Making your engagement efforts scalable

Making your engagement efforts scalable

Creating an engaging and interactive ‘workshop-in-a-box’ communications approach

An observation in Monster Towers at the moment, is how many times per week Danielle writes the following phrases in project scope documents – ‘we will develop a compelling corporate narrative’ and ‘we will design and create a visually engaging and content rich workshop in a box’

We shared with you previously, here, some steps and ideas around the first so now we will explore the second.

Why workshop-in-a-box?

The need to connect and engage people face to face is still strong. Even in a digital world there is still a desire for live interaction, as an opportunity to discuss as a group and to build relationships.

But with tighter budgets and globally dispersed employees, conducting centrally held face to face sessions is not always possible. A viable alternative is needed – combining the power of face to face interaction with the consistency and impact of centrally run events.

A workshop-in-a-box is this alternative.

What is a workshop-in-a-box?

It really is what it says on the box. A pack containing everything needed to run an engaging, interactive workshop. This usually includes:

  • A visual focus point 

Normally an illustrated version of the vision or strategy or a different visual representation of a new process or way of working. Whatever it is, this central visual provides a comprehensive focus point for the discussion. The more engaging, visually compelling and interesting it is, the more likely it is that people will spend time exploring and discussing the key messages.

  • Facilitator guide

This helps anyone facilitating the session to do so in an engaging and consistent way. Containing information not only on the subject matter but also tips on how to set up the room, how to ask open questions and what to do with the outputs. This helps to drive both consistency in messaging but also provides support to people who might be nervous or inexperienced in hosting such discussions.

  • Output templates

Most workshops lead to the development of outputs, be they commitments, action plans or ideas. By providing templates, the messages are more likely to be captured consistently. The added advantage is that these can be transformed into a permanent visual output which can be used on an ongoing basis to remind people of the part they played in the discussion.

  • Question cards

These help the facilitator drive interesting and engaging conversations.

  • Exercise instructions and materials

By designing activities or exercises for people to carry out during the session this will encourage interaction and increase understanding. The pack can contain everything you need to set up and deliver these activities including instructions and any materials.

  • Memory stick loaded with an Introduction video or animation

A good way to ensure that each workshop starts with the same context. Again, the more interesting and engaging this is, the more likely it will capture people’s attention from the start.

Does this approach work?

We are huge fans of big, impactful events in order to bring people together, forge strong relationships and encourage cross functional working but recognise this isn’t always possible. A workshop in a box approach is a very strong substitute. This is what previous workshop in a box attendees said about events they attended.

93% agree it was a good use of time
89% said “the conversation brought to life our objectives and helped me understand them”
92% said “I was encouraged to express my views during the conversation
95% of Managers said the pack has been an effective tool for communicating our Customer Delivery objectives to my team

Why are visuals so important?

Simply put, engaging visuals make content much more interesting. They allow people to discuss, debate and ask questions so much more than a set of PowerPoint slides. An engaging visual helps to physically draw people together, as quite often this is a large printed sheet that allows attendees to gather around and really collaborate. It can also be used following the workshop as a proof point of the involvement of many.

What topics could use this approach?

It could be used for the roll out of a future vision, the cascade of strategic plans and even training material related to technical technology changes. In order to make it a cost-effective solution however, work out how many people need to be communicated to, as the more people that can be involved, the more the cost per person reduces. This usually means communicating strategic or critical messages, collaborative visioning sessions and involving people in new ways of working. Now you could carry out a DIY version for minimum cost as long as it still remains engaging. Just providing a box of printed PowerPoint slides and instructions to read is not going to help your messages land!

So while nobody wants to be put in a box, a workshop in a box doesn’t mind at all. And Danielle won’t mind writing out her favourite sentence all over again!

Got a complex topic you want employees to engage with?

Our visual and creative design team can help you make an impactful, interactive and business relevant workshop. 



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Three takeaways from successful conferences.

Three takeaways from successful conferences.

It’s conference time again in Monster Towers and more than one is at the planning and design stage.  For our work, bringing content to life, this is the most creative time and the most demanding and conflicted time too.  We love to push the boundaries creatively and this doesn’t always provide comfort for those responsible for the successful delivery of the conference aims and objectives. 

There are many questions asked at this time and I’m going to focus on three that we hear a lot.  They represent the need for ROI and as conference time gets nearer, the questions increase in frequency and volume!  

