Onboard participants

Related areas
EngagementDesignClient relationship
Resource list
TL;DR recommendations
—Send a welcome email with relevant information, or a video to introduce yourself —Provide short tutorials for the tools you’ll be using —Make any necessary pre-work part of the design —Don’t assume everyone read your onboarding email: have a Plan B

Participant onboarding is the process of preparing participants for a session or event. Here, you might want to provide information about the session's objectives, content, structure, and any pre-work or materials required for the session.

Participant onboarding is essential for several reasons:

Clarify expectations:

Providing participants with clear expectations before the session helps them understand what they can expect from the event.

—Reduce tool or process anxiety:

Participants will feel more comfortable attending the session when they know what to expect and what is expected of them.

—Save time

By providing participants with an overview of the session's objectives and facilitating a proper tool onboarding, you can focus on facilitating the session rather than providing background information.

—Build relationships

The onboarding process allows you to build trust and rapport, which can lead to more meaningful interactions during the session.

Here are our four onboarding tips:

👉 Tip #1: Send a welcome email (bonus if you add a video!)

A few days before the workshop, send a welcome email to all participants. This is your chance to introduce yourself, create excitement and curiosity for the session, and share relevant information for their onboarding. This email could include the workshop agenda, information on how to join the session, any materials they need to review, pre-work they need to complete, and the technical requirements.

Even better if you're recording a Loom with this information so they can get a glimpse of your personality. The welcome email is also a great opportunity to sneak in a short survey to gather more information about your audience (Does anyone remember our second lesson?)

👉 Tip #2: Provide short tutorials for the tools you’ll be using Leverage the power of video tutorials to onboard the participant on a new tool. You don’t need to create these videos yourself. Usually, each platform has onboarding videos out for grabs on YouTube. Equally effective is a one-pager with clear, short instructions. If you can, send participants a “sandbox” link beforehand so that they can play around and get used to the new tool before the session (e.g. for a virtual whiteboard).

In Butter, you can use this Flashcard template to quickly bring everyone up-to-speed with using the tool in just 5 minutes! Equally valuable is this “How to Butter” guide for participants.

👉 Tip #3: Make pre-work part of the design

If participants must complete some reading, watch videos, or capture insights into a whiteboard before the session, make this part the first step of the experience design. Don’t call it “prep work” or “homework”, and make it clear that the workshop will build on top of this first async learning experience.

Ideally, give them 2-3 concrete outcomes they need to bring into the sync session, and then make sure you actually use them. There’s nothing more frustrating than asking participants to prepare something and not going back to use that in session. You'll lose their trust before you even start.

👉 Tip #4: Don’t assume they’ve read your welcome email

Often, no matter how well-prepared the onboarding process is, you’ll still have participants joining without doing their homework. To ensure they will get accustomed to the tech, you can open the room 15 minutes before for those wanting to explore the space before the official workshop start. This is called the ”unofficial start”, and you can add it to the agenda and inform them in the welcome email.

If you are onboarding a team into a longer process that requires a string of workshops (e.g. a design sprint), you might want to consider hosting a kick-ff meeting to set the right expectations, align on the goals, clarify the roles and desired outcomes, and allow everyone to meet you and ask any questions before the actual work starts.