Thoughts from a previous session host

The following was originally posted in 2014 by Sophie Mitchell. We're reposting it as it's still relevant today, and gives a good overview of what to expect if you're hosting a session for the first time...

Knowing that the UX Camp Brighton tickets sold out quickly, in a mad rush I signed up for a ticket, feeling very pleased that I managed to secure one. When I looked properly at the confirmation email, I realised that I had signed up to host a session instead of being a participant. The thought of presenting absolutely terrified me but I had a foolproof plan: Buy a participant ticket and then contact the organiser to get a refund for my speaker ticket. Simple!

I certainly wasn’t expecting the words of encouragement from the organiser, Patrick Sansom. He emailed me back saying I should reconsider and I wouldn’t regret it. He said: “It’s a real ‘Damascene’ moment, when you realise afterwards that it wasn’t as difficult as you thought and it really boosts you confidence for the future.” I really wasn’t sure and in typical Sophie style I didn’t commit to anything but prepared a session anyway.

I put so much time and effort into the planning of my presentation and had a few sleepless nights thinking about how I could improve it or make it more ‘UX-y’ – I was a developer at that point after all. The day arrived and to say that I was nervous was an understatement, as I’d never done a presentation before. But…I was determined to do it. I chatted nervously to some other people and very quickly realised I wasn’t the only nervous yet excited newbie in the room. After the introductions, it was the famous grid scramble and low and behold I found myself sticking my talk on the grid. Argh, what was I doing…there was no going back now!

My session was on the subject of why we should be optimising emails for mobile devices. I purposely chose a small room so it wasn’t too daunting and it was a great size for a first presentation. My talk was very well received and provoked lots of discussion from A/B Testing to difficulties in building emails. I got a special mention when we all congregated at the grid afterwards as it was my first time presenting.

There were about 50 presentations throughout the day and I wanted to sit in them all. I chose to go to the following which were all fantastic: Way Finding (navigation in the physical and digital worlds), Branding & UX, A/B Testing and Mindfulness. I would highly recommend not only attending UX Camp Brighton but also presenting at it too. It’s an incredibly informal, relaxed setting with some lovely attendees and lots of friendly faces – it really is the perfect place to do a first presentation.

I came away really inspired from two great UX days (having been to UX Brighton the day before) as well as meeting some great people who I can now call friends.

If you are thinking about doing a presentation, my top tips are:

  • Set yourself a challenge, don’t back out.
  • Prepare something and decide on the day.
  • Pick a topic you feel confident talking about.
  • There will be other ‘newbies’, you won’t be the only one.
  • Facilitate a discussion if you don’t want to present, let the participants do the work – people love taking part and voicing their opinions.
  • If you are down the night before go to the UX Brighton after party and find some people who will be there the following day.
  • You will never regret hosting the session.

I loved the atmosphere and the enthusiasm at UX Camp Brighton so much that I felt inspired to start a UX meetup. Ladies that UX Manchester were looking for someone to run their London group so I readily accepted the challenge. What started as a pub meetup 10 months ago, Ladies that UX London now has over 300 members and is a monthly meetup with panel discussions, workshops, speakers is forever growing.

So, thank you to Patrick  for your words of encouragement and to you and the rest of the team for putting on such a great day and also for your words of encouragement.