Key questions any good conference organiser should be asking

 

In no particular order, these are the perennial favourites and they apply to any and every part of the conference. 

  • What are the three things that people will do differently as a result of the conference?
  • What is the one action that can be taken right away to bring about change?
  • What are the key takeaways? (and no, this does not refer to the goody bags)

Most of our readers will have heard if not actually asked these questions themselves. We have and we’re also constantly trying to answer them too. But just occasionally, the monsters are brave enough to challenge whether asking the delegates these questions directly will achieve anything at all.

No one wants to be the one that doubts their effectiveness. However, there is an unspoken acknowledgement, that even with the sending of the obligatory reminder postcard, it is unlikely that any of these questions is going to help land key messages, change behaviour or cement understanding of the new strategy. So what will?

How can you ensure the message lands without being patronizing? 

Following the release of the fabulous film, ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’, there was a positive explosion of individuals and groups, renting space or even hijacking billboards, to protest a point. Not just one, mind you, but always three.

Now did this come about because at the end of the film, in all film theatres, somebody asked us to consider the three things we were going to take away or do differently? No. They did it despite the absence of this prompt and that’s because, every single person that saw that film could see the power of a brilliant, yet simple idea.

Inspired, tragically by a real event, but then shared brilliantly by a great storyteller.
Very few people can remember every bit of a film, especially if they only see it once. Quite a lot of any conference is going to fade pretty quickly too and of course it makes sense to ask people to write things down they wish to remember.

It’s the directive bit that doesn’t help; the being told to take action or that you must remember three things specifically.

The core team we’ve been working with this week have had an obvious but helpful way of avoiding the predictable stuff. It’s very refreshing. They keep saying:

“Remember everyone here is an adult. They pay mortgages, bring up families, make leadership decisions every day. They can work out what to remember and what to do, on their own.”

Yes they can.

Three ways to ensure your messages land.

Here’s our three billboards, that we think will help the adults at your conference remember the right stuff.

  1. Create memorable content with simple ideas that stick. Don’t overcomplicate and resist the temptation to tell the audience everything you know
  2. Be authentic and use everyday language. If you think you have a ‘buzzword bingo’ script, get the red pen out and cut it.
  3. Allow people reflection time. Not everyone wants to rush out of the cinema. Sometimes you just have to sit and take in what you’ve seen – play it over in your head.

Just like a great film, if you thoughtfully create something memorable, then the adults will work out what to remember and what to do about it.  Trust them to get it right. There’s no need to send out a survey asking ‘What three things did you take-away?’  Instead, look out for the evidence.  If you’ve delivered a great conference, then the metaphorical billboards will be appearing all over the organization. 

Three at a time, of course.

What are your three conference takeaways?

We are experts in helping messages to land and that includes making sure delegates are clear on the key takeaways at conferences.



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Bringing your culture to life; A best practice example

Bringing your culture to life; A best practice example

Bringing business content to life, such as the company vision, or a strategy or explaining a change in process perhaps, requires a great deal of skill and a level of creative thinking.  

 

However, in all these instances, you are working with something which can be written down, described in words or pictures and is tangible.

But what about if it isn’t tangible? What if it’s your organisational culture you are trying to bring to life? How do you know you have achieved success?

How can you get something so intangible clearly understood by every single person in your organisation? No, scrap that, every single person that encounters your organisation?

Here’s how…

Moneypenny is a phone and live chat answering service based in North Wales who recently hosted an event, sharing ‘Employee Voice’ best practice for the Employee Engagement Alliance.

On arrival at the building, the traditional battle with security – ‘Have you booked a space?’ ‘Can I see some ID?’ was noticeable by its absence. Instead there was a well sign-posted car park, featuring quirky icons for the various zones (a love heart for visitors – cute!)

 

On entering the office, after walking past a giant gorilla, visitors are greeted at a floating reception desk by a casually dressed receptionist who oozed warmth. Not the ‘I’ve been trained to smile like this’ type of warmth but genuine ‘I am really pleased you’re here today’ warmth. 

The décor of the office is funky with a cheeky edge. Sheep on the stairs, giraffes on the landing and a floating shed meeting room. Employee perks were obvious. A pub (called the Dog and Bone – genius) a gym and individually designed wings of the office with themed artwork on the walls. Each employee has a dedicated desk which they can decorate themselves and they all get money to buy a desk lamp of their choice.

