Optimising your in-person workshop
by Emma Peters, UX Consultant

Optimising your in-person workshop

We recently took the opportunity to facilitate an in-person workshop on one of our projects. Since moving to a more hybrid way of working, most projects consist of Teams meetings and Zoom calls, which inevitably rely on collaborative platforms and slide decks. This project meant we could ‘dust’ off the printer and get to work designing materials and scripts to host people in person, an exciting and often sought-after opportunity. Here are some of our learnings from our most recent workshop.  


When thinking about how a workshop could run, it is useful to think of the end in mind. It is sometimes helpful to work backwards from the end goal of a workshop. By working backwards you can design effective activities and materials to help reach your goal so you are better equipped to fulfil the objective of the workshop. By doing that in this workshop we made sure that no time was ‘wasted’ and that each activity got us that bit closer to our end goal 


It’s important to consider who you will be in the room with you. From previous experiences it is easy to design A workshop with the ideal people in mind however in reality due to time constraints and busy schedules it is not always definite that those people will be in the room with you. Before designing this workshop we reached out to our lead contact from the project team to get a sense of who the attendees would be ahead of the workshop. In this instance, we knew that there may be some project members who were unfamiliar with the work we’ve carried out so far. Knowing this beforehand, we could include contextual slides and materials to help them better understand the context of the project and why their involvement was so important. 


Unlike remote meetings, we often don’t get an opportunity to design physical materials for workshops. It is important to consider the practical side of activities to ensure that the workshop remains exciting and engaging. For this workshop, it was important to ensure that all of our attendees could capture and download insights so we created bitesize documents that could be easily filled out whilst paired with prompt cards to help them if they got stuck. Another big hit in this workshop was the sweet treats that we provided. A 3-hour workshop can be draining for anyone, especially when you are trying to fight the ‘post-lunch slump’ so we filled up our baskets and offered lots of sugary snacks to help people remain engaged (and alert) in the workshop.  


Similar to how we prepare for research sessions, it is important to practice how the workshop will run. When piloting the session you can uncover small logistical pain points that often have relatively easy fixes. Our most recent experience highlighted how important it is to ‘divide and conquer’ the work when facilitating a workshop. Hearing from just one person from the group can be monotonous so ensuring everyone has a part to play can help keep the session fresh and engaging.  


One thing that will always be a part of our process is design with contingency time in mind. Whilst this may sound pessimistic, thinking of the worst-case scenario can really help feeling prepared for a workshop. It means that by having backup plans, you can be prepared to tackle issues at a moment’s notice. As we had three hours to cover a lot of ground we wanted to be clear on which activities were a ‘must-have’ and which were ‘ideal’. This meant that if we became short of time we could easily skip over a task and move on to the next part of the session.  


By kicking off 2024 with an in-person workshop we have reinvigorated our passion for conducting our work in the real world and not solely on Teams. Whilst there are more considerations when facilitating in person, our preparations have meant we are more confident and ready to run more in the future. Here’s to more road trips and in-person workshops in 2024! 


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UX Consultant Emma Peters

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