10+1 Tips for Running A Successful Prototyping Workshop

Margarida da Marça
Apr 3, 2017 · 5 min read

A few months ago I delivered a series of workshops to help make project managers, technical leads and developers more aware of what the UX process is all about. The objective was to enable them to become more autonomous for those moments when they don’t have the help of a User Experience Expert.

We know we can come in handy when the going gets tough, but there are some times when we’re just not around. So we came up with this idea for a very hands-on workshop on how to create wireframes.

Now, we obviously didn’t jump right into creating mockups and prototypes, so we started with something everyone can do: sketching! Basically, we played Pictionary, but don’t tell anyone we had this much fun on company time.

After that we moved on to laying out more refined structures in the form of wireframes with Balsamiq. And those eventually evolved into interactive prototypes that we prepared with InVision.

By our 5th session, we had already enabled over 50 people, so we had a refined, consistent, tried-and-true workshop — and also knowledge we wanted to share with the world. And share with the world we did.

We started by holding a webinar based on those sessions — Wireframing Made Easy — and then we got it into article form, for those of you who’d rather read about it.

But we got something else out of it: the lessons learned from running what we believe was a truly successful workshop.

So here they are: 10 tips on how to run a successful workshop!

Tip 1: Define the Workshop’s Ultimate Goal

More than learning how to work with Balsamiq, our ultimate goal was to show participants how they could apply the UX process essentials to create a sample application: from the gathering of requirements to wireframes, in a way that was fun and dynamic.

That was our ultimate goal, so we kept that in mind as we prepared for the webinar so it was absolutely in scope.

Tip 2: Think About Your Audience

Our audience consisted of project managers, technical leads and developers. To cover all these different roles we researched what would be more helpful for them in their day-to-day tasks.

We tried to establish where wireframing would make the most sense in their own processes. I interviewed several people with these different roles and invited them to give feedback while I was preparing the workshop materials.

Tip 3: Choose the Right Location

Think about the exercises you are going to provide and the dynamics that you want to establish in your workshop. Visualize them. Now, think about where you could best deliver them.

In our Lisbon office, for example, we have a very special room that was ideal for our needs: our Rooftop Room, on the top of our 7-story building, with a magnificent view of the cityscape and the ocean. This is our VIP room and we were very lucky to get it for the workshop.

But why did this room work that well? People were in a new and premium environment, away from work and their day-to-day routine, activities and distractions.

Tip 4 : Create an Agenda

After you have defined your workshop’s ultimate goal and your audience, you can start developing a storyline. Make it fun and dynamic and keep yourself focused on your goals. Define the main themes and your exercises. Make sure you do it in a natural sequence.

Tip 5: Stay Off-Center

One thing we noticed after our first workshop was that participants can learn from other participants as much as they can learn from us. Put participants in teams to solve the exercises. After that, get them to pitch their work and provide feedback to others. Do not center everything on you.

Tip 6: Send a Welcome Email the Day Before

To get people prepared and excited, send an email reminder the day before with a workshop summary, the room and the time. If software downloads or a sign-up are needed, request that they do it beforehand, so they get to the workshop better prepared. If trials are involved, plan to be prepared for attendees whose trials have expired and some backup software licenses just in case.

Tip 7: Explain, Exercise, Debrief, Iterate

Avoid having workshops that are too theoretical. Most people learn best when there is a good balance between theory and practice. So, make sure to have exercises they can try. Engage in discussion about results, understand where people got stuck and discover what parts were fun, hard, and frustrating.

Use part of this discussion to find out not only what people learned, but also what they wanted to learn a bit more about. Make people pitch their work to others and get feedback. Lead a healthy, constructive feedback session. Give people the opportunity to iterate on their work after the discussion.

Tip 8: Test and Solve Your Exercises

Make sure you solve the exercises or ask someone from the audience to do it. Without doing this, I noticed that in the first version of the workshop, the exercise wasn’t quite there yet. Learning from this, I worked on a brand new briefing that worked much better and had greater adoption in the following sessions.

Tip 9: Instruct Participants On the Next Thing to do After They Leave

Participants came to keep learning and that won’t end after the workshop is over. Promote other materials and future workshops on your subject. Also, include a small list of resources such as webinars, cheat-sheets, and books that they’re likely to be interested in.

Tip 10: Send a Follow-up Email and a Survey

After the workshop, send out a follow-up email with the materials and presentation you used. Most important of all, request feedback. Starting right after the first and all the way down to the last session, we were constantly refining the workshop based on responses from participants.

Tip 11 (Bonus!): Record a Mannequin Challenge Video

If there are any extra tips you want to share, as I’m always eager to learn new and better ways of doing stuff, feel free to drop me a line in the comments!

Happy Workshopping!

Margarida da Marça | UX Expert at OutSystems

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