Experiencing India through a Conference

Stefan Ivanov / Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Things that made UXIndia a unique experience to me 

I still remember that warm August afternoon when my mailbox beeped with a new message, confirming that my Seminar and Workshop proposals were accepted to the UXIndia 2017 agendaAfter a few hours of joy and happiness, I began to slightly doubt my plan because I’ve never travelled to that part of Asia 

Being absolutely unfamiliar with the design landscape in India, my uncertainty was alleviated by two things. First, Infragistics has an office in Bangalore and I would be able to bond with some old acquaintances, whom I’ve remotely trained and briefly met for a few days some time ago. Second, I had an opportunity to contribute with my experience, while at the same time practicing presentation skills in front of a native English-speaking audience.  

And a few days laterwhen the other speakers were announced, I felt very honored to be included with such reputable people on the list, and saw an opportunity to be among and talk to some really bright UX professionals, working on really inspiring products of the present day. EventuallyI decided to stick to my plans, which eventually turned out to be totally worth it! 

The entrance of the conference venue

Doors wide open for a warm welcome and a branded wall in the far right where numerous selfies were taken during the event. Image attributed to https://www.flickr.com/people/uxindia/ . 

After landing in Bangalore, one of the first things I learned about India was the warmth of its people, and the welcoming at the event was no exception to this rule. After a quick and smooth registration, I was invited to choose my workshop for the day by taking a small color-coded card with information about the speaker and his session. I find this to be the easiest way to split a huge group of people, because you have control over the number of cards in each deck, allowing you as an organizer to conform to the rooms capacities. I myself, have tried to solve this challenge via an online survey, but there are always people who don’t watch their emails and miss it, or my message gets sent to the Junk folder. I’ve seen other attempts to split people ahead of an event, but there have always been those people, who go to the organizers just before a session is about to begin, asking to switch from one to another. This puts organizers in an uncomfortable situation, as they want to avoid overcrowding the session on one hand, but don’t want to disappoint the attendee on the other. The card approach, as simple and basic as it looks, seemed to work very well at UXIndia and is something that I honestly suggest to any future organizer facing a similar situation.

Four decks of cards with information about the four workshops happening in parallel

Four decks of color-coded cards – one for each workshop session. Image attributed to https://www.flickr.com/people/uxindia/ . 

One common trait of the Indian people I met was that they are honestly appreciative about your efforts. In this spirit, the conference organizers had prepared stylish thank-you-letters framed beautifully for every speaker, and those who had multiple sessions received multiple such plaques. As a speaker, this gesture really made me feel special, with my contribution recognized and awarded. However, the organizers went a step further, also giving signed certificates to every workshop attendee, since their contribution to the success of the session was no less than that of its curator. Moreover, I remember how in my early days, when I was searching for a job, I was very keen on collecting such proofs of knowledge and practicesince I lacked significant practical experience besides my university projects and assignments. For the students in the audience, I think this was a very good opportunity to help them be more competitive in the job market.

Speakers receiving their framed thank you notes and attendees their workshop participation certificates.

On the left Anand S. is awarded with a thank you letter after his talk and on the right a workshop attendee receives his certificate for participation, signed by the session curator. Image attributed to https://www.flickr.com/people/uxindia/ . 

Talking about jobs, there was one more very interesting installation that caught a lot of attention during the conference. In the first couple of days it stood kind of empty and alone, but when the masses arrived for the talks and sessions on day three, one could hardly spot it anymore because of the crowd of people in front of it. It was a job board, which companies used to post current openings, while attendees could get acquainted with them and note contact info if interested. Many of the Indians I met at the conference were very shy and humble, but when given the opportunity they were very proactive. And I felt that this board was totally in line with this behavior as it removed the tension from job seekers to go to a booth, ask for openings, and formally discuss them with the representatives. Rather, it allowed curious applicants to have awareness of job opportunities first, and if they wanted to know more, to find the company representative in the venue in order to have a further discussion. This approach felt 100 times better than company booths with rapacious recruiters pulling you from one place to the next, who apparently don’t care much about the values of the conference and support it only to get to some quality talent, which is a pattern I have seen at other events.

Job board

The job board attracted many of the design students at the conference. Image attributed to https://www.flickr.com/people/uxindia/ . 

Another very inspiring thing at UX India, for which I can hardly imagine the amount of effort necessary, was the Design Awards competition. Students, startups, and enterprises were shortlisted to present their work at the event, after an initial round of online evaluation by a global panel of judges. Those who made the cut had only a few minutes to impress the audience and jury, formed by some of the speakers at the conference. In addition to the various categories of awards, there was also an audience prize awarded according to attendees votes. The quality of ideas was superb, and I personally had a hard time picking my favorite, but the atmosphere was thrilling and exciting. Although only a few took home prizes, I believe that everyone was a winner, having their work recognized on the stage of such prestigious event. And seeing how people push the boundaries of design was the biggest prize for me as a spectator.

The organizers with the design awards winners on stage.

Design awards winners were chosen by a jury after a short presentation of their work, and here they are on stage together with the conference organizers. Image attributed to https://www.flickr.com/people/uxindia/ . 

This ceremony concluded UX India ’17 and left me expecting the next edition with eagerness. There were many other unique, tiny moments that contributed to my positive impression, but after an amazing four days, I can recommend the event, people, and culture with a hand on my heart. Warm people, exotic culture, excellent organization, rewarding recognitionand tons of learnings, which you may find in my previous blog, are what I am keeping as memories of the Indian design community. Last but not least, I am excited that one day I may be given the opportunity to return to make another contribution!