A Teletechnophiliac in Toronto - the IxD13 Postmortem

Happy (belated) New Year! I hope you all had a great holiday and that the new year is going well so far So this post is all about IxD13. The whole of this year and a good portion of last was about this event, and it was... well, there's no one good word for what it was. IxD13 is my first major conference (I forgot that I have in fact been to a conference previously: MoDevUX back in April. Great conference if you're starting out in mobile) and as a first time attendee and speaker, I came away with a lot of lessons.


So for those of you who missed my talk, you can find my slides here:

Health on the Go Slides


Sweta Mohapatra

First of all, wow. I'm thrilled that people attended and were interested in what I had to say (if you were there for other people presenting after me, I completely understand). To the people who said nice things to me about it, thank you. I was incredibly nervous and about five minutes before I got on that stage I swore never to do this again.

But now that I've given the talk, I would like nothing more than to give another one. I had the opportunity to see some really phenomenal speakers during the conference and know that there is so much I could improve on. I hope I wasn't a terrible speaker, but I know that I wasn't a great one. I'm happy in a way because I want to make those improvements. Here's the list I've generated so far for creating a great talk:

  • Tell a story, don't try to teach: The talks that were the most talked about were the ones that taught without trying to teach. Actually, this is a quality that the best teachers and professors I've ever had had. I had a ton of information to cover in mine, but I never really shared my story or the steps I took to reach the lessons I talked about. 10 minutes may be a bit short on time to cover everything, but rewriting it might be better.
  • Graphics make a better impact: I tried avoiding text as much as possible. Some people did text based really well, but I guess that depends on the nature of your material. For me, building out the graphics took quite a bit of time but was worth it because it made what I was explaining much clearer
  • Make movie/TV references: In one of the earliest versions of my talk, I had a Doctor Who reference. I will definitely try to keep my nerdy and relevant references in next time to keep it interesting.
  • It's okay to have note cards: I tried my hardest to have my talk memorized like the back of my hand. This... wasn't as successful as I'd hoped - I went off script and then had a moment of panic where I blanked. I recovered, but I wish I'd had a cue card to remind me of my key points. I wanted to avoid reading notes and connect with my audience, but I know now that maybe having tiny talking points isn't bad.
  • Breathe, smile, and blink: I don't know if I smiled. I really don't; the whole thing is actually a little blurry for me. Walking into the conference, I had it in my head that I was talking to a bunch of incredibly experienced designers that I needed to be able to not sound foolish in front of. I realize now how incredibly warm and kind the IxDA community is after having one-on-one conversations with a lot of them. I think that the next time I present, I'll know that I'm presenting to friends.

Please add to my list! If you saw my talk and have any feedback at all for me, I will happily accept it. Public speaking is something I used to do in high school and I want to pick it back up again.

First Time Attendee

I think the first time I heard about IxDA's conferences was during my time at Palm when a few people went to Dublin. However, there's nothing that could have prepared me for the experience at all. The scale and pace of the conference was absolutely incredible, and I am still pretty wide-eyed thinking about it in the aftermath.

The talks I went to were all over the scale of awesome, but there are a few that stick out in my mind:

  • Most Educational: Dan Saffer's Microinteractions talk. Hands down the talk I learned the most from. Simple lesson with very relevant examples to drive the point home. If I had to summarize the talk into one sentence, it would be this: your big interaction patterns are important, but it's the small ones that help polish an experience and make the difference between love and hate.
  • Most Inspirational: I give special mention to Albert Shum's keynote because everything he talked about is essentially what I want to do when I grow up, but the winner in the end is Intuitive Interfacing: The use of Interactive media in the Royal Ontario Museum’s Ultimate Dinosaurs: Giants from Gondwana exhibit. I was speechless during the whole speech and couldn't take any notes at all. The speakers walked us through their process of designing the exhibit, but it didn't take away from the exhibit's magic at all when I went to see it. The complicated use cases (so what if someone doesn't have a smartphone?) and the creative solutions (build iPads in) were inspiring. For me, the feeling that this talk evoked was wonder. This is why I got into interaction design - I want to create experiences like this. Truly amazing and hats off for incredible work!
  • Talk that Delivered: I was looking forward to Learning Visual Design To Become a Better Unicornwhen I first saw the conference schedule, and it was just as good as I hoped. Jason Alderman was witty and engaging, and while the concepts were ones I was familiar with, it was a great next step to understanding visual design better and what to do if you want to get practice.
  • Talk I Wish I'd Seen: Stop Designing Apps and Start Designing Habits.Heard many good things, and again, wish I'd seen it.

So yes, I learned quite a bit, but I also enjoyed myself! I met a lot of interesting, smart, and fun people - from the OCAD volunteers to the people I randomly said hi to. I'm sure that for every person I've managed to connect with there are a few I've forgotten, but they made my conference experience delightful. So here's my lessons learned as an attendee:

  • Everyone's a human being: I unfortunately didn't have the guts to walk up to Dan Saffer and tell him how awesome his blog from his CMU days is and how that helped me figure out some future paths (d'oh) or to Alan Cooper to ask about the Practice Fusion iPad app Cooper just developed (so close! but alas I got scared). But the lesson that I'd learned from Palm held true - the designers I met were friendly and very willing to talk to me. I had a lot of great conversations and started some I couldn't unfortunately follow up on. And to a couple of people who I did talk to, if I squeaked or acted funny when I talked to you, please don't be offended because I was trying very hard not to sound starstruck. This lesson leads into....
  • Suck it up Buttercup, aka talk to people you've never met: I'm naturally a pretty shy person. Talking to people is a little (... more like a lot) out of my comfort zone, which is what I tried to be out of during the conference. I talked to recruiters, speakers, a whole mess of people that I had never talked to in my life. And you know what? It paid off immensely - I have a whole slew of contacts and some great new friends to talk about design to. How cool is that?
  • Do everything: I attended a workshop (the Education Summit) as well as Coroflot Connects, one of the IxD13 Eventbrite dinners, and the Great UX Debate. I am sorry to say that I didn't stay as long for some of the Happy Hours (I was trying to prep for my talk for a few of them), but for what I did attend I have no regrets.
  • Have fun! Conferences are not entirely for education, and I will look back onto this fondly.
  • (Have a Twitter account: a lot of great photos and moments were shared there. Plus, I wish I had found out about @DrunkatIxDA so much sooner. Hysterical!)

I would love to be in Amsterdam next year, but I'm not sure I have the funds for it just yet! As for giving another talk, I'd love to something related to women in technology and orient it towards the high school or college level. I don't quite know what I want to do, but IxD13 has left me very inspired for new projects.

Most of all, it's left me very happy with my choice to be an interaction designer.

EDIT 04/11: The video of my talk is now uploaded! You can view it here