A list of our favorite workshop supplies.
In the world of workshops, success is often synonymous with preparation. As an experienced facilitator or a first-time organizer, you understand that selecting the right supplies for your upcoming workshop is not just about ticking items off a checklist. It’s about creating an environment that fosters engagement, learning, and productivity. In this blog post, we delve into the critical components of a well-stocked workshop and explore how choosing the appropriate materials can make all the difference in your event’s outcome. We’ll provide insights, tips, and recommendations on what to include in your workshop toolkit to ensure you and your participants are equipped to excel. So, let’s get started and set the stage for a memorable and fruitful workshop experience!
Each product listed is paired with an Amazon link so that you can purchase the item. If you like to purchase them all at the same time, you can purchase all the supplies from Amazon using the Voltage Control Workshop Supplies list.
Everybody loves the time timer. If you are like me, once you use it during your workshop, you’ll start using it for all types of meetings. I especially find it helpful for timeboxing broad discussions, and for creating time for individual work prior to making an important decision. There are a few different models and it is worth discussing the differences. The classic Time Timer has a hard plastic exterior and is available in 3″, 8″, & 12″ sizes. The 12″ is quite large and is best suited for larger workshops. If you are considering going smaller I would recommend the silicone exterior “mod” model. It is much more durable and it’s small size means that it is a bit more portable. None of the Time Timers come with batteries, so remember to buy batteries. Get 2 Time Timers; one to keep track of your current activity, and one to remind you
when to take a break
The 3×5 Post-it notes are the number one tool for capturing your thoughts during the workshop. Make sure to get the canary yellow as they provide the best contrast when reading from across the room. Make sure you buy the standard Post-its and not the “Pop-Up” that are arranged in an accordion pattern. If you get the “Pop-Up” variety you will end up writing upside down and they will flop down when you put them on the wall. Size matters, as the landscape perspective works perfectly when capturing big ideas with the larger markers. This combination helps you write just the right amount. Also, when sketching, the 3×5 Post-its work well as either a desktop display in landscape orientation or a mobile screen in portrait orientation.
Sometimes you may find that the 3 x 3 Post-it notes are needed in addition so you can get a little more playful with the colors.
Felt Tip Pens
These felt tips pens are a bit magical. Since people aren’t accustomed to using them, they seem to immediately illicit creativity. Perhaps this is also because we used pens like this early in our school days, when we were in art class. Regardless, these pens are great for the sketches, as they provide better contrast than ballpoint pens or pencils, allowing you to read from further away. They are also the ideal size, so you don’t write too much or too little.
Dry Erase Markers (Black, Red, & Green)
Dry Erase markers are used by the Facilitator or graphic recorder, if you have one, throughout the workshop to capture what’s happening in the room. The black ones are used for checklists and capturing main points. The red and green markers are handy when you want to embellish your map and other graphics. They can also be used in tallying votes, when not using the dot stickers, such as voting on your top workshop questions, or when conducting a note-and-vote.
After running numerous workshops, I’ve found highlighters to be a facilitator’s friend. I often have someone highlight copy that resonates with the team when we are reviewing sketches. This is handy during prototyping, as we can use this copy. I also recommend that new facilitators highlight relevant sections of the book that will help them remember critical elements in the heat of the moment. The highlighters can also be handy during sketching to help bring focus to specific notes you are most excited about, including in your sketch.
Sharpie markers are an indispensable tool in any workshop setting. Their vibrant, bold ink make them perfect for capturing participants’ attention and ensuring that key points or ideas stand out on flip charts or whiteboards. Additionally, Sharpie markers have a long-lasting, quick-drying formula that minimizes smudging, allowing for clear and legible notes throughout the session. By providing a versatile writing instrument that’s easy to see and read, even from a distance, Sharpie markers facilitate seamless communication, encourage collaboration, and help create a visually engaging learning environment for all participants.
Dot voting is probably my favorite thing about workshops. Whether it is the smaller dots and the team is marking the pieces that are compelling and exciting to them or the larger binding votings, the energy level in the room is elevating and infectious. Stick with the ChromaLabels. The Averys are tempting as they are less expensive, however, the ChromaLabels are easier to move, because the dispenser makes handling much easier, and the Avery stickers are difficult to remove from glass. You will need 3/4” (0.75) pink dots and 1/4″ (0.25) blue dots.
