Making every design event
worth it

How to get the most before, during and after every design event you attend.

We are many

The Design Community has been looking for ways to spread the lessons we’ve learned over the years. Hits and misses, methodologies and inspirations have constantly challenged us to raise the bar, rethink ourselves, and take things a step further as designers.

And that’s what we’ve done in tons of Design Meetups, Conferences and Workshops. To get the big picture, in São Paulo until mid-2019, more than 1500 events with the tags UXUI, and Design were listed, as well as almost 500 more with the tag Product Design. In New York, you can book at least 2,500 events with the tag Design in EventBrite. In San Francisco, we found 500 events, 300 in Berlin, 400 in Amsterdam and 140 in the Philippines. The list goes on and on.

UX Collective also published a list of 130 design conferences for 2019.

And have a lot share

Yes, we have a lot to talk about. We meet at these events to share tools tutorials and feedback on software, discuss design trends, learn how to scale teams and products, systematize our work, improve our collaboration with engineers; and, of course, expose our challenges and flaws.

With so many events going on, how do we make the most of the ones we attend? How to figure it out which event going on around us is key to shape our career, craft and boost our skills?

By talking to some designers, along going outside and interacting with others in events and gathering insights from awesome articles, such asPatrick Fulton’s The Value of Local MeetupsWhy You Should Attend Meetups, by Ahmed P-Thinker; and Reasons to Go to a Tech Meetup by Louise Mellor — I’ve listed 7 steps to make the most of every design event you attend, before, during, and after. They’ll cover::

  1. Learn how others design
  2. Broaden your design toolkit
  3. Get the big picture
  4. Network like a boss
  5. Get to know the speakers
  6. Find the source of inspiration
  7. Boost the chances of getting a design position

Learn how others design

By going to design events you’re exposed to topics that are outside your work scope, and this is great because you get the chance to understand how other designers deal with problems similar to yours, thus having a direct impact on the way you work.

Disruptive Designers, by Hurca™ for Hiwow

Even highly specific events, for example about software or methodology, can call for new insights that widen your perspective or lend a hand in your day-to-day life. This makes you get the knowledge that seems to have nothing to do with your routine, but it has. Especially if you work in a small design team or work by yourself as a freelancer.

“The role of design is not a closed scope. So, seeing how other professionals act in other companies brings you insight into how to bring that into your team and your work.” Manuela Doerr, Product Designer at Itaú Unibanco.

Whether in a conference, meetup or even a workshop; always seek to learn from others:

  1. How are other design teams structured?
  2. How is the design process? How does it differ from yours?
  3. How do they approach a new project?
  4. How do they collaborate with other teams such as engineers, marketing, content, business?
  5. How do designers collaborate with other designers?
  6. What challenges are they facing?

Broaden your design tool kit

Commonly, we’re so focused on researching, and prototyping to land our day-to-day tasks that we kind of forget to try new methodologies and tools.

Whether it’s an event with 10 or 100 designers, you can be sure that at least one of them will have faced something — a problem, a methodology, a plugin, software — that you haven’t yet.

Therefore, design events are great opportunities to touch base with these methodologies and update your toolkit. To do this, try to understand:

  1. Their main methodologies or framework
  2. What software and tools they use
  3. How do they prototype

Get the big picture

In an event, speakers usually take the opportunity to discuss a specific case, share a point of view, or share a project they have built up, giving details on challenges, how they handled a problem, what worked and what didn’t.

Although time is a constraint, it’s worth taking a step further in as many points as possible. Ask about the rationale behind decisions, what they would’ve done differently and what are their next steps.

“Sometimes things go wrong. It is technology and it is inevitable. Why not talk in an open forum about your experiences and the lessons that you’ve learned, to prevent others from going through the same pain?” Louise Mellor at Interpro.

