February always comes in like a rocket and leaves even more quickly even on leap years (yes, I know this is not a leap year). For me coming into this February was one of the most crazy of my life (just ask my wife). Being on the ground planning a conference is so different than doing it remotely. There are certain details you can’t let go because you know the lay of the land and further people expect you to do more as well. It was indeed hectic, but also a labor of love as Interaction## always is for me. I can’t believe I have nothing to do with Interaction 11 | Boulder. I’m determined to keep that a reality except maybe a talk or workshop.
The reality is that I have never been so burnt out on IxDA in all my life. Even 2 years ago when I “retired” from IxDA leadership I didn’t feel nearly as exhausted as I do right now. This isn’t a complaint, but just background to where the rest of this is going to go.
2 Years ago when I co-chaired Interaction08 I did so out of passion. I saw what Dan Saffer (@odannyboy) was creating and I was inspired tremendously by the content he was creating and I knew we had a winner if only the conference got the right support. So I took the logistic steering-wheel with the amazing support from SCAD Conferencing. Arguably (not by me, ever) Dan & I re-wrote the book on what a UX organization’s conference can be like: Profitable, speakers well compensated and taken care of, well designed (& the design well executed by @danimalik & @ebacon), sponsorships that don’t buy content but still get good value, NOT in a hotel or other institutional setting, and finally GREAT (not just merely good or acceptable) food (the kind of food people talk about 2 years later).
When Bill DeRouchey (@billder) and Jennifer Bove (@jlb) took the reigns for interaction 10 (@ixd10) I was beyond excited. Bill’s attention to detail and Jennifer’s passion for content I knew would come together to create an amazing story. I also knew that Todd Zaki Warfel (@zakiwarfel) and Will Evans (@semanticwill) would do a great job with the experience design. I came in to do what I do best. Not just represent SCAD, but make sure that SCAD’s attention to memorable events shown through again re-inventing the organizational conference experience.
It was a joy working with Sue, Leslie, Heather and Alice in SCAD Conferencing. I can’t imagine a more experienced, passionate team to work with outside the IxDA organization. They were unstoppable and amazing. Just as an example of their super powers. For those not there, We tented one of the amazing historic squares here in Savannah. to do that and make it a presentation space meant using a generator for power. Well a storm hit. The tent was not the problem, but the generator. Generators and lightning don’t get a long so we had to shut down the tent’s electricity and while that was a big blow to exhibitors showing there, it was even worse for speakers unless we came up with a quick solution. Next to this square is one of the 2 amazing historic theaters that SCAD runs. That night there was going to be a performance, but it was free during the day when we needed it. So!?! Quick changearoo and a few score of phone calls later, we had a venue switch (creating an event not with 10 venues but now with 11–Think Spinal Tap, baby!).
This kind of can-do, don’t-quit, attitude epitomized everything that went into this conference again and again. Whether it was digging out a tent the day before for the Fri-night party and never giving up on our oyster roast (I still can’t believe we were shuckin’ oysters at a UX conference) or turning our industrial design space into a space age disco/rave with glow sticks to boot, we would be no where without these Four Musketeers.
So while it is true, I helped focus food choices here and there. I was not giving up the brisket and I threw myself on the tracks for the lamb sliders on Friday night or came up with the international theme for food for Saturday night, it was the connections to the caterers and the venues that really made this fantastic. These Four Musketeers were the real miracle workers.
All this is to say that great experiences required experienced talent to execute on whatever hopes embedded in the design may attempt to communicate.
If anyone is looking for a space to put on a conference and are related to art & design, I highly encourage you all to look at SCAD as a partner for such an event for no other reason but the amazing work of Sue, Leslie, Heather and Alice.
If we can give the longest ovation in the world, I would give it to these women.