Empathy Mapping Workshop

Empathy mapping workshop provides qualitative insights to instruct your value proposition design.

Empathy Mapping Workshop

This empathy mapping workshop is a collaborative activity that cultivates empathy, gains alignment around user needs, goals, and pain-points, and bridges the gap between personas and design concepts.

  • Objective: gain an empathetic understanding of the persona and her unique needs in which we are designing solutions
  • Outcome: a detailed, well-defined, and exhaustive empathy mapping canvas outlining the persona and her needs
  • Next Steps: the experience your team goes through along with the newfound alignment enables you to move to the next phase of the process, value proposition design

Empathy Mapping Workshop Ingredients

  1. Instructions
    1. Talk through the purpose, details, instructions, techniques, and steps of the workshop
    2. Define success by talking through the desired outcomes of the workshop
  2. Personas
    1. Review personas to have a shared understanding of who, exactly, we are cultivating empathy
  3. Activity
  4. Reflection

Workshop details

  • Preparation: Empathy Mapping Workshop Facilitator should block out about one hour of prep time prior to the workshop
  • Duration: the workshop should last roughly 45 minutes in its entirety
  • Tasks: Create about 3-4 unique scenarios that touch on the pain-points and challenges which appear throughout the customer journey. Include a reference guide for each scenario – printed out and ready for use. Provide worksheets or have participants create the worksheets as part of the learning experience
  • Supplies: Black fine tip sharpies, large post-it easel sheets, or, 8.5×11 worksheets, and sticky notes in 5 different colors
  • Participants: Stakeholders, designers, marketers, leadership, engineers

Tip: Invite anyone who is responsible for creating products that serve your personas. If in doubt, invite them.

To get people thinking, I like to start with the following questions. These powerful questions set the stage for empathetic thinking by asking people to put themselves in the shoes of the persona.

  • Who
    • Who is the person we seek to understand?
    • What situation is this person in?
    • What is their role in the situation?
    • What problem is this person unable to solve or unable to solve well?
    • How does this person currently solve the problem, if at all?
  • Jobs-to-be-done
    • What are the jobs or tasks that stand in the way of the persona accomplishing her goal or solving her problem?
    • What do they need to do differently?
  • What job(s)-to-be-done are resulting in this person’s desire to hire a solution?
  • What decision do they need to make?
  • How will we know they were successful?


  • What do they see in their immediate surroundings?
  • What they see others saying and doing

Step 1: Introduce or re-introduce personas

Revisit the persona canvas, or create new ones.

Step 2: Introduce activity and prepare teams.

  • Break workshop participants into teams of 3-4 people.
  • Assign one persona per team if there are multiple personas, otherwise have each team work with the same persona
  • Pass out worksheets or have each team create a large Empathy Map by drawing a stick figure in the center of a large piece of paper and blocking out three sections (Think, Feel, Do) around it.
  • Give each team a copy of the extreme situations

Step 3: Complete Empathy Maps

  • For each extreme situation, have a facilitator read it out loud to the workshop.
  • Tip: Convey emotion as you introduce the extreme situation to empathize the strain/stress.
  • Give each team 5 minutes (per extreme situation) to flush out how their persona thinks/feels.
  • Tip: Teams can use one worksheet per situation or one large paper for all situations (use a different color sticky note for each situation).

Step 4: Reflect on results and activity

  • Give each team 5 minutes to reflect on the following questions: What surprises you? What did you learn about your persona? What aspects of your persona do you want to learn more about? What aspects of your persona will impact or influence your designs the most?
  • 5 minutes: Have each team share their reflections with the larger group.
  • Post Workshop Tip: Keep the Persona Empathy Maps in a visible place to refer back to when presenting scenarios/framework.
  • Note for experienced facilitators: as you gain experience facilitating these workshops, you can run one ad hoc at anytime as needed throughout the design review and in-progress phases – typically similar phases when new team members are present or when long periods of time have passed since the last persona empathy mapping workshop took place. Keep ’em fresh.


For more information about bringing a Empathy Mapping Workshop to your company or other custom training programs, drop me a note or schedule a time to chat.

A few extra resources on persona empathy mapping below.

Persona Empathy Mapping Resources

Journey mapping is key to gaining empathy

Empathy map resources