So we’re now T-minus 24 hours from kicking off America’s Next Top Research Session. Let’s make sure we’ve got our ducks in a row and we’re going to be most effective when spending time with users. 

Double Check Your Research Plan

Use a Research Plan to focus on what you are researching, hypotheses you are testing, or insight you hope to gain. Setting a set of goals and an agenda is vital. We talked about this prior, with our guide on writing your Research Plan.

Once you have a research plan written, share this with another designer and your product manager to ensure you have unbiased questions and are covering everything you’ve outlined in your goals. 

Double check on who is going to be attending each meeting. Be sure everyone has a copy of the Research Plan ahead of time and feels comfortable with their roles.

If you have team members who are unfamiliar with the special world of user research sessions, be sure to grab them for a few minutes ahead of time. It’s better to be fully prepared, with the same expectations across the board, rather than having mid-session confusion.

Remind Your Participants

Send a quick note to your participants around 18-20 hours out, reminding them of your upcoming session. Ensure you’ve provided links and guides to join a video call or the logistics to joining the session in-person. 

I also recommend providing your phone number and email to reach out with any logistics or day-of questions for your participant. It frustrating for everyone involved if a participant struggles to join your video call or find your office on time.

Keep a list of who is scheduled when during your calls, with their contact information handy. This way it’s easy to reach out to participants running late, or if you need to make any last minute audibles. 

Clear Your Head

One of the hardest parts of running user research sessions is remaining calm and present in the moment. Expressing emotions, smiling, nodding, and other unconscious behavior can obfuscate results, particularly during a usability test. 

I call this my User Researcher Persona. This relaxed, quiet person is who users are introduced to. Rather than the normal fun and outgoing version of myself. 

Be sure to provide yourself the mental space ahead of each session. Don’t schedule sessions back-to-back. Inevitably something will run long. Plus, you absolutely need the ability to relax and recoup between sessions. As a friend has reminded me, the key to staying sane is “short breaks and shots.”

During any session, you are always able to ask for a moment to grab your notes, pull up the next task, or regain your composure. Don’t worry about being perfect. You’re human. Being relaxed – no matter how weird the session goes is the important part.

You’ve Got This

No matter what happens, if this is your first session or your five-hundredth, remember that you’ve got this. It’s going to go great.