How to Turn a Think Tank Debate into an Engaging Workshop

Replacing Post-its with a digital alternative can help you speed up brainstorming and generate more qualitative output

Dasa Kasparova

Imagine you have 100 CEOs gathered in one place for a half-day of discussions. How do you make sure you get the most out of their collective knowledge?

Entreprise et Progrès, a Paris-based think tank focusing on corporate governance, used Slido during their annual event to boost the interaction with its members, efficiently collect participants’ ideas and have a clear and practicable output from the debate.

In order to facilitate time-efficient brainstorming, the organizers decided to put paperboards and Post-its aside. Instead, they used Slido as a digital alternative to collect people’s ideas in real-time.

The results?

  • More qualitative output from the debates
  • Less time spent explaining individual ideas
  • Data that is easy to download and work with post-event
  • Dynamic and interactive meeting flow
  • Stronger image that’s digital and innovative

To dive deeper, let’s look at how they did it.

Discover more interactive success stories in our guide.

Background

Entreprise et Progrès (E&P) is a 100 member strong  corporate governance think tank based in Paris. It represents over 1 million employees and focuses on various topics including corporate governance, social responsibility and leadership.

During its 45 years of existence, its debates have aimed to come up with solutions on how to support the economic development of the companies while also nurturing their human aspect.

The most important event that addresses this issue is its annual event Colloque, attended by one hundred members and company’s CEOs. In 2017, they gathered for a half-day to discuss the topic “Politics and corporations: how to take advantage of them to invent a new governance.”

Annual event Colloque attended by CEOs

The challenge

The goal was to make the most out of collective intelligence while discussing topics like leadership, company culture and the “bien-être” of the employees. With a hundred of people onsite, Post-its and paperboards needed to be replaced by a digital solution to:

  • Accelerate and easily facilitate the debate in the room
  • Save time by focusing on meaningful debates rather than exhausting idea presentations
  • Be able to extract the data and work with them easily post-event

Interaction points

The event facilitator Jean-Maurice came up with the idea of “interaction points” to be infused throughout the sessions. The goal was to change the dynamics of the event so that it was perceived as an engaging workshop rather than a monotonous conference.

In Slido language, the interaction points consisted of:

  • live polls to kick off the event,
  • Q&A segment for the interviews and panel discussions,
  • crowdsourcing ideas via Slido to make the brainstorming more efficient.

Format

Opening

At the beginning of the day, Jean-Maurice introduced Slido and ran a few warm-up polls to find out more about the profile and expectations of the attendees (e.g. What type of company are you representing?; Why did you decide to join this event?). This helped him steer the debate according to the audience’s needs and get to know the non-members who were present.

Panel discussion

The program kicked off with a panel discussion to set the context of the topic and provide background for the group discussions that were to follow.

Stéphane, who was leading the interviews, was taking questions from Slido at different moments of the talk to address what was on the audience’s mind. He noted: “Usually, I’d arrive with scripted questions for the panel, but Slido allowed me to easily extract questions from the participants and have a dialogue with them.”

Brainstorming roundtables, Round One

The main part of the event was the group discussions. The attendees were put into small groups of 5-6 people, forming around 15 groups. Each group had 15 minutes to brainstorm governance principles based on what the members had heard previously. They posted the ideas as Slido questions (Note: We’ve released an Ideas feature in the meantime that is perfect for this job).

Group discussions as an integral part of meetups

The organizers pre-seeded 5 proposals for inspiration and ended up with 17 more submitted via Slido.

The moderator then encouraged the audience to upvote the principles they liked the most and commented on the results to wrap up the discussion. The outcome was a list of top 6 principles that were taken further into the second round.

Round Two

The second part of the group discussions took place after a break and another panel.

This time, the groups were encouraged to take their ideas further to make sure the crowdsourced principles (such as the right to fail, more involvement in company decisions or leadership development) would be activated within their companies. They were asked to formulate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics that could be used to measure the implementation of these principles.

The 6 most upvoted principles from the previous session were transformed into a survey with 6 open text polls. Each group again had 15 minutes to discuss the KPIs and submit them under individual principles.

Crowdsourced KPIs, translated from French
Crowdsourced KPIs, translated from French

Finally, Jean-Maurice went through the principles one by one and followed up with questions if any of the KPIs needed further explanation. The aim was to show the audience the results of their contributive work.

Closing

The closing speech was accompanied by a simple rating poll asking for the overall impressions from the morning. To advocate transparency, E&P’s team was brave enough to show the results live while the votes were flying in.

The final poll suing Slido
The final poll, translated from French

The result

The organizers were enthusiastic about the result: “We were able to motivate the audience to engage in the discussions and get the most out of their collective knowledge. Slido helped us easily extract data and collect more qualitative output as opposed to last year’s Post-it ideas.”

Feedback from the attendees was nothing but positive – the members were satisfied with how effective the whole meeting flow had been. They appreciated the novel way of brainstorming ideas and Entreprise et Progrès highly strengthened its image of being innovative and digital.

How to replicate this at your event

  • Prepare your agenda together with your interaction points. This works better than wondering where to insert interaction once the agenda is fixed.
  • Run a quick warm-up poll at the start to get to know your audience. Use these insights when moderating the event.
  • Don’t limit your Q&A time just to the end of the session. Take the questions when you feel they fit into your flow.
  • Encourage participants to submit their ideas via Slido to make the group discussions more efficient.
  • Work with the captured ideas “on the go” – take the outcomes of one session to build up on them during the next one.

Try Slido at your next event

Big thanks to Entreprise et Progrès for sharing their experience with us, and our colleague Michaela Janikova for helping us put together this case study.

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