Meeting & Training Space: Look at Coworking for Learning Events
By Lisa Akinseye
Have you noticed that a change of venue sparks creativity, boosts employee energy, and encourages collaboration and teamwork?
Simply moving offsite for one workday serves as a retreat for many workers, and motivates them to amp up their productivity for weeks and months to come. Here are 20 tips and tricks to creating a high-retention, positive learning and training environment outside of the office for the next time your team has a problem to resolve or needs a brainstorming session.
1. A coworking space is an ideal location to rent conference rooms and open areas at affordable rates.
2. It’s a perfect excuse for corporations and nonprofits to offer career development in a fun atmosphere.
3. The most recent Learning in America Survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that 80% of adults cite interactive methods and visual demonstration as the best ways to hold their interest.
4. Getting out of the office causes a buzz, long before the agenda’s are sent out, especially if the pre-notices are a bit cryptic and adventuresome. Simply saying, “Save the date. We will be working in a lime green and bright blue workspace all day next Friday.”
5. Then a follow-up teaser can be something like, “Management is offering door prizes to the first person who can guess where we’re going.”
6. And then, “This type of space is considered to be the new phase of commercial real estate, and it’s different from a shared office.” You may even want to note that they promote themselves in nontraditional ways.
7. Clues can continue on until the day before the event is held. The day before, the final clue will be, “Find a coworking space within 10 miles of our ZIP code that has hammocks and a game room along with free WiFi—remember, there is a prize for the correct answer. Groups have one hour from the time this email is sent out to solve the puzzle.”
8. Make sure the agenda is meaningful, but outside the norm of a standard business meeting. Send it out with the location, a brightly colored map and instructions to dress down for the day—depending on company culture, define whether that’s jeans and a t-shirt, sweats/workout wear, or even a pajama theme!
9. Think of your organization’s members or your employees as “whole learners”, and structure the meeting or retreat in the same manner.
10. Go to a user-friendly website that explains how to address learning styles—something that many people overlook when they are trying to teach or provide business training to others. One of my favorite sites is the Center for Accelerated Learning. They have a simple page that explains how adults learn best.
11. When you work with the coworking venue manager to set up the meeting spaces, try to remember that people learn best in an environment that has a balance between relaxation and stimulation.
12. Ask the events coordinator or coworking community manager to provide your group with learning tools that aren’t often used in office settings.
13. Make it a true sensory experience. Simple things like creating an MP3 with themed background music like “Heigh Ho” from Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the ‘80s, ‘90s and beyond. Make sure the word “work” embedded in the tunes. A few other examples are Bruce Springsteen’s “Working On The Highway”, Huey Lewis’ “Working for a Living”, Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5”, Kenny Chesney and George Straight’s “Shift Work”, to John Legend’s “Caught Up” or Beyonce’s “Six Inch (She Works for the Money”.
14. Think about this: traditional learning is focused on competition. While a bit of this is healthy in a work environment, what you really want is collaboration among team members, because that creates an intentional learning community. It also happens to be the root of coworking for many of us, as we come to depend on bouncing ideas off of other members, and trading business services, so collaborating is key.
15. Setting tables up that are conducive to conversation, placing white butcher paper and scented markers on tables are a few secret corporate training tricks. As are sprinkling candies across the center of tables (one with a sour theme or specific colors, another all chocolate, one with hard candies, etc.—inevitably, it will cause the workers to mingle between tables, just to get at the snacks.
16. Add even more personality to the event by having sensory toys—koosh balls, click clacks, bendy toys, fidget spinners, and items like Play Doh, a Rubik’s cube, and magnetic tic tack toe boards scattered about the room. Two of my favorite sites for purchasing toys for learning are Trainer’s Warehouse, Marbles The Brain Store and US Toy Company’s Small Business and Desktop Distractions categories.
17. Plaster the room’s walls with learning reminders—again, based on accelerated learning principles of “preparation, presentation, practice and performance” to maximize group learning retention. Motivational posters also work well. The Successories site is one of our favorites.
18. At the end of each mini-training session, ask for “takeaways”, or what team members have learned. Take frequent breaks the day of the retreat or brainstorming session. Again, the reason for renting event space at a coworking location is so that you have access to the amenities. Encourage workers to have a little fun throughout the day! At Evolve Workplace in West St Paul, MN, the reason behind having a game room, hammocks and cabana tents is specifically to allow for relaxation during the workday. Features like this are especially nice during work retreats, because the novelty encourages teamwork and bonding, while the game room nudges them toward competition.
19. When the groups come back to the table, mind’s refreshed from breakout sessions and actual breaks, focus the balance of the day on materials that will be useful once the team is back at work. For most of us, our minds are more like cameras than word processors. In PowerPoint, provide a lot of concrete images, rather than a lot of words.
20. Be encouraging—positive feelings accelerate learning, while negative feelings inhibit it. If you remember to take tip #17, the result of your meeting, event, conference or retreat will be success. Make sure you allow time for total immersion, feedback, reflection and re-immersion throughout the day.