Hybrid workshops: from hell to heaven with the Pip Decks community

Hybrid workshops: from hell to heaven with the Pip Decks community

Guest article by Ann Storr, member of the Pip Decks community.

Pitching a hybrid employee workshop over four sites felt like a great idea… until I remembered that I end up singing on Zoom calls when I can’t find the right screen to share.

And I have tech fear.

And stage fright.

The project: update the Tone of Voice and brand story for a rapidly expanding co-working group. Front of house and community teams have most contact with the members, so we needed to learn what they think about the brand, where they feel confident and where they’d like help.

So: hybrid workshop.

But these make me panic, and my autistic brain will shut down. Not good.

Hybrid workshop hell

I’m sitting at my kitchen table and something isn’t quite right. I’ve posted in Pip Deck’s Slack community to get help on my workshop, but there’s a metaphorical stone in my shoe. The help from the community has been brilliant, but, as the coaches say, something isn’t aligned.

My second cup of coffee hasn’t got the chance to go cold as I sip it and panic.

  • I’m not asking the right questions.
  • I don’t know what questions to ask to get to the right starting point.
  • This loop needs breaking and I can’t do it alone.

What do I do?

Hybrid workshop heaven

One thing I’ve learned about delivering impactful freelance work is:

Don’t Try To Be Good At Things You’re Not Good At.

There’s nowhere to hide when there’s no team around you.

Ece Kurtaner, Pip Decks Community Host, is brilliant at workshops; we’ve collaborated together before either of us joined Pip Decks, so a couple of messages later and I’ve booked her time to help me create and deliver the workshop.

We create a Notion page, and I upload the Workshop Tactics that I think will uncover our findings; I’m running with:

By the time I open the file, Ece has added in a new order, reformatting and making sense of my brain dump. A week later we’re on a call and Ece is quietly, and gently telling me "Ann, this isn’t right". I know it, so, though my brain is fighting the changes, Ece’s reframing and thinking with fresh insight. The fog starts to lift.

Community heaven

During the couple of weeks that Ece and I were talking, the Pip Decks community is doing what it does best: nerding out, sharing ideas and chucking suggestions under my original post. They're exceedingly generous with their time and insights; I’m learning everything I can.

Steve Rawling, author of Storyteller Tactics, has been helping me think through narrative-based options.

Tom Kerwin, author of the upcoming Innovation Tactics, jumps in and shares a prototype card from the upcoming, completely unpublished deck (I did wonder why the card he shared was homespun - I wondered if there was a stealth Pip Decks contender cold pitching ideas in the community).

It’s getting exciting.

Finding that hybrid workshop flow

Final meeting. I bring the community’s suggestions to Ece, and we’re working through the ideas.

We go over it again.

We’ve got it now; we’ve got a flow that will uncover:

  • Icebreaker. Who people are, what their job is, how long they’ve been in post & what they enjoy most about their job.
  • What they think of the brand, and where they want it to go.
  • Play for Real. Examples of brand communications from others, so we can understand what they think.
  • Rose, Thorn, BudWhere are the team confident, where are they not confident, and how can we help them?

Laying strong foundations

It’s two weeks to go, the Miro board is ready; again, I’m ‘belt & brace’-ing it - I want to make sure that my guests know their time will be well spent, and that they’re familiar with Miro.

Joel Stein helps us with ideas about talking with the group before-hand, suggesting a ‘Hopes and Fears’ board, where guests can share their hopes and fears about the session.

Too many workshops can be filler, so providing a useful workshop exercise as a warm up helps us to communicate 'we have thought about your time, it will be well used'.

In the days beforehand, I can see colleagues filling in post-its, worrying that they won’t have much to say, or that their time will be wasted. It gives me the opportunity to get to know their concerns and hopes, and hit the ground running.

Crunch time

The Miro boards are ready, and I’m nervous. I’m in the Whitechapel HQ, and Ece’s online up north. I’m pacing the office space and mainlining mint tea. Ece is the calm to my nerves; we’re logged on good and early.

The team is passionate about their purpose, they’re full of ideas and respond quickly to every prompt. Virtual post-its are flying around, people are being (brutally) honest and, amazingly, we’re done ahead of time.

The findings

The findings from the workshop help me to find out new points of view for my client; more than ‘people want to be good at their job’, we’re able to learn:

  • How committed the team is to the company and its mission.
  • What resonated, and how strongly they hold their opinions.
  • The teams’ strategic strengths and gaps.
  • How we’ll need to move forwards now, and into the future, to embed the work.

Oh, that hybrid workshop? Nailed it

The community and deck authors sharing their suggestions meant I had top-class instruments to help me uncover insights beyond the basic.

Positive, open and generous communities are gold-dust for freelancers; if we had to pay monthly subs for everything we need to provide agile and top-quality services, no-one could afford our rates.

Being part of a community of delightful nerds who want to deliver brilliant work helps everyone to lift as they rise. Not everyone gets to know the team well, but just being active means I’m connecting with the authors and getting to learn more. And delivering better work for my clients.

The CMO? She said that the insights from the workshop were bang on; some things we uncovered keep the CEO up at night.

Now onwards to help everyone sleep a little better.

If you'd like access to the tactics Ann talks about, you can order the Workshop Tactics deck online now! And you'll also get access to the fantastic community (yes, including Ece) and the Vault, home to workshops and tutorials to help you nail every workshop you facilitate, just like Ann did.

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