5 Rules for Scheduling UX Workshops

Compared to other kinds of meetings, workshops take a lot of time, a lot of people, and a lot of preparation. When you schedule a workshop, that requires a real investment from your participants. You should schedule workshops carefully to make sure you don't waste anyone's time. 

Five rules help ensure you respect everyone's time:

  1. Never schedule at 8am
  2. Never schedule longer than 3 hours
  3. Never schedule past 5pm
  4. Never schedule on Monday
  5. Never at schedule the end of the week

Follow these five rules, and you'll get the most out of your time with your participants. 

1. Never start at 8am

As a facilitator, you should arrive an hour before your workshop to prepare. That means all workshops should start no earlier than one hour after the work day begins. If the work day starts at 8am, then you can't schedule the workshop earlier than 9am and still have an hour to prepare.

Usually it won't take an hour to prepare, but that extra time is sacrosanct. The extra time comes in handy in a number of scenarios:

  • You run late
  • You have technical difficulties
  • You're missing supplies
  • You have to make a last-minute change to the agenda

You usually spend that prior hour waiting and fidgeting about. That's ok. If you do need extra time, your participants won't waste any time waiting for you to get the projector working. A lot of people are taking a lot of time out of their day to attend your workshop. Make sure you're considerate of every second of their time.

2. Never longer than three hours

Think about all the people in your life that you spend more than three, consecutive hours with. My kids rarely get more than three hours before I engineer myself a break. Is your workshop more important than the most important people in your participants' lives?

Nope.

If you're considerate of your participants' time, then you're considerate about how important their time is. Never schedule a workshop to run longer than three hours. Your participants have more important things to do. 

But, wait, I hear you say. I need more than three hours of their time, I hear you say.

If you have more than three hours of material to work through, split your workshop into multiple sessions with at least one hour between each: for example, a morning session an afternoon session with an hour-long lunch break inbetween. I've done "all day" workshops where we ran a three-hour session in the morning and another 3-hour session in the afternoon. Everyone received an hour long break in-between. 

Sure, we said the break was for lunch, but maybe they went back to their desks and scheduled a doctor's appointment for their kiddo, or maybe they ran to the bank. Who knows what they did with their time. It's their time, and you need to respect their time in and out of the workshop.

3. Never go past 5pm

Just like you need an hour to set-up and prepare, you need an hour to wrap-up. Just like our 1-hour rule in the morning, a 1-hour rule after the workshop comes in useful in several scenarios:

  • You run long 
  • You have a ton of information to capture 
  • You have a lot of clean up

Ideally, you end the workshop at least an hour before your participants's workday ends. However, it seems reasonable to end by 5. Even if work ends at 5, it's not uncommon for people to stay a bit later. When I say people, I'm mean you. Hopefully, your participants are off to grab their cleaning or take their kids to piano lessons.

4. Never schedule on Monday (usually)

If people need to travel to attend the workshop, then you don't want to schedule anything on the same day they travel. This is just like the "never at 8am" rule, only on a weekly scale. You don't want to miss an important attendee's perspective because their flight runs late, they hit inclement weather, or they're flying through O'Hare. 

There's another reason Monday's are bad days to schedule workshops. If something explodes over the weekend, then Monday is when your stakeholders have to come in and fight a bunch of emergency fires. You have a greater chance of people missing part or all of your workshop when they occur on Mondays. 

5. Never schedule at the end of the week

Like rule 4, never schedule on a Monday, you also don't want to schedule at the end of the week. Fridays are when you have to fight fires that have to be put out before you leave for the weekend. But for travellers, sometimes end of the week means Thursday. 

If participants need to travel home, don't schedule afternoon workshops on the last day. Afternoon translates literally into any time after 12 noon. In our practice, this means we schedule workshops all-day Tuesday, all-day Wednesday, and Thursday morning. That allows participants who travel Thursday afternoon to get home before too late.

This may seem like a lot of restrictions, but we get 15 hours of focused, uninterupted, collaborative, productive time with stakeholders to kick off projects. That's pretty massive.

Respect the time of others

As with anything, combine respect for your participants, their time, and some common sense.  Schedule workshops so your participants are more likely to attend and more likely to pay attention.

That means:

  • Don't schedule at the beginning or end of the day
  • Don't schedule at the beginning or end of the week
  • Don't schedule for longer than people can pay attention (3 hours)

Make it easy for your participants to attend and pay attention, and you will get more out of the workshops for all of the time and preparation you invest. It's a win-win. You don't waste your participants's time, and you get more out of your time.


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