Putting the work into workshop

Workshops need to have a purpose. An earth-shattering objective? Hardly, and yet workshops, in many large corporations, have developed a deserved reputation more as a day away from the office, than anything likely to determine the future of the business.

Partly it’s over-familiarity; companies have put on far too many workshops covering too wide a range of issues. And partly it’s a failure of definition. For a workshop to be successful – and they can and should be fantastically successful – their purpose needs to be agreed and defined in advance. The most successful workshops benefit from preparation on the part of the participants. The better the preparation, the more solid the outcome.

For example if a workshop is to discuss improving a company’s performance, then it makes sense that relevant material in presentation format is available; for instance, recent financials, trends, budgets, the competitive landscape etc. Like many worthwhile things, a successful workshop is a process, not an event. Unfortunately the more usual workshop format is for people to rock up largely unprepared. I've witnessed workshops where even senior management breathlessly arrive (late of course) asking what it's all about. As a result, discussions are nebulous, no worthwhile decisions are taken, and two weeks later, all is forgotten.

Whereas a ‘process workshop’ works like this. Firstly, the required outcome is determined, likewise who needs to be there. All the parties are briefed as to what they will be expected to provide in terms of information and materials. A time-lined agenda is set. Brainstorming takes place using tools and techniques proven to generate new ideas, and these ideas are captured, ranked and documented properly. And subsequently converted into actions with named individuals responsible.

Done like this, a workshop taking a single day can start a valuable process that improves the wellbeing and prospects of the business. A day away from the office; maybe. A day away from the business; no way!

Presenting a seminal seminar

Whilst I’m happy to offer a seminar in any one of the 8 services areas I offer, I’ve so far only given seminars in Branding and Marketing as this is what most companies seem to be looking for. I’ve taught Branding, Marketing and indeed Copywriting at postgraduate level, and to my surprise I discovered two things. One; I enjoy it, and two; I have a very clear objective in mind for students. Namely that students understand what they’re told and can apply it; and get enjoyment and a deserved sense of accomplishment from using their newfound abilities.

Now this might not seem like a life changing objective, but I’ve discovered that too often what passes for education in ‘Branding and Marketing’ is the peddling of mumbo jumbo, the only really comprehensible part being the fees. ‘Brand speak’ abounds, where students are bamboozled into studying concepts that even their most ardent proponents struggle to explain in plain English. And the worst of it is, students can’t use the ‘information’.

Contrast this with the following excerpt from a BBC Radio 4 program about Isaac Newton:

“In 1687 Isaac Newton attempted to explain the movements of everything in the universe, from a pea rolling on a plate to the position of the planets. It was a brilliant, vaultingly ambitious and fiendishly complex task. It took him three sentences. Newton’s laws have been refined over the years – most famously by Einstein - but they were still good enough, 282 years after they were published, to put Neil Armstrong on the Moon”.

Now if Newton could describe the movements of everything in the Universe in three sentences, how difficult can it be to communicate the principles of Branding and Marketing? Yet I’ve heard 'experts' at a loss to simply and clearly explain the theories they're expounding upon. Branding and Marketing 'education', and a lack of clarity, too often go hand in hand. Businesses deserve better.  

Suffice to say, my seminars are b/s free zones. My approach to Branding and Marketing Seminars is one which seeks to demystify what is actually a very straightforward subject, and which gives your management and staff the tools they need to use. Your attention please class!