Make sure you never leave your participants hanging after an important meeting. Part 4 of this series will help you maintain a long term relationship with your participants.
View the Other Parts of this Series:
- Conducting Collaborative Design Sessions - Part 1: Prepare
- Conducting Collaborative Design Sessions - Part 2: Inform
- Conducting Collaborative Design Sessions - Part 3: Facilitate
- Conducting Collaborative Design Sessions - Part 4: Maintain
Part 1 of this series gave an overview of the purpose behind collaborative design sessions and how to prepare to conduct your own. In Part 2, we showed you how to begin your meeting by making sure everyone is aligned with the primary objectives. Part 3 outlined some of the difficulties that can arise during collaborative meetings and provided tips for how to handle tough situations if they happen to occur. Now, in the final installment of this series, you'll learn how to follow-up your meeting with an appropriate and purposeful message.
A well crafted follow-up email is just one more tool you can use to build a relationship with your participants and keep them interested in the project. You're giving them an easy way to remember everything that was discussed. Plus, you're making it especially easy for them to print out these notes and recap the meeting for their supervisors or internal team. When writing your email, just be sure to include the sections described below.
Thank your participants
The beginning of your email doesn't have to be all business. You can introduce it by thanking everyone for their ideas. The purpose of collaborative design sessions is specifically to gather the input of your users and/or clients. Without their participation, you'd probably have to be guessing on the majority of the design decisions you make. As we discussed, collaborative design can prevent re-working the various phases of the project . So it shouldn't be difficult to find genuine, heartfelt words to cover this section.
Review the meeting outcomes
Once you've begun the email with a personable tone, you can move on to business. Before you start asking for things or telling people what to do, it's best to review what the team has accomplished up to this point. Create a brief outline or overview of the goals that were met during the meeting and any decisions that were made. If your meeting was primarily for brainstorming purposes, be sure to include ideas from every participant, so that no one feels left out. This contributes to your overall image of a meeting facilitator who never misses a beat.
Outline the next steps
Now that everyone's up to speed and their memory has been sparked, list off the action items resulting from the meeting outcomes. If certain participants agreed to perform specific tasks after the meeting, be sure to list these. Also include anything you need from them in order to continue according to the project's schedule. It's important that you list your own action items as well. This way people will see that their hard work and input is being actively incorporated into the overall end product, and that this process doesn't end with the collaborative meetings. Sharing a little bit of what goes on behind the scenes builds confidence and trust with your participants. This section of your email gives everyone an idea of what they can expect from you in the near future, and what they need to do on their end to make things work.
Include memorable moments
To finish off this follow-up email, it's best to end with something positive and memorable to keep the mood light and continue to build trust. This could be anything from photos of the meeting to an inside joke about something that happened during the session. This will give everyone a feeling of exclusivity, like they're part of a cohesive team, all working toward a common goal.
Overall, if you want to keep everyone interested in the project and enthusiastic about sharing their ideas, it's critical that you keep them in the loop. Don't let weeks go by without communicating with your team. If your participants understand the value of their input and how much it truly means to the end product, they'll be happy to continue making contributions any time you need them. By participating in your collaborative design sessions, clients and users are making an investment into the project, and they need to see at every step of the way how their investment is paying off.
Furthermore, maintaining a professional relationship with this particular project team can benefit you in the future. If you're working with users, they may be able to participate in studies or other group activities on future projects. They may also be able to refer their friends or colleagues so you'll always have a pool of demographically diverse web users to participate in your research. On the other hand, if you're working with clients, giving them a great experience on one project means they'll be more willing to work with you again in the future. They'll also be a valuable resource when it comes to acquiring new projects with new clients, because when your clients' business partners or competitors see the new website, they'll want to know who made it, and your clients will refer them to you. Building a network of participants, be they users or clients, is a key advantage in planning for the future.
In conclusion, you should always approach collaborative design with deliberation and an eye for details. Every part of the process from meeting preparation to maintaining the client and/or user relationship is critical to the overall success of your design and the end product. By following the guidelines provided in this series of articles, you should be well on your way to conducting your own collaborative design sessions. Good Luck!