To get this done, draw conclusions from questions like:

  1. What was the case scenario?
  2. What problem were they trying to solve?
  3. How was the research process?
  4. How did they turn research insights into solutions?
  5. What were the business results for the team and users?
  6. What are the main learnings?
  7. What are the next steps?

Network like a boss

The most important of theU 7 items is to network like a boss. That way, you connect face-to-face with designers you wouldn’t meet in other situations

“Why is it so important to do this? Because it allows you to build relationships with your peers, which can be incredibly beneficial as you grow in your career”. Patrick Fulton

Another tip is: go alone. When you go with friends or co-workers, you stay in your comfort zone and have a false sense that you exchanged learnings with people, when in fact you end up just talking to people that are already part of our daily routine. That doesn’t work.

“If you go to a design event but don’t talk to or meet someone new, you failed.” Vinicius Vieira, UX Designer.

This goes without saying: visibility is crucial when building up a career or even looking for a job. Use design events to put yourself in the spotlight, express your opinions, bring your ideas to the table, and interact with other members of the community.

In his article, The Value of Local Meetups, Patrick Fulton states that engaging in these kinds of events is also useful for gaining experience in public speaking, testing out new ideas, and getting comfortable with large audiences. Especially if you seek to apply for lecturing at large conferences and events.

Start small, share your ideas with a group of 3 to 6 people. As you gain confidence, increase the scope, and you’ll be prepared to interact with hundreds of people when you least expect it.

Get to know the speakers

Before deciding whether or not an event is worth going, it’s important to know who will be present and how relevant their work is to your areas of interest. Do a quick search on who are the speakers, mediators and who is sponsoring the event.

Checking the participants’ background will help you avoid shallow questions and focus on the right ones, making the event more productive. A simple look at a speaker’s portfolio, LinkedIn, Behance or Twitter is already enough input to get an overview of that person’s mindset.

To check someone’s background, go through:

  1. What are their roles and background?
  2. How did they contribute to the design community?
  3. What are their most relevant projects?

Find their source of inspiration

Get to know where other designers look for references, be it the audience or speakers themselves. Find out their favorite sources of relevant content and how they keep on-trend. When approaching someone, try to understand:

  1. Who do they consider an inspiration?
  2. Where do they get relevant content?
  3. Which book, article or writer do they recommend?
  4. How do they keep up with design trends?

Increase your chances of getting a design position

People are 34% more likely to accept a request when done face-to-face, according to the study “A Face-to-Face Request Is 34 Times More Successful Than an Email”, conducted by Mahdi Roghanizad of Western University in Canada.

The researcher asked 45 people to make the same request to 450 strangers. Half did by email and the other half personally. The result was as follows:

“We found that people were much more likely to agree to complete the task when they were asked in-person as opposed to over email. These findings are consistent with previous research showing that people are more likely to comply with requests in person than over email.” Vanessa Bohns

You can say, therefore, that introducing yourself face-to-face to a recruiter is more efficient than sending an email or trying to connect on LinkedIn. Obviously, that doesn’t mean your chances of getting a job also increase by 34%, but the comparison works.

So in a heated market like the Design Industry, boosting your hiring chances can be a valuable tool, especially if you’re starting your career or changing from another field.

Also, most design events are hosted by HR people, so it’s also an opportunity to get to know the structure, the team and show interest in the available positions.

“The war on talent can be tough, particularly in niche markets. You can approach candidates or recruiters who regularly attend these groups to help bridge that gap.” Louise Mellor at Interpro.

To make yourself present and noticed, have the following materials prepared:

  1. An updated portfolio.
  2. Which positions are open in the company.
  3. What is unique about them and where you need to improve.

Takeaways

Each design event is different. Some have broader themes, others are more specific. There’s room to talk about anything from new functionality in Figma to how designers exchange feedback in a team.

That being said, it’s clear that the way you prepare for events may vary. There’s no need to ask all the questions in a single event or have all eyes on you. Rather, get the most out of each event thinking about what you need to evolve as a designer and the next steps of your career.

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