David Moon is something of a co-creation specialist. He’s helped run over 30 workshops and even found his way to Face by being a co-creator (aka a workshop participant). With his years of work at Face, we figured he’d be a great person to provide some quick tips on how to run a successful co-creation workshop. We asked for five, but he’s never been one to just do the bare minimum: here are seven!

people playing a game

1. Play games

Games are a very important way of getting to know people, and unlocking people’s imagination. They help break down people’s inhibitions and encourage them to be playful right from the start of a workshop, helping set a comfortable and non-intimidating tone for the day.

We tend to run a couple of games at the start of the day and a couple after lunch to provide a kick-start for the session’s work. If the moderator feels energy is flagging at any point, a quick and easy game can pick people up very effectively.

2. Use creative venues

Always try to run workshops in interesting and inspiring spaces. An expansive studio with natural daylight and views of a city will inspire creativity much more than a conference room in a hotel. You want a venue that will let you stick plenty of things up on the walls, has breakout spaces that you can go off into with a group, and ideally has some outside space for fresh air and breaks.

3. Take breaks

Co-creation workshops should never give the impression of being all work and no play. Co-creators won’t necessarily be used to being on their feet all day interrogating ideas for long periods of time uninterrupted, so regular breaks are an essential way of keeping everyone happy and motivated. We usually try and have one mid-morning break, an hour for lunch, and a couple of shorter afternoon breaks to stave off the mid-afternoon crash.

A tip on lunch: we find a lighter lunch packed full of ‘brain food’ like salads, vegetables, and fish can really help keep concentration and energy up all the way to the end of a workshop. Eating a large bowl of pasta or burgers and chips and then spending the afternoon talking about energy drinks will have quite the opposite effect!

4. Keep to timings

At the start of the workshop it’s important to stress to co-creators that in order to finish on time, they need to ensure they keep to the timings you give them, we call this The Pledge. If we say ten minutes for a break they need to be back ready to work in ten minutes time. If breaks drag on and timings slip it means less time for lunch and puts pressure on the moderator to speed up later exercises, which may not be helpful. Equally, as a moderator if you give people an hour for an exercise you need to ensure you keep them to that hour, no matter how long their discussions may be taking, so that you can stick to your agenda and get everything you have planned done.

5. Use good illustrators

The impact of good illustrators on a workshop cannot be underestimated; in fact they can be responsible for some of the biggest creative breakthroughs in a co-creation. Illustrators are briefed to capture visually any ideas that come up, which can be as simple as making sketches of the things people are talking about at the beginning of the day. However these little sketches can trigger other, bigger thoughts and ideas around the subject and help a concept take shape quickly.

by Beci Ward Illustration

As the day goes on and ideas are worked up in more and more detail, so the illustrations become more detailed and elaborate until by the end of the day you have fully illustrated examples of packaging designs and even potential press adverts. These illustrations are so important in bringing the co-creators’ ideas to life. The experience of witnessing an idea start in someone’s head, then be articulated in an illustration, to finally being blown up in bright colours on A1 at the end of the day, accompanied by potential slogans and variants, is one of the most inspiring parts of a co-creation workshop.

One watch-out about illustrations though… Often the illustrations can be so attractive and visually pleasing that an idea gets judged on the strength of the illustration that accompanies it, rather than the insight behind it. When it comes to voting on the co-creators’ favourite ideas, it is the moderator’s job to really communicate the thoughts behind the illustration and the USP of the concept. This way you’ll ensure people don’t just vote for the prettiest picture!

6. Capture EVERYTHING!

There can be so many ideas, suggestions and little gems of insight that fly around a co-creation workshop that it would be easy to lose something, which is why it’s so important to capture everything. Not only does this make clients feel confident that all ideas generated are being documented, but it will also help when it comes to examining and working on the outputs afterwards. It’s easy to forget where exactly an idea came from or what the thought behind it was, so going back to the notes made in workshops is a very useful way of documenting the journey. Take notes when people are speaking, take photographs of any outputs and video record all playbacks to make sure that nothing goes to waste. If you’re providing support at a co-creation workshop the camera should never leave your hand!

7. Finally, listen

It sounds obvious, but the whole point of co-creations is to put brands and consumers in the same room so that they can listen and respond to each other’s experiences and ideas for the brand face-to-face. The consumer’s opinion, while not being gospel, will at least be honest and based on personal experience of a brand or a product, so listen to it. The more a consumer feels they’re being listened to and valued, the more they will contribute. It’s very important to create this sense of openness in a workshop as it really does lead to the best results.

Listening to the consumers in this way has another long-term effect, which is that it actually enhances their respect for, and loyalty to that brand in a way that remains long after they leave a co-creation workshop. I should know, I was once a co-creator myself.

Another successful workshop… done!

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For more tips on how to run a great idea generation session, check out our presentation on the 3 Step Idea Generation Process: