What I Learned and Why You Might Attend UX STRAT

I am going to shamelessly promote the 2015 USA UX STRAT conference being held September 8 –  10, 2015 in Athens, Georgia because I loved the 2014 conference so much.  A year later I’m still using the things I learned and am in touch with people I met.

Why You Should Go In a Nutshell

  1. The Perks
  2. The Content
  3. The Logistics

The Perks

Travel.  I got to go to Boulder, Colorado and pot had recently been legalized.  Understand that this was a drug free conference.  Paul Bryan (@paulbryan) made that very clear during his opening remarks.  Thanks to Paul, we all knew exactly where the dispensaries were located and that they were open until 7:00 PM.

Accommodations.  The conference hotel, Hotel Boulderado, is part of the Historic Hotels of America!  And it’s haunted. Go through the slides below to see a picture of my room.  It freakin’ looks haunted.  Am I right?

People.  Every once in a while you attend a conference and you just feel like “these are my people”.  That was UX STRAT for me.  Filled with seasoned practitioners who love UX as much as I do and are working to solve wicked problems.  And we all seem to have interesting backgrounds. I met a former comedian, a burlesque dancer, and someone working with the Mutual UFO network!

The Content

Sometimes you go to conferences and some of the speakers are a little m’eh.  That honestly didn’t happen at UX STRAT.  Everyone brought good stuff to the table.  Here are few of the speakers who made a lasting impression on me:

Inspiration.  One year later, I still hear Fabio Sergio (@freegorifero) daring me and everyone in the UX STRAT audience to, “develop solutions that let people dream what they can be.”

Tactical Methods.  One year later, I am still using and adapting Dan Klyn’s (@danklyn) technique for resolving strategic tension in the design process.  He calls them “performance continuums”, and I accidentally began calling them “tension bands”.  Read or listen to Dan describe this approach over on Jared Spool’s site.

Humor.  Also, Dan is really funny while making a great point.  Like how he used a clip from the movie Zoolander to describe why wireframes and other models suck if you introduce them too early.

Strategic Directions.  I went to UX STRAT because I have never had a chance to see Jon Kolko (@jkolko) speak, but I’ve been a fan of his work for many years.  Jon helped me discover that when I grow up, I might want to be a product manager.

Side Note:  Just getting to read his book Well Designed: How to Use Empathy to Build Products that People Love.  Highly recommend!

The Seat.  Though the speakers did not plan it, they all talked to The Seat.  Not like that time when Clint Eastwood talked to an empty seat at the 2012 Republican National Convention.  No, they talked about The Seat like this:

  • Ashley Halsey Hemingway (@halsey_) talked about how she brought her own seat.  (By the way, I hear she’s leading a workshop at UX STRAT 2015.)
  • Dr. Laura Granka (@lauragranka) talked about how you could win The Seat.
  • Matthew Holloway told a great story about crashing a meeting to claim The Seat.

They were all referring to The Seat in the boardroom.  To succeed, UX needs a seat at the highest level and once you have The Seat, you have to keep proving the value of UX over and over again.

Our Future. Theo Forbath (@TheoForbath) described how digital winners would need strong user experiences, and he poignantly reminded us that “innovation is uncomfortable”.

You’ll find the slides from UX STRAT 2014 over on SlideShare.

The Logistics

UX STRAT is a single track conference.  You won’t miss any speakers.  It’s also small.  Capped at 400-500 people total you can really get to know the people there and have meaningful conversations.  And the speakers?  They’re required to stick around. You might run into Todd Wilkens (@toddwilkens) at breakfast like I did and get a couple minutes to chat.  He’s the nicest guy!  And the way his team is injecting design thinking into IBM almost made me buy stock in the company.

Not Convinced Yet?  Two More Reasons…

Premium Content!  Ronnie Batista’s presentation began just before happy hour.  And you know it’s going to be a special talk when someone opens with, “Sometimes people don’t get my style…”  I get Ronnie’s style. But I also got his message and for that you simply had to be there.  You won’t find the complete slide deck on SlideShare.

Premium Swag!  I am a sucker for a t-shirt and coffee mug. You had to work to win these items.  Now I rock the UX STRAT t-shirt on the weekends.

2 thoughts on “What I Learned and Why You Might Attend UX STRAT

  1. Thanks for the kind comments about UX STRAT 2014, Megan. If we would take your essay and diagram it, it would match our spider diagram of conference differentiation in the planning stages, so it’s a very welcome confirmation that the things we prioritized at the top were actually what you experienced. Thanks for the plug for UX STRAT 2015, and I hope to see you there.

    Paul Bryan

    • That’s really exciting to hear! The speaker line up is fantastic and I hope things will work out so I can attend.

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