Don’t Just Show Up: Planning for HOW Design Live

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HOW Design Live

We’re in the final stretch to HOW Design Live. Every moment brings us closer to Chicago, to gathering with friends, and to total immersion.

Which means it’s time to get serious.

There are two ways to approach any kind of professional event: Show up and see what happens, or create a strategic plan for what you want to accomplish during (and after) the event.

For an event as comprehensive as HOW Design Live, with tons of programs and nearly 100 sessions, planning ahead is essential (trust us on this). Yes, there’s serendipity in drifting from one session to another, but taking the time to consider what you aim to get out of the conference experience (whether it’s creative inspiration or strategies to grow your business — or some of both) and choosing sessions intentionally makes sense, particularly since these big industry conferences aren’t cheap to attend.

Learn from a Pro

Jenny Poff; HOW Design Live

Jenny Poff, who manages a solo design studio called

Presque Isle Designs in Erie, PA, says she attended her first conference for creative freelancing years ago without much of a plan. At the time, she was trying to manage her business through a series of life-altering events including the deaths of her parents. She didn’t know what she was doing with her business, she says. “I felt I needed to go to figure it all out. I had no plan. I attended as many sessions as possible and I got overwhelmed fast. Still, I left feeling completely empowered and full of momentum. I came home with all these great ideas and spent the next year implementing them.”

Presque Isle Designs; HOW Design Live

Jenny says, “I knew I wanted to grow my business, but I didn’t know how to do it. So I went to a conference to learn what I needed to do to grow in a way that made sense for me. I walked away feeling more educated, like I had the tools I needed to make sound decisions about growth.”

Years later, Poff attended HOW Design Live. In retrospect, she says she was more confident in the direction of her business, and she’d shifted her approach to conferences. She is gravitating toward the things she needs now, specializing in design and creative forays in order to help her clients, small businesses, figure out their positioning and branding. And Poff’s got the right idea here: your individual path, talents, and expertise will guide you toward your goals and make them distinctly your own.

Tips for an Ace Experience

Hit the ground running at HOW Design Live…but don’t let your feet get too distracted. Make a plan, and get what you want!

  1. Take every exchange as an opportunity for the future. What future collaborations could come of your chance encounter over dinner or bumping into a fellow designer in the auditorium?

  2. Be visually aware. What exciting creative inspirations can you draw from just being in a new place, full of inspired, creative people? Spot any original work? What displays and products catch your eye—and why?

  3. Focus on the sessions that meet your needs. One focus area (that almost every designer we know) is the issue of work-life balance. The HOW Design Live tract for creative freelancers could help you answer questions around this magical juggling act.

  4. Take note of the mix of roles and personalities you encounter. What do you need in your own firm? What’s missing and what do you have an excess of? The creative leadership sessions could be helpful in right steering!

  5. Anything with marketing expert Ilise Benun. She’s tops when it comes to addressing what is getting in our way and making smart decisions about the biz.

  6. Check out the workshop roster! Want to know about the changing landscapes of design, business, and marketing? Plus the kind of relationships you want to sustain with clients? It’s covered. Make sure you know where and when!

  7. Write things down! What unique strategies are you hearing about? What lecturer says something that really speaks to you? Jot it down. It’s going to be a whirlwind so take the time to record insights however you can.

  8. Get outside your comfort zone. Say yes to it all! HOW Design Live is an environment where it is safe to push yourself, so don’t hold back!

In addition, connect with colleagues and set up meetings with other creative professionals who will be attending as well.

For Jenny Poff, having a plan for attending HOW Design Live yielded not just the knowledge to manage her business, work with her clients, and balance the demands of her young family, but also the creative inspiration and connections with peers she needs to thrive in this field.

Going to HOW Design Live? Look to make connections like Jenny did and get the most out of your time at this one-of-a-kind design conference!

Article contributions by Bryn Mooth.