Now that I'm co-organizing UX+ for a second time this year, I can’t help but look back on how conferences have helped me boost my career.
When I was still in college, I cut classes to attend UX conferences in Singapore and Hong Kong. I attended almost all of the design and UX-related conferences at home too. Some of my favorites were PWDO’s Form Function and Class, and the UXPH Conference. The most recent conference I attended personally was UX Thailand with my workmates. I've attended online ones too, like Remote Design Week and SofaConf.
Why attend conferences?
Conferences were crucial in (1) helping me understand the landscape and new trends of the design industry, (2) getting to know key UX people who can shape my career, and (3) making lots of cherished friends whether in person or online!
As a serial conference goer, I wanted to share six tips that helped me make the most out of each and every conference experience.
Take a look at the attendee and speaker list, and if you spot anyone that you want to connect with, then make it a part of your agenda to talk and connect with them. Try to overcome your shyness! For introverts, connecting over social media is totally fine (believe it or not, I'm introverted). Message them before, during, or after the conference and start that relationship! You can even make a checklist of the people you want to interact with, and make sure you fill that out before the conference ends.
These days, I take conferences with the Kalibrr design team. We have both a Discord channel and a shared Google Docs file to dump all of our learnings in. The collaborative notes we made is super useful to come back and refer to when we need to recall specific techniques, concepts, or ideas mentioned in the conference. You can't remember everything you hear, so make sure you take notes.
Send the organizers a message of appreciation, and find a way to talk to them! These people are good connectors and curators, and it definitely will be a big plus for you if you get to know them personally.
Recently, I got to have coffee with the organizer of UX Thailand here in the Philippines (just after a year or so) just because I really put in the time to meet him during his conference and tell him how great it was.
When I met Sophia and Kit of Philippine Web Designer’s Organization, it blossomed to an amazing partnership that allowed the student club I was part of (UX Society) to organize Junior Form Function and Class.
Because I met people behind UXPH like Ely Apao, they gave me a chance to become part of the organizing team too!
This will be a lot of effort but contributing to the hashtag of the conference through Twitter can usually net you a lot of new friends or followers who want to discuss the topics or find out what the conference is about.
It will also help signal to others that you’re really passionate about learning in public — which is always a good thing in my experience.
Do this so you can connect with like-minded people online. It’s also a way to give back to the community, and it shows the best take-aways to people who weren’t able to get a ticket to the conference.
My old internship boss Micael Andrei Barlaan Diaz de Rivera (yes I know he has a long name) taught me to look up conference hashtags on Twitter to learn online for free. He would tell me that there would be a specific conference that day, and that we should check out the conference hashtag because we couldn't attend abroad. I never thought of Twitter the same way after that.
Back in UX Hong Kong, we accidentally met with the Agoda Design team outside the conference venue. We all decided to go around Hong Kong together and get drinks.
I nonchalantly asked one of their designers if they had internships cause I was looking for one. When the right time came, I applied and mentioned that instance to the recruiter.
That’s the story of how I got my internship at Agoda with a six-figure salary! I know times are different now but the principle of meeting new groups of people online can still be a transformative experience for your career. It's different meeting people in a conference versus just connecting randomly on LinkedIn.
This is incredibly hard because you’re juggling multiple things at the same time during a conference, but yeah — load up on sleep the night before, and if 8 hours really isn’t possible, some coffee is really useful too! You'll need the adrenaline to really keep up with the topics, plus the energy to meet new people. If possible, clear out your schedule for the rest of the day so you can focus on the conference and really soak in all the learnings.
If you're looking for a design conference to attend, I hope you can come and join us for UX+! We have brilliant speakers like Julie Zhuo, John Zeratsky, Dan Mall, and a lot of Filipino designers I've featured from Roots! Check the conference out, this website (which I personally think is a feast on the eyes) was designed and led by my partner and first boss, Christian San Jose. Come join the biggest UX conference in Asia! Oh, and don't forget to contribute to our conference hashtag! #uxplusconf #uxplus2020