Printer paper is mainly used for note-taking and for assembling your sketch. It’s always handy to have scratch paper around anyway, so make sure your printer isn’t running low or simply stock up.
Get 1 roll of masking or painters tape for posting solution sketches on the walls. Some walls don’t play nice with post-it notes, so having this tape around to hold up notes can prove helpful.
If you have limited whiteboard or wall space for post-its & sketches, flip charts can save the day. Consider getting 1 or 2 pads just in case you need them, they always seem to come in handy, especially if you can’t reserve the same room for the full week.
If you are running remote interviews and need your candidate to see you, or running an in-person interview and need your observers to see your tester and the actions they are taking, don’t forget to get a webcam.
Rolling Dry Erase Board
If you are short on dry erase boards and wall space, consider a rolling dry erase board. Even when I have plenty of wall space, I love having a few of these boards on hand. It’s great to have the ability to move them from room to room or team to team. They also rotate, so you can have 2 different sets of content handy in the same place.
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Dry erase paint can be handy if you don’t want to hang actual whiteboards, or want to cover more space without buying tons of whiteboards. Turn your wall into the whiteboard!
Pipe cleaners, though seemingly simple, can be a surprisingly effective tool for prototyping in a workshop setting. Their flexible, bendable nature allows participants to quickly create and manipulate shapes, representing various concepts or components of a design. By encouraging hands-on experimentation and iterative thinking, pipe cleaners promote a low-pressure environment for brainstorming, problem-solving, and visualizing ideas. As an inexpensive and readily available material, pipe cleaners enable facilitators to engage participants in a tactile, interactive way, fostering a creative and collaborative atmosphere that drives innovation and encourages out-of-the-box thinking.
Popsicle sticks are a versatile and cost-effective resource for prototyping in a workshop setting. Their sturdy, flat structure lends itself well to creating two-dimensional and three-dimensional models, allowing participants to rapidly test and iterate their ideas. Popsicle sticks can be easily cut, glued, or stacked, enabling a wide range of design possibilities for both structural and functional prototypes. By incorporating these unassuming materials into your workshop, you empower participants to engage in hands-on exploration, collaboration, and problem-solving. As they transform simple popsicle sticks into tangible representations of their ideas, workshop attendees can better communicate their concepts and refine their designs, ultimately enhancing the quality of their prototypes and the overall workshop experience.
Holding those prototypes together will need a little help from our old elementary school friend. The glue will assist participants in using their creativity. Glue sticks can also be a great alternative or add one.
3 x 5 Index Cards
Index cards play an indispensable role in prototyping and workshop innovation. They offer a flexible and tangible medium that encourages creative thinking, brainstorming, and collaboration. With their uniform size and shape, they are ideal for categorizing and organizing ideas, allowing participants to easily rearrange, group, and visualize thoughts in a dynamic and spatial way.
When designing physical prototypes, rulers can provide accurate measurements to ensure elements are properly scaled and aligned, which is vital for functionality, usability, and aesthetic appeal.
Last but not least, make sure that you have ordered snacks. You have to take care of the humans! In addition to making sure you have planned for daily lunches to arrive on time, have some snacks on hand so that the team can avoid becoming hangry. It is best to avoid sugar and excess carbs, instead, focus on protein and fiber. You may be tempted to get donuts, pastries, bagels, or other sweet treats to celebrate this great work you are doing, however, this will undermine your creativity and zap your energy. Instead, consider low sugar, protein-rich foods such as nuts, jerky, vegetables & hummus, fruit, low-fat yogurt, and protein bars (check the sugar content). Use these same guidelines when ordering lunch; consider salads or some other light fare.
Hopefully, this list of supplies helped you get a handle of the purpose and reasoning behind the recommended supplies. I’m confident that your workshops will run better if you buy the proper supplies, as I’ve seen it make it a difference in all of the workshops I’ve facilitated.
If you are interested in expanding your facilitation skills and gaining confidence needed to transform meetings, inspire innovation, drive collaboration, and lead change you may be interested in our Facilitation Certification Program.