I conducted a nearly all-day brand positioning workshop in the Philadelphia area yesterday … the first I’ve done of this scope since I went independent from the Big Agency. We unearthed more than a few insights about their target customers, and new ways of thinking about positioning the company, “de-positioning” the competition and expressing who they are in more compelling ways. The client seems pleased — and they’re looking forward to how we follow it up.
Workshops are beloved by consultants, but often dreaded by participants, who believe — often not without merit — that they have more productive ways to spend their day. But executives also rightly believe that there is merit to detaching fingers from keyboards and ears from phones to talk together about strategy and focus on the long term with someone from the outside. The key: How to ensure not just that everyone’s getting something out of the Workshop, but that everyone feels that it was valuable. I’ve conducted and attended more than a few Workshops, good and bad… when I’m foisting myself on a client for the day, here are my guiding principles:
- Is this trip necessary? Before planning a day-long workshop, I ask the client whether there’s another way. Can we get the consensus we need over email, or a shorter call? Is this the best way to deliver the training? Do we all need to do strategic planning, or would we be more productive reviewing and revising the strategic plan? Make sure there’s real value to gathering the participants in one room.
- Make your goals have value. Everyone knows you need objectives. The key is to be sure that the objectives are ones that you can accomplish, and that your participants will feel that the accomplishments were worth accomplishing.
- Avoid ‘death by PowerPoint.’ I keep the slideshow simple. When I reported research results yesterday, I handed out the charts on paper and kept them off the slideshow. I think it made for less staring and more discussion.
- What happens in the workshop does NOT stay in the workshop. There is something about bringing a consultant in to facilitate a workshop — especially if its off-site — that separates the discussion from business reality… so that what happens in the workshop is consigned to the ashheap of business history.
It takes timely follow up and a committed champion in the business to ensure that ideas, inspiration and decisions make it back to the office. How about you? What works and doesn’t work in your workshops?
And finally… I was going to conclude this post by recalling a funny story about some big internal planning workshop I participated in at my old company. But I can’t remember any of the details, which is probably telling.