UXPA 2013 DC Redux

Well, I’ve had a few weeks distance from the UXPA conference in DC: time enough to recuperate and reflect. For those of you who couldn’t make it to the conference in DC, we missed you. We missed your conversation, your company at meals, your insightful presentations, your stimulating questions. And I’d like to share a little bit of what you missed in the hopes that we’ll see you very soon at another UXPA conference. (There’s one in Shanghai in November and one in London in 2014!).


Participation during opening keynote.

One vision I had for this year’s conference was about creating more shared experiences. This meant not only providing more opportunities for connecting with other attendees, but also more ways in which attendees could have moments of commonality during the conference.

One of the results of this vision was that we had three keynote speakers (one each day of the main conference), and this is the first thing I want to reminisce about.

When Danielle and I set out to find keynotes, we had a lot of different ideas, but we knew that we wanted speakers that attendees would have likely never encountered before. We also knew that based on the theme (collaboration) and how we wanted to show how UX as a profession could not only learn from but also contribute to other professions, that we wanted people who were not purely UX practitioners to speak. This was a bit of a risk: often keynotes, especially big-name, recognizable super stars, are what attract attendees. But we were willing to risk it. And, boy, did it pay off.

Ginny Redish and Chris HassOur opening speakers, Noah Kunin, Daniel Munz, and John Yuda from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, brought a positive and inspiring example of UX for the greater good. They told the story of how a unique collaboration among different government agencies (and departments within those agencies), professions, and citizens led to an improved experience for financial consumers. On the second day, Navi Radjou brought a global business perspective to the conference and challenged attendees to consider new ways to innovate on leaner budgets.

Our closing speaker, Denise Jacobs, was someone who represented amazing transformation and creative inspiration. She brought a great deal of motivation and energy after a long, exhausting week. There were other great speakers, of course – and that’s not just a personal opinion. We got amazing feedback from attendees, and if you followed the Twitter stream (#uxpa2013) you have seen some of the rave reviews and challenging points coming from attendees.

 Cupcake Crawlers enjoying DC.

But the content wasn’t the whole of it. We had great moments with Lifetime Achievement award-winner Ginny Redish. Chris Hass’ interview of Ginny a la “Inside the Actor’s Studio” was funny, touching, inspiring, and insightful. SIG lunches were a success, sometimes filling local restaurants with upwards of 20 people wanting to talk about such topics as Accessibility, Independent UX Consulting, Managing UX Teams, and UXPA’s Usability Body of Knowledge. Local tours and offsite events were a great opportunity to explore the area and get to know people. We offered such events like touring the MediaBarn lab, a Capitol tour, and a Cupcake Crawl (think pub crawl, but with cupcakes!).

If you’d like to learn more about this year’s conference, we’ll be posting the presentation slides to Slideshare (soon!). While this is no substitute for the energy and engagement of the live conference, it will give you a glimpse at the depth and breadth of our profession as it is represented at the conference. If you’ve never attended a UXPA event, I urge you to talk to someone who has, and consider one for the future.

2013 is my last year as conference chair. I was lucky to serve with Amy Kidd last year in Vegas, and fortunate again to serve with Danielle Cooley this year. I’m grateful for the relationships this opportunity has forged for me. I’m grateful for the learning experience. And I’m grateful that I got to give a little back to the profession I love so much. So whether you attended or whether you didn’t, if you’re reading this, I thank you for your interest in UXPA and particularly the conference. If you spoke, volunteered, or contributed in any way to the conference: I thank you. And if you put up with me for 12 months of planning, debating, and deciding (much of it under the duress of pregnancy-related moodiness!), I especially thank you (Danielle and Nicole!). I leave you in good hands for next year: Danielle will continue to carry the torch along with her co-chairs Sara Mastro and Stavros Garzonis. Under Danielle’s leadership, London will be amazing. I’ll be there, but as that most valued of all contributors: an attendee, a colleague, a friend of UXPA. I hope to not be missing you again next year.