Combine my wrong level of expectations with a poorly executed conference, and I feel that I overpaid, I wasted time and, worse, I felt like I didn’t get my basic (UX) needs satisfied. But before I continue, I must disclose I tend to be over-dramatic, so maybe someone actually got a much better experience than I did.
But what do I know?
I’m unabashedly claiming to be a conference connoisseur. By that I mean I can distinguish the nuances that make a conference go from good to great to awesome to OMG-let’s-do-that-again. Maybe it was the 4-years at college were I peaked at throwing parties to 1,000+ people and then applied those lessons at the Seattle 2.0 events I successfully organized -- yes, there is a lot in common between drunk college students and entrepreneurs and technologists (wait, they are actually the same, just a few years older).
Why did it suck?
Well, so far I have not talked a single thing about the conference itself and I wouldn’t say it sucked, but it was close to it.
The biggest mistake this conference had was to given speakers ONE HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES to give their talk! Seriously, 75 minutes! Have you ever seen anyone giving an engaging and exciting talk for 75 minutes? OK, maybe Tony Robbins can do that, but must people will suck at it, and so they did. It’s not these weren’t expert or smart people, or even good speakers. It’s just they can’t pack enough information to make a 75-minute presentation interesting.
Actually, the situation was so bad in terms of Information per Minute (IPM) that this is the first conference in my entire life I got home at the end of the day and I didn’t have a headache! Zero. I felt like I should read a book about quantum physics to supply the lessons I was prepared to get.
The next thing I’d say was a failure was the kick-off talk by Jared himself. He was not as energetic as he was at Warm Gun. He was calm, paced and at points slow speaking. He should have setup the tone. Primed the attendees. Prepared us for what was to come. The opening was a give away for the next two days.
This event was also very bland. There were the talks, the coffee breaks, the lunches and a small networking event at the end of day 1. That’s it. Not a lot of vendor tables. No mechanism to meet people. Not a lot of interaction with the audience. There wasn't even 200 people on the audience. It was just bland.
The highlights were Kate Brigham from PatientsLikeMe and Luke Wroblewski. Those were the kind of talks I came here to listen.
Here are my suggestions for Jared to improve this event:
- Make the talks just 20-minutes long! If you can’t convey 3 lessons in 20-minutes, you should not be giving a talk. If you have more than 20-minutes you’ll add fillings. I just want the meat! See the videos from the StartupDay conference I organized.
- Make this a one-day conference. To commit two days is hard. Particularly for anyone working at a startup. That will help you save in hotel and other speakers’ expenses as well. You won’t be able to charge $800 for a single day, but you probably can get $400 for one day.
- You won’t make a difference in UI/UX if you target people who already know UI/UX. Target developers, marketers and executives for this event. Maybe students as well.
- Add a workshop or anything else to it.
- Match a UX designer with a person with a problem. Let the problem be exposed in the morning, and show how they solved the problem by the end of the day. Do that for 5 ‘problems’. The winner gets an iPad.
- Help to create an e-harmony of UX expert and people who need UX experts.
- Partner with the local organizations, like Seattle 2.0, to promote and attract the right kind of attendees and create the right kind of buzz.
That’s my $0.02. I really, really, really want technologists and startups to know more about UX and I hope Jared can make his conferences more powerful and impact more people (that need to).