Beyond the Buzzwords: Deriving Meaning and Real Connections from Conferences

Alyson McPhee
Oct 13, 2017 · 3 min read

This summer, I published some key content takeaways from three conferences; CultureFest, Collision, and C2 Montréal. In this follow up piece, I’ll share lessons learned from these conferences that fall into two categories; making the most of your conference-going plans, and what it takes to host a world-class conference.

1. As a conference attendee, come equipped with a personalized networking strategy.

When you’ve booked a conference far enough in advance, you have time to research the speakers and attendees, to come up with a list of interesting people you’d like to meet. So do it. Start with a goal, for instance “learn how to advance as a designer from people who’ve been there”, or “make first contact with five dream clients”. Build your list from there.

I maximized my networking time by creating a list of potential partners and prospects, and messaging interesting people in advance using Collision’s conference app and the Klik platform at C2. I really enjoyed getting to know the team at Invision, Little Burgundy, and Oatbox, among others who I never would have met without these proactively arranged meetings.

Despite seeing promising results from this approach, my networking advice wouldn’t be complete without the recommendation to also leave room for spontaneous interactions. One night my colleague and I talked shop with ThreeSixtyEight, a like-minded design agency in New Orleans, during Collision’s Night Summit festivities. This opened the door to an invite to meet several interesting local entrepreneurs at a Young Entrepreneur Council New Orleans event, not to mention some great local tourism recommendations and ongoing friendships!

2. When hosting a conference, don’t try to do it all. Just do one thing well.

Have you ever noticed that when a conference tries to have mass appeal, the organizers often miss the mark on delivering valuable, specific content?

Sure, part of the reason you choose to attend a conference is based on the overall experience. “Delightful” surprises throughout the day like champagne intermissions, and giant cake bake-offs are sure to put you in a good mood. However, when you reflect back on your time at a conference to decide whether you’d recommend the conference to a friend or whether you’ll go back again, the only thing that matters is whether you learned something you didn’t know before. Have you taken home insightful, actionable takeaways that are applicable to your day to day work? Or are your only memories of slews of buzzwords strewn together to create the illusion of productivity?

This takeaway prompted us to reflect on our ongoing Dynamic/MTL event series. Although the production value of these events is important, designing an event around core content that is meaningful to an audience of creatives remains the number one priority. We need to ensure that the objective of each talk is clear and undiluted, and that at the end of the day, everyone walks away inspired to create exceptional design.

In addition to our quarterly event series, we also hosted a day-long festival in Montreal’s historical Outremont Theatre this September. One & All featured inspiring talks by world class local and international creative speakers.

Art Director Max Kaplun and Head of Marketing Andre Valle open ticket sales for One & All

Want to find more about our upcoming events? Check out Dynamic MTL and our newest Workmode episodes here.

Thanks to for her contribution to this post.

Alyson McPhee

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Aspiring minimalist | humble Canadian | defender of special snowflakes