Now any company with the cash could design a funky office to rival this, but the the beauty of Moneypenny is that the culture lives in the people; the physical environment, whilst pleasing on the eye, isn’t the point.

The office design is in support of the company culture, not the other way around.

Need help bringing a message to life?

Have you got a message or change you want to ‘bring to life’? Tap into our vast array of creative skills, tools and techniques to help your message land effectively. 

Now any company with the cash could design a funky office to rival this, but the the beauty of Moneypenny is that the culture lives in the people; the physical environment, whilst pleasing on the eye, isn’t the point.

The office design is in support of the company culture, not the other way around.

This isn’t about putting in a ping-pong table and hoping one day someone will use it. Their culture has been around a lot longer than the new building and is based on simple family values. The staff were consulted on the design and it’s fun and friendly, because they are. 

Here’s why

  • People are recruited by attitude rather than skill set. The recruitment process is extensive and focuses on cultural fit above everything else.
  • Teams work closely together and become tight knit so meeting for a drink in the ‘pub’ after work is a pleasure.  
  • Office requirements such as natural light, natural ventilation and lots of social spaces all came directly from employees. Even the footprint of the building was designed specifically to ensure employee desires were realised.
  • Anything less than perfect performance is taken as a reflection of the quality of the leadership, team management or training and not on the individual. If an individual isn’t hitting the targets it’s because they haven’t been supported effectively, not that they are ‘poor performer’.

What these offices have above all else, is warmth. You literally feel it as you walk in.  There is a genuine welcoming, homely feeling to the whole experience.  It’s no accident.

This isn’t about putting a novelty pub in the office hoping people who don’t talk to each other normally will suddenly have the urge to share a pizza on a Friday night.

This isn’t about scrapping annual appraisals in the hope that inadequately trained managers will hold more regular, high quality coaching conversations.

This isn’t about gathering employee views and then ignoring them because there isn’t the budget or because implementing them is just too hard.

This is about fundamentally understanding the culture you want to create, and EVERY SINGLE THING being in line with that culture.  

When a visitor to your office who knows nothing about your company can walk away absolutely clear about what your company does, what it stands for and why it is so successful. Then you know you have brought your company culture to life… and that warm glow stays with you for days.

If you want to bring some creative thinking to challenge your normal approach and help bring your messages to life then get in touch with Danielle on danielle@purplemonster.co.uk. 



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Creating an experience which inspires trust.

Creating an experience which inspires trust.

Our Award Winning (!!) Visual Creator, Alana is getting married this year, and on a recent dress shopping trip was reminded of the importance of building a connection with people in order to build a good relationship.

This week I bought a wedding dress. I am actually getting married, this isn’t one of the random purchases for a Purple Monster event of any kind. And don’t worry, I will not turn the lovely weekly newsletter into a wedding blog…I am not that kind of bride. But what I was interested in was the experience.

 At Purple Monster we are convinced that good experiences come from making good connections. So how was the once in a lifetime wedding dress buying experience for me?

The answer:  very different in two very similar boutiques, (apparently, you have to call them boutiques; turns out wedding etiquette can be complicated). My budget, venue and timescales were all set but my super objective was to find THE dress. I also had some sub objectives like; try on ridiculous dresses, have a go at things out of my comfort zone, feel fancy, feel good, feel relaxed, feel comfortable and have fun!

Boutique one delivered on all of these fronts.

Welcoming – I was immediately offered a seat and given a coffee. Good start. I like coffee.

Friendly– The assistant, Sheeny and I chatted about ourselves, our families and friends and most importantly, what our favourite cheese was. After half an hour I was already showing her pictures of my dog.

Honest– when a dress made me look like a rectangle, she agreed with me that it made me look like a rectangle and offered alternatives.

Respectful – giving my mum and I some time to chat through each dress I tried on and being aware when I needed a bit of space and then chipping in with conversation, opinions and advice.

Attentive – I felt like I had her full attention. Each dress was analysed thoroughly and either in the maybe pile or the no pile. I felt like the only bride in the world!  
Unfortunately, Boutique two didn’t match up. There was no upfront chat, no getting to know me. I was talked over and did not feel listened to. They weren’t disrespectful but I left feeling a little, well, disappointed. – she didn’t even know I had a dog.

