Lessons I learned running my first workshop

This past February, I had the privilege of being able to launch and run my very first workshop — Intro to Figma, a UI design and prototyping tool — under Western Founders Network and in collaboration with DesignX Western. This was my first time being at the front of the room, sharing something I was passionate about with a group of strangers. It quite the rollercoaster, but I’m so so so glad I decided to take on the challenge.

My Figma file that I worked off for the workshop

30+ people came out to the event, which was way more than I ever expected. We also ran a livestream which has generated 500+ views to date. Huge shoutout to my friends who came out to support me (even during peak midterm season ❤️)

Design & Donuts feat. actual donuts
  1. When preparing, focus on the key things you want people to know about the program/the topic you are teaching. I found myself trying to squeeze demonstrating as many Figma functionalities as possible into the short two-hour window. While preparing, I spent too much time in the days leading up to my event trying to absorb as much information as possible about Figma instead of reviewing what I already knew and thinking about how I would explain it to beginners. In hindsight, focusing on the most important features of the program, and repeatedly demonstrating how those worked throughout the workshop would have likely been more valuable for attendees.
  2. Do a practice run before hand with a friend and get feedback. Ideally, ask someone who does not have experience with or knowledge of the topic you’re presenting, so they can simulate a beginner attendee. This will give you a sense of how long your event will expect to run, and you can adjust your content accordingly.
  3. Go slow. As the workshop host, you likely have more experience working with the program than anyone else in the room. Keep in mind how long it took you to first learn how to use it. I often found myself repeating how to perform an action (creating a component, making a mask, etc.) multiple times for the audience. As a result, I completely overestimated how much progress we would be able to get through in two hours. Budget for having to explain every step 3–4 times, and pausing in between to allow users to complete it.
  4. Print out instructions and hand them out to attendees. This is beneficial in two ways: the more experienced can work ahead at their own pace, and the ones who get lost can have a reference sheet for anything they missed.

One thing I’ve begun to ponder recently is how touching it is to know that you’ve made an impact on someone else’s life.

Immediately after the workshop, I had many people come up and tell me how learned a thing or two about design, and how valuable the last two hours were for them. Feedback for the event was generally positive, and I could finally breathe now that the looming stress of running this workshop had been lifted.

But the best moment from the workshop came a couple months after. A club at our school was running a 24-hour female hackathon and two of my directors teamed up to compete. They ended up using lessons they learned in my Figma workshop to create wireframes and high fidelity prototypes for their app, and ended up winning the Best Design prize out of all the participants 😭

This is probably my greatest accomplishment to date.

Thanks to everyone who came out to support, and Western Founders Network and DesignX Western who helped make this event possible.

lover of tea, naps, and journaling. software engineering & business @ uwo. lijennifer.me