How to run an effective workshop
and stop people from cursing you out for holding them hostage
I’ve been privileged to attend, co-host and run UX workshops in the past couple of years, and I’ve noticed a number of interesting things. People have stuff to do, and time is a limited resource. The only people who like meetings are usually those who have no work to do any way. Sometimes they spend their whole day setting up and attending meetings to set up meetings. If you have to use someone’s time, don’t make a mockery of it. You can waste your time with no repercussion, but if you waste another’s they might never forgive you.
Most workshops are 1hr + and that is a lot of time. There are a few things you can do, watch out for, while trying to run a workshop.
Prepare Prepare Prepare – Seems like an obvious thing to do, but many have fallen foul of this and then they realize time goes by, fast. Let the space you are going to use be ready and set up one hour before the set time. If that isn’t possible, get ready anyway and get help if alone. You need to be calm, and exude some confidence in what you are going to do. Nobody wants to be at the mercy of a disorientated, bumbling person. At the very least, make the point of the workshop as clear as possible.
Let There Be Food – I assure you, they won’t get distracted. There’s a higher chance of distraction if they are sat attempting to listen to you and wondering about Tikka Masala or Goat Curry. Water, biscuits, try a variety of things, not everyone loves Jaffa cakes or Haribo. Let it convey an atmosphere of concern and care. People will respect you for haven thought of them and it’s more likely they listen to you. Don’t take so much food that it turns into a “Work-Chop!” Chop is a Nigerian-Pidgin word for eat.
Involve Involve Involve – No workshop should be run without including activities for your participants. They can’t spend a whole hour listening to you without boredom setting in. I have realized that bored is a sign of two things, 1. You need to sleep 2. You need to be actively Do-ing something. And except it is a sleep workshop, number 2, will be your best bet. Given this is a UX workshop, get people sketching, writing down ideas, sorting cards e.t.c. There should be no thought for a nap.
Finish Well – People usually spend a lot of time doing the above but they forget that the conclusion of the matter is also a big deal. After all, it is the last impression people will take with them as they leave your presence. You don’t want people sighing with relief. You want to leave them excited, upbeat about what comes next. Since we cannot please all the people all the time. Those who haven’t been impressed with the red velvet cupcakes or a bout of card sorting, could still take a golden nugget with them, if you can nail this last bit. Get people’s feedback as part of the workshop. Let them tell you want they have done, and how it makes sense to them, there and in their work/life. Much better when it’s a Value-Added Workshop – VAW
And you are done, now go on and be great.