Celebrating my 10th conference as a speaker!

Published on the 29 mai 2024
Marie Kuter, UX speaker, speaking in front of an audience

My talk at the 2024 Congrès de la SMP (Société Suisse de Management de Projet) on the 4th April in Lausanne was my 10th conference as a speaker. During 1h30, I introduced participants to data visualisation and lead them to experiencing data storytelling. It was a great event, and I was thrilled to see in the audience participants from previous workshops. I’ll come back with a focus on this topic. But first I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate this special anniversary and look back at my learnings as a UX speaker.

My journey as a UX speaker

I started speaking in 2022, and the annual SMP conference was my very first experience as a speaker. Since then I have talked at 2 more editions of their event, always with great pleasure. I can’t really remember what made me apply as a speaker. I guess I was inspired by the theme: « Transformations in the Project Management role », and I chose to speak about the UX aspect to this transformation.

After this first experience, I started applying to other conferences, always challenged and interested by the proposed themes. I spoke about design and co-conception, ethics, sustainability and design for good. I talked at the UX Conf in Paris, at the cinfo forum in Berne, the IIBA conference in Geneva, the Agile Tour in Lausanne and as far as the ethics by design event in Nantes.

So, here we are, 10 talks later. And what has that journey taught me?

Marie Kuter, UX speaker in front of the UX Conf in Paris banner

Marie Kuter, UX speaker in front of the UX Conf in Paris banner

My key learnings as a UX speaker

1. About stress management

Let’s be honest, stress management has to be the key topic here. Getting my presentation ready and practising is all fine. But when things get real and participants start to get in the room and look at you, tension gets high! My personal symptoms would typically include sweating hands, dry throat, accelerated elocution and sensation of cold. Also some kind of over-excitation leading to saying things I would regret later, talking too fast.

Stress is still here. Every time. And I guess it always will be. But I learned to get in a more neutral zone, from where excitation turns into clarity. And this has all come from working on authenticity rather than people-pleasing (thanks to my coach, Sarah!)

So my advice here would be to try and practice: it will get better but never disappear. Try to turn stress into positive energy and accept it.

2. About interactions

Let’s try to have a user-centric approach to workshop design for a minute here (which was actually the topic I covered at the IIBA and the Agile Tour.) Why do people go to professional conferences? For me, I identified 3 main reasons:

  1. they want to learn,
  2. they want to network
  3. and they want to enjoy a nice day off the usual routine.

About the learning part, nobody wants to sit in a room and listen to someone talk for hours: it has to be useful, directly actionable learnings. And it has to be interactive and both ways.

How do I know all this? Well, mostly learning from my own flaws: even as a teacher, sitting and listening has become harder and harder. So I used this to build interactive workshops, where participants can learn about something valuable to their everyday job, and then immediately give it a try in a small group settings, leading to networking and sharing an experience with new acquaintances.

Marie Kuter, UX speaker speaking in front of an audience

Marie Kuter, UX speaker speaking in front of an audience

3. About inspiration

I could never talk about astrophysics or mechanics. Or couldn’t I? Speakers at a conference offer a broad view of a general topic, each exploring a different angle. My expertise and experience in Design Thinking (which is by definition a user-centric method to solve problems) allows me to bring this specific aspect to a lot of conversations, even on topics I am no expert on.

The ignition starts from the event theme, and how I can bring value in exploring a difference angle around it.

4. About assets and material

I’ll come back on my key equipment for speaking at a conference in another article. Most critical would be the ever challenging connectors… As I was saying before, for teaching and speaking, I have worked on authenticity rather than proving something to the audience. And this has helped tremendously: not having to be perfect means I can make mistakes and improvise. Improvising from my true self means being able to connect to my audience and create a conversation.

I try to always have a printed support participants can use or refer to during the workshop part. I also have slides of course, but I allow myself to diverge more and more, rather than following the script. Which makes it more interesting for me and, I believe, for my participants, as I allow the conversation to shift according to their feedback.

To conclude this thread of thoughts, I share below a couple of videos from some of these 10 conferences, one in French and one in English. And I want to thank all the organizers who have supported and welcomed me, as well as all the participants to my workshops. It has always been a pleasure, and I wish we meet again soon!

Atelier de co-conception at the SMP conference 2022 (in French)

Diverse Personas at the UMO WiD Summit 2023 (in English)

Marie Kuter
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Marie Kuter, UX speaker, speaking in front of an audience
Marie Kuter

Marie Kuter, UX speaker

Marie is a UX specialist and speaker based in Geneva, Switzerland. She talks about design, project management and sustainability.

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