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Team

Tips: how to make remote workshops excellent 💥

By | education, Food for thought, Learning and development, Magical Moments, Magicians, Music, Team

We’ve learned a few unexpected ways to make remote meetings and workshops a great and human experience. Apart from the usual video call etiquette that you’ve no doubt learned recently, how about…

  • Hiding self view
  • Unmuting everyone
  • Creating virtual magic

Self view

We’ve probably all looked at our own faces far more than is healthy in recent months! Hiding self view allows you to focus much more on other participants. Less Is my hair really that straggly? and more I never knew that, very interesting indeed. Heed this warning however: don’t forget you’re on camera. Everyone can still see you even though you can’t! No nose-picking, texting on the side or stuffing your face with a sandwich and wearing it for the rest of the call…

Unmute

The generally agreed protocol is that everyone should stay on mute unless they’re talking. This cuts out all unnecessary background noise and allows whoever is speaking to be heard by all. But it’s fun to create a little audio chaos and allow everyone to talk at the same time. We guarantee it will liven things up. You can have a lively debate, like in real life. Remember that?!

Magical energisers

Obviously we perform and teach magic in our sessions. But magicians never spill their secrets, so you’ll have to get in touch with us for this one. We’ll send you a video of one of our magical energisers. You must watch it and then destroy it 😉 (leave your name in the comments or contact us directly).

Less unexpected, but still worth mentioning. Here are some more tips to help remote connections feel good.

Hand signals

When you’re on mute and you want to say something without interrupting the speaker, devise a visual language that suits your company. We had fun creating ours: see our video below 👇

Spotify 

We have various Spotify playlists ready to go. Integrating music into meetings and workshops creates energy and sets different moods. Use quiet, non-verbal music when people need to talk or think. And something more lively to perk people up at the start or during breaks.

Miro

What a great invention Miro is! A virtual white board with sticky notes you can scribble on. We use it all the time for both client workshops and internal sessions. The best thing about it is that it’s visually familiar so needs little instruction. Plus it allows everyone to get involved. People can share thoughts and ideas, vote and doodle. No more zoning out during long meetings! 

And finally, Spotlight

This Zoom function pins one person as the primary active speaker for everyone on the call. This is really useful when you want people to focus on the speaker and hear reactions to important information. We also use it when the magicians are performing. That way they stay in the spotlight without anyone having to tweak screens and miss crucial magic-making secrets.

All of these tips add up to fun and engaging online experiences. If you have more, we’d love to know what they are. Share @abracademy 🙋

Let us make your virtual off-site magical!

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Alex Pittas: what’s your story?

By | Belief, education, Learning and development, Magical Moments, Magicians, Team, What's new?

Now and then we like to shine the spotlight on one member of the Abracademy team. Today, it’s Alex Pittas’ turn to shine. We like to call him Magic Al, because he is.

Alex is very modest, but you should see him come to life in workshops. To say that he’s an amazing connector with people is an understatement! He’s brought the shyest people out of their shells and boosted the confidence of literally hundreds of people.

Hello Alex – obviously we know who you are, but for those that don’t, explain who you are and what you do at Abracademy…

I’m the Head Magician and a lead Magilitator (magician-facilitator). One of my main roles here is to innovate and research new magic for everything we do. I’m also one of the lead Magilitatiors. So, I deliver both client workshops and the personal development, Open Workshop, series.

I’m naturally a people person. This has helped me enormously as a magician and a Magilitator. I’ve been told that I have ‘people power’ by other magicians who have watched me perform. I have often been in a situation with an important client where I don’t actually know who they are! There is no fear and I find it easy to connect, strike up a conversation and perform a magic trick. This always breaks the ice and helps them understand the power of what we do by experiencing it.

As it’s at the heart of what Abracademy does, can you talk about what Experiential Learning means to you?

To me, it means a hands-on approach to learning – where participants learn by doing. We get everyone up and out of their seats, encouraging them to be involved and engaged. It’s such a fun, dynamic and interesting way of learning.

Experiential Learning with Abracademy means games and mental exercises. Groups work together to solve problems and face challenges. And, of course, as a Magilitator I help the group grow as well as learn, and perform, cool magic. 

I love sharing magic because I genuinely want others to experience the amazement I had the first time. And I love teaching magic – sharing practical knowledge, tips and wisdom gained over the years.

Do you have examples from workshops demonstrating the power of Experiential Learning?

We ran our Inner Belief workshop with a group of year 3 children (ages 7-8). Afterwards, they were asked how learning with Abracademy helped with other subjects at school. One girl said: “I was always nervous and shy in English lessons. Sometimes I’d have to tell a story or read a poem out loud for the class. But now I’m not shy at all! I learnt how to be confident and use my voice”.

