Frontier: Building a compelling conference program

Frontier: Building a compelling conference program

A conference is made of many parts, but certainly, the most important part is the program. And let me tell you, we have an awesome program! Over a year ago, as we were putting together our proposal to host the conference, we decided that our guiding theme would be “Frontiers.” We felt that one word represented both Pittsburgh’s history as a leader of industry and its contemporary revitalization as a hotbed for new technologies.

We purposefully decided to use it as a loose, guiding theme, rather than a heavily publicized, formal theme for the conference. We wanted it to inform our curation, rather than to heavily influence submissions. We didn’t want to have a program that was 100% aspirational. We felt it important to have “Monday morning” applications.

So my program team put their heads together and decided upon three session types: the tried and true 40-minute talk, the 10-minute lightning talk, and something new—hands-on sessions. While we gave a brief explanation of what we were hoping for with the hands-on sessions, we didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know how many people would submit hands-on sessions or what they would likely be about. We weren’t sure how much hands-on activity they would attempt in the given 40 minutes. But we certainly weren’t disappointed. The community delivered.

We received over 230 submissions (including workshops), which we had to narrow down to 7 workshops, 13 talks, 3 lightning talks, and 7 hands-on sessions. There were many difficult decisions we had to make. We could have easily filled a couple more days with high quality sessions. Then, of course, there was the balancing act of maintaining a diverse set of speakers — including a mix of both local and non-local speakers –- and a good range of novice to experienced content.

And that’s not all. In addition to the sessions described above, we have other exciting programming options in the form of excursions to spots of local interest and a career track featuring a career fair, moderated discussion groups around aspects of professional design practice, and portfolio reviews. These sessions are all included with general admission but need to be signed up for individually as spaces are limited. Check back for an upcoming blog post with more details about the excursions and career track.

I couldn’t be prouder of the program we put together. Please check out our speakers, our sponsors, and take a look at the program. Then, if you haven’t already, get registered. These tickets won’t last.