I wanted to write blog post about my experience at the HOW Interactive Design Conference in DC. I quickly dug up my notes, found all of the hand outs I received and pulled up the website hosting all of the speakers’ presentations. I thought about all of the important things I learned and the conversations I had with my boss upon returning in an effort to convince him that we needed to start doing all of these important things right now. I tried to decide on what would be the best way to summarize each presentation; how to include all the knowledge shared without writing a thesis paper. And most importantly, figuring how to write a blog post (I haven’t had much experience on the literary side of design).
After that mess ran through my mind I figured out what I really took away from the conference:
1. Feed off of the raw passion for design that every attendee exudes.
Don’t get me wrong, pretty much everything that comes out of those presenters’ mouths is worth listening to. They are the thought leaders in the interactive design industry. We should undoubtedly pay attention, but you can find everything they’re saying on their website or someone else’s.
So why fly across the country to see these individuals speak in person? Well that’s easy, because of their passion! Articles can be well written and even witty, but you’ll never be able to see the author’s passion and devotion to the subject when it’s in black and white.
And that’s why we’re all here isn’t it? Because, we love to design. It’s easy to lose sight of that when we’re grinding along week after week. Attending a conference and seeing the people that inspire you being so completely passionate about what they do will rejuvenate your love for this work. And yes, that is worth flying across the country for.
2. Connect with the people you meet.
A lot of people go to conferences with the goal of building their network. Yes, this is a good place to do that, but how many faces can you connect to the names on business cards when you get home?
Sure you can take notes on each card with hints as to which person was which. Just because you noted that “Diane” was wearing a flowered skirt may not jog your memory quite like you thought it was going to when you were admiring her attire.
Remember that all of the people at this conference are your peers. So act like it! You are not interviewing for a job when chatting at happy hour. Don’t be formal! Don’t give them a long talk about what your design firm can accomplish. Just hang out. Grab a beer. Talk shop. Talk about your design frustrations, ask them questions, seek advice. These people are filled with information and wisdom and possibilities. Learn from them and let them learn from you. This is how you’ll make an impression. This is how you will remember them and in turn, how they will remember you.
You can’t just “network,” you have to connect.
3. Don’t lose your inspiration when your plane lands.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of the conference when you’re there, but it is completely different when you return home and back to the grind. Get on twitter and follow your favorite speakers and the inspiring peers you spent your weekend with. Send out emails telling everyone how awesome it was to get to speak with them and ask to stay in touch. Just because the conference lasted only three days doesn’t mean that the connections you made and the passion you rediscovered have just as short of a lifespan.
And for those of you who are dying to get your hands on all those presentation slides, you can find them here. Dig in.
If you have any questions or want to know more about the conference you can shout at me on twitter (@thericab).
I also want to thank Bestica UX for sending me to DC to be surrounded by amazing peers and inspirational people full of passion for design!