Guide for Speakers (Salt Lake City)
TL;DR - The foundation of your talk should be case studies.
We are so grateful for your willingness to help Front be a success this year. We hope you know that we don’t take the decision to invite speakers lightly. Our bar is particularly high since it’s not enough for us just to find a really phenomenal speaker. Our most basic and important qualification is that our presenters must do what they teach.
Front Salt Lake City has the tag-line “the case study conference” for a very important reason. Before there was Front, there was a local Product Design Association made up of over a thousand professionals. And before that, there was a local IxDA meetup with a few hundred. Front’s planners have been involved in running both of these groups, for a total of almost a decade. Through the years we have learned something very important: our events which seem to make the most difference in the careers of our attendees are those which are hyper-focused on case study material. Not only do case-study style talks tend to attract more people, it seems that when topics are shown used in actual, real-life situations, they make a more lasting impression. And certainly, these speakers were lauded with the most praise (also a definite plus in our books).
But even more than that, research has shown again and again that having someone stand up in front of a bunch of people and spout off rubric is one of the worst teaching methods. It’s not totally ineffective, but there are better ways. On the other hand, having a hands-on workshop or a mentor/tutor relationship with a 1:600 ratio is on the impractical side. The closest thing we can get to “hands-on” with those odds is to focus on case studies.
With that in mind, we ask that as you prepare your presentation you focus on multimedia that not only illustrates, but which also demonstrates the principles you are trying to impart. We hope to see you be vulnerable. Show actual work you have done. Show what worked, but just as important, what didn’t work. We are always preaching the “fail fast” dogma, but so very few of us are willing to show how and when we failed. Your impressive successes will be all the more impressive when your process of getting there is revealed.
Guide for Workshop Instructors (Park City)
TL;DR - It’s a workshop. Attendees should work.
We are so grateful for your willingness to help Front be a success this year. We hope you know that the decision to invite you to lead a workshop was not a casual decision for us. We work very hard to find the best presenters who we feel confident will be able to provide a phenomenal learning experience for the people we do this for: our awesome attendees.
While Front Salt Lake City is hyper-focused on case study talks, Front Park City (affectionately referred to as “Back”) is meant to be the hands-on application of many of the important principles discussed at Front Salt Lake City. And if you read our Guide For Speakers above, you’ll know that Front Salt Lake City is all about case studies. We aren’t very keen on pontification of theories alone. With that in mind, we are extremely hopeful that your workshop will include as much actual hands-on interaction and training as possible. Attendees will arrive expecting to work and act, not just listen.
With that in mind, remember that that doesn’t just mean having them design or build things on their computer, under your watchful eye. It could also mean interacting as small groups, simulating or role-playing common situations, solving design or other sorts of problems in teams, sketching on paper, etc. We hope that you get creative. Four hours is a long time to hold and maintain attention, let alone fill professionals’ minds with new information. Don’t focus so much on quantity of information, but quality of adaption of knowledge, tools, and techniques.
Know Your Audience
TL;DR - Front is PG rated.
Front’s purpose is single: to drive high quality product management and product design related content to industry professionals. Front has been growing in both size, scope, medium, and (most importantly) audience. And while it is impossible to be all things to all people, Front caters to and welcomes all walks of life; Front embraces diversity. We have been excited to see the numbers of national and international attendees growing year over year. We anticipate this continuing.
Having said that, Front Salt Lake City and Park City currently still attracts a large majority local professionals. Utah’s culture is definitely unique, and in this guide we hope to address the elephant in the room: yes, a large percentage of folks who attend Front are conservative Christians and Mormons. With that in mind, there are definitely a few things which will benefit you to know as you prepare for your presentation.
While most the industry seems to be leaning toward acceptance of what our parent’s generation would have been appalled to hear in a “professional” setting, local Utahns are extremely traditional in this area. We have lost no shortage of returning locals due to speakers using words attendees are not comfortable hearing (e.g. “fuck”, “shit”... even the casual use of “God” will score you no points with this crowd). Many of our attendees have not attended many of the more casual conferences you see nationally and assume that when they attend Front they will be in a setting they feel will be “safe” and “professional”. Some have even reacted negatively on Slack or other mediums, publicly shaming the speakers for what they see as lack of professionalism. As to the debate on censorship and the philosophical purview of swearing, frankly, as Front planners, we don’t give a darn. ;) Public shaming is unacceptable. But by that same token, so is potentially offensive and unnecessary language.
Remember, our goal is single: to drive high quality product management and product design related content to industry professionals. And as a result, what we do care deeply about is ensuring each of our attendees comes away with as little distracting them from the quality content as possible. If that means censoring potentially offensive terms for a large group of attendees that make it possible for us to have a conference in the first place, we’re going to ask you to do that, and hope that you will understand. As product makers, we don’t have to tell you that knowing and meeting to your customers’ needs is more than just a good idea.
In other words, please, lets keep the content PG-rated.