You could say Karen Larson is a HOW Conference veteran: She’ll be attending her 12th conference this month. In fact, you’ll be seeing a lot of Karen, as she’ll be one of several “honorary staffer” helping the HOW team with hosting duties during HOW Design Live.
So, what prompted Karen to sign up for her first HOW experience back in 1999? And what keeps her coming back? “It’s the same answer to both questions,” she says. “I was working like a dog and was really burned out, and I needed inspiration to remind me why I love this business.”
Karen is one-half of Larson Mirek Design just outside Detroit, which she’s run with her business/life partner Bob Mirek for 17 years. I asked her to share some advice for designers who may be making their first or second trip to a HOW event this year, and here’s what she had to say:
Plan your schedule in advance. “I take the schedule somewhat seriously and research the speakers I want to see,” she says. “ My sessions have been half business-related and half creative/emotional. Every year, the balance is a little different, depending on how burned out I am.”
But be flexible. “If you’re in a session that isn’t doing it for you, duck out quietly and find another.”
Take notes. Karen has a notebook for every year—mostly Moleskine. “I take notes like a writer would take notes. If the session is highly visual, I also pull out my digital camera and constantly shoot the screen. I want to walk away with a notebook full so that I can remember almost everything about every session I attend. That’s my goal. And then I’d share the pictures with the group if anyone missed some of the sessions.”
Meet other people. “One thing I would highly recommend the Studio Tour. That’s the number one way to meet people that you’ll recognize and be friends with for the rest of the conference. You’re with these people for several hours, and you’ll get to hang out with them before the conference starts.”
Make connections. “The sessions are important, but what’s more important are the conversations that you have with other like-minded people outside of those sessions. And unless you put yourself out there and walk up and introduce yourself to a group, then you’ll miss that experience. People will be very welcoming. It’s up to you to make the conference the best it can be.”
And start making those connections in advance. Visit the HOW Design Live page on Facebook to find other creatives who will be in Chicago. “Let people know you’re going to be there, ask what’s happening, make plans.”
Bask in the glow. “One of the wonderful about the HOW conference is that it’s such a huge love-fest, and everyone is on an even level with each other. There’s no pretension. Speakers are so welcoming and warm to everyone. That’s the best thing about HOW.”
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