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Strategies to Survive Your First UX Conference

Opening keynote at UXPA 2018

Back in March, I was scrolling through my news feed on LinkedIn when I stumbled upon a post about a student poster competition for UXPA 2018 in Puerto Rico. The first thought that came to my mind:

“Hey, why not? My team and I already have a capstone project we’re working on for school. If we are selected, this would be perfect for our graduation trip!”

I was happy when my team came to the same conclusion. A few weeks after submitting a short introduction to our project, we were delighted to be selected as one of the finalists and invited to present our poster! This led to me attending my very first UX conference.

UXPA 2018 was held over a course of three days at Wyndham Grand Resort Rio Mar, which is absolutely beautiful. For an island still recovering from Hurricane Maria, I was delighted to hear UXPA donated a portion of the proceeds to hurricane relief.

On our first day, we checked out the conference venue to figure out where the rooms were and set up our poster. We also grabbed ribbons to put on our name tags to identify ourselves. Some of these can also serve as conversation starters!

We grabbed our ribbons, put the name tag on, and we’re ready to go!

Navigating the conference

The best way to navigate the conference is with the UXPA app. You get the most up to date schedule, can customize your own schedule, and provide feedback on talks you attended.

Another way to stay up to date on the conference was through the #UXPA2018 hashtag on Twitter.

Planning my day using UXPA’s app

Networking

Opening reception with live music & dancing

If you’re nervous about networking like I was, let me tell you that there’s no need to worry! Everyone at the conference is there to network to some extent. Some of the ways I meet new people:

  • During meals and snack breaks
  • Talking with speakers after their presentation
  • Talking to the person sitting next to me before or after a presentation
  • Dancing during the opening and closing reception

It’s also important to remember that you don’t need to talk about UX stuff all the time! Topics we talked about ranged from various projects we’re working on to travel plans for our stay. I also found the name tags and ribbons to be extremely helpful. If someone’s here as a Presenter, ask them what their presentation is about.

Towards the end the conversation, remember to find a way to keep in touch with the people you just talked to. I prefer to add people on LinkedIn right then and there after our discussion. Another great way to keep in contact is to take a photo of their name tags and add them later with a short note on how you met.

While I can’t really say that I’m a networking expert, I did learn that you can literally meet new people anytime, anywhere!

Note-taking

I was overwhelmed with the amount of new information I was learning from all the talks. I had to remind myself to take notes during the talks, there was no way my brain could remember everything. Here are several note-taking strategies I saw people using:

  • Writing hand-written notes
  • Typing digital notes on laptops or mobile phones
  • Taking photos of important slides

Michael Benchinie shares his amazing notes on Twitter. I find this very inspirational and I hope to be able to do something similar one day!

Michael’s colorful notes on Amy Buckner’s talk

The Student Competition & Poster Session

The poster session was held after breakfast on the last day of the conference. Each team was given five minutes, including Q&A, to present their project to a panel of judges. Our presentation focused on the process, findings, and a demonstration of our prototype. You can learn more about our project here.

Our team was glad to present our project beyond the scope of academia and to learn from other students in Human-Computer Interaction programs. A big congratulations to all the winners!

Rock n’ Roll team representing the University of Maryland!

Exploring the area

Lastly, don’t forget to check out what the area has to offer! Our team spent a few extra days after the conference to check out Old San Juan, the Bacardi Distillery, as well as the El Yunque National Forest. This was a great way to end the trip, and celebrate the project we worked together on for a year.

That concludes my first trip to a UX conference!

If you like this article, please feel free to *clap clap*.

Thank you to all my fellow teammates, organizers, and sponsors of the UXPA for this great opportunity!