Persona profiles come from user experience, human-centered design, and design thinking. They put a name and a face on stakeholder groups. They are fictionalized characterizations to help participants better empathize and understand the stakeholder groups. A good persona profile template looks like a dossier: it has a name, the customer group they belong to, likes, dislikes, career goals, frustrations, feelings towards your organization, needs that your organization can help provide for, preferred communications channels, and a memorable quote.
A great way to facilitate developing persona profiles is to use open space. As a large group, brainstorm a list of stakeholder groups, then select the top stakeholder groups to explore in more detail. Each top stakeholder group gets its own persona profile template. From there, participants are free to work on the persona or personas they have the most energy around. Don't dictate who has to develop which profile. And, if someone wants to leave a persona midway and join development of another, that's OK. The principles of open space say, whoever shows up are the right people, whatever conversations are had are the right ones to have, and whenever a conversation starts and ends is the right time for it to start and end. And there's one law: the law of two feet. That means, if a conversation isn't working for you, you can leave it an join another.
Share a completed mock-up example so participants better understand what's expected.Give participants about an hour to develop the persona profiles. Then, invite participants to share the persona profiles they'd developed back to the large group. Graphic record highlights from that debrief.
I first saw persona profiles used by Dean Meyers in September 2013.
Here's a link to a free persona profile template.