That happened with a combination of exercises over several sessions. For example, the storytelling exercise – participants sit in a circle and everyone tells part of a story. You go around the circle creating a beginning, a middle and an end to the story. People learn to communicate with their whole body and improve their voice projection. We also did magic performances, individually and groups. This pushes people a little out of their comfort zone, but boosts confidence because of the sense of achievement

Can you recall someone having a WOW moment during a session, seeing how what they were doing in the workshop could impact them positively in the real world?

At the end of one Raising Resilience workshop, one person said that they were surprised and delighted at how easy it was to face their fears. That just by changing the way they looked at a situation empowered them to try new things. She said she could see how to apply the approach at work and to not be afraid of failure. It’s worth trying this even if it takes you a little out of your comfort zone.

What’s your favourite Abracademy Magical Moment workshop and why?

Hmmm, that’s a tough question! Not sure if I have an absolute favourite. But I do enjoy Unlock Your Mind. That workshop really tackles the common misconception many people have of themselves – ‘I’m not creative’. Through fun exercises and tasks, participants gradually unlock their creative potential. They always leave feeling inspired. Plus they learn a cool mind-reading effect that they can add their own creative angle to. A great way to spread magic because – the world needs more magic!

What’s an example of magic working really well to demonstrate a concept being explored in a workshop?

It has to be the Magic Lights. We use this trick in the Belief series of workshops because it’s all about believing in the Magic Lights! We chose it for several reasons…

  • It’s a very easy trick to learn – a great place to start and to boost confidence
  • The lights create a beautiful visual effect!
  • We use them to represent our inner magical energy
  • It’s fantastic for groups because everyone learns and plays together; this helps people believe in themselves and in one another
  • It’s a flexible trick – you’re only limited by your imagination!

Some magic-related questions to finish: do you have any advice for budding magicians?

Try to learn a bit of everything. It will help you in the future if you eventually focus on one area of magic. But if you choose one area to start, for example coin or card magic, then learn the basics first. It’s what I call the scaffolding! But do make sure that you have other interests, apart from magic. The knowledge and experience that comes from other areas of life helps strengthen you as a magician and enriches your routines.  

What do you find magical in the world today?

Apart from all the new magic that keeps improving month by month, I find technology, movies, people and places magical. 

How did you discover magic?

My grandmother got me into magic! When I was around 7 or 8 she would tell me a magical story using a pack of cards, over a toastie and a hot cocoa after school. There would be the “queens that were in a castle and the evil jacks had locked them up”. “The kings would battle with the jacks and save the queens”! There was always magic in her stories. 

How did you arrive at Abracademy?

I first met Rubens – co-founder and Director of Spells at Abracademy – in 2014. We shared a love of magic.

Over a coffee one afternoon he asked me – “If you could do anything with magic, what would you do?”
I
answered – “I would open a real Hogwarts!”
His reply? – “OK great, let’s do it!”

And that’s how we started Abracademy 🦄

Alex Pittas
Head Magician

Interested in Experiential Learning with added magic? 🌟

Get in touch

Why is the art of collaboration important?

By | Belief, Curiosity, Learning and development, Magical Moments, Team, What's new?, Wonder

How to unleash the magic of your team

Organisations today face complex challenges. Ones that necessitate collaboration between employees (Creating Effective Teams, Susan Wheelan). So, the ability to manage teams and projects is an invaluable asset.

However, the art of collaboration is itself complex. It involves multidisciplinary teams with different structures, skills, backgrounds and ways of working. Understanding people management comes first because managing teams means dealing with individuals.

7 core skills that ignite the magic of a team

 

Emotional and social intelligence are key for success when you work in a team. According to the TESI model (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence) there are seven essential soft skills – identity, motivation, emotional awareness, communication, stress tolerance, conflict resolution and positive mood. These all contribute to the effectiveness, productivity, emotional and social wellbeing of a team.

1. Identity

A team with a strong identity demonstrates the sense of belonging. They have a desire to work together and there is clarity around each member’s role. Groups with strong team identity have high degrees of loyalty.

2. Motivation

A high level of motivation corresponds to the energy and responsibility levels in a team. Whether competition is working for or against the team also affects motivation. Having a motivated team requires knowing, and meeting, desires. For example, setting stretch goals, reinforcing success and being persistent.

3. Emotional awareness

Noticing, understanding and respecting colleagues’ feelings indicates a team’s emotional awareness. It is a critical factor in motivation, productivity and collaboration. And it’s central to the success of every team.

4. Communication

We know that good communication is essential for a group of people working together. It provides guidance on how well each of the team member acts. Particularly when discussing sensitive topics, encouraging listening and participation.

5. Stress tolerance

A team with good stress tolerance knows how well it’s doing in managing pressures. These include workload, time constraints and a good work-life balance.

