Planning a UX discovery workshop

Discovery is a tough sell at the best of time – top tips for getting the most from this vital period of a UX or digital project

Discovery is a word which gets thrown around a lot at the moment. Almost as much as the A-word.

I’ve run a bunch of discovery sessions over the last few years,and I feel like the more I do the more the opportunity is and some have definitely been more successful than others. 

So here are my top 8 pointers on things to spot/things to avoid.

There are tons of good material written about how to actually run a session, so I don’t want to rehash that too much.

Consider these top-level pointers on how to approach rather than a play by plan breakdown for the day

1. Give the preparation the attention it needs.

This is likely to be the first contact a lot of people on your team will have had with the client. It’s also an important opportunity to put down a marker in terms of ground rules – approach and expectations. These things don’t just happen on the day. They need thinking through and preparation in terms of how you might land them

2. Get the right people in the room

This might sound really obvious, but it’s really important. Spend the time figuring out before who needs to be involved. Chances are you’ll be starting late so there will be pressure on the team to begin as soon as possible. However not including all the right people at the start is a sure fire recipe  for longer term pain. 

I once spent a year building a site only to launch it and the chairwoman’s husband convinced her to take it down after one week. Turns out he was a powerful stakeholder and we should have included him in the discovery process.

3. Don’t go too “cookie cutter”

While it’s good to have a template you can cherry-pick from, there will be elements which have to be bespoke each time. That is the value that you are adding – If you were just dusting off a PowerPoint each time, anyone could do it.

Recognise that the value add takes TIME. You need to give you and your team a good run-up to this. 

4. Compare notes with your team

Happily, the continuous improvement mindset is now everywhere. So there is a (good) chance that someone in the team will have come up with a different way of doing things since the last time. 

Take the time to sit down with the delivery team beforehand and make sure everyone understands how each team will work before you go and tell your client.

5. Manage up in your organisation

New projects tend to be shiny for your client and for your own business. It’s likely that a bunch of people are going to want to be involved for all kinds of valid reasons for example;

  • New business team may have handled the work and want to be there for continuity
  • C-level people who may be there for reassurance/ “gravitas rolling out the big guns”

Try to align all these people internally before so they are bought it. Aspirationally you could also lay down some ground rules in terms of what you need from them. 

The end game here is to try and avoid a situation where a Hippo wants to impress the client and end up overpromissing to the client and the team then spend the rest of discovery

6. Be able to articulate your process but…

Be really clear with your team about what the next steps are for the project

7. But don’t call it a “process..”

The client has just engaged an agency. Chances are they are super excited about it. And they are expecting to be wowed imminently with creative thinking and clever solutions. Hearing you bang on about your seven-step process and associated roles and responsibilities associated MIGHT not be exactly what they want to hear at this stage

 There is nothing better at killing the enthusiasm the client has.

8. Know your audience

Don’t put a load of marketing people in the same room as a load of tech people and expect them to stay engaged when the conversation turns to infrastructure, APIs, and regression and blackbox testing. Try and keep the conversations focussed around their needs. The figuring out how will come later

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