Knowledge without experience is just not that powerful. So when we’re talking about social media with small or large groups, it’s vital that people experience what it’s like.

We’ve successfully used a very simple post and comment activity with VicRoads that really stimulated participants and led to very lively discussion. So here’s the recipe:

Choose a topic

Choose a topic that participants feel passionate about (or at least interested in). Our client chose ‘Dumb things we do @ work’, which had featured in a Deloitte’s internal blogging project. The focus was to get staff to identify inefficient work practices, annoying workplace issues, unnecessary duplication etc. Everyone had an opinion and stake in this, so it was easy to engage participants.

Prepare the room

This was quick. We put up poster paper around the room, with a poster for each division within the organisation. Each poster represented a blog where participants could post comments about annoying work practices emanating from that division.

We used a cafe-style arrangement in the room, with groups of about 4-6 people per table.

The only other thing you need is distribute sticky notes and pens on each table. We used yellow sticky notes to represent posts and pink sticky notes to represent comments.

Get the conversation going

Once the workshop was in swing, we introduced the activity and got participants to first discuss on their tables the sorts of things that annoy them at work. This warm up is really important – it stops you getting lots of blank stares when you start the activity.

Task 1: Write two posts

Then we got them to do the first task:

Write two posts on things that you think are dumb @ work using the yellow sticky notes. Then stick them on the poster representing the responsible division.

Participants took about 10 minutes to do this. A few got stuck and a few were nervous, but once people started getting up and posting the mood became very lively and engaging.

We followed this with a discussion about what it was like to write a post. It was great with people expressing feelings of nervousness, about not knowing if they were writing something too dumb, about feeling insecure because they were a new staff member. This discussion gave us valuable input in to the issues staff face and helped us plan a successful real blogging campaign across the organisation.

Task 2: Write comments

The second task was to get participants to comment on other people’s posts.

Walk around the room and read the posts. Choose those that you feel strongly about (positively or negatively) and write a short comment using a pink sticky notes and stick it under the post.

Participants wandered around the room and we took about 15 minutes for this activity and the follow-up discussion.

Results – paper experience works and builds confidence

This activity resulted in happy and more confident participants. It took away the mystique about posting and commenting, and gave participants a supportive environment within which to experiment. Plus it made them motivated to get online and do it for real.