Even the best workshop ideas can get lost in the action. Phoebe Trimingham from Crowd DNA’s Socialise team shares thoughts on how ‘live copywriting’ can be used to spot, enhance and lift them to the surface...
Workshops are a fundamental part of our work at Crowd DNA. They get people talking, thinking and really engaging with cultural insights. We use them at various stages of a project: from aligning teams around trends and topics, to ideating and developing new products and concepts. Whatever the purpose, we root everything (and everyone) in culture from the offset.
But workshops can be challenging. There’s a lot going on, a lot to take in, and a lot of structure required to make them a success. All to often, great ideas get lost within the action. At Crowd, we deploy various methods to make sure our workshops are always impactful.
Integrating live copywriting skills is one such exciting addition to a workshop design – and it can really help lift the day’s creativity and ideas, as well as enhance the clarity and quality of the final outputs.
Live copywriting has multiple benefits depending on the business challenge – but we think it’s most effective within concept development workshops. While there’s not really a one-size-fits-all approach to live copywriting, nonetheless here’s a few general best-practice tips that we’ve picked up.
Know what you’re walking into
It sounds obvious, but the more research of the workshop’s wider context – and the discourse surrounding it – the more prepared you’ll be to tackle the language challenges on the day. I make sure I’m briefed in by the wider project team at Crowd, understanding the category, competitors and cultural landscape; and getting familiar with any associated acronyms and industry-specific phrases. We always write a vocab sheet of useful words and thought-starters beforehand, and prepare a few ‘wish-list’ options of how we’d like to push the language further in the actual workshop.
Who, what and where?
Next, zoom in on the day itself. What are the aims and objectives of the session? We treat our role within it as we would any writing brief: who will read the final output? What is the purpose, what’s the story? Where will the final copy appear? Is it a summary report to present to stakeholders, for example, or a series of polished concepts to test with real life consumers? Once you know the intended audience and purpose, the tone and overall focus of what you’re writing will also become clear.
Listen and edit-as-you-go
Live copywriting is tricky, especially when trying to digest lots of people’s complex ideas into accessible language. The key to any good edit is knowing what to leave out. So listen carefully to what is being said and use your knowledge of the wider context and overall workshop objective to decide what’s important, and what’s worth getting rid of. Similarly, as you write, spot if any ideas are being repeated. Can anything be clubbed into themes? Does anything contradict, or disconnect from the overall purpose? Be prepared for one-off word challenges: ‘what’s a better way of saying X?’, as well as delivering polished rewrites of ideas as they’re being presented.
Remember: clarity is king
Lastly, if it feels like the language is complicated, it probably is. It’s the writer’s job to cut through the noise, so a good tip for dealing with complexity is to quickly sketch the idea out as a graphic, along with a collection of direct quotes underneath. Mark it up and return to it during a break to rethink and rewrite when you have more space. If you can, sit away from the group when they’re feeding back ideas, to allow you to focus on objectively writing up in the clearest way. Finding the right words is crucial when translating big ideas but, for even further clarity, we often pair our live-writers with live-illustrators to make the ideas as instantly understandable (and visually exciting) as possible.
If you’d like to hear more about how we use live copywriting in workshops, please email hello@crowdDNA.com for a chat.