5 Essential Tips for Planning Your Design Workshops

Easy steps to follow to get the best preparation for your next workshops!

Illustrations made by Aga Ciurysek from 10Clouds
A perfect UX workshop can help your team and stakeholders to brainstorm and make better decisions. It sounds fantastic, but in the real world, it is not always so marvellously flawless.

Nobody is perfect — in my UX designer career, I was responsible for a few epic workshops fails. I got a lesson, and now I realize that it is absolutely normal to get lost if you do not have a well-prepared plan.

As they say, everybody learns from mistakes, but thankfully, you can learn from mine ;) That is why I listed 5 tips that will help you plan a design workshop.

1.Set The Goal

Get to know your participants and discover their objectives. Communicate beforehand to set the detailed agenda. When you know their expectations, it is much easier to set the goal of the workshops. This is crucial to understand where you are heading to and if the overall goals of attendees are aligned. You should know why you are running this workshop.

Send notification about the meeting — remember that everybody has a lot on their plates, so it’s a great idea to leave a light reminder for participants.

10Clouds Design Team workshops with stakeholders

2. Prepare Agenda

Prepare a detailed plan and try to schedule every minute. Consider how much time you will spend on each task. Don’t forget that every exercise should have a meaningful end-goal so you will need a few minutes after each of it to summarise your teamwork.

But even though time frames are important, you should still have some flexibility for small controlled run overs. They will happen for sure!

Sounds quite complicated? My personal advice is to have one supportive person at the workshop that will look at the time and time frames of each task or invest in Time Timer. Oh, and don’t forget to make sure that workshop agenda is permanently visible during a workshop — just pin it to a wall.

10Clouds Design Team workshops with stakeholders

3. Bring Necessary Equipment

Materials prepared beforehand are essential. You will lose your time when the laptop will decompress files, or you will be looking for some sheet of paper for participants to find something to write. Prepare the room and bring all necessary supplies in it. I usually create my checklist to be sure if everything is well prepared.

My personal top list includes an extra laptop charger, flip chart, many sheets of paper, post-it notes and plenty of colorful markers. You can also bring some cookies and tea — it will give the workshops a nice personal touch.
10Clouds Design Team workshops with stakeholders

4. Start With Intro

Start with the introduction when you explain the goal and rules of the workshops. It is a more formal part of the meeting but believe me — it’s crucial for everyone. Making clear what is going to be covered will minimize further questions. Tell something about yourself and if others don’t know much about one another suggest them to have a quick round of introduction.

10Clouds Design Team workshops with stakeholders

5. Have A Great Attitude

Something light and entertaining such as icebreaker for the beginning of the workshop will involve people and set a good mood in a group. Look for some great inspirations over here. You should try to create a non-judgment atmosphere where everyone feels included and important. In group exercises, set up small groups, so attendees will be more comfortable talking and interacting with each other.

Don’t forget to put breaks on your agenda. Leave some free time for participants to catch a fresh air or just have a short walk. Without it, everyone (including you!) will get tired quickly.

Stanford’s studies show that walking breaks increase productivity and creativity.

Another good practice is to prepare a workshop playlist — personally, as a facilitator, I haven’t tried it, but I took part in workshops with music in a background, and it set the relaxed mood perfectly. Definitely give it a try with this delicious playlist. One time we as participants built the playlist altogether before the workshop. Each of us has a small impact on it by selecting one favorite tune. During the workshop, it was great to hear my chosen music. Seriously! This little thing gives all of us a feeling of being involved in creating the whole workshop process.


Magic Won’t Help You, But a Plan Will

Design Workshops is definitely a buzzword. It simply starts with getting people together and coming up with ideas. To be honest, I haven’t found one magic trick to have a marvelous design workshop. Actually, I think it doesn’t exist. Why? Because every design workshop is different. As a UX Designer at 10Clouds, I consider myself lucky to do workshops with many stakeholders and my team. This makes me able to find myself in various situations with different issues to solve.

Nevertheless, it is always crucial to be prepared. This will help you when something unexpected happen. You will know your goal, and the flow so don’t worry:)

Please share your own tips for better workshops. How do you plan them? What helps you the most?