A few more things after UX Thailand

Observations on Designing Conferences for and in South East Asia.

It’s been more or less a month since I came back from Bangkok. While I’ve written most of my favorite moments from the conference with Alex at the Kalibrr Design Blog, there’s still so much more about the conference that I observed that is probably best suited to something outside my day job.

Warning this may contain views that may piss off some people so take it with an open mind.

Panel Diversity

Though small, short and very niche if its one thing I liked about UX Thailand it was the inclusion of an asian panelist, talking about her work designing better airport experiences in New Zealand.

A few months before the conference, the organizers opened what they call the APAC (Asia-Pacific) speaker slot. This was a call for speakers specifically in the Asia Pacific region to talk about their work and bring it to a larger stage. This was a great opportunity and I saw a lot of people actually submit, I myself along with Ely submitted our conference talk ideas.

Hiu Jing Chen, mentioned this in her blog post after a year of travelling and speaking. Speaking opportunities for asians are still far and few, even in asia. Whether it’s because most technology innovations generally start out in the west or a general stereotype that asians have bad English, I can’t really answer. Even in the Philippines (and this is no shade as I’ve given this critique to the conference organizers), most of our speakers for UX Philippines are western foreigners that we fly-in. Representation however, matters and seeing more asian men and women come up on stage would encourage more young asian men and women to speak and learn from these conferences.

Conference Diversity

I’ve been to a quite a few UX conferences around asia and barring UX Philippines I generally see the audience is generally made-up of foreign expats. What I generally enjoyed with UXTH is seeing a lot of participants from either local Thai companies/offices or at least from around south east asia.

This shows me that both interest and participation in UX is increasing in south east asia. Hopefully, we can see more UX innovation from this side of the world as well as mentorships coming from our local leaders.

A huge chunk of the worlds population lives in Asia. While every business seems to put its sights on the east as the next bastion of innovation, we also need to be real with the state of a lot of asian countries (specially south east asia). Asia still has a lot of problems, problems the “first world” rarely thinks about. Having this kind of environment makes it the best place for UX and Design to work, solving problems and creating better solutions.

Value for Money

One thing that was really apparent with UX Thailand was the caliber of the talks and the speaking panel. Quite a number of times, I’ve seen conferences that have both a plenary and a workshop day. To help get more attendees they open plenary-only tickets. On paper it seems great however, I’ve noticed the penaries for these tend to be very short with talks that end up becoming simple intros to their workshops.

UX Thailand was different. A majority of people there only had plenary tickets but I don’t think any learning was sacrificed from having just sat through one day. Off the bat Melissa Perri’s talk gave us the return on investment we looked for with our conference tickets. It’s very refreshing to see conferences that put a focus on the learning and sharing that happen amongst our peers in the industry

Conclusion

UX Thailand was a breath of fresh air when it comes to conference and learning for me. It was very different and specifically, very local or regional and that just helped us learn better from the speakers. I hope conference organizers learn more from the team behind UX Thailand and create better learning experiences for their local contexts.