Interaction 12: Growth & Logistics

Interaction 12 was the fifth annual conference of the IxDA. I’ve had the good fortune of attending all five of them. Sincere thanks are due my company, Inmedius, for caring enough about my continuing education and professional growth to send me. I’m also grateful to the organization for keeping the conference affordable.

Every conference has had its own unique flavor, largely due to the host cities, but also stemming from the conference chairs and invited keynote speakers. Each year has also seen significant growth in the number of attendees, which changes the personality of the event as well. Following the trend, Interaction 12 felt very different from past conferences while retaining the feeling of community and intense shared purpose that electrified Interaction 8 and carried like a static charge from one conference to the next. The predominant difference this year was that for the first time, the conference was held outside North America. There were far more attendees from Europe than in past years. While this also meant that there were many of my friends that couldn’t make it, I know it’s a net positive for the conference. It’s a global organization—it’s only fair that the conference make itself available to members around the world. Ireland dropping the VAT on the conference fee certainly helped.

The conference was held in Dublin’s new convention center. While this may not have had the appeal of the historic buildings in Savannah, it certainly worked better than the student center in Boulder and the hotels in Vancouver. The conference has gotten large enough now that it’s likely we’ll find ourselves in conference centers from here on out. We barely fit in the Boulder venues last year, and the attendance was increased over 100 people this year.

The conference wasn’t perfect. There were complaints about the food served at the conference center, and the 2 Euro per item coat check fee. In general, the food wasn’t as good or as plentiful as in past conferences. “Breakfast” one morning was cookies. My biggest criticism was that my hotel, one of the official conference hotels, did not provide free WiFi—one of my priorities as co-chair of logistics last year was ensuring that we had free WiFi and enough bandwidth at every venue.

But here’s the thing: conferences are complex. When you are meeting at a particular venue, there are limitations imposed. I’m sure the conference was forced to use the conference center’s own catering, and they likely wouldn’t give the conference a decent rate on the coat check to make it feasible to cover for us. Just as with any design project, you have to make compromises and work within constraints.

The complaints I heard, as well as those I expressed, were nitpicks. As a whole, the entire conference experience was wonderful. I spoke with many first-time attendees, and as in the past, they were all quite impressed with the conference. The venues selected for the evening events were spectacular—especially the Guinness Storehouse! The organizing committee deserve accolades for the experience they were able to pull off, of which I will write more next week.