6. Conflict resolution

A team’s ability to deal with conflict means examining how they process disagreement. Is the team able to deal with adversity and enhance its functioning? Or does it get caught up in the conflict? Good conflict resolution is essential for productivity and creativity.

7. Positive mood

A team with a positive mood is built on foundations of encouragement and humour, as well as expectations of success. Positive mood is a major factor in a team’s flexibility and resilience, and it’s the heart of a can-do attitude. It influences how energised the team’s attitude is.

Team work makes the dream work

The Magic of Teams is one of Abracademy’s most popular workshops. Why? Because as an old sport saying goes:  a champion team will defeat a team of champions.

Modern business culture places more value on a single talented individual than on a team with no standout star. As much as we value the ideals of teamwork, the notion of the prima donna remains popular – the team member who stands out and succeeds without help from anyone.

However, research in various sectors indicates that a collaborative team will always outperform solo stars.

  • Tired crews who have flown together in the past make fewer errors than fresh crews who have never flown together” (NASA)
  • The performance of heart specialists improved with practice and experience, but only at the hospitals where they did most of their work. When the same surgeons worked at different hospitals, their success rates returned to baseline” (Huckman and Pisano, Harvard Business School)
  • “Team familiarity was a better predictor of project success and on-time delivery than the total experience of individual team members” (Huckman, Staats & Upton)

In the first two examples in particular, it’s clear that the best choice would be the strong team! Otherwise you better hope for some magic…

The academic field of Positive Psychology has always emphasised the personal benefits of good social relationships. Individuals grow and develop over time. As does a team. So, how much business sense do good connections mean? For a start, they have the potential to improve organisational performance at the highest levels.

How teams develop

When a new team comes together, you can’t expect it to perform well immediately. It takes time and members will go through various stages. They need to shift from being a collection of strangers to a united team with common goals.

Let’s look at Bruce Tuckman’s Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing model. It describes the necessary stages for a team to grow. Only once these have been successfully completed, can the team face challenges, tackle problems, find solutions, plan work and deliver results successfully. Together.

Forming

In this first stage, energy and enthusiasm are generally high. Team members play nice and avoid conflict. But a common challenge in this phase is information gathering. This happens as the team strives to understand its objectives, roles and responsibilities.

Storming

As the team settles, individuals begin to test the boundaries of the group. As a result, a period of heightened intragroup conflict emerges, which can lead to a decline in effectiveness. This can be due to personalities, working styles, lack of agreement or understanding of goals.

Norming

Once teams can deal with conflict in a healthy way, norms emerge. This facilitates openness between members, as well as a shared set of standards and expectations. The plan solidifies as team members agree to timelines and responsibilities. As trust develops, team members embrace one anothers’ strengths and ask for help. 

Performing

Once the shared standards and norms are established, a team can turn their attention to the tasks at hand. This happens through constructive action that allows creative solutions to flourish. Clear goals mean the team can perform with minimal supervision. Conflict becomes a productive tool enabling different perspectives to emerge. In short, the foundation is set for a high performing team to grow.

To summarise, a team is only as powerful as its members. And the quality of the relationships and soft skills in the team is especially important. Stars shine brighter with the support of colleagues because, as we’ve explained here, working as a cohesive team harnesses the unique talents of each team member.

It’s time to develop these skills to make your team a high performance one!  

Julie Bogaerts
Abracademy Magilitator

Discover the magic of your team

Say hello to Harriet 👋

Harriet Swede

By | Team
bio

Harriet Swede

Master Fortune Teller

aka Partnerships Manager

Harriet is a solution-focused people-person. Her desire is to help others live intentional, fulfilled lives - personally and professionally. She's interested in psychology and yoga, particularly the intersection between mental and physical therapies, and practices. She believes in the power of conjuring meaningful relationships to create magic with our clients.

Harriet's superpowers are:

  • A sharp eye for detail
  • Dogged determination
  • Finding solutions

Abracademy

We’re a diverse team of magicians, facilitators, learning designers, strategists, communicators, scientists and creatives who love what we do at Abracademy ♥

Meet the team

We empower people to understand that how they see themselves is a choice 💥

Harriet

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Steve Bagienski

By | Team

Steve Bagienski

Wizard of Science

aka Research Lead, Abracademy Labs

A man of many talents - magician, scientist and positive psychologist. Steve is currently a doctoral researcher at Goldsmiths, University of London. He's investigating the social and emotional experiences of watching, and learning to perform, magic. Steve's work has been presented at international conferences, such as the Science of Magic Association event. And he's received multiple awards, including the Magicana Edwin A. Dawes scholarship and the Richard Benjamin Foundation doctoral studentship for his research with Abracademy.

Magic and science

As a magician, Steve has performed in many different venues, from corporate to social! His passion is combining the science of positive psychology with the performance art of magic. He aims to develop evidence-based techniques that enable practitioners, magicians, clients and audiences to live meaningful, fulfilled lives.

