This month has been fairly exciting for any designer in Sydney with another stellar line up of events from the Sydney Design Festival. After leaving several events buzzing with inspiration I started considering, what makes an event AMAZING. Can simply attending an industry event have an impact on your craft?
I’ve noticed that concepts of ‘audience participation’ are changing – for good. Increasingly, event organisers and speakers are embracing more open participatory, workshop-style formats.
In this blog, I’ll argue why workshop formats are a great way for audiences to leave industry events with a tangible experience that they can learn from.
People learn new concepts by doing
You might have heard of Hermann Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve, an old theory, but one that’s stuck. Essentially, humans are incredibly good at forgetting information we’ve just taken in – approximately 50% within an hour.
But when we try out an idea ourselves, experiment and explore, we’re more likely to remember the concept.
As part of the Sydney Design Festival I attended the second event from The Inclusivity Experiment, an initiative to make ethical and inclusive design easier for everyone. During the event, the audience worked in groups to co-design solutions to real-life challenges faced by accessibility ambassadors from UTS. I was part of a group co-designing solutions to making commuting on public transport a more comfortable experience for someone with severe anxiety.
Rather than leaving the event with just a set of notes from a presentation, I left with a tangible experience of applying certain principles and practices that could help me to design more inclusively.
Shared experience: everyone builds important skills
Not only does gaining practical experience help audiences retain new information they learn at industry events, it also gives them an opportunity to practice important skills. Through taking part in a workshop, participants practice presenting ideas and working collaboratively with new people.
In any industry, these are useful skills to develop. You’ll also see that in a workshop, participants are much more engaged and animated than a typical event audience! This helps to foster deeper connections between attendees – a major motivator for many people seeking out industry events.
Shared power: everyone has a role
Lastly, incorporating workshop elements into an event means that it becomes less about one person’s experience and exposes the audience to more diverse perspectives and ideas.
At a recent event we held at Hustle Digital, we ran a workshop to share a design strategy process we run in-house to understand the ‘why’ behind a business. We heard the stories of three Sydney-based small businesses, who each shared insights on their key customer groups. In small groups, everyone presented their ideas and worked collaboratively to define a ‘why’ statement for each of the businesses.
You might wonder if workshops can only be truly effective with small audiences. While this might be true to some extent, large events can embrace elements of workshops or other means to make the stage more open.
I recently listened to Lauren Currie’s keynote speech at UX Australia 2018, in which she introduced the audience to #UPFRONT – a movement that she designed to get underrepresented voices on big stages. The concept is that aspiring public speakers share the stage with no pressure of performance. They get to experience facing an audience and the feeling but don’t contribute more than any other audience member.
Given that industry events are often intended to broaden the audience’s horizons and share new ideas, it makes sense that we should be striving to hear from diverse perspectives.
What’s your assessment? Have you been to an event recently where you just sat and listened? How much of that content do you remember now?
If you haven’t been to a workshop for a while and want to test my theory out, Hustle Digital have a series lined up for the coming months, which you can learn about on our events page.