Category Archives: design

How to MC a conference in 10 steps

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A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to MC the 10th edition of Web Directions. WebDirections is Sydney’s premier conference for the creative development scene with about 700 attendees and plenty of high-profile international speakers. I have to thank Maxine Sherrin and John Allsopp for trusting me to guide the  audience of the Product, Experience and Design stream.
It was an absolute pleasure and if I could, I would jump onto the next stage tomorrow and do it all over again. Judging from the audience’s reactions I didn’t do a shabby job either. Videos of each talk including my MC-ing bit will appear shortly and I will repost them here. So if are organising a conference, panel, session or series of talks or know someone who does, drop me a line and I’d be happy to help out in the near future. ;)

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Looking back, it was a fresh challenge for me to switch positions and, rather than being a speaker myself, talk to other speakers about their topic. During their speeches I was simultaneously taking notes, weighing up pre-researched questions with live tweets from the floor, scribbling tangential thoughts I had while listening. Most importantly I was judging the live audience’s physical reactions, whether they were leaning in, laughing or getting distracted.

15716387522_d299d71c79_zOverall it was a great training exercise in moderation. As for prep, I had the help of Andy Murray (Gatsby Studio) who is actually an illustrator and artist by trade. He brilliantly MC’d the previous conference I was speaking at, Sex Drugs & Helvetica. there is a short review from it here on my blog. As you might be able to tell from the two photos below, I nicked the idea of having seats and a table from the Sex, Drugs & Helvetica event. You can see that the furniture style and arrangement even looks similar, but that happened without me briefing Web Directions on it.

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There is a very comprehensive review of the conference and many speakers here on Ben Buchanan’s blog, additionally some observations here from Kye White. In the below I would simply like to add a few personal thoughts on what an MC is supposed to do. It is a combination of what Andy Murray told me and what I picked up during the day. Take it as advice if you’re planning to do something similar and let me know if it worked for you as well:

  1. It’s not about you, it’s about the speakers. So don’t play up your questions and opinions like you’re an additional speaker. Let the audience feel at ease, the first 20 – 60 seconds are crucial for it.
  2. Organise your notes on housekeeping, don’t stumble across details as to when the break takes place or who’s up next.
  3. Keep your question short, ideally no more than 7 seconds. Interviewees start thinking about their answer after that point. So they will be unable to listen any longer. You’ll notice it happen when an interviewee asks the MC ‘So what was the question again?’
  4. When you are interested, the audience will be interested as well. Try to find something that interests you personally – the audience will follow you. You direct their interest through you, just like actors create empathy for the roles they are playing.
  5. Do some research on the speakers, but don’t overdo it. You’re not acting as some sort of human wikipedia. As soon as you rattle off too many points, especially when reading them off a written card, everything will sound forced on stage.
  6. Your research will help you have an informal chat with the speakers beforehand. Have them tell you an anecdote, something that, when you retell it on stage, will make the audience believe you’re familiar with the speaker. Some people at WD believed I had known the speakers from before whereas I had only just met them.
  7. It’s your job to let speakers feel at ease, like they are just telling you their answer. An experienced speaker might be able to address both MC and audience simultaneously, but most speakers are professional experts in their field, not in public speaking.
  8. Try to draw connections between the talks where you can. Even if the link is spontaneous and idiosyncratic, it will make the audience feel like there is a flow and a theme to the event.
  9. Give the later speakers something to bounce off of. After I mentioned in one Q&A, that there might be too much agreement among the presenters, up came Dan Hon. He opened his talk with a slide on ‘controversy’ and ‘dissent’. This trick can also help the speakers energise their own talk. It then has a fresh element to the last time they spoke about the same topic.
  10. Finally, be respectful to an audience, be they paying or non-paying. Do a good job, be prepared, rehearse your bits and concentrate.They have come to give you their attention. So don’t insult them by trying ‘to just wing it’.

Overall it was fantastic opportunity to get to know some brilliant minds from around the world. There were some seasoned speakers among them, which helped me compare their styles in a short amount of time.

Douglas bowman Douglas Bowman, TwitterScottThomasScott ThomasThe Noun ProjectMattWebbMatt Webb, BERGScreenshot 2014-11-23 15.44.14Jonny Mack, Google15512650089_4fe346b266_oTom Armitage, InfovoreDanHonDan Hon, Code for America15512649569_07139ff2f2_oErin Moore, Twitter15700118352_3983ff3b5d_oYounghee Jung, Nokia/MicrosoftTobias RevellTobias Revell, Superflux/ARUPjohnallsopp2John Allsopp, Web DirectionsmaxinesherrinMaxine Sherrin, Web Directions15691117216_b946eb5672_zPhotos by Xavier Ho – Jump to Glide and Tim Lucas – ToolManTim, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

10 years of Creative Social

CreativeSocial is celebrating its 10th Birthday. While we in our Sydney chapter can’t put that many candles on the cake (I think we started in or around 2006), we are still very excited to celebrate alongside our London comrades this November.

