What We’ve Learned From Facilitating Over 500 Creative Workshops

by | Mar 4, 2022

We made all the creative workshop facilitation mistakes so you don’t have to!

My team and I have now run thousands of brainstorms, workshops and training sessions (that’s Now Go Create’s uber facilitator Anahita in the photo above, facilitating a session with Google). We’ve also spent many hours designing and re-designing our courses to create and deliver exciting, impactful, useful sessions.

Our most obvious role, is that of facilitator in the brainstorm or meeting on the day: we’re the ones who make sure the problem-solving session is well structured and runs smoothly. But what many people don’t realise is that the art of creative workshop facilitation requires a whole bunch of in-demand skills – good prep being one of them.

There’s more though. So we thought we’d share some of our brainstorm facilitation go-to tools, tips and tricks right here.

Start with the free brainstorm template, adapt it as you need to, and then use that alongside the tips here. Flex it to your own style and project needs.

The truth about creative workshop facilitation

As I’m sure you already know, there is no single right or wrong way to run a creative session. But we can help to provide some structure and ideas that you can pilfer.

By the way: do you know the definition of facilitation? It means ‘to make easy’. We also think of it like this:

  • It’s a process that assists participants in meetings to work to their objectives and achieve their goals
  • It focuses on the participants, not the facilitator.
  • It’s a way to create a safe space for everyone to express their thoughts (see our blog on psychological safety).

What we’ve learned:

  1. There is no one-size fits all. BUT the one thing that will never fail you is prep. What you do outside of the room matters as much as what happens in the room. And by room we mean real or virtual.
  2. What is the problem? Write it down as simply as you can. Then write it 5 x differently – change the verb (from attract to lure to encourage to enable, for example). Ask everyone to write their ‘Twitter’ brief – say it in 280 characters or less. What’s life or death? Here’s some more about briefing.
  3. Explain it to your gran – get rid of jargon.
  4. Ensure you have stimuli – customer insights, imagery, the results of any research or product information and your chosen creativity tools.
  5. Break the group into pairs or trios. You don’t have to involve the whole group all the time.
  6. Allow time for generating ideas and separately for evaluating them.
  7. If it all goes Pete Tong, take a 5 minute comfort break and regroup.
  8. Make sure you have prepped and resourced yourself. Ask if you have you done everything you can to prepare yourself, mind, body and spirit so that you can be fully present and engaged. And can create a playful atmosphere and environment for creativity and collaboration.

Check out these resources and free templates:

  1. Use trends as resources – have 5-10 relevant trends ready to use and use as triggers for your challenge.
  2. Use the candor app – have a remote brainstorm with one of our favourite online tools.
  3. Get to the root of the problem with the five Whys.
  4. Do the opposite of what’s expected with this ‘reverse your thinking’ tool.
  5. Scamper – this is one of our favourite ways to oil the creative wheels.

We have created a short, practical ‘How To Brainstorm and Facilitate Like A Pro’ module as part of our e-learning creativity course options that you can take at your own pace and work through your own challenges to get prepared. It costs £30 + VAT and can be used in even more depth alongside the template. You can get started today. Email me claire@nowgocreate.co.uk and I’ll get you enrolled!

Or join one of our open training workshops or book an in-house session for your team. Contact lucy@nowgocreate.co.uk

Never run a rubbish brainstorm again. Learn how to facilitate and unleash the power of collaboration in your workshops and brainstorms.