Sophie stands at the front of a room in front of a screen. Participants of the workshop at sitting at tables facing her. Everyone is clapping

Find your topic

To be able to run a workshop, you need to feel something for your material. There may be a part of the UX process that you can put a new spin on. Or a particular observation you’ve made in your career to date. Something you know a lot about outside of UX that has application in the industry? Revisiting tried and tested subject matter can be a fun refresher even for those who have many years of designing under their belt. The key is to really believe in, and enjoy, what you are talking about.

Make it memorable

Map out an engaging and coherent journey throughout your presentation. This will keep your audience on board. Detail and instruction have their place, but it’s more important to ensure that there are tangible takeaways from your workshop: a mantra, a visual or a top tip. Realistically, people attend numerous workshops and talks, and they would struggle to maintain every piece of information they have ever been presented with. The takeaways that stick are memorable, visual or funny.

Some hand-drawn wireframes stuck to the wall behind some foliage and fairly lights

Have an ally

It’s helpful to have a workshop buddy. They can combat some of the imposter syndrome you may be feeling. This could be a mentor or colleague who has run workshops before. They can give you informed feedback and advice to help shape your workshop and improve it. Sometimes just the fact that someone believes in your potential can be transformative.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

My personal technique is to cycle through slides and use mental practice, speaking and refining my script in my head, rather than out loud. This cognitive rehearsal builds confidence with the material. It’s also helpful to practise out loud or bribe a friend or colleague to be a dummy audience member. This has the added benefit of collecting feedback and critique.

Plan your props

Work through every eventuality to put your mind at ease. Need to display resources on the wall? You’ll need Blu Tac. Want to collect feedback afterwards? Paper and Post Its. How will it affect your workshop if more people show up than expected? If workshops are something you are likely to do often, put together a workshop go-kit.

Worksheets laid out on a table with some Sharpie pens. The papers have 3 columns depicting examples of 3 different personas

Familiarise yourself with the space

The space in which you are facilitating could affect how people engage with each other throughout. What tone does the level of formality in the space set? If the workshop is run in a pub, pitch the tone at a casual level. This contrasts with office-based sessions which may require a more formal tone. Think about how the space you are using encourages or challenges group work, and how you might plan accordingly.

Collect feedback

Take time to enjoy your success. Take on board critique and try to write it down in the moment. Use this feedback in the planning stage for your next workshop. If the workshop was successful, consider delivering it in different spaces with other folks, taking on board the suggested improvements. As you get more familiar with the material, you will grow in confidence and get used to presenting.

Get started

Clearleft has a rich history of supporting the local UX community in Brighton. Currently Clearlefties make up over 50% of the UXup team, through which I ran my first workshop. Clearleft folks are also represented on the UX Camp Brighton organising group. Some of us are also UX Brighton volunteers. These communities are instrumental in supporting skills development at any level of your career and provide that all-important sense of comradery within the profession. Speaking, presenting and volunteering is accessible and could provide you with a jumping off point for eventually becoming a conference speaker.

If public speaking is an area you want to improve in, or branch out into, I would definitely recommend starting within a UX community group. Junior or senior, your point of view and ideas will be embraced and valued. People welcome the opportunity to understand other peoples’ experiences in the industry. UX professionals are, after all, a friendly and curious bunch!