The Page, The Stage

EVERY YEAR I give a new talk at An Event Apart. And every year I panic.

After nearly two decades, public speaking no longer frightens me. But deciding what needs to be said gets tougher, and more terrifying, each year.

In 1998, when Hasan Yalcinkaya hired me to give my first public web design talk in, of all places, his glorious city of Istanbul, I wrote a speech for the occasion and read it aloud from the stage.

The following year, when Jim Heid hired me to keynote Web Design World Denver, I intended to do the same thing. But a fellow Web Design World speaker named Jeff Veen (who was also a colleague on The Web Standards Project) persuaded me to throw out my speech and “just tell stories.” I did it, it worked, and I’ve done it ever since.

For all my An Event Apart presentations since starting the conference with Eric Meyer in 2005, I’ve designed slides outlining the parameters of what I intended to talk about, and then spoken off the cuff.

But this year, inspired by the rigorous (and highly effective) speech preparation regimes of my friends Karen McGrane and Mike Monteiro, I’m once again writing a speech out word for word in advance. I will polish it like a manuscript. Only when it is perfect—logically structured, funny, passionate, persuasive—will I design accompanying slides.

I may read the speech out loud, word for word, as Mike sometimes does, or I may revise and practice it so often that I no longer need to see it to say it, like Karen. Either way, my talk this year should be tighter than any I’ve given in the past decade. Hopefully, that’s saying something.

I’m grateful to all my friends for their inspiration, and delighted that the panic and terror I felt at the start of this year, while contemplating creating a new AEA talk, has turned into the inspiration to approach the task a different way.

How do you approach public speaking? And if you don’t speak, what part of you is holding the rest of you back?

An Event Apart San Francisco – Live


Design Is A Relationship

Mike Monteiro

MIKE MONTEIRO is a man on a mission. He wants to improve design by fixing the core of it, which is the relationship between designer and client. Too many of us fear our clients—the people whose money keeps our lights on, and who hire us to solve business problems they can’t solve for themselves. And too many clients are even more frustrated and puzzled by their designers than the designers are by the clients.

It’s the designer’s job to fix this, which is why Mike first wrote Design Is A Job, and spent two years taking the message into conference halls and meeting rooms from New Zealand to New York.

I wish every designer could read this book. I can’t tell you how many friends of mine—many of whom I consider far better designers than I am—struggle every day with terrible anxieties over how a client will react to their work. And the problem isn’t limited to web and interaction designers. Anybody who designs anything burns cycles in fear and acrimony. I too waste hours worrying about the client’s reaction—but a dip into Mike’s first book relaxes me like a warm milk bath, and reminds me that collaboration and persuasion are the essence of my craft and well within my power to execute.

If the designer’s side of things were the only part of the problem Mike had addressed, it would be enough. But there is more:

  • Next Mike will help clients understand what they should expect from a designer and learn how to hire one they can work with. How he will do that is still a secret—although folks attending An Event Apart San Francisco this week will get a clue.
  • Design education is the third leg of the chair, and once he has spread his message to clients, Mike intends to fix that or die trying. As Mike sees it (and I agree) too many design programs turn out students who can defend their work in an academic critique session among their peers, but have no idea how to talk to clients and no comprehension of their problems. We are creating a generation of skilled and talented but only semi-employable designers—designers who, unless they have the luck to learn what their expensive education didn’t teach them, will have miserably frustrating careers and turn out sub-par work that doesn’t solve their clients’ problems.

We web and interaction designers are always seeking to understand our user, and to solve the user’s problems with empathy and compassion. Perhaps we should start with the user who hires us.

An Event Apart 2014 Schedules Posted

Jeremy Keith at An Event Apart

IT’S NOT NEWS that all eight An Event Apart conferences in 2014 are open for registration. But this is new: we’ve now published complete schedules and speaker lineups for the first three shows of the year.

Learn from some of the smartest people in our industry. Go deep on topics like emerging responsive image standards, advanced web typography, designing in the gap between devices, putting your UI in motion with CSS, working with CSS preprocessors, increasing the likelihood that your digital design projects will succeed, and even the best ways to share the ideas you’ve learned at An Event Apart when you get back to your office.

Read more.

Chicago, Chicago

An Event Apart Chicago—a photo set on Flickr. Photos of the city and the conference for people who make websites.

AN EVENT APART Chicago—a photo set on Flickr. Pictures of the city and the conference for people who make websites.

Notes from An Event Apart Chicago 2013—Luke Wroblewski’s note-taking is legendary. Here are his notes on seven of the ten presentations at this year’s An Event Apart Chicago.

#aeachi—conference comments on Twitter.

Chicago (Foursquare)—some of my favorite places in the city.

An Event Apart Chicago—sessions, schedule, and speaker bios for the conference that just ended.

AEA Chicago 2013 on Lanyrd—three days of design, code, and content on the social sharing platform for conferences.


THE NEXT AEA event takes place in Austin and is already sold out (although a few spaces are still available for the full-day workshop on multi-device design).

A handful of seats are available for the final event of the year, An Event Apart San Francisco at the Palace Hotel, December 9–11, 2013. Be there or be square.


How Tweet It Is: An Event Apart DC in 140 Chars

IF YOU MISSED An Event Apart DC, here’s your chance to glean nuggets of knowledge shared by attendees at the event.


10 Commandments of Web Design (Notes by Luke Wroblewski on a Talk by Yours Truly)

ITERATION isn’t just for visual design. It also helps you uncover insights. A List Apart found people are often commenting and re-tweeting articles before they read them. They learned this by iterating on where the share and comment links exist on the page.”—LukeW | An Event Apart: 10 Commandments of Web Design.

You ought to be in pictures: An Event Apart Atlanta 2013

Flickr: The An Event Apart Atlanta 2013 Pool

Enjoy! An Event Apart Atlanta 2013 Flickr Pool.

An Event Apart Atlanta has been three days of design, code, and content for people who make websites. If you couldn’t be with us, read Jeremy Keith’s write-ups of the Day 1 sessions and Luke Wroblewski’s write-ups of Days 1 and 2.

Follow today’s live action on A Feed Apart, the official aggregator of An Event Apart.