How we mapped opera

In late last year, we wrote about a post about an AWMUG event format to test interest, which culminated in Mapping Opera, an open workshop run with the Royal Opera House.

If you couldn’t make it, here’s how it went, what we’d do differently in future, and if you’re interested in running a similar event, a link to all the resources created for the workshop, free to re-use.

Wait, Mapping Opera?

Until Wardley Mapping becomes mainstream activity, it’s actually quite hard to find examples of Wardley Maps beyond Simon Wardley’s pseudo-book/medium-collection thing on It’s even harder to find somewhere to get some practice with others in a relatively safe space.

This isn’t helped by the fact that maps are often used as an aid for strategically sensitive discussions that you might not want to share publicly.

With Mapping Opera, we set out to provide this safe space for people interested in using the technique to get some practice with others, using some real scenarios, real personas, and real user needs. Working under something like the Chatham House Rules, the Royal Opera House was game enough to play along with us, and provide these to make the event possible.

For people coming along to the event, they had the chance to get in some practice, to help them see when to use this in their jobs, and in a swanky venue.

In return, the Royal Opera House ended up with some smart people creating maps, that they could compare their own ones too, and identify any blind spots they might have.

How did it go?

In the end, the event ran much like this blog post sketching out a format for the event:, and this slide deck should give an idea of the specific activities.

One of the goals of this event was to test the format, so others can try it out, so feel free to copy this deck and adapt for your own activities.

Slide deck for the event

Making maps

We started with an introduction of the users and with journey maps of how people tend go about going to the opera – looking over the personas and running through some of the user needs they were meeting.

Next, in groups we created value chains, based on what we knew, with at least one person from the Royal Opera House in each group. Next, we then added in movement and evolution.

Using maps

Once we had maps, the next step was to try using them, to help explore some questions like the ones below, to practice using them as a communication tool:

  • What would this map look like 5 years ago?
  • What might this map look like in 3 years?
  • What would this map look for a competitor, and what would you do in their position?

Sharing maps

Finally, we ended up with sharing our maps in the room, discussing our exploration of one of these questions together, wrapping up with a show and tell from the Royal Opera House, where they shared their maps from earlier sessions, to compare and contrast our plays, and where we’d put various components, on the map with theirs.

An experiment with feedback

As an alternative to asking people to fill out a feedback form, rating things from one to five, we asked participants to anonymously sketch out a journey map of how they felt the event went, marking the points that stood out to them as they went through the exercises.

The idea here would be that this would provide richer feedback than getting a set of numbers, especially given the relatively low number of participants – we’d end up with an idea of the high points, the low points and the thoughts or questions they had at various places.

And to the extent that giving a feedback in a survey can be fun, they’re kinda fun to make – I’ve added a couple here, to give an idea of what they look like, after checking about sharing them:

Things we’d do differently in future

We saw a fair few patterns in the feedback that came back, and based on that I think we’d do a few things differently for a future one.

Choose a single user, and user need and map that

Initially when introducing the users and their user needs, we left the decision of which users to map the needs for down to each group. This meant people ended up spending time working out which user to map, and reaching an agreement together, before starting.

Given the time available, I think we’d just choose one ahead of time in future if we had a similar half day slot.

Make sure that everyone knew to use the cheat sheet

We’d put together a short mapping cheat sheet to refer to when running through the exercises, and the feedback was generally that it helped, but quite a few participants didn’t really use it until prompted, at which point it helped clear things up.

Have some nominal fee for tickets or enforce timing

One of the issues of running a free event is that you get no-shows, and last-minute cancellations.

When you’re running a meetup, you can get away with this, as typically if you have a couple of speakers, and while latecomers can be a bit awkward, they tend not to have much effect on the overall outcome of the event.

If you have an event where you’re relying on group activities, to end up with some satisfying outcomes, the event is much more reliant on the size of the groups that form, and the dynamics inside them.

This means if you have no-shows or latecomers after you’ve split people into groups, you can end up with awkward-sized groups, which make communication within them harder, or you can end up re-treading old ground to get the whole group back on the same page, eating into the activities planned for the day.

Running this yourself

If you’re up for running something like this yourself – that’s great news! Feel free to use all the information below.

There’s blog posts about the event format, the deck we used, and the cheat sheet we relied on to get through the day:

The CC licensed deck used for the event

The Wardley Mapping cheat sheet, to help work out where to put components

The initial post about this event format

Why you might share a scenario for an event like this

Coming to other events like this

If this is interesting to you, and you’d like to come to one of these, or host one like this, we’d love to hear from you – the most efficient way to do that is to fill this form below:

If you prefer email, you can reach us at, or follow us on twitter as @awmug.

Alternatively, come hang out in the map-camp slack workspace.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s