Streetmate Ambreen Aziz rocked her son’s 4th birthday party last Sunday:
She created Darth Vader mayhem with home made light sabres, may-the-force-be-with-you party bags, a bouncy castle and more. It got us talking about how workshops really benefit from a bit of party magic too!
We recently ran two day-long workshops, and as always lots went well, lots to learn. Here’s where the party should/ could have happened…
Welcome one and all!
It’s so important at a workshop to set the tone of the day, and to help everyone feel welcome right at the beginning. As always, set up is key, so it’s important to objective share with everyone so they know whey they are at the workshop. But, just as important is generating some warmth in the room – towards each other and anticipation of a fun day to come. An ice-breaker mingler, an easy, fun game where you help people meet each other and bond is essential at the start of the day.
Fast and furious competitions for energy spikes
We had a competition at one point to make up cardboard boxes from flat packs (these were all mock up packaging ideas that I’d prepared earlier). First person to make up their box won a prize! It helped because it would have taken me ages turn each flat pack into a box, so incorporating a game into the proceedings saved me prep time. It also brought out the competitive edge in some of our respondents which got their adrenalin going. We got the ‘winners’ to help the people that were slower at the task, so it also helped with cooperation too. However, on day two I forgot to give out the prize for the fastest box-maker. Big mistake! The participant emailed me to let me know after the workshop!
The competitive element reminded me too of a time when I attended an agency day at Boots. There were probably representatives from 30 agencies there and we were all sat at tables and asked to complete a problem solving task (with prizes for the best table). That kind of competition sharpened our minds and got us to suss out the competition too (all in a semi-playful spirit). So, with a few fun and games you can set the performance expectation bar high with participants too…
Party bags, prizes and rewards
As mentioned, at our workshop we had prizes (even if I did forget to give them out) and we also had party bags as a thank you for respondents to take home with them at the end of the session. There was no need really for the party bags, as everyone was getting a great incentive, but I wanted everyone to go home feeling really valued, and I think the party bags helped them feel like they were being thanked for their contribution in a genuine way. From a client perspective I think workshops absolutely need to end on a high, a happy note, they need to see all the participants drift off contented. A workshop is a working debrief – all day long – and so everyone’s good vibes are an essential part of the success of the day.
The post lunch energiser
We all slump after lunch – it’s also usually the time in a workshop where the serious work needs to happen. At our recent workshop we were a bit half-hearted with our post lunch energiser. We did mock sword fighting on day one, and on day two we tried to do a few exercises. Moving about after lunch definitely helped, but we should have prepared a more fun game that got everyone moving – next time I’m going to try to prepare a runaround exercise that would do Ambreen’s four year old proud.
Draw and make it
Kids parties aren’t all about total mayhem, they are often about creating and making too. At our workshop Beci Ward – Visualiser Extraordinaire brought alive our ideas for packaging and helped us visualise what a great pack might look like. “www.beciward.com”. Workshops need space and time for all types of creativity – not just verbal thinking but visual thinking too.
Like proud parents we should be recording everything that happens at the workshop so we don’t miss a moment after the event. There’s often so much creativity and magic at a workshop, but it’s all too easy for it to get lost in the moment when we split into smaller groups, do individual exercises and have ‘big group’ sessions too. It’s really important to make sure, therefore, that you: take photos of what’s going on at every stage (having photos of the day takes clients back there in the debrief). Have numerous recording devices for mini group break-out sessions. Keep every scrap of paper after the event (I threw away the boxes we’d made after day two of our workshop in a tidying up mania – I threw away some ‘gold’). Video everything. Set up a video diary space so that respondents can go record their personal thoughts too away from any dominating team members. In a workshop dominating people will ‘amplify’ even more than in a group discussion, so you need to give quieter participants space to express themselves too.
Preparation has got to the be the key
Ambreen spent ages thinking up the different games for her son’s party. Actually, she spent a fair bit of money on the event too – even though a lot was home made. Time and money investment in workshops, just like parties is the key. If your workshop is a day-long event expect two day’s worth of preparation – you need to think up inventive games, you’ll need to prep materials, you’ll need to book the perfect venue (we used the Megaro Hotels new meeting rooms at Kings Cross, it was excellent apart from the air con). You need to get there early – and you’re going to leave there late. But hopefully tired and contented like the parent who has just held the perfect party!