Using visual storytelling to build a connection

Alana, along with our team of creative practioners, are able to use a vast toolkit of visual skills and techniques to build a connection with an audience and convey a message with authenticity and a human focus.

Now, I am not for one moment suggesting that buying a wedding dress is the same as being in business but the principles of making good connections is pretty universal right?

We all like to feel like we belong. A warm welcome, be it to a conference, event, meeting or just to your desk in the morning can go a long way to improving someone’s day. (we’ll always make you a coffee when we see you)

Friendly

Humans need humans- we are tribal creatures, full of complex emotions. Taking the time to get to know your fellow people builds familiarity, trust and respect. Any major or minor workplace challenge is a lot easier to approach with a friend to confide in.

Honest

Sometimes it is hard to be honest, especially when it comes to big gnarly issues. But in the workplace, people are a lot better equipped to make decisions and take the best course of action if they know all the facts. Fudging issues just breeds distrust and destroys confidence. (Just don’t tell them that their outfit makes them look like a rectangle…)

Respectful

Give people the time and attention relevant to the situation. Be present and listen to what your colleagues have to say. Respect one another. It is one of the oldest sayings in the book.

Attentive

If you are head down and hard at work, remember once in a while to look up and see what the rest of your team are doing and if you can, support where necessary.


There are many other aspects to creating a good relationship and connection with people but these just stood out for me. Boutique 1 made the whole experience that bit more amazing. The connection built between the assistant and me made the whole experience enjoyable, put me at ease and it gave me confidence that I made the right decision at the end of it all. Sub objectives: achieved. Super objective: Achieved. I’ve got the dress!

Whoever said wedding planning was stressful?

Alana

If you want to help inspire trust in your organisation by creating positive experiences then get in touch with Alana on alana@purplemonster.co.uk. 



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Techniques to bring business content to life

Techniques to bring business content to life

One of the stated aims of Purple Monster and something that we’ve specialized in since the very start of our company, is to ‘bring content to life’. 

 

It’s something we’ve never really had to explain and yet clients and partners alike, absolutely get what it means.  It is a common request when we are preparing conference material, project communications and content for large change or learning programmes. 

“We need to Bring it to life”; to “lift it off the page”. We need this to be “exciting and engaging” and a recent favourite – “The content needs to blow people away.” 

Creativity is our friend when it comes to satisfying this request. Films, theatre, novels and comic books all use similar methods and techniques in order to engage and captivate their audience.

Consider a West End play or a Harry Potter novel. There are commonalities that ensure that the consumer of such experiences are captivated, that the content is remembered for years to come and in the very best instances, perceptions are challenged and a whole new world is visualised as if it were real.

 This all very helpful if you happen to be a Broadway theatre director or a best-selling novelist. What about if you are a leader or manager? What if you want to help employees fully understand your message and be compelled and motivated to take action?

 

If you have messages you want to bring to life consider how to are employing these tried and tested techniques: 

1. Visuals

By using visuals instead of text, messages can be conveyed quicker, people are more likely to remember them and they can help to express a much higher degree of information in a much shorter time/less space. 

This article helps to explain why this is the case. In the business world, an easy application is providing clever, metaphor rich visuals rather than slides and slides of bullet points.  

2. Script editing

The single biggest mistake of business presentations is trying to tell everyone everything.  Theatre and film directors, choose which scenes to show.  They focus on key moments in the story and let the viewer fill in the rest.  

For the sake of your audience, pick up this habit and don’t force your colleagues to grind through 500 pages😊

 

3. Storytelling.

A consistent story that begins, develops and concludes and is simple to follow is a must. You can deviate from the plot of any story, but if you abandon it and meander off somewhere else, you will leave your audience bemused and frustrated.  Know that the red thread of your story is always present.

See this article for the story types that are the most compelling and how they can help to frame a business narrative. 

4. Themes

A strong theme can really enhance how content unfolds.  It is seen by some as a gimmick, but a strong metaphor or analogy, or even a simple mnemonic can help learning to stick.  It might seem trite, but if you are involved in the creation of learning materials, try using ‘curiosity’ or ‘intrigue’ as a theme next time and see how it can enhance both the content and the application.

This wouldn’t be a monster article if it didn’t have a monster story – so here it is.

Quite a number of years ago we were invited to pitch to a well-known airline to enhance their Customer Service.  They asked us to bring the content to life and do something really different when answering their brief. 

We did. 

