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Last updated on 5/14/19

Kick Off Your Workshop

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The way you kick off your workshop can help shape the rest of it. Long, boring meetings are painful and don't often accomplish much. In design thinking, you want to show participants that you don't need a lot of time to come up with lots of great ideas. To ease them into the process, start off with an interactive activity to get the creative side of their brain working. This is not a passive classroom - it's an active workshop!

Icebreakers and opening activities

Icebreakers are activities that help "break the ice" and make participants feel more comfortable. They can also get creative juices flowing and even help people break out of their normal routine by interacting with those they don't know. Participants may even get to know a familiar colleague in a new way!

A simple idea is to give participants blank white paper coffee cups (they'll probably thank you if there's coffee available! ☕️ 😉). Make sure there are markers on the table. Then offer a prompt. One idea is to have them draw three symbols that reflect who they are. Afterward, the cups can be used as a conversation starter when introducing themselves to other participants. It also ensures that they don't accidentally drink out of the wrong coffee cup!

Blank to-go cups with drawings by participants: boats, cats, airplane.
You don't have to be an artist to draw! Cups created during the workshop by participants.

In addition to being a more creative way to introduce yourself, it also provided an easy way for participants to connect with each other and learn new things about their partner. Simple drawing exercises are also helpful to put participants at ease. Participants don't have to be amazing artists to communicate ideas or to think like designers. Having markers on the table may get them excited since most offices don't have a lot of fun stuff around to play with. When was the last time you drew with markers?

Creative introductions

Rather than having formal introductions, consider using the stand-up format (this concept was mentioned in the course Manage Creative Projects, where teams used it for daily check-ins). For many participants this may be the first time they're introduced to the concept. The other benefit is that it's quick and keeps things moving forward.

For a stand-up, have everyone...stand up! If it's a big group, have them move to the outside perimeter of the room or form a circle where they can see each other. Come up with a few questions for participants to respond to (quickly). They can introduce themselves by saying:

  • Their name

  • Where they're from

  • Their role/job

  • Their favorite book or movie

Having participants introduce themselves using something fun like a favorite book or movie can be a lively way to kick things off. This gives them more to talk about during breaks and can lead to some excellent networking. Imagine what question you would ask!

Mini challenge

Plan the opening of your design workshop. Include the activities, necessary materials, and how you'll introduce the activities (if you're using a slide, sketch it out). If you're doing a creative introduction, imagine what unexpected question you could ask! Consider something that relates to the theme of your workshop.

Let's recap!

  • Make sure your workshop day starts with good energy and excitement.

  • Consider an interactive opening activity where participants use materials (like markers) that they'll use again later for prototyping. Make sure the activity includes a sharing component so participants interact with each other right away.

  • A stand-up can be used in the context of a workshop kick-off to ensure that everyone meets everyone else. Make sure the activity doesn't go on too long.

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement