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HOW to Get the Most Out of HOW – HOW Design TODAY May 2023


They can be Inspiring. Energizing. Profound. If done right, unforgettable.

But let’s be real: They can also be totally intimidating and overwhelming, whether it’s your first time at one, or your fifteenth.

So, we asked a medley of the creative minds who program HOW Design Live or have been attending for years one question: What’s your best advice for how to get the most out of the event?

As Rule29 co-founder and longtime HOW speaker Justin Ahrens notes, “The conference is a great opportunity to learn from some of the best in the design industry. But it’s also so much more than that.”

Here, the pros weigh in on just that and more. Give their responses a read, and then get packin’—because June 5–7 in Nashville will be here before you know it!

Lay the Groundwork

“As a longtime attendee of HOW Design Live, the one consistent piece of advice that I give attendees is to ENGAGE and CONNECT with others as early and often as possible. Whether you are a newbie, a solo attendee or traveling with a team, do all you can to meet other creatives. Join the HOW Design Live Attendees Facebook group to make pre-connections. Hang out and say hello to others when you pick up your badge at registration. If you notice a conference badge on another person in common areas, break the ice with a smile. Before sessions begin, meet fellow attendees seated in your immediate area. Approach the speakers and compliment them on their session (there are no velvet ropes or VIP sections at HOW). These are your people. We’ve all been in your position before. This is an opportunity to make lasting connections with fellow creatives.” —Keith Smith

Leave Your Comfort Zone Behind

“It’s so easy to come to a conference like this and sit along the edges to watch and observe the activity. It’s safer there. No one bothers you there. But is that why you came? You could have done that at home. You came to get charged back up, and there’s one tried-and-true way to get that boost of inspiration and energy you’re looking for: Participate. While much of our creative work is done in the quiet spaces in our lives, it’s fueled by people and challenges and laughter and commiseration and fist bumps and the unshakable feeling that whatever solution you’re generating could be a little better through the perspective of another person. You can’t get that sitting in that comfortable chair in the back corner of the room. You get it from bravely walking into a group of strangers, introducing yourself, and asking, “Where y’from?” What do you have to lose? At the least, you’ll never see these people again. But at the most, they could become a tribe you lean on well after this conference closes. I speak from experience. Take the mask off and open yourself up early and often to people who are doing the exact. Same. Thing. You. Are.” —Stefan Mumaw

Plan Your Time—With a Little Wiggle Room

“Of course it’s a great idea to do some thinking about what sessions you know are musts for you, as well as what’s nearby and whether there are any particular places you want to visit while you’re in Nashville. But don’t get hung up on the plan. Part of the magic of HOW is not being totally sure who you’ll run into or meet, or what group you’ll end up hanging with who wants to get BBQ one night. So don’t be too rigid. I like to plan anywhere from 60-80% of my time, and leave a little room for synchronicity.” —Terri Trespicio

Embrace the Unknown

“The best way to make the most of HOW Design Live is to arrive open and curious about everything and, especially, everyone. You’re there to hear the speakers, of course. But sometimes the unexpected insights that bubble up from a conversation with a new ‘business buddy’ can change your life forever.” —Ilise Benun 

Don’t Sleep on the Keynotes—or the Exhibit Hall

“My most critical advice to those attending either again or for the first time is always to attend the big keynote sessions. It’s worth attending to learn something new, or to get the best advice you can practice in your professional and personal life. Make new friends; everyone at HOW is approachable and ready to connect. The Exhibit Hall is where it’s at when you want to check out the latest software or paper supplier or get inspiration from the Dieline Awards exhibit! (Shameless plug.) And something everyone should do is document your experience. Bring a fresh notebook and take loads of notes, doodle, and take photos so you can look back at your experience. Conference time just flies by, so being able to look back at what inspired you is truly valuable!” —Jessica Deseo

To That End: Collect—and Keep—Your Flashes of Insight

“You know the feeling: You’re sitting in a session and the speaker is just lighting up your entire brain. Before you know it, your mind is sparking with new synaptic connections, and idea after idea starts rushing toward you—about what this person is saying, about how you could apply it, and so on. It feels in that moment you couldn’t possibly forget what’s got you all lit up right now. But, the thing is, you will.

“Attending a great conference is like drinking from a firehose. You can’t possibly take it all in or hang onto it all. And that’s OK. Take some notes during the sessions. But even more powerful? Take 10 minutes at the beginning and end of your day, when you’re alone, to write down exactly what you feel and what’s making you feel that way. What specifically has you buzzing. What ideas did you have today, and what might you do next? You don’t need to record a dissertation. But if you don’t capture them, all those fireflies of insight will vanish into the banal light of day when you get home. Writing things down is the most powerful way to metabolize your ideas. But at the very least, do a few voice recordings throughout to capture the things you don’t want to forget. You’ll be so glad you did.” —Terri Trespicio

Listen to the Show Director

“One of my core beliefs is that we’re all here to make an impact, to disrupt, to change this world and create a better future for those living life beside us and those coming along behind us. It’s my hope that experiencing HOW Design Live will inspire you to take that next step and use your strengths to create a better tomorrow. To that end: Check out our official 2023 social partner: YEAH! Rocks. They’ll be in the exhibit hall just waiting for you to stop by and see what they’re up to and how you can engage!

“I hear stories every single year from attendees on-site of how life-changing and career-changing HOW Design Live is. These are the people who take full advantage of everything HOW has to offer. Be one of them. Immerse yourself in the full three days of creativity and inspiration. Expose yourself to the thinking of industry icons. Learn creative skills and creative processes that will accelerate your career. Make new friends that can literally last a lifetime. Start your journey before you even arrive by downloading the event app and checking out the sessions you want to attend, the spots you can’t miss in the Exhibit Hall, and connect with other attendees. Look for opportunities to do good … and you’ll find them! I can’t wait to see you there. Let this be your year!” —Amy Conover


Don’t Miss HOW Design Live 2023, June 5-7, 2023, Gaylord Opryland Resort.
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