From the opening keynote to the closing party, HOW Design Live is an energizing, inspiring — potentially even overwhelming — experience. And it’s up to you to make the most of it, so plan to take full advantage of these five days. Before you head for Atlanta, here’s how you need to prepare:
Get comfortable networking. Practice your “elevator pitch”—the quick sentence you use to describe what you do when you meet someone new. Plan to introduce yourself to at least one new person in every session or activity you attend.
Bring tons of business cards. Set a goal that you’ll give every one away by the time the conference ends. Whenever you sit at a table or in a row, exchange business cards with the two people on either side of you.
Meet people via social media. Connect with other conference-goers in the HOW Design Live Attendees Group on Facebook and via Twitter (follow @HOWBrand and search the hashtag #HOWLive). “By the time I went to my first HOW, I connected with a few others, made plans to meet up, helped to organize events and contributed to the frenzy as much as possible,” says HOW Champion Kelly Parke.
Tap into the social scene—official and unofficial. HOW Champion Keith Smith has for several years organized a HOWie pub crawl in the conference host city. You’ll find news about those activities posted on the attendees group Facebook page. Officially on the conference program you’ll find networking activities like a speaker happy hour, a morning fun run through Atlanta, breakfast roundtables and opening and closing receptions to help you learn and meet new people.
Open yourself up. “Everyone has a ‘cool’ mask that they wear to protect themselves from looking foolish or amateur in front of others,” says longtime HOW speaker and author Stefan Mumaw. “In any extended experience like HOW, it takes a few days to take off that mask. My advice: Take off the mask as soon as you arrive.”
Learn from the “in-between.” “A lot of times, it’s the conversations in the hallways, during lunch or at a ball game that can really make a bigger impact than the stuff you hear during some of the sessions,” says HOW Champion Darcy Hinrichs.
Keep a record. Bring a notebook (paper, digital, whatever). Use it. Write down phrases that catch your ear, that are helpful or inspiring. Snap photos of presentation slides that strike you. Sketch and take pictures. Gather paper samples, product brochures, freebies and everything you can get your hands on in the Resource Center. Bring it all back to your office, and share it with others.