you a clear perspective on what you need from your workshop session, which can then guide your preparation and planning to achieve it.
Ultimately though, the desired outcome is to get an overwhelming amount of input.
The more ideas, feedback and suggestions for change you can gather, the better!
Who should attend an ideation workshop?
The stakeholders of a project best conduct ideation workshops.
This is because they have the most insight into what’s currently being worked on and their role in overcoming problems or challenges within it.
What should participants bring to an ideation workshop?
What participants should bring will depend on the workshop’s goals, what type of session it is, and the group size.
However, we recommend that you advise attendees to bring a notebook and pen or pencil rather than printouts for taking down suggestions or ideas.
How can I encourage participation in an ideation workshop?
Encouraging attendees to participate is crucial when it comes to ideation workshops.
This doesn’t mean you should expect 100% participation from all participants, but rather make your attendees aware of why they are there and give them the chance to add their input where needed.
How do you keep a brainstorming session on track?
There are several ways to ensure your session stays on track.
The best way is to timebox it, which means setting a target for the duration of the activity and sticking to it.
You can set a timer or use visual aids such as a stopwatch or egg timer.
You can also give everyone time to brainstorm ideas, for example, 5-10 minutes.
What is the best way to build consensus in an ideation workshop?
Building consensus means getting everyone to agree on a single direction or solution.
There are many ways of achieving this, such as having an anonymous feedback tool where participants can mark their preferences out of three.
This is particularly useful if you have conflicting views between groups within the session.
For example, you might want to mark your preference out of three for colours or flavours in a new product.
You can then add up the votes to get their preferences and determine what would be best for the group overall.
What are the benefits of using innovation games in workshops?
The creative power of gamification is a fantastic way to get your team working together.
You can utilise games specifically to encourage the flow of ideas, stimulate collaboration and improve communication.
By playing games targeted towards your particular objectives, you’ll have more ideas than if you hadn’t!
How do I ensure that all ideas are captured at the end of the ideation workshop?
Using post its to capture everyone’s ideas reduces this issue as everyone can stick their post-it to the wall.
This way, everyone’s thoughts are visible and can be easily read by the rest of the group and can be quickly collated at the end.
What tools should I use to manage an ideation workshop?
The best tools to use will depend on the exact situation and objective of your ideation workshop.
A face-to-face brainstorming session typically needs pens, post-it notes, ample space such as a whiteboard or easel pad and a timer.
Something as simple as a stopwatch can serve this purpose.
If you are hosting an online session, you may want to use something like Miro or Mural so everyone can collaborate on ideas in real-time.
Introduce tools that work best for the scenario at hand and then use them consistently to maintain a certain level of formality throughout your ideation sessions.
You want to provide an environment where people collaborate freely with one another.
Still, you also need to ensure their ideas are recorded accurately and everyone gets a chance to be heard.
How can I measure the output from my ideation workshop?
Once you have considered the objectives of your ideation session, use that knowledge to measure its effectiveness.
Of course, the most straightforward measurement is to ask if the session met its objectives!
What is a good facilitator supposed to do in an ideation workshop session?
We wrote about this in a separate article.
Who will act on my ideas after the ideation workshop?
Ideas from a successful ideation session can be divided into three categories:
- Ideas identified for further investigation,
- Ideas where the implementation will come from other parts of the project team and
- ideas that need to go in a backlog or product development pipeline.
Remember that workshops can generate unusual ideas; you shouldn’t be afraid to capture them and ask for more information.
Encourage all participants to add their ideas wherever possible and avoid singling out individuals for criticism or praise.
You don’t want to stifle creativity.
Can I run an ideation workshop alone?
Ideation workshops are designed to get input from a larger group of people in a short space of time.
You can certainly run an ideation session with only one other person.
Still, we’d strongly advise against it unless you know your colleague exceptionally well and they’re also skilled at facilitation.
What is the difference between workshops and seminars?
The difference between workshops and seminars is the level of participation.
A seminar is led by a presenter who will talk to an audience.
In contrast, there are activities or exercises for participants to complete in a workshop.
What should I do if people start talking over each other during my ideation workshop?
This can be challenging for an event facilitator to deal with.
The best way of dealing with this is to acknowledge that people are talking, then ask them one at a time to start their sentence again and give the other person the chance to finish theirs first.
How many people should be in a good size for an effective workshop session?
The workshop size should be determined by what you’re trying to achieve.
Suppose you need everyone to give their input on a particular idea, for example.
In that case, you probably want as many people as possible.
Can I run workshops remotely?
You can certainly run a good ideation session remotely, and there are many online platforms to make this possible.
What are the three main types of brainstorming?
There are several types of brainstorming, the main three being free-form, one-directional and judgement.
- Free-form brainstorming is where participants brainstorm ideas without any guidance or set structure, which can often result in a large number of ideas.
- One-directional brainstorming means the facilitator has a list of questions they ask the participants to get them thinking about specific areas. For example, if you were looking at product innovation for school children, you might ask, ‘how can we make this better for children?’.
- Judgement brainstorming is where the participants are put into teams. Each team judges the best ideas based on a set of criteria, which can be helpful when there are many diverse opinions in the room.
What is The Unconference?
The unconference format is an informal meeting that supports participant-driven discussion through open-space technology.
An unconference has no set agenda, speakers or schedule of events.
Instead, participants propose topics that they want to discuss, and the schedule is formed from those proposals during the event.
How do I ensure my idea gets noticed during an ideation workshop?
The best way to ensure your ideas are remembered in a group setting is to ask yourself how you’d explain it simply if you were talking to someone else.
This way, you’ll understand how your idea might be simplified and communicated to the other group members, who might not be as familiar with it as you are.
What should I do if people start arguing during my ideation workshop?
Ideation workshops are a great way of coming up with many fantastic ideas.
Still, it’s also a format that can bring individual opinions into conflict.
If this happens, try to get the group to develop different ideas or group them into themes.
For example, suppose one person suggests an idea that another thinks is unachievable.
In that case, the group can decide whether to put it in the ‘realistic’ or ‘unlikely’ bucket.
What’s the difference between brainstorming and ideation?
The main difference between brainstorming and ideation is the purpose.
- Brainstorming involves generating ideas.
- Ideation focuses on analysing, prioritising and creating concepts built upon to develop into a product or service.