Join Drew Bridewell for an in-depth discussion in this video Facilitating workshops with your team, part of Practical UX Weekly.
- Do you find yourself wanting to bring together your team to brainstorm and tackle complicated problems? A team workshop can bring you and your team together, which can expedite the process of coming up with a lot of ideas in a very short amount of time. However, workshops and brainstorming sessions can get off track and sometimes be a waste of time for all parties. Have you seen this happen? In this episode, I'll discuss facilitating workshops with your team and techniques you can implement so you can get the most out of your next team workshop.
We'll look at what a workshop could consist of, setting clear goals, and identifying the problems you're trying to solve, unique behaviors you'll potentially see in your work session, assigning roles and responsibilities, materials you can bring and use for your session, why workshops can be good for your team, and following up on what you learned. If you're thinking about planning your next workshop with your team and need some tips to help you along the way, then let's get started.
Workshops typically consist of a large or small group of individuals coming together for a limited amount of time. Workshops can consist of white boarding out ideas, writing out problems on Post-It notes, or even roleplaying to experience a more empathetic behavior for the end user. It's vital that your workshop has a clear objective and goal in mind. Without a clear goal, it's likely that the participants will feel confused on why they're there. A poor plan could end up wasting the team's time.
A bad workshop experience could affect future sessions because the team now has expectations of how past meetings have gone. Try to make your sessions no longer than 30 to 45 minutes for a given task. Here's an example of how you might break up a session. Part one. In the first 10 minutes, spend a little time introducing the task at hand. And then from the 10 to 30 minute mark, complete tasks one, two, or three. And then from 30 to 45 minutes in, review with the larger group and share.
Part two can be very similar, with another 10 minutes of introducing your task. Then spend the next 20 minutes working on tasks one, two, and three, and then in the last 15 minutes, review with the larger group and share. A great way to spend the following 10 minutes could be with a summary of the day and action items for each team member. Not all work sessions need to be structured like this. In fact, this is just an example of how structure can help you stay on track and give you clear deliverables at the end of the session.
It could also be fun to give your team a time box exercise. This type of exercise can give any team a sense of accomplishment, which can help the event feel successful. The more you host these events, the more you'll discover what works best for you and the team. When you plan your task, think about simplifying them down as much as you can. Focus on the problem you're trying to solve for the particular scenario. Open-ended tasks are typically harder to accomplish, so keep it simple.
I'd recommend planning a morning session before lunch. If you have a team get together after lunch, then you have to battle the food coma challenge, which could make your team feel a little lethargic. Now, I want to jump in to the behaviors you'll potentially see in your work session. Not all of your team members are extroverts or experts on what the task might be. So as the facilitator of the event, keep your eyes peeled and your heart open on how your team might be feeling in this group setting.
Some teammates may feel nervous or soft-spoken. As the facilitator, it's your job to help the team feel comfortable, and to make sure you interact with every single person in the room so you can have a diverse set of thoughts and engagement. It could be a goal of yours to make sure each participant in the event has an opportunity to share and speak. Keep the energy high in the room. Bring snacks, drinks, and coffee so your team can stay in high gear in the session.
Another pro tip in facilitating workshops is assigning your teammates roles and responsibilities throughout the event. This could consist of a timekeeper, a notetaker, and a cofacilitator. Suggest everyone participate and be responsible for documenting their work. If you choose not to give individuals in the workshop a responsibility, then it's likely they will not be as focused during the time of the event. It's more likely you'll raise your team's attention to detail when they know they're responsible for something.
In workshops, I suggest large markers so your team will draw big, versus super little notes. It's incredibly difficult to read something on the wall if it's in a fine point pen. Multicolor Post-Its and dot stickers are also super handy to have on hand for prioritizing and organizing themes. I suggest eight and 1/2 by 11 sheets of white paper, as well as masking tape in case you need to block off sections on the wall or the floor. Have your teammates bring a water bottle so they can stay hydrated.
And ask them to leave their phones and computers behind, because they could become distractions. This is not always possible, but by having less distractions, it's more likely you'll yield better results. After you've finished your session and are summarizing the day, it's important to thank everyone for participating. It's not easy for your team to drop their day-to-day responsibilities to attend these events. You can also consider following up by sending a feedback poll to all attendees where you can get feedback on how you can improve for the next session.
On top of that, you could self-reflect on what worked well and what didn't. Workshops can help you get out of the rut and can even get you and your team aligned for a particular idea. It can also be an excellent way to practice your communication skills with your peers. Bringing your team together is a great way to bond, and overall can help you move projects faster. If you want to learn more about design thinking workshops and specific techniques you can use, check out Chris Nodder's courses, where he will go deeper into each technique.
If you have questions or best practices you would like to share about facilitating meetings or workshops, then I would love to hear about them on our Practical UX Weekly LinkedIn group. You can also tweet at me @abridewell, ping me on Facebook @practicaluxweekly, or message me directly at LinkedIn. Thanks for watching, happy collaborating, and I'll see you next time.
To continue the conversation started in this course, with Drew and other user experience professionals, join Drew's Practical UX: Lessons from the Trenches LinkedIn group.
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