How to design a winning workshop: Step 2 of 5

Jackie Colburn
3 min readSep 6, 2023

Today we’re continuing our exploration of a winning workshop design, which is key to supporting a positive experience for your participants and reaching their desired outcomes.

If you read Part 1, then you already know how to prime your group to hit the ground running. But what comes next?

Today’s focus — and Part 2 of this series — is all about understanding the customer and their needs.

This is the next natural step in a workshop because teams will make more empowered and informed decisions if they know a little something about the people they aim to help. And it’s critical that this step comes before you start exploring solutions.

I’ll sometimes enter this chapter with customer interviews, personas, and other existing research in hand. If you’re in this position, you likely just need time to review and confirm things with the group.

Facilitation tip: I prefer to synthesize and curate key themes and relevant takeaways for the group ahead of time rather than asking them to digest a lot of information all at once. It streamlines the process and keeps us moving.

On the other hand, if you still need to do the work to understand the customer’s needs, the group will need more time to gain clarity and alignment.

Here are some resources and sample activities you can leverage as you design your workshop flow:

  • Is the team feeling overwhelmed about what information they should gather and where to find it? I’m willing to bet there’s a lot of existing consumer data available at their fingertips. Here’s a great guide for compiling customer insights (all without a big research budget).
  • Lead a mapping exercise to outline the customer’s current experience journey. I’m partial to the Design Sprint approach and think my friend Steph outlines it in a very straightforward way, here.
  • Facilitate a Job Stories method to make sure the team is really immersing themselves in the customer’s needs.

Similar to timing recommendations for Part 1 of this series, this can either be a quick or in-depth phase depending on how much information the team has already collected. Budget your time according to the level of information you already have vs what you still need to identify.

Getting oriented to customer needs and pain points is a critical step to figuring out what solution you might create. To that end, definitely don’t skimp on this work. It’s the necessary precursor to Part 3 of this series — refining the problem to be solved — and in this upcoming chapter I’ll share some activities you can use to facilitate the level of decision-making required to align your group with the challenge.

Clap me some love and subscribe to email notifications so you’re pinged when Part 3 of this 5-part series is published. In the meantime, check out Part 1 if you missed it — it’s filled with activities you can try before and during a workshop to ground people and set expectations.



Jackie Colburn

Weekly resources for facilitators and leaders. Learn tips and methods to run better workshops, accelerate teams and uncover new ideas.