About This Guest Post

The latest guest post on the IWMW blog is written by Kevin Mears, a member of the IWMW 2018 Advisory Group. In this post Kevin shares his suggestions for maximising the benefits from attendance at IWMW events.

How to Get the Best out of IWMW

You might be thinking of coming to IWMW 2018 this year and during these straitened times wondering if it’s going to be worth it. If I was to answer YES, Yes It is! that wouldn’t be much of a blog post, so instead I’ll tell you some things I’ve found useful for getting the best out of the event.

Come on your own

I know this one can sound a bit daunting – to drop yourself ninja style into a big group of strangers and begin chatting, but it’s what I did on my first IWMW way back in 2007? and it turned out to be a great decision. I arrived early the night before the conference proper started because of the long train journey – (made possible by the very reasonable cost of an extra night). The weather was lovely and an informal meet up for everyone was arranged in picturesque pub by the river. Fortuitously there was a reasonable walk which was a great chance to stroll and chat and provided a natural way of thinning the group, making it less of an effort to open conversations. I’d like to think that this was a cunning scheme by the organisers to facilitate networking, but likely it was just a happy accidents that happen. On to the actual business of meeting people. I’m pretty good at being chatty and it turns out that ‘Hello, my name is Kevin, what’s yours?’ is really all you need. (Don’t use Kevin if that isn’t your name – that would be weird)

If I had been with colleagues I’m not sure that I would have thrown myself so head first into meeting people, so that really worked for me. If you do manage to come as part of a group I’d definitely recommend deliberately splitting off to meet new people, even if only for a short time.

Use the wisdom of the crowd

One great aspect of the IWMW event is that it has been going for such a long time that there lots of very experienced people throughout the crowd that know LOTS of people. So if you’re chatting about which CMS you’re currently buying/ditching/upgrading (which someone is always is) then there’s a very good chance that person you’re talking is either going through those experiences or can introduce you to someone who is.

Embrace the campus

Embrace the campus! 

A particular favourite experience from the conference for me is the opportunity to explore another university campus, and in doing so have a great environment for carrying on those long discussions provoked by speakers or workshops in a wonderful environment. You can discover such gems as the Paternoster Lift at Essex, or the hangover cure of a running trail (at Edgehill) and this year I’m very much looking forward to the Brutalist Great Hall at York. It is also very handy to be able to retreat to your room to freshen up or take a break before diving back in the fray.

Talk about your work

It’s good to share all the great things you’re doing, but crucially at such a sharing and supportive conference you can also talk openly about the things you did that didn’t go well. Meeting people who share many of the same problems, frustrations and perspective in person enables you to get a hugely valuable sense of perspective to take away with you.

Create stuff

This one sounds like work, but for me it has become a very big part of my routine. I take pretty extensive sketchnotes, and have done since 2012. The key thing is to take the opportunity to try something different – try sketch noting, or live tweeting or maybe something as simple as tons of conference pictures will help you get a focus over the 3 days. You might think it’s a bit of a stretch to call posting pics on Instagram work, but I bet we all have official social media accounts that do just that, and this intensive period can be a great experimental boot camp for you.

Write it up

The previous tip will help you with this one. It may be a requirement of your attendance that you present back to your colleagues on what you learnt from the conference. Try to have an eye on this from the start and actively consider through the event what your take aways are. Where they what you wanted when you arrived?

I always use my sketchnotes to summarise sessions and find that invaluable to maintain that post conference buzz and enthusiasm.

Biographical Details

Kevin Mears is a member of the IWMW 2018 advisory group. Kevin works as a part of a cross departmental team producing websites for a wide variety of stakeholders. He is especially interested in style guides, workflows and standards that drive better products. Kevin would be very happy to talk to anyone thinking of presenting how they work, especially new voices to this community.

Acknowledgements: The featured image for this post is taken from Kevin Mears’ Sketchnotes. His Sketchnotes web site features a wide range of sketches taken at conferences including sketches from IWMW 2017, IWMW 2016, IWMW 2015, IWMW 2014, IWMW 2013 and IWMW 2012.