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Designing a design session: how to generate great event ideas in 15 minutes

Arianna Rehak, co-founder and CEO of Matchbox Virtual Media, reveals how the company co-created 16 pages of event ideas in 15 minutes.

Yes, you read that right. 16 pages. 15 minutes.

During an internal, company-wide ‘Show and Tell’ meeting at the end of last year, we hosted a collaborative problem-solving session that we called ‘Fun with Networking!’ The idea was to give the team a prompt (in this case: “Tell us about an event you’ve attended which successfully fostered relationship building among those who attended”), grant them access to a shared document, set a timer for fifteen minutes, and let thoughts run free.

We thought we might get a handful of new ideas to look at in 2021. We had no idea just how successful it was going to be.

How did this all get started? We wanted to host a company retreat at the end of last year – and we, like everyone else, needed to do it virtually. We came up with the idea to turn it into a one-day internal mini-conference and invited team members to create sessions around their interests. We hosted the whole thing on an early version of our platform and called it ‘Matchbox Show and Tell.’

It was at this ‘Show and Tell’ that we hosted ‘Fun with Networking!’ We welcomed participants into the virtual space, outlined the concept and prompt, and posted the link to a shared document in the chat. With a movie score from the Harry Potter films playing in the background, we all rolled up our collective sleeves and dove right in.

We had set up a one-page table with one column titled ‘Name’ and a second titled ‘Answer.’ At that moment, we watched the team ideate in real-time. The page was filling so fast with ideas, the document was impossible to read. We kept adding row upon row until our expectation of ten rows of suggestions turned out, in reality, to become 16 pages full of palpable, successful networking tools.

Igniting even more ideas

From that point on, we knew this style of brainstorming had the potential to be powerful. Over the course of the next few months, we began to test and adapt the idea, hosting weekly meetings that we started calling ‘design sessions’, each with a different prompt and objective.

As time progressed, we added more components to help aid the brainstorming process, including the incorporation of breakout room discussions and the hyper-powerful “yes, and…” column.

By the end of each meeting, four or five never-before-executed session types or virtual event activities were formulated, co-creation style.

Simmering these new ideas into recipes

After several design sessions, it seemed we had too many session formats to keep track of in these documents alone. There had to be an organized way to outline these new ideas that could be digestible for our clients’ use.

And then, inspiration struck... What better way to make session formats more digestible than to turn them into recipes? A description, a list of ingredients, and basic instructions.

And so, we immediately began turning notes from these sessions into clear, organized, and appetizing recipes that could be compiled into cookbooks, which can, in turn, be used to design and plan event “meals” for any audience in any format.

Try using this co-creation format for design sessions for your own community to generate original ideas that will give your events a competitive edge. Here is a design session recipe to get you started: Matchbox Virtual Media: Design Session Recipe

This content is sponsored by Matchbox Virtual Media.


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