Unlock your creativity with outdoor workshops

Post by Anne Charbonneau, Managing Partner based in Amsterdam.

Virtual meetings are effective, but how can we freshen things up?” asked a client on a recent growth strategy project. We decided to literally freshen up the process by getting out in the fresh air: we designed and facilitated our first fully outdoor team workshop in one of the participant’s gardens! This turned out to be a highly effective and enjoyable session that allowed us to get round some Covid restrictions regarding inside meetings. But it exceeded our expectations as a workshop in its own right and I would consider doing it again, Covid or not.

In this post we look at the advantages of this approach and tips for running effective outdoors workshops.

The big ‘pluses’ of outdoor meeting and workshops:

  1. The natural environment encourages people to behave and communicate more spontaneously. People can literally ‘unlock themselves’ from the confines of four walls. allowing creativity to flow more freely.
  2. Better team energy:  research reveals that being in nature makes people feel more alive (1), thanks to sensory experiences, more movement and much needed natural light. Specifically, in these crazy Covid times, getting outside allows people to break out of their locked-down routine of endless video meetings
  3. Healthy and safe: helps solve Covid-related logistical issues and the need for ‘fresh air’, literally and figuratively 
  4. A more unique and memorable experience than your average meeting room session, with the output more likely to ‘stick’ in people’s minds as a result.

Designing and facilitating an effective outdoors workshop:

  • Tech: prepare well to be able to cope with no Wi-Fi /low tech set up. 
  • Use horizontal surfaces in the absence of walls : we used lots of A3 printouts on the floor and small tables to put stimulus on
  • Find a big open space: min 100 m2 is a good guide. Trees or hedges can actually be helpful as natural partitions.
  • Use the natural environment as support & prop for games and energizers. Put up a washing line to hang up papers.  Have some fun and get the team involved in making things work on the practical front.
  • Work in pairs to make it easies to keep socially distanced
  • Get logistics right & ready: a canopy in case of rain, small tables or waterproof floor covers. 
  • Prepare plenty of small rewards to satisfy the skeptics: depending on the weather, this could be hot chocolate or caps and sunglasses!

3 things to start doing now to get an ‘outdoor kick’:

I usually spend 2 hours per day outdoors, and find that fresh air and movement give me the energy I need to run the intensive project & workshops we do at the brandgym. Beyond outdoor workshops, here are some small things you can do to get outdoors energy:

  1. Have routine ‘walk & talk’ meetings, even if it means going around the block 3 times. Everyone has heard of this but fewer people actually do it
  2. Take you lunch with you and go sit under a tree for lunch, ideally with no phone!
  3. If you are a team leader, run ‘alfresco’ weekly check-ins. Let team members book the patio or terrace for meetings, like any other conference room. 

In conclusion, using outdoor spaces for private and work purposes can help you feel better and work better. The weather is getting fresher now in many parts of the world, but don’t let it stop you experimenting in the coming couple of months!

Sources:

  1. http://www.rochester.edu/news/show.php?Id=3639