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Co-founder Daniele Fiandaca posted about it already. Passing this decade milestone means we’ll be curating a month of content with the help of the socials and some of the friends we’ve made along the way. There will be plenty of video interviews, thought pieces and opinion posts all celebrating a decade of CS over on the official CreativeSocial blog.

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Guest contributors will include Nathan Cooper (@Rubbishcorp) Founder of Rubbishcor, Gareth Jones (@CJ) Global Chief Brand & Content Officer, DigitasLBi, Patrick Collister (@directnewideas) Head of Design at Google, Emily Hare (@contagious) Managing Editor at Contagious Magazine and our ‘local boy done good’ Aden Hepburn (@adenhepburn) MD & DCD at VML Australia, founder of Digital Buzz Blog.

See the first of the videos that we made with some of the socials above, you will discover yours truly looking back on his role at MetaDesign in 2004

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Agency Open House Sydney

Register for our free event now: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/web-directions-agency-open-house-reactive-tickets-4776690209

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Next Wednesday afternoon, Sydney will see its first Agency Open House. You can visit and have a beer with people at places like Reactive, Host, Soap, Deepend Group, Digital Arts Network, Reborn, WeAreSocial, Pollen, TheFarm,Small Multiples or The Interaction Consortium.

Check out this Agency Open House microsite for Wednesday October 29 where you can also RSVP to the respective agency events. Rub shoulders with art directors, copywriters, uber-geeks, producers and strategy minds. Learn from their work exhibited, listen to talks, ask questions, make connections. You could score an internship, dream job or your next creative collaboration partner. As it is part of Web Directions 2014, expect some heavy hitters from their international speaker roster like Jessica Hische to maybe make a cameo appearance. Just saying….

Check out the full program to RSVP here

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We at Reactive are excited to partner with Web Directions & Creative Social to open our doors for a Sydney-wide Agency Open House So in particular we would love for you to join us at our office in Surry Hills next Wednesday afternoon (Oct 29), between 4-6pm. You can RSVP by registering online https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/web-directions-agency-open-house-reactive-tickets-4776690209

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What are Web Directions, Creative Social and this Agency Open House?

Since 2004, Web Directions has been Australia’s cutting edge conference that bring together the world’s most pioneering, interactive creative directors, business owners, strategists and other global experts of digital design and development. As a social warm-up for this year’s Web Directions (October 30-31) the aim of our joint Agency Open House is to have a beer and a chat, explore agencies’ work and workplaces and build some new connections. Reactive has been part of Creative Social since 2007 and together with this group of leading agencies, we recognise that collaborating in a digital landscape is how we will advance the whole industry and enjoy the journey.

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What’s the inspiration all about?

Reactive has been a partner of Web Directions for 3 years now. This year is particularly special as we were invited to create the opening title sequence for the conference. The film is completely HTML-generated and plays live in the browser, unlike traditional videos.

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One of our creatives involved, Melissa Baillache, explains the thinking behind the film:

“We wanted to touch on the importance of everyone that come together to imagine, design, create and build great digital products and services. The people, who passionately labour over the tiny details, behind the scenes as well as at the forefront of the digital world. In our film, all these individuals are represented by a ‘pixel’. Their stories evolve into playful geometric structures, yet always keep their original core—the element that binds everything together into a single experience.”

We’d be thrilled if you can stop by Reactive’s office for some beers, food and showcasing and explaining the tech behind the title sequence. Registering can be done by simply replying to this email or visiting the event page below:

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/web-directions-agency-open-house-reactive-tickets-4776690209

We hope to see you next Wednesday arvo, guys!

Sex, Drugs and Helvetica with Reactive

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Reactive represented at Sex, Drugs & Helvetica in Melbourne and Brisbane in September. The attendance was great – we had almost 900 people in both places together. But most of all it was fab bunch of speakers: great creatives but also clever and generous human beings, on and off stage. It was possibly the best group I have yet had the honour of sharing a stage with. 

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Opening up was Chris Doyle, easily the funniest man in Design (go on, follow him on http://instagram.com/cdandco ).

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As he spoke about his work for The Jezables we learnt how he used to lay it all bare on stage as singer of a Screamo band from Canberra (oh dear, double whammy). How he managed to mix stand up comedy with screaming emo music is a mystery to me.

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Following him were Fabio Orangato Design and Michaela from Studio Round, both working in Melbourne. After me and countering Chris’s antics (while not being unfunny) was Kevin Finn with his thoughtfulness and passion for deep design thinking.

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His series of Open Manifesto books are renowned the world over Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 6.08.58 PMand he continues to work with global creative luminaries like Vince Frost, Stefan Sagmeister and Steven Heller on his trivia game DesigNerd.

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Michael C Place (previously of Designers Republic fame and now leading Build) rounded it off and spoke about a great project for Ukrainian kids TV station PlusPlus that created lots of ups and downs (mostly downs actually).

