Earlier in my career, I shared my user research findings in a presentation with quotes and video clips. Stakeholders praised the work but didn’t always do something with the information.
Now, instead of giving presentations, I lead workshops.
Here are three quick interactive workshop ideas to help product teams engage with your user research findings.
Why a workshop?
By default, presentations are passive. This makes them more effective for delivering information than for absorbing it. Paying attention is hard during an afternoon monologue. The speaker is in control and it’s natural to slip into the passenger’s seat.
Delivery is an important factor — among many others — of a project’s success. Transferring information I’ve absorbed, through interviews and synthesis, to busy teammates is challenging. Workshops get stakeholders moving and engaged. Paying attention and internalizing findings becomes easier and more fun.
But workshops take a lot of time, right?
Ordinary research presentations are simple. They have 3 essential components: findings, evidence, and recommendations. In contrast, planning a workshop seemed intensive. The workshops I knew had carefully curated activities and usually took hours.
But workshops don’t need to take a lot of time. There are many simple ways to make regular research presentations more interactive. With a repertoire of a few different activities, you can boost stakeholders buy-in, make complex findings actionable, and encourage empathy.
Three ways to make it a workshop:
1. Create better solutions together
The best solution to a user research finding isn’t always obvious. Sometimes, rather than give recommendations, I invite solutions from the team.
When I share findings, I often ask “How Might We” prompts in place of a recommendation. How Might We’s re-frame problems as opportunities. I use them to structure product brainstorms for a given problem. Individually, teammates write down as many solutions as they can think of, and then we share and sort.
To turn the meeting into a full worksession, share your findings in advance. If you want the group to generate concrete solutions, you can add in a brainstorm game or sketching exercise. One of my favorites is Crazy Eights, in which workshop participants have 5 minutes to sketch 8 ideas for a problem.
We come up with stronger solutions collectively. But there’s more magic to it: building stuff is more fun when you’ve come up with your ideas as a team. Last time I did How Might We’s, an engineer told me how much she appreciated having a say in the product’s direction. Because everyone on the team came up with the solutions, everyone had a stake in the outcome.
2. Guess the finding
Sometimes when I share findings, I notice stakeholders only incorporate what’s convenient to incorporate. Usually, this means whatever fits with the ideas they already had. Other times, they incorporate information so well they forget they didn’t always know it. This can make research less effective or less valued.
One way to mitigate these effects is to start with a hypotheses dump. Share your research questions and collect the team’s guesses. Write these hypotheses on the board to reference later. Chances are some guesses will be spot on, while others won’t be supported in the findings.
Next, share what you learned from your users. Bolster takeaways that challenge current beliefs with rich details and user stories. But don’t cut the findings that support the team’s beliefs; it’s important to celebrate the team’s successes as well.
This technique works well when you have a big group and the focus is on making findings memorable. The extra depth helps the team internalize challenging findings. Asking questions before you answer them is a fun way to remind stakeholders of what we learned.
3. See for yourself
In the past I’ve organized “viewing parties” when I want to make findings memorable. (Hat tip to Rebecca Sinclair.) You can lead this before or after presenting your findings in more detail. It’s best with popcorn.
Rather than share short clips, I’ll select a few longer clips that span multiple themes. While watching the clips, the team writes down everything they observe on sticky notes. After each video, we share what we observed.
You can also use this activity to educate teams about user research. To show how synthesis works, have them sort their observations into different themes to generate findings. Or use viewing parties to emphasize what we learn through research. Pause the videos at key decision making points, and ask stakeholders what they think the participant will do next. When findings seem obvious in retrospect, it’s often because we hold multiple conflicting assumptions in our head. Like with “Guess the finding,” this activity is a gets those assumptions in the open. And it’s fun.
Viewing parties are especially useful if a team doesn’t have a lot of exposure to their users or user research. They are also suited to teams who prefer to see things for themselves.
Set yourself up for success
These workshops are meant to fit within a startup’s schedule. Either of them can be done within an hour. As the facilitator, you have a bit of advance planning to do. Use a checklist like this one to make sure you plan for:
- Alignment: Talk to key stakeholders to make sure your meeting plan is appropriate and your findings are well-framed.
- Timing: Pick a time of day when people can concentrate. Check in with engineering to make sure it’s not before a release.
- Practice: Do a practice run with a team member to make sure your message and activities are clear.
- Snacks: Don’t mess with blood sugar.
- Facilitation: Use your moderator skills to make sure everyone in the room feels comfortable sharing their perspective. At Medium we use check-ins to get folks comfortable speaking and listening at the start of each meeting.
Finally, remember to reflect on what worked and what didn’t so you can improve your delivery. At Medium, we believe in sharing these best practices with our team and community. What have you done to make your findings more interactive? Use a response to tell us about it!