It was a very early start, but I was excited: it was Day One of UXLondon 2017. As a member of the ‘crew’, I was heading to the impressive Trinity Laban building to meet the others for our morning briefing. Knowing that coffee and croissants were also waiting didn’t hurt.

Kate and Alis and the rest of the Clearleft team have honed this conference to a fine art. We had been fully briefed at a venue recce a few weeks before, so there were no nerves about meeting them and the rest of the crew, or finding my way to and around the venue. The briefing document was a reassuring weight in my bag and I felt ready to face the challenge. The fact that a number of volunteers have returned from previous years to repeat the experience was encouraging too, and they were a fun and friendly bunch.

So, what was it like being on the inside?

Scott Belsky on Crafting The First Mile Of Product Experience.
Message architecture workshop with Margot Bloomstein.
Rapid Service Prototyping workshop with Jess McMullin.
Saying thank you and goodbye to Kate and Alis at the end.
The view from the Simulcast room.
The jobs board — day one.
Sketchnotes from Barry O’Reilly’s talk on Designing for Business Evolution.

The conference is a great opportunity to learn of course. A carefully considered rota ensures that, alongside conference duties such as registration or checking wristbands, everyone gets to see some talks they’re interested in and take part in some workshops. Setting up workshops means you’re helping out the presenters, so there are chances to actually meet the experts too.

Taking part in the workshops was a huge highlight for me, as it involved real-hands on doing and learning, alongside groups of others working in the field. Many of the talks really joined up the dots on a subject, for example, there were three sessions taking different angles on Jobs To Be Done.

It was a sociable experience too, with great food and drink (including the excellent Beerleft, brewed by the organisers themselves) smoothing the way for enjoyable evenings with, let’s be honest, strangers. But they never really felt like strangers, and that’s the great part. Wearing our blue ‘crew’ t-shirts, we were all part of a team, in it together.

Experiencing UXLondon as a volunteer is an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded people from all kinds of backgrounds, with all their own different reasons for being there. You all have an interest in a common subject, and hearing everyone’s different take on it and individual experiences never got dull. It was great hearing new ideas being discussed, and people telling each other “you must write a Ted Talk on that!”

Anything else?

The three days were themed, which meant you could get really immersed in a topic — a great way to focus and get to grips with it.

Whoever dreamed up the simulcast room is a genius. Great views from comfortable seats, and it felt just like being in there with the speakers — so much so I nearly clapped at the end of the talks!

There’s a jobs board, so that those looking for work and those who need staff can advertise and meet their matches right there at the conference.

There was a board of sketch notes, so you could catch up on the key takeaway messages from talks you didn’t get to.

There was an excellent selection of food from street-food vans outside, and the choices changed each day.

Would I do it again?