We run events about user experience design and related topics - service design, customer experience, UX within agile, mobile design and more.
The main annual event is UX Australia. Held in the last week of August every year (rotating through Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane), it is made up of 2 days of hands-on workshops and 2 days of conference. It attracts more than 700 attendees each year (usually selling out well ahead of time) and brings in people from all over the world to speak and learn.
We usually run 2 smaller events during the year as well - single day conferences, sometimes with a workshop. We change the topics of these events each year, depending on what is interesting and in demand in the industry at the moment. In 2019 these will be Design Research and Managing Design. These events attract around 150 attendees and are great, small events for focusing on a topic an meeting other people who are interested in it.
Our events are different
Our events are a bit different to most other conferences. We care a lot about the experience of our attendees and, as designers, incorporate many small things that make a big difference.
We select presentations based on proposals from the community (i.e. we don't invite high-profile speakers, except for keynotes). Our community are doing fabulous work but we don't know enough about who's doing what to rely on invites only. We're well-connected to local and international experts, and Australia is an attractive destination to visit, so also get proposals from fantastic overseas presenters to round out the program. In our experience this proposal-based process leads to a great program that is broad, grounded and practical. It introduces new voices and gives people a way to get into public speaking.
We ask the community to review proposals and provide comments on what they'd like to see (for UX Australia, not for the smaller conferences). This is like conference user research! It gives us good feedback on the kinds of topics that people are interested in. We don't use only this to select talks - it is just one factor in selecting the conference program.
We include a special category of presentations that only come from people who have already decided to attending the conference. These are 10-minute talks and we always put them just after lunch. They are a fabulous way for new speakers to get some experience and share a small idea.
We take active steps to make sure our program is from a diverse group of speakers. We are very careful about how we write our call for proposals so it is clearly inclusive (not just of gender, but also background and age). We promote the proposal process through a range of channels as we know different groups use different social networks. We don't make a quota for any particular attribute, but we do check for balance after we've made our draft selections. We are lucky that we have a naturally diverse community, but we still take care with this.
We pay all of our speakers (well, not the 10-minute talks, but that's because they are a special opportunity).
We keep sponsorship and speaking strictly separate. Our sponsors are welcome to submit a proposal, and be assessed alongside everyone else. But they don't automatically get a speaking slot, and can not pay to get on stage. The number of potential sponsors who are surprised about this tells us just how prevalent it is.
We make audience interaction mandatory for all speakers. We ask them to either include something within their talk or, at the very least, questions at the end. Many conferences and speakers don't take questions, saying that it ruins the flow of a talk and that people just get up and talk about themselves. Our experience is that, if we set the expectation that there will be questions, the audience are more attentive (there is a noticeable difference in attention and energy in the room) and they ask really good questions. We think it happens because they know they can follow something up, listen better and prepare good questions. In 7 years of running conferences we've only had 2 people stand up and ramble about themselves.
We take lots of small actions to make our conference a safe space, from encouraging diversity in the selection process, to working with speakers, to managing the event space. We make sure we are available and approachable in case we are needed.
We try to find ways to make the conference great for both introverts and extraverts, and try to include social events that are not just about drinking alcohol in noisy places (though we do have some of those). We're still exploring this, and as it usually involves other people running activities (we are not getting up for an early-morning run!) some conferences we do better than others. But we are at least thinking about it!
Our events are designed and run by Steve Baty. Sarah Boyd is our event manager, and Ricky Onsman is our communications guy. All with the support of our family and friends.
The boring bit
Our company name is UX Events Pty Ltd. You might see that occasionally, but usually only for invoicing.