Guest article: How the simple act of talking recovered a dead workshop

Guest article: How the simple act of talking recovered a dead workshop

This month’s article is by Osbert Lancaster. Here he shares an invaluable technique for engaging participants in a workshop setting.

‘I’d already sidled out of the previous workshop. If I left this one too, I’d be wasting more of my time and money. So instead of walking out, I decided to step up.

“Unconferences” – where participants offer, and then lead, workshop sessions on topics they choose, are a great concept. But if that person, whatever their other qualities, doesn’t have some basic presentation and facilitation skills…

The speaker talked aimlessly about their chosen topic. Once the participants realised this wasn’t what they’d expected, they became restless and then resigned, checking their phones or staring out of the window.

I’d had enough. “Excuse me James,” I interrupted. Everyone looked up. “I’m not sure we’re all following you. Could we turn this around and ask you some questions about topic X?” A bit brutal, but the best I could come up with. James actually looked a bit relieved.

I turned to the others, “Can I suggest we spend a few moments talking with our neighbour about the things we most want to know about topic X? Does anyone have any objections? It that OK James?”

No one hesitated. The room was soon buzzing. After a short while I invited everyone to tell us all what came up in their paired discussion. A few themes quickly emerged and James was able to share his very real expertise – this time addressing the specific issues the participants wanted to know about.

“Turn and talk” is a really effective and simple activity – not just for workshops, but also for meetings. Used near the start it gets everyone in the room talking, so they are all confident to join in later, preventing a few people dominating discussion. It’s a great way to take the temperature: to hear people’s issues and concerns which can then be addressed or otherwise taken forward. It can also help with difficult decisions as people are more comfortable talking one on one than to the whole group, and more people’s views and ideas are heard.’

Osbert Lancaster is a facilitator of sustainability-related events and a specialist in green behaviour change based in Edinburgh. He believes in the power of conversation. Read his 11 suggestions to make conferences a space for great conversations.

How to solve problems using visual thinking

How to solve problems using visual thinking

Ever feel stuck?

Simple drawings are a powerful tool to shift us from a feeling of inertia to one of clarity and control.

If you’re grappling with a problem and haven’t been able to settle on a solution try drawing it out.

By simply drawing out the who, what, when and where of your problem you will soon start to see aspects you hadn’t considered till now. This act of putting pen to paper, of thinking visually allows for new ideas to form and solutions to emerge.

Want to take it further? Here’s your step by step guide (with thanks to David Sibbet):

1.      Focus the issue – who, what, when, where
2.      Start brainstorming solutions – one idea per post-it
3.      Group the notes and label the headings
4.      Discuss each proposal
5.      Vote on the most promising
6.      Discuss top three – pros/cons of each option.
7.      Make decision

This becomes particularly powerful when we start working as a group to solve problems and several ideas emerge.

Solving problems as a group and not sure everyone has bought into the decision? Tune in next week for a quick technique that tests this and ensures everyone is on the same page.

To tap into your creative problem solving skills don’t forget to book onto next week’s Secrets of Simple Graphics course on April 26th 2019 Book now >>

What if people think my drawings are silly?

What if people think my drawings are silly?

One of the biggest concerns I encounter when I train people in graphics is the fear of what people will think.

What will people think? Will they think my drawings are silly?

Will people take me seriously if I go into a room and start drawing star people?

It’s maybe ok for within my team but there’s no way I’d use it with external stakeholders.

If you are wrestling with these concerns, you’re certainly not alone. Anytime we step out of our comfort zone our subconscious goes into overdrive telling us all the reasons why we should just keep doing things the way we’ve always done them. But where’s the fun in that?

I hope I can help in some way to assuage your fears or at the very least encourage you to feel the fear, and do it anyway.

1. The first thing to bear in mind is that graphics are for EVERYONE. When graphics are used, everybody benefits, not just artistic people, or visual people, or people in ‘creative industries’. We’re all human, suit or no suit, and the advantages of graphics apply to every one of us. Why should we deny others the advantages of this wonderful tool simply because we falsely assume they won’t get it?

2. Graphics are as much about mindset as they are about skill. If you enter a room convinced everyone will laugh at you and it’s going to be a disaster, then you’re setting yourself up for a stressful time. Try not to focus on what people will think (after all, we have no control over this). Focus instead on you, on what you think, how you feel about about graphics and this will come across to your audience.

4. Trying graphics with a new audience? Position your audience in advance. Explain what graphics is and how you’re going to use it. You will immediately grab people’s attention and rouse interest. And making mistakes is ok. We all do it. It’s what makes us human.

5. Remember the colour rules – black for icons, dark colours for text, use red sparingly. Use colour carefully to categorise themes and this will build confidence in knowing your work is easy on the eye and makes sense to your audience.

6. Find the biting point. If you keep telling yourself you need to practice before you do it live it’s quite likely you’ll never do it live. The key is to actually start doing graphics before you feel you’re ready. Find the balance between honing your skills and getting it perfect. Because it will never be perfect. That’s the biggest lesson of all. It’s something that can be difficult to get our heads around. It’s also wholly welcoming and refreshing.

Remember, what’s the worst that can happen? People laugh? (that’s called an icebreaker) The paper falls down off the wall? (again, icebreaker…of sorts) You trip over the flip chart with Bambi-style finesse and fall flat on your face? (it’s happened to the best of us).

Above all, don’t hide your talents. The world is waiting!