The Fountain Institute

5 Key Elements for Building Workshops

published7 months ago
2 min read

Dear Reader,

It's Hannah again! Learning how to build workshops has been a powerful tool in my life (I even made a career out of it).

It taught me how to utilize the collective knowledge of a group to create ideas I could never come up with on my own.

It has given me leadership skills and confidence, knowing I can harness a group's creativity to solve challenging problems.

But it was scary at first.

I didn't know where to start or end and, to be honest, what the middle would look like. But over the past 15 years, I have honed in on five key elements that I use in every workshop I build. I would like to share those with you today:

1. Audience Strategy

The first thing you need to know when building a workshop is who it is for; we are used to being human-centered when designing a product; why should it be any different when creating workshops. Some things to you should consider about your audience:

  1. Who they are - job title or user type
  2. Experience level - how well do they know the topics covered?
  3. Value - what value will this workshop bring to your audience?
  4. Expectations- why are they bothering to show up?
  5. Concerns- what concerns might they have about the workshop?
  6. Addressing Concerns - how might you address their concerns?
The Audience Strategy Worksheet
Need help with your strategy? Download the FREE worksheet

2. Outcomes

What is the workshop's purpose, what goal do you want to achieve by the end of the workshop? Are you trying to synthesize research findings with your group or brainstorming solution ideas?

Without knowing the workshop's purpose, you will have no idea what to do inside of it.

Advanced tip: you can have specific outcomes for the different blocks of your workshop (what's a workshop block? read #3)

3. Workshop Blocks

Planning a 4-hour workshop (the longest I would suggest for an online workshop) can seem daunting.

But if we can break down those 4 hours into smaller chunks (including a warm-up, break, and wrap-up) we are left with two 90-min. sections to plan, which is already less scary.

4. Activities

We have our workshop broken down into blocks and a specific outcome for each block. What activities do we choose? An activity from the design sprint.....NO!

We don't just select activities because we have seen them before or we want to try them. You need to pick an activity that fits your audience's desired outcome and level of experience—my top 10 activity archetypes:

  1. Introductions
  2. Creating and iterating
  3. Prioritizing
  4. Taking temperature
  5. Pattern finding
  6. Generating
  7. Aligning
  8. Research
  9. Engage and inform
  10. Testing

5. Intro and Outro

Ok, you're almost there. You've picked your activities that match your outcomes and audience.

The last thing to think about is how you will open up the workshop, what information your audience needs to know to get started, and how you get them excited about what's about to happen. To do that, you want to get them in a divergent mindset.

Also, just as important, how will you wrap up the session, moving towards decisions, actions, and next steps? The goal here is to converge on ideas to reduce the options and decide the next steps.

I hope you feel empowered to tackle your next workshop with these five elements. If you would like to dive further into these areas and much more, then check out our next course, Facilitating Workshops.

Designing Product Experiments→
Learn how to test and validate product ideas based on real-world behavior.
October 3-24, 2022

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Hannah Baker
Educator & Co-Founder
The Fountain Institute