Data Placemats

You’re running a 2-hour workshop for, say, 6-10 people.  Have you tried Data Placemats?  Here’s how to do it.


  • Put everything you’re going to discuss on a single A3 page.
  • In particular:  have some graphs, diagrams, and big questions that need answering.
  • The last item, in the bottom right, should be:  “So, where do we go from here?”  or “So, what can we do to help you?”
  • Make the sheet look nice – like an infographic
  • Mail it out a week early, as a PDF, and tell the participants to think about it.

On the day

  • Put coffee on the table.
  • Discuss the items in order.  Have a Chairperson who can keep discussion focused.
  • Forget having a PowerPoint. Don’t even turn the projector on. this is a round-table discussion.
  • Ask participants to scribble their ideas on the sheets as you go.
  • At the end, collect the sheets.


  • Collate the participants’ ideas and incorporate them into the same design.
  • Make it look nice.
  •  Email it back to them.

Why this is a great way to host a workshop

  • It doesn’t ask the participants to do much prep.
  • Because they don’t have to do much prep, they will do the prep.
  •  It keeps discussion focused.
  • By supplying data on the sheet, you can lead the discussion where you need it to go.
  • The participants feel ownership of the sheet, because they provide the answers.
  • If the sheet looks nice, the participants might actually keep it.
  • It’s fun.