Steve's Superpowers

  • A growth mindset
  • Forgiveness
  • Self-regulation
Find out more about our lab!

Meet the rest of our team

We’re a skilled and diverse team of magicians, facilitators, learning designers, strategists, communicators, scientists and creatives who love what we do at Abracademy.

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Rubens Filho

By | Team
bio

Rubens Filho

Director of Spells

aka Co-founder, CEO and Magilitator

Rubens' background is diverse, to say the least! He followed the family tradition and started his working life as a lawyer in Brazil. After ten years and a stint in NY however, he realised law wasn’t the right place for him. He made the decision to return to Brazil and moved into ad-land as a Copywriter. He eventually became a Creative Director at Ogilvy, leading many award-winning campaigns for global clients. In 2012 Rubens brought his family to the UK to do a Masters in Digital Media Management at Hyper Island. This was to be another pivotal point in his career and in 2013, he founded Abracademy with the dream of helping people grow, personally and professionally.

Rubens' Superpowers

  • Creativity
  • A magical leader
  • Disruptive innovation

Rubens has brought magic to these companies

Meet the rest of our team

We’re a skilled and diverse team of magicians, facilitators, learning designers, strategists, communicators, scientists and creatives who love what we do at Abracademy.

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In this world of ever-increasing technology, we need to become more human!

Rubens FilhoAbracademy's Co-founder

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Anne Brassier

By | Team

Anne Brassier

Cauldron Director

aka Business Development Lead

Before joining Abracademy, Anne worked in business development and communications roles at a variety of companies, from small creative and digital agencies, to global giants, Microsoft and Facebook.

Background

Born in France and raised to appreciate crisp sandwiches in Scotland, Anne dabbled briefly in the California sunshine before making London home. She writes, runs and knits, but never at the same time. She's also mum to a budding magician who firmly believes in magic, sparkles and the power of kittens.

Anne's Superpowers

  • Listening and hearing
  • Going the distance
  • An eagle-eye for detail

Anne has brought magic to these companies

Meet the rest of our team

We’re a skilled and diverse team of magicians, facilitators, learning designers, strategists, communicators, scientists and creatives who love what we do at Abracademy.

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Contact Anne and the team

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Alex Pittas

By | Team
bio

Alex Pittas

Head Magician

Magilitator

Alex is the thumping heart of magic at Abracademy. He co-creates courses for schools and adds magic to our corporate work as well as delivering sessions. He is highly empathetic and able to connect with people of all levels across companies. While he’s asking your name, check what might have appeared in or disappeared from your pockets...

Alex's Superpowers

  • Keen observation
  • Creating and teaching magic
  • Connecting with people

Alex has brought magic to these companies

Meet the rest of our team

We’re a skilled and diverse team of magicians, facilitators, learning designers, strategists, communicators, scientists and creatives who love what we do at Abracademy.

team page

If you don't believe in your magic, nobody will.

Alex PitasHead Magician

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Priya Ghai

By | Team

Priya Ghai

Mind Master

Head of Learning

Priya is a highly experienced and gifted facilitator - a dynamo at shifting group energies to create amazing learning experiences. She holds groups together enabling courageous, playful and powerful environments for personal and professional development.

Background

Priya has traveled the world leading workshops and gathering collective intelligence, pushing the way organisations work. She has designed change programmes for corporate clients including the Ministry of Justice and HSBC, and she has helped start ups and SMEs form strategies to own their markets, moving forward as united organisations. Priya cares deeply for social justice and she’s on a mission to make workplaces more inclusive, creating a sense of belonging for everyone.

Priya's Superpowers

  • Empathy
  • Inclusivity
  • Energy

Priya has brought magic to these companies

Meet the rest of our team

We’re a skilled and diverse team of magicians, facilitators, learning designers, strategists, communicators, scientists and creatives who love what we do at Abracademy.

team page

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Katy Jackson

By | Team
bio

Katy Jackson

Chief of WOW

Co-founder and Head of Design

Katy brings magic to design of the Abracademy products and experiences, working across both the on and offline experiences, and anything else we conjure up.

When she’s not working with Abracademy, she’s in her main role as a Lead Product Designer at the global design agency, Idean. Here, she works on creating new products and services or innovating and transforming existing ones for small start-ups and big businesses.
She has a history of designing for play and fun, including designing playgrounds and helping the world #1 kid’s yoga brand bring their website to life.

Katy's Superpowers

  • Making the complex simple
  • Climbing walls

Katy has brought magic to these companies

Meet the rest of our team

We’re a skilled and diverse team of magicians, facilitators, learning designers, strategists, communicators, scientists and creatives who love what we do at Abracademy.

team page

Contact Katy and the team

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