The 15-minute persona exercise

In an ideal world, we would have a target persona for each audience and project we work on. In the real world, this hardly ever happens.

We all know how it goes: We’ve got five different projects we’re working on, no time to finish what we have, and another one gets thrown on our plate that needs to be done by the end of the week. To make the project as impactful as possible we need to target it to a specific audience and their needs, but creating a fully fleshed out persona takes a significant amount of research, numerous iterations and evaluations, and countless collaborative meetings, which will take weeks (or months) to complete.

It only takes a handful of minutes, however, to identify a few key attributes that will help you make your project more personalized and targeted, and one that will resonate with your audience. There’s value in creating what I call a “lite persona.” 

Before you start your next project, take just 10 to 15 minutes to answer these questions:

Who is your target audience? (This should be pretty easy to answer, just make sure you’re specific.)

What are their overall goals and desires in life?

What are their goals and desires in relation to your unit, or to UIUC as a whole?

What kinds of transformations or changes are they seeking?

How can your project help connect these goals, desires, and changes to what your unit and the university can provide? 

Write the answers out on a piece of paper, put them on your whiteboard, or visualize them on a virtual platform like (look for a workshop in April where I’ll share more about using this platform for personas and other projects). Even if you don’t have time to build out a full persona, just articulating the answers to these questions and creating a lite persona will give you a better idea of how to focus your project – and it will help get your audience from where they are to where you want them to be.