March 30, 2020 Why we love facilitating workshops

By Claire Hielscher

Avion team facilitating workshops

At Avion, our company tagline is ‘where messages take flight’. We’ve made it our business to help our clients’ communications soar, taking them from stationary to dynamic, stagnant to vibrant.

While a large part of our job as communication experts is to see messages ascend, we’re also here to help you dig deep. We aren’t satisfied with simply talking through your eDM statistics and surface level issues with your existing web copy. We’re interested in uncovering your motivations as a business owner, creative or entrepreneur. We want to hear about your audacious goals, challenges and big opportunities. We want to become a trusted advisor to help you make the right decision, reach that deadline or simply achieve more than you currently are.

How do we do all this, while also getting your copy done? We facilitate interactive and engaging content workshops.  

Many of our previous and existing clients can attest to the value and insights they’ve gained from our workshops. We thought we’d spend a bit of time exploring why we love facilitating workshops, and why we think you’ll love them too.

1. They help pinpoint your ‘why’  

For motivational powerhouse Simon Sinek, it all starts with ‘why’. In his influential 2009 book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action, Sinek sums up his thinking on this topic with the following:

“Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief – WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?

People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”

More often than not, we’re all intently focused on the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of our everyday. You may be accustomed to hearing things similar to “How are we going to work with sales on that?” or “What is the ROI on this activity?” – but how many times a day do you stop and ask the underlying question: “WHY are we doing this?”

A sense of curiosity and questioning needs space and time to come to light – this is what a workshop can help provide and facilitate.   Until you can clearly and confidently articulate your ‘why’, you’ll continue to get stuck in the busy work of your ‘how’ and ‘what’. This is probably our number one reason why we love facilitating workshops – it gives participants the chance to discover or revisit their important ‘why’.

We know from experience that your strategy is only as strong as the foundation it’s laid upon. There’s no stronger strategy than one that communicates the core of ‘why’ of your business exists. For Sinek, this isn’t just a case of set and forget. For him, “All organisations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.”

We happen to agree with him.

2. They can help to break down communication silos

Whether you work in a small team or a large organisation, communication silos can form pretty quickly. Once they do, it can be quite a challenge to break them down.

There’s a couple of key things to be on the look-out for when it comes to developing communication silos. Some of the most common warning signs are:

  • senior stakeholders aren’t across developments happening within groups or teams. Major projects may appear to be moving ahead, but the larger strategy behind them is unclear
  • inter-departmental communication is vague. While projects are being completed on-time in one department, the next is distinctly unprepared to pick up the ball and run with it
  • one-way communication is predominant. Communication from top-down is regular and flowing, but reciprocal feedback from the bottom-up is limited.

These warning signs are all interconnected and stem from the same problem: a lack of transparency and collaboration.

No matter what stage of business you’re at, breaking down these silos and the problems that come with them is crucial. One way to start making cracks in these communication walls is to actively promote an atmosphere of collaboration and sharing. How? Through a workshop, of course!

Depending on the focus of the workshop, it can assist with:

  • redefining your values and core purpose. Clarity around these elements is pivotal to ensure everyone understands your business’ core vision and goals
  • encouraging interdepartmental knowledge sharing. After all, knowledge is power
  • developing better, more streamlined processes that teams will actually use. Remember, it’s not worth investing in a new tool or software if your teams aren’t using it to communicate effectively.

Similar to defining your ‘why’, checking in on your communication silos should be something you do regularly. Dismantling your silos is one thing, keeping the flow of information and feedback going requires vigilant maintenance and constant upkeep.

3. They open the door to new ideas

We’ve all heard the old proverb ‘two heads are better than one’. Imagine the possibilities when multiple heads come together purely to brainstorm new ideas and solve problems. The potential is endless!

However, running a productive workshop isn’t simply a matter of getting different people in a room and hoping for amazing results. There’s a great deal of planning and orchestration that goes into ushering new ideas to life.

Your workshop needs a purpose

A workshop is only powerful if it’s aiming to solve a specific problem.

For new ideas to flow with ease, the first step is to define the goal of the workshop. Are you gathered to redefine your business values to the world? Do you need to audit your content to decide what to keep, consolidate or bin? Or, are you looking to overhaul your content strategy from the ground up?

Whatever the communication issue is, make sure you can clearly define the problem so a solution can be created to address it.

You have to assemble the right people

To generate the best ideas, you need the right people in the room.

Ideally, your workshop participants will be from all areas of your business – marketing, sales, customer-facing and executive. The more varied the perspectives in the room, the higher the likelihood for lively discussion and genuinely imaginative problem solving.

However, balance is also important. Depending on the goal of the workshop, you may choose to include some team members in the activity over others. For example, if the workshop goal is to define your customer personas, you may include more client-facing team members. If you’re looking to define your new website’s Information Architecture (IA), you may need more UX-inclined people in the room.

While more heads will ensure a range of ideas, remember to recognise the particular expertise and experience certain attendees may have over others in your business.

You need structure for success

A workshop goes very quickly, so you need a plan of attack to maximise the time you have together with your key stakeholders.

Each facilitator will structure their creative workshops differently. At Avion, we like to work directly with our clients to better understand their goals first. From there, we then plan the workshop activities to match these high-level outcomes.

One of our favourite activities to run is persona creation. This activity involves a lot of collaboration, brainstorming and creative thinking across each department. After all, persona creation is about more than honing in on your target market. It’s about understanding your customer inside and out, getting to know their habits, ways of thinking and decision-making processes. We structure this activity in teams and ask each group to present back with justifications for each point in their persona.

The results are normally heartwarming, thought-provoking and thorough – exactly what we want to see from a well-structured workshop activity!

4. They allow for expert collaboration

We pride ourselves on our ability to create bespoke workshops that work with you to achieve your individual business goals.

We’ve planned and facilitated workshops for international education industry leaders, nationwide not-for-profits, federal and state government agencies, and start-ups. As experienced workshop planners and facilitators, we bring our years of expertise and learnings in the field to your content. We’ll work with you as another partner in collaboration, helping you reach your big, audacious goals quicker than you thought possible.

So, if you’ve got the urge to get a workshop going in your business, we can’t wait to hear from you! Contact us today and let us start planning the perfect workshop to kick your content goals into gear.