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We at Reactive have already admired Michael and Build for their great character designs for Virgin America. Check them out, they are a hoot.

BLD_VA_WEB-01Here are more snap shot impressions from the ground: http://instagram.com/sdhelvetica and here is a live blog doco http://www.sexdrugshelvetica.com/liveblog2014 Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 5.04.33 PM

Find below a more elaborate write up from SDH of the actual talks:
http://www.sexdrugshelvetica.com/recap-sex-drugs-helvetica-conference-2014

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This whole experience wouldn’t have been possible without some incredible passionate and talented youngsters organising the event. As I mentioned on stage in my talk in Melbourne, at their age I was spending day and night in techno bunkers in Berlin. I was definitely not organising high-calibre creative events. So big props to Nick, Zac, Leisha and Andy (pictured below) for their work.

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If you now feel like living on the wild side of design, with the right shirt to match your ‘tude, then here are the original T-shirts on the Sex, Drugs & Helvetica Shop: http://sex-drugs-helvetica.myshopify.com And see you at next year’s event.

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Hacker, Maker, Teacher, Thief – Advertising’s Next Generation

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I have contributed a chapter to the upcoming Creative Social book “Hacker, Maker, Teacher, Thief – Advertising’s Next Generation“. My chapter is called ‘Proving MC Hammer Wrong” and deals with how much we love to touch: our fellow human beings, well designed objects and naturally all those shiny new screens and interfaces. The whole book will soon be available on Lulu and I’ll be sharing news on the launch, chapters and the other contributors here soon. Suffice to say, the book’s authors include some big hitters from the best digital companies, startups and creative agencies around the globe. If you happen to be in London on Tuesday, September 2, do make sure to get to the launch event at Digitas LBI. You can get the last few tickets here on Eventbrite.

Questions addressed in the book are for example: 

  • What does the industry need to do today (not tomorrow) to stay valuable and relevant?
  • What the f**k do clients know about great advertising?
  • How can copying make you more original?
  • How do we ‘do’ innovation?
  • Should we make things people want rather than make people want things?
  • How do you find emotional resonance in real time marketing?
  • What’s the best way to punch procrastination in the face?
  • And why are we so excited by the next generation of advertising?

Here are some rave reviews:

“A punchy, provocative and perceptive trip through some of the bigger debates of the moment, from a gang of the most pioneering creative minds in and around the industry. As a collection, it’s like an idea grenade. It should be required reading for agency CEOs and leadership teams.”
Ben Malbon, Marketing Director, Creative Partnerships, Google

“Forget the past, the future is where it’s at – and this is your guide book.”
Rosie Arnold, Deputy Executive Creative Director, BBH London

“Less of a book and more of a lively debate. So rather than read it, ‘listen to it’ and get stuck in. It’ll make you want to ask questions, nod vigorously and heckle from the back.”
Graham Fink, CCO, Ogilvy China

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Mobile Masterclass at the Apple Store Sydney

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Two of my creative colleagues are holding a Mobile Masterclass at the Apple Store Sydney (CBD). Called ‘Designing for the Mobile World’ it will give you designers and developers some must-have knowledge. Do you want to be able to deliver mobile-centric experiences in a physical environments? Then join David Brown and Gabriel Tamborini from Reactive Sydney on March 12 as they discuss the current state of the mobile space, and how to deliver an inspiring and delightful mobile user experience. During this session, you’ll break out into groups and develop a digital experience that could be delivered on a mobile platform.

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Wednesday, 12 March at 6:00 pm
Apple Store Sydney CBD
367 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 8083 9400

Cannes Young Lions 2014

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The Cannes Young Lions 2014 competition for creative teams under 28 has just opened (deadline is April 4). In past years, digital entry levels have unfortunately never  reflected the size of our industry or the depth of talent within it. I have been Chairman as well as juror of this competition and have seen and written about how teams have struggled to enter top quality work. The entry levels reached only 25% of the Print entries which in light of where the work is going, didn’t make any sense.

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Reasons for it were twofold in my opinion. Firstly, it was (and still is) challenging to succinctly explain a digital campaign. Keeping the core idea separate from the complexity of execution is a skill that not every junior team has mastered yet. Secondly, the competition had until now required the teams to actually build their concepts. Which had to be in the format of display banners. This “smallest common denominator” approach led to a watering down of concepts. Teams entered what, according to their technical skill level, they thought they could actually build in Flash and HTML.

In 2014 it it is now no longer required to build the concept a.k.a. a display banner. This is going to broaden the scope of the ideas significantly, for both the local competition and the international version in Cannes, France. Reactive’s young ones in Melbourne and Sydney will challenge themselves to be among the best young digital creative teams in Australia. And I am looking forward to their results.

If you feel like you got what it takes, stop lurking behind your more senior colleagues. Enter, win, make your way to Cannes and take out the prize for best digital creative team in the world. But before you practice your acceptance speech, you should probably start by entering the first round before April 4:
http://www.newscorpaustralia.com/young-lions-digital-competition

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