Next week, Luke and I are flying up to Sydney to attend the Web Directions South 2012 conference. It’s been an annual pilgrimage that I’ve made almost every year since 2005 (I did miss one year because my wife was expecting our second child around the same time the conference was on, but I won’t lie—I did consider attending, for a brief moment. For the record, my daughter arrived on the first day of the conference, so I made the right choice to miss that year. Obviously!)
After 7 years of attending this conference, you might expect me to have grown weary of the format—not so! I’m as excited as ever about this year’s conference, and here are 10 reasons why:
Every time I attend an industry event, be it a larger conference or a smaller local meetup, I usually come away feeling inspired by something. At Web Directions, I find myself returning to Melbourne literally buzzing with ideas and energy to carry over into my work and my personal projects. There are always some big name international presenters, but more often than not I’ll be most pleasantly surprised by someone local, whose session I’ve sat in on as a complete gamble.
- Networking opportunities
A lot of people attend conferences to network. The word has dirty connotations to some, but it doesn’t need to be, if you view it in the following light: you’re surrounded by a ton of like-minded people who are interested in the same stuff as you. Why wouldn’t you chat to them about the stuff you’re passionate about? What better opportunity is there to strike common ground and form a valuable relationship? And if that relationship evolves into one of customer, client, joint venture partner, employee, employer, or something else—that’s just a bonus! So don’t spend your time between sessions only chatting to people you already know. Extend an open palm to someone in the lunch queue, or sitting by themself, and start a conversation. Who knows where it might lead?
- Sketching opportunities
I’ve been doing quite a bit of sketching this year, both for work and for play, and I relish the idea of having new material to sketch (and a dedicated block of time to do it). As with previous conferences I’ve attended, I’ll be actively sketchnoting the sessions I sit in on at Web Directions South, and posting them online afterwards.
If you’re interested in getting started with visual note-taking, you may want to check out Sketchnoting 101: How To Create Awesome Visual Notes.
- Exhibitor booth
The first year that the organisers of Web Directions South 2012 introduced an exhibitor booth, I was skeptical. Here was an aisle of people looking to sell stuff, and you had to walk past all of them to get to the rooms—no thanks!
However, once I took the time to visit some of the booths, chat to the representatives behind them, and listen to exactly what was on offer, I realised something: there are some cooool prizes on offer! In fact, it seems that each year the exhibitors have been progressively trying to outdo each other with competitions and the calibre of prizes on offer. I don’t know for certain what’s available this year, but in the past people have won iPads, iMacs, gaming consoles, and more. The only way to get in on these amazing prizes is to go visit these exhibitors and have a chat. And you may even meet someone nice whose service is exactly what you’re after. Why wouldn’t you investigate?!
Of course, the chance to learn something new is a core reason why everyone attends a conference, and Web Directions South 2012 is no exception. Whether you’re a designer, a developer, a big thinker, a startup founder, a high-flying corporate cavalier (did I really just write that?) or just excited about how technology fits into a fast-changing world, you’re bound to learn something over the course of these two days. This year there are four tracks: design, development, startup and big picture.
- John Allsopp
John is one of the organisers of the conference, but still manages to find time to get up on stage and pontificate and educate in a way that only he can. If you haven’t seen John speak before, you’re bound to be entertained—he is passionate in a mad-professor kind of way. This translates into a presentation style that is fast, furious, and usually involves a few tangents, yet is delivered in a style that is both articulate and inspiring. I guarantee you won’t fall asleep in this session, no matter how early you got up to catch that red-eye flight to Sydney.
- The After Party
The Web Directions schedule describes the post-conference party as “legendary”, and I can confirm that this description is justified. I can recall in previous years dancing to disco beats, consuming more sponsor-supplied pizza and beer than is healthy, and breaking bread with speakers like Jeff Veen, Douglas Bowman, Molly Holzschlag, Dave Shea, Derek Featherstone and others who I had previously held in such high esteem that the prospect of meeting would send my ears red. And it turns out they are normal people too (who would have thought?) who enjoy a drink, meeting new people, and chatting about ideas. You don’t want to miss out on that!
I love a conference that takes its coffee seriously. I mean, after an early flight or a restless sleep in an uncomfortable hotel bed, who wants to start the day with bitter drip coffee? Not me! I like to start my day with a quality espresso blend, created by someone whose job it is to create quality espresso coffee. In addition to the sponsors who support the Web Directions South conference, there is a Barista Coffee sponsor. Yes, a sponsor just for the coffee. Gotta love that!
- Josh Clark
Josh Clark is presenting the opening keynote this year. I saw him present at Swipe Conference earlier this year, and was totally captivated, partly because I’ve given a handful of presentations of my own over the years and can appreciate how much effort goes into preparing to speak at an event like Web Directions. Everything about Josh’s talk was just slick. From the inspiring big-picture thinking to the custom photography created for each of his slides to his infectious delivery. It was just an impressive display that set my previous benchmark of “awesome presentation” to a new level. Don’t be late on Day 1!
- The Closing Keynote
Several years ago, a gentleman by the name of Mark Pesce, stepped up to the Web Directions stage to deliver the closing keynote. Mark blew everyone’s minds. He has a stage presence that borders on intimidating, a capacity to pull together concepts so huge and scary that they make your brain hurt, and a cadence to his delivery that I liken to a Dan Brown page-turner. And he did it again the following year. And the year after that!
When Mark passed on the mantle, the expectation for the quality of this closing keynote presentation was set almost unattainably high. However, to the credit of the conference organisers and the individuals who have since tackled the task of closing the conference, each has brought something new and different and thought-provoking. I can’t wait to see what this year’s closing keynote presenter will do. The challenge was set in 2006. The audience will be watching, wide-eyed and with bated breath. I can’t wait!
Have I convinced you to go register for Web Directions South 2012 yet? If you’re going to be there, be sure to come up and say hi (we’ll be sporting UX Mastery t-shirts! Yay!) And if not, take heart in knowing that the sessions will be recorded for viewing later.
Are you attending Web Directions South this year? What are you looking forward to most about the conference?