For over 10 years we’ve specialised in running collaborative workshops and design processes. This page details the tools and stationery we turn to time and time again.

Key equipment

What to use should always be dictated by the venue you’re facilitating in but we’ve found the following to be must-haves to include in our workshop toolbox:

Sticky notes

We recommend you purchase sticky notes that are 76mm x 127 mm as these are the perfect size – small enough to encourage brevity, but big enough for participants to generate readable outputs. Also consider using different colours for different steps, e.g. for empathy mapping use yellow for thinking, pink for feeling and green for doing, etc.

Whiteboards and/or flip charts

You can never have enough of these. The more you have, the more you’ll be able to keep the outputs from previous exercises on display instead of covering them up to save space. Always remember to bring your own white board or flip chart pens and cleaning solution!

Pens

We’d always recommend you urge participants to use Sharpies or other permanent pens that offer a thicker and more legible stroke. Avoiding pencils is essential to ensure the writing doesn’t smudge and become difficult to read. Similarly, we avoid using ballpoint pens during group activities to make it easier to see and read from a distance.

Stickers

Stickers are a truly great workshop supply to have – they can help you heat map, vote and decide. Each box will contain more than enough stickers for 1 workshop. So consider providing each participant with a pre-cut set of stickers they can use throughout the day. Consider buying different sizes and colours to use for different exercises.

Clocks, timers, and stopwatches

Keeping to time, and getting through a pre-planned agenda is key to facilitating a successful workshop. Always provide participants with visual cues by using clocks, timers, and stopwatches.

Things to display outputs …

Blue-tac, drawing pins, clothes pegs and string … not necessarily the most high-tech stuff … but so handy when it comes to showcasing outputs effectively.

Refreshments

Timing the delivery of snacks, tea, coffee, and if required additional food, is a great way to break up longer sessions.

But remember to make sure the timing of these are aligned to your agenda. As and when timings for refreshments are dictated to you, make sure you design your agenda around these – to ensure breaks for food and drinks are a positive, not a hindrance.

Keep participant’s energy up by:

Providing

Light and healthy snacks. The longer the session, the greater the need. And it’s always better to get more, than less.

Plenty of water is available throughout the session.

Avoiding

Big meals that take a long time to serve/eat.

Heavy food that is likely to slow people down.

For larger groups (40+ people):

When facilitating larger groups of people, in larger venues, you should also consider:

  • Assigning a lead facilitator to lead from the front.
  • Ensuring each group either has an additional dedicated facilitator that is focussed on keeping that group on-track and addressing any issues that crop up OR a group leader who has experienced similar processes and is willing to support steering the group.
  • Using a microphone and ensuring all groups can see what they need to – as there’s nothing worse than struggling to see slides or hear exercise instructions.
  • Using a whistle or other audio cues to alert participants when time is up or drawing to a close.

Equipment checklist

Save time and stress when preparing your next workshop by using this workshop equipment checklist:

Running an online workshop?

Find out more about the tools and stationery we use for online workshops.

Our thoughts

Read the latest thoughts and advice from the team at Border Crossing UX:

People Don’t Care About Your Digital Transformation – They Just Want Their $#!T to Work!

It might seem like a bold choice to give a talk about how people don’t care about digital transformation at a Digital Transformation Summit, but as an expert in User Research, Esther Stringer knows the importance of ensuring stakeholder buy in and giving users what they really want and need – something that works. This post gives an overview of the talk and its key takeawys.

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Designing in an interconnected world

The way the design thinking process embraces uncertainty and creatively works through problems makes it very effective in tackling complexity and creating new possibilities. This was the sentiment held by many speakers at the UX Scotland conference and is what we try to remember through every project at Border Crossing UX.

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Participants interacting with our stand at Service Design in Government

Reflections from Service Design in Government 

Attending Service Design in Government was extremely valuable for gaining advice, understanding and practical strategies for working within large and complex organisations.

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