Ready for the Big Event? A HOW Design Live Checklist

HOW Design Live kicks off in Chicago on Monday, May 4. Less than a week out, things are hopping here at HOW HQ. Our team is packing up, polishing their smiles and choosing comfortable shoes to wear during those 12-hour days next week.


photo by Andrey Bayda

There’s a sense of anxious anticipation around here — the daughter of our conference director calls this “nexcitement,” that combination of nervousness and excitement.

This is shaping up to be our biggest HOW Design Live ever:
• 124 speakers
• 21 keynote presenters from inside the design field and beyone
• 106 sessions in 6 program tracks
• 3,000+ attendees

Here are a few last-minute things you need to know before traveling to Chicago:

Bring plenty of business cards. More than you think you’ll need. And be prepared to hand them to everyone you meet.

Be prepared for variably chilly weather. Temperatures will be cool in Chicago next week, with rain in the forecast. In the conference rooms, expect cool temps as well. Bring layers.

Expect a crowd at the registration desk. Plan to arrive well before your first session to pick up your conference badge and materials.

Always have your badge on hand. You’ll need it to get into every conference event or activity, and there’s a hefty penalty for replacing a lost badge.

Connect with fellow attendees. Check out the HOW Live Attendees group on Facebook to meet other creative pros who are attending, learn about attendee-led events like the HOWie Bar Crawl on Tuesday, May 5, and Dinner & Design on Wednesday, May 6.

Manage your energy. Bring a refillable water bottle and packages of nuts, trail mix or granola bars to get you through long, brain-filling days.

Get ready to party. There’s plenty of fun to be had at HOW Design Live, including the closing party on Thursday, May 7. Longtime party sponsor Neenah Paper has themed the party, “HOW We Celebrate” to toast the event’s 25-year anniversary.

Bring a sketchbook, notebook and smartphone camera. Be prepared to doodle, snap and otherwise document your HOW experience.

Start off right. If you’re new to HOW Design Live or you’ve attended previously — and you’re interested in making friends right away — join speaker Stefan Mumaw on Monday at 11:00 for a pre-conference mixer.

Some additional tips, courtesy of Darcy Hinrichs:

  • Bring a seatbelt shoulder-strap cover (if you have one you can bring). It can save your shoulders carrying around heavy totes all day. Trust me—you’ll thank me for this later!
  • Build yourself a Survival Kit. Include items such as Visine, chapstick, ibuprofen, Tide-To-Go, a few bandaids, tweezers, sunblock, vitamins, gum, small snacks-to-go, etc. Add to this your own cold meds and/or medicinal teas and immune support supplements (Airborne is one of those but there are others).
  • Always use the buddy system when out and about.
  • Dress in layers as conference rooms can get chilly.
  • Save fancy business cards for your connections—use cheaper ones for vendors at the resource center.
  • Check in at the Exhibit Hall to stay informed and recharge your energy—and the battery for your mobile device.
  • Swag is awesome but remember you have to pack or ship that extra stuff, so be choosy in what you take — give vendors your business card to send you samples. Also, bring a prefilled shipping form so you can pack it up and ship it out.
  • Buy the books you want that can be autographed there or are deals you can’t pass up- otherwise, shop online.
  • Wear your best accessory: Your Smile.
  • Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to others.
  • Talk to speakers — they want to learn about you, too!
  • Bring a costume for the Closing Party!
  • Put some of your business cards behind your badge in the plastic sleeve. That way you have easy access to them when you meet someone.
  • Pack an extra tote bag.
  • Remember who you talked to by writing notes on the back of their card — this helps for follow-up later.

We’re ready to go. Are you? (And yes, there’s still time to register by May 3, or on site.)