They were ‘blown away’ (their words) and said that no other company had come near to hitting the brief so perfectly. 

They then awarded the contract to someone else. 

This is the risk with creativity and being different from the norm. It takes a leap of faith and many leaders and organisations are often discouraged from stepping outside of the accepted norm. The saying ‘no-one got fired for hiring IBM’ is fitting in this scenario.

Luckily with the Monsters, you are in creative but safe hands.

Find examples here, of complex content made engaging, funny and memorable!

If you have business messages you want our help on makin engaging, interesting and full of life then the best person to contact is our award winning (!!) Visual Creator – Alana (alana@purplemonster.co.uk



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Making online learning engaging: Lessons from the best online MBA in the world

Making online learning engaging: Lessons from the best online MBA in the world

Warwick Business School (WBS) was ranked as the best online MBA programme in the world in 2018. This week Danielle looks back at the experience of completing her distance learning MBA at WBS and considers how the best practice developed there can be applied to corporate learning programmes.

It was clear to me after spending 3 years on their award-winning MBA, why Warwick Business School has recently achieved their No 1 business school ranking.

Any education institution can achieve the ‘content’ requirements but this focused on the holistic learning experience. The school created an engaging ‘learning ecosystem’ delivered predominantly, but not exclusively online. Below are my key insights for anyone looking to improve an on-line learning offer.

 1. Retain face to face elements.

Although this MBA was online, with global participants, face to face components were still compulsory. The elements that had to be completed on campus simply did not translate to online. They relied on personal interaction, observation, nuances and subtleties which are impossible to replicate in the virtual world.

Impact for corporate training: Don’t assume everything can be delivered online. If the content relies on skill development, requires practise or is abstract, then face to face is most likely your best answer.

 

2. Have engaging presenters/teachers

University lecturers are not selected for their screen presence or ability to entertain an audience, however the modules I actively engaged with, were the ones where the lecturers were engaging personalities. They didn’t just talk through the slides; they shared stories and anecdotes, and provoked interesting discussions. They didn’t shy away from interaction online and created an experience which felt more akin to listening to a radio show or a podcast than a lecture.

Impact for corporate training: Presenting anywhere is a skill, but the skill of presenting effectively online is massively underestimated. It’s incredibly easy to switch off during online learning so make sure the person fronting up the material is engaging.

 

3. Make the content relevant

One module I thoroughly enjoyed was ‘Economics of the Business Environment’. This would not normally be a subject I would be excited about, but I happened to be studying this module at the time of the EU referendum in the UK. Suddenly, the theoretical concepts were being brought to life and reported on daily in the news media.Very helpful!

Impact for corporate training: Don’t keep material in the theoretical. Make it timely and realistic. Encourage interaction with news articles, link content to current affairs and contemporary examples.

 

4. Create a peer-to-peer network

During my first year I spent a lot of time working with my ‘group’ online. We were all keen, but occasionally overwhelmed by the volume and complexity of the material.
After the first year, our group gradually stopped our weekly calls. My results in the second year reflected the fact that I had lost this critical element of my learning.That group brought the material to life. It helped me talk through ideas and linkages. It solved problems I couldn’t figure out on my own and it highlighted gaps in my knowledge that I had to revisit. That network was the difference between me mechanically working through the material versus truly understanding and applying my learning.

Impact for corporate training: Creating a learning network is critical and often completely omitted. Combine learning material and networking to both strengthen the learning process and build working relationships that go well beyond the duration of the training course? 

Interested in building a learning network in your organisation?

5. Don’t stick to the obvious.

One thing I loved about the MBA programme was the range of subjects I could choose. Leadership and the Art of Judgement was one of my favourites; using Shakespeare to examine modern leadership and the concept of ‘Practical Wisdom’. I was also obsessed by the module ‘Economics of Wellbeing’ – the business case behind being happy. Subjects like that gave me a rounded view of the business world and reignited my love of learning for the sake of it, not just because I had to pass a course.

Impact for corporate training: Reward your people with subjects and content that will ignite their passion and draw them into the learning process.

I am pleased and proud of my MBA status, but more than anything, I have a desire to keep learning and to apply that learning in our business. Wouldn’t it be great if learning within corporate settings achieved a similar result?

    Want to improve your online learning engagement ? Drop us a line on danielle@purplemonster.co.uk or call us on +44 (0) 1926 311347.



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