Product marketers are creative. Re-framing markets. Building and re-building positioning. Telling compelling customer stories. Creating stories for salespeople. Building demo stories. It’s really fun.
But the daily grind can be a grind. Especially when the execution pressure is on, or the business or the team is under stress. And that creativity – and the energy and motivation we get from it – can get lost. And we start to deliver work that has less impact.
One of the workshops I do with clients is a storytelling workshop. It is a big hit with the teams. It boosts performance, engagement, team connection, trust, and joy.
Wanted to share my tips for workshop success, because we could all benefit by doing this with our teams.
Key Ingredients for Success
A moderator is there to create engagement and a conversation. People who work with each other have relationships, obligations, even politics. Your moderator should be someone from outside the company, to give the moderator – and the participants – the freedom to work hard, take risks, and make the time effective.
A Storytelling Point of View
There’s lots of different ways to tell a great story, but the workshop will yield best if the moderator is executing against a specific point of view on what makes stories great. Getting people to exercise their muscles towards a clear standard unlocks more creativity.
A Creative Physical Space
The place where you do the workshop makes a big difference. It cues people’s brains. My workshop studio 20 miles south of San Francisco is a former country general store crammed with interesting things (a scale, a swift, a sewing table, a squirrel-shaped nutcracker, pieces of stained glass). And definitely don’t host it in a conference room in an office or hotel. Boredom central.
You have to create safety. There are no wrong answers. Just ways to get better. Making this clear will make it so everyone gets the most out of it, regardless of their confidence on storytelling, performance, socially. An outside moderator is more credible asserting this.
Non-business and Business Exercises
The first exercises should NOT be about your business, but the last ones MUST BE.
My most recent workshop’s first exercise revealed a team of astonishingly good storytellers, and led to a shared point of view, created by the team, about what makes a great story.
And the business-story exercise led to amazing discussions of the company’s tone, stories they could tell to specific customer segments, and untapped tools in the company’s marketing toolbox. You need both types of exercises, in the correct order, to uncover great ideas.
Just Do It
For marketing teams, especially product marketing, a storytelling workshop is a small investment with a big return. If you have additional ideas for how to do such a workshop, I’d love to hear them, and I’m always happy to answer questions.
From the front porch in Moss Beach,