It has been more than a week since attending Circles Conference, and I am still impressed with just how amazing the whole experience was. If you have ever been to a conference, then you are more than familiar with the sometimes overwhelming feeling you get on the first day.
It's difficult to find where registration is, you really need to find some coffee, and people are everywhere. Circles is the polar opposite of this kind of experience. The event takes place in Grapevine, TX, a smaller suburb of Dallas, and is a fantastic location for a conference of its kind. The venue is an old theater and served as a fantastic host to this years event.
Why it Worked
We organize, sponsor, and attend a lot of events here at InVision. I, personally, have been to more meetups and conferences than I can easily count. We have attended conferences of all shapes and sizes that each have their own merit.
So, what made this one work so well? Execution. Every aspect of the conference was planned and executed seamlessly. When organizing events like this, it is important to think through every element, focusing on the attendee experience. I could write an entire post about what the Circles team did right, but I will dodge that rabbit hole. Just know, the entire event appeared to be done with little to no effort. It was impressive to say the least.
Another key to the success of this conference were the people that attended. Circles hosted an amazing group of designers, makers, illustrators, and thinkers. People were there to learn and connect with others in their community. The speakers came out after their presentations to continue discussing the points they introduced on stage. People took the time to not only talk about work, but the things in life that exist outside our 9-5. Real friendships were made and real fun was had.
Focus is so important
In a connected world where wearable tech is advancing, and people seem to always be on their phone, focus is a hard thing to find. It is difficult for most people to fully unplug at conferences. The pressures of the job you left back at home, clients, family, and emails demand your attention. But the best experiences happen when you are off technology and focused on what is happening there. The venue chosen for Circles helped attendees do just that. The main sessions were held in an old theater. There were no tables with row after row of Apple laptops illuminating attendees faces. People sat and focused in on the “show”. Sure, there were still people on computers, but it was a minority. The crowd really focused on what was being presented and, as a result, came away inspired.
It Should Be About People
After the first day was wrapped up, an underlying theme had began to establish. It was really interesting to watch. These presenters got up and gave their talks, but it seemed like there had been some massive Google Hangout where they decided on a theme. Doug Bowman, former creative director at Twitter, really said it best:
“It has always been about people and should always be about people. - " — Doug Bowman
More and more, smart companies are focusing on the people. It is where the whole concept of user experience came from. The advice given and topics presented seemed to all point about doing work that matters. Building things that help people. That engage the user. Products that steward meaningful experiences. It was very inspirational.
See You Next Year
There are few conferences that I recommend wholesale for designers, but Circles is one of them. Put it on your calendar for next year. Start talking to the decision makers that can make it happen. Make this the conference the one you attend, and we will see you there.