Virtually Creative – a guest post from Sheridan Webb

smartphone-1445489_1280One of the downsides of being a small business, or self-employed is that you don’t have people sitting next to you who’s brains you can pick at a moment’s notice. That CAN be an issue as a training provider. Last Monday’s #bflg twitter chat was designed to help me with a specific creative problem and boy did it deliver, even though there were only around 8 of us involved!

It was fairly typical in terms of a twitter chat, and for those not familiar with them, they go something like this:

The initial posting of the question to which a couple of people may respond initially (don’t worry – people are often finishing work/phone calls/making coffee…other people soon join in: some stumble upon the conversation whilst others finish up what they were busy doing before)

Then there’s about 10-15 minutes of people getting their heads around the question – reframing it and seeking clarification.

Then the ideas start coming. Often, the first ideas aren’t the best (all the extravert types like me just blast anything that comes into their heads into the twittersphere), but they are necessary, because at around the half-way mark, 30 minutes in, we start hitting gold.

People understand the question, have had chance to think about it, and can build on the half-formed ideas that have been thrown out. Personally I got some cracking ideas from the conversation that I can now take back to my client (see below).

From this point on (and even with a relatively small number) you can’t stop the great ideas! Some go off on a tangent, but that’s creativity for you. It’s also why you need someone to wear a facilitator’s hat to keep the conversation vaguely on track.

And then in the blink of an eye, your hour is up.

Sometimes, the conversation is so fast paced that it can be difficult to keep up – using the designated hashtag can help (in our case #bflg) but even then, you can still miss bits as you are likely to get into one thread of conversation when 3 or 4 may be happening simultaneously. Thankfully, features like Storify  make it easy for the facilitator to pull together the tweets all in one handy place for reflection at a later time. Click here to see this weeks storify.

This week, the question was around how can we generate interest in a learning programme/event when it isn’t compulsory?

I’d already had a number of ideas, and many of these were suggested independently by others. The ideas that I HADN’T come up with on my own were:

  • Asking for real life problems from the target audience (in a ‘Dear Deidre’ sort of a way) and hinting at how they might be overcome (whilst publicing the training, which will naturally provide more in-depth assistance)
  • Making it scarce, and therefore desirable. By NOT making the programme available to everyone all of the time, but limiting places and dates, people are more likely to want a piece of it.
  • NOT using email. Email is background noise these days and likely to be ignored. An old fashioned invitation card will get far more attention.
  • Recognising that people are programmed for immediate reward so offering some quick fixes (nibbles) as well as proper development (main course) – Although I’d already thought of this approach, the 5 course meal analogy was new and I like it!
  • Stressing the value (in commercial terms) of the training and making them accountable. They are a very commercial organisation so clear facts and figures will certainly capture their attention e.g. “If one of your key team members is off sick for a week, that costs £xxx – learn how to avoid this by investing just one day of your time” – Of course, then we have to deliver on that promise 😉

This reinforces that people are social animals, and our brains work best with other brains. Ideally, we would all be together, but even when that isn’t possible, there’s real benefit in talking and sharing.

We will be running #bflg twitter chats every other Monday from 4pm-5pm UK time. Sometimes we will tackle general questions and sometimes (like this week) we will focus on a specific and real challenge. So if you have anything you want to discuss, please let us know! Follow @theBFLG @StellaCollins and @Sheridan_Webb and get your question…and your contribution out there!