The size and scope of this year’s HOW Design Live offer a lot of benefits: With five separate programs, each with a broad array of sessions and a lineup of expert speakers, you can design an agenda that’s perfectly suited to your needs and interests.
Spread over five days, however, and with several thousand people attending, the event might seem overwhelming to some. Wondering how to get your head around it all? We’ve gathered tips from longtime HOW Design Live attendees for making the most out of your conference experience.
Maximize Your HOW Design Live 2014
Start with a gameplan. Be strategic about the sessions you choose when you register. Are you an in-house designer looking to start freelancing? A print designer who wants to learn web design? Choose sessions that will expand your skills and inspire your best work—not just those that look like “fun.” And remember: If you’re sitting in a session and it’s not doing it for you, you can quietly duck out and head for another. (Bonus: We’ve designed the program this year so that all sessions start and end at the same time, making it easy for you to shift gears if you want to.)
Plan to record your experience. However you like to take notes and capture ideas, plan to do that in spades at HOW Design Live. Bring a notebook, a sketchbook, a smartphone with a camera. “I take notes like a writer would take notes. If the session is highly visual, I also pull out my digital camera and constantly shoot the screen,” says veteran HOW Design Conference attendee Karen Larson. “I want to walk away with a notebook full so that I can remember almost everything about every session I attend.”
Be in the moment. Yes, five days is a long time to be away from the office. To the extent you can, leave work at work and simply immerse yourself in the HOW atmosphere. Use technology to record and communicate your experience (share via the #HOWLive hashtag on Twitter), but don’t let it interrupt your conversations or get in the way of your experience.
Put yourself out there. Perhaps the biggest benefit to attending HOW Design Live is connecting with other creatives. To do that, you have to get out of your shell. Longtime HOW Design Conference speaker (he’ll be presenting a pre-conference workshop on creative improvisation) Stefan Mumaw says, “In any extended experience like HOW, it takes a few days to take off that mask. My advice: Take off the mask as soon as you arrive. We are all uncool—just accept it and get whatever you need from the experience, whether that is information, affirmation, encouragement, empathy, commiseration or inspiration. Approach a speaker and strike up a conversation. Ask for lunch dates. Make quick friends. Leave anonymous notes around the hotel bar.”
Bring a big stack of business cards—and plan to give them all away. Brad Dressler, a HOW Design Conference regular, observes that not everyone is great at networking. “But I speak from years of experience that you’ll make both lifelong friends and tons of business contacts,” he says.
Manage your energy. Conference days are full of information and inspiration; you’ll feel like you’re drinking from a fire hose. Pay attention to your energy level, and take short breaks to decompress as needed. Pack along energy bars to keep you going between meals. Connect with a small group to head out for lunch or dinner.
Be a sponge. “A lot of us are the ‘experts’ in our companies, agencies, even our circles of friends. We spend a lot of time educating, coaching and mentoring others,” says Keith Smith, another regular on the HOW circuit. “HOW Design Live is an opportunity to take a break from being the ‘smartest kid in class.’ I relish the chances to ask questions of speakers, attendees, vendors and creatives from non-related industries.”
Keep an ear out for great advice. Given the lineup at this year’s event, particularly among the HOW Leadership Conference and the keynote presentations, you’ll be hearing from some razor-sharp people. Even speakers from outside your particular discipline can teach you well. In-House Management Conference speaker Justin Knecht recalls a session he attended several years ago presented by DJ Stout from Pentagram. “Someone asked a question about, ‘How do you choose the projects you work on?’ He said there was a magic triad of ‘good people, good work and good money’ and at least two needed to be present to take on the work. Great advice.”
Here’s what to do: Choose your sessions. Clear your calendar. Pack your bags. Open your mind.
For a Limited Time Only: The next 200 people to register for HOW Design Live will receive a signed copy of HOW Leadership Conference Program Chair Debbie Millman’s handcrafted felt-on-felt typographic art piece, created as a poster for the 2014 HOW Design Live. You can still save $200 if you sign up by April 1!
This poster is an abridged version of David Foster Wallace’s quote on leadership from his work, Consider the Lobster and Other Essays.