Posts tagged “conference”

Out and About: Steve in San Antonio

A couple of weeks ago I was in San Antonio, where I was one of the presenters and workshop leaders at the Enterprise UX conference. Here are some of my pictures.

Out the hotel window, before the sun comes up.

Welcome to the party.

This toilet was flirting with me.

Roasted? Iced? Local language norms or just really fancy catering?

Conference breakfasts.

Interviewing Users: Link Roundup (Second Anniversary Edition)


Wow. It’s been two years since my first book Interviewing Users was released. Here’s a roundup of links to various bits connected with the book. If you haven’t already, you should buy a copy here! It would be fantastic if you wrote a quick review on Amazon here.

The Book





Portigal year in review, 2013

It’s time to sum up some of the noteworthy writings/happenings of the year. Let’s get to it!

All those years ago: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008.

From Fluxible, The Designer is Present

I had an amazing time at Fluxible, and was so happy to have the opportunity to debut a brand new workshop, The Designer is Present.

The notion of presence is a critical idea for those of us in user experience. At the risk of sounding like Yoda, presence is tied to self-knowing. During ten years of writing, lecturing and coaching on “interviewing users”, many of the questions that Steve Portigal receives are about controlling or influencing another person’s behavior. Yet these interactions with others are really about ourselves, what’s inside us, who we are.

In this workshop, you’ll tap into a new level of personal authenticity to unlock a powerful boon. Together, we’ll explore this point of view and participate in a range of exercises to learn more about these ideas – and about ourselves.

The experience was a compelling one for all of us. I can not wait to do this workshop again (so hopefully someone will arrange for that to happen before too long). Taking a cue from Marina Abramovic (as well as performance and couples therapy), we tried an exercise where people gazed silently into the eyes of another person for 30 seconds. Which felt like an eternity, especially when done a second time. Everyone in the group was crazy brave and willing to try anything I asked of them, and even better was willing to really share honestly what these exercises revealed for them.

At other points we did a simple improv exercise (something I deal with a lot more in Yes, My Iguana Loves to Cha-Cha) about “accepting offers” – essentially one person waits on stage while another approaches and says something like “Hi, I’m a baker and here’s a loaf of bread.” The initial actor responds with “Thanks, I’ll go get some butter!” or something else relevant, and then walks offstage. That’s it – all we did was a series of saying “yes” to other ideas; ideas we couldn’t plan for. Even that simple and silly activity produced a lot of powerful reflection.

We also explored how reframing (especially bad ideas into good ones; something I deal with more extensively in The Power of Bad Ideas) can help with keeping us in the moment and not letting catastrophizing whisk us away.

It seemed that these ideas had a real impact; several speakers were present and reflected on the workshop in their end-of-event summaries the next day. Konrad Sauer even shared some of his experience in a blog post:

Steve then asked us to turn to the person beside us and for 30 seconds, stare into the other persons eyes. We were all strangers and the experience was amazing. After the exercise, we were asked to describe the experience. Most people had a strong sense of discomfort – this was an incredibly intimate thing to do with someone let along with someone we did not know. Many people found strategies for dealing with the discomfort – to focus on a single feature on the persons face – usually to avoid the eyes. Some people laughed, some people looked away. Some people paid attention to their breathing, the noises outside. But we all observed that we had made a much deeper connection to that person sitting across from us. Throughout the rest of the conference, whenever our eyes re-connected, it felt like seeing a very old friend again and there was a an immediate re-connection. That is how one of the other speakers described it and I think he was bang on. It was very cool.

I put together a reading list with various podcasts, websites, articles and more. You can check it out here.

Finally, I’ve embedded the slides below (although they are really only a pointer to the experience we all shared together).

Portigal year in review, 2012

Lots of emotions as the year winds down, with another one waiting just around the corner. Here’s some of what went down this past year.

Journey through the past: 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008.

This Week @ Portigal

Monday, Monday…

We here at Portigal are off to a bustling start of the week (contrary to the wispy, relaxing vibe that tune implies).

  • We spent the morning ideating approaches and tools for upcoming ethnographic interviews. Imagine three dedicated research geeks in a room surrounded by whiteboards, post-it notes, laptops, and lots of markers. In addition to sharing our own ways of thinking about interviewing tactics, we had the chance to explore ways others are are practicing this magic.
  • We are excited to dive back in to the Omni project this week as we welcome back Kristine Ng to review her primary research efforts and craft a plan for more collaboration this year.
  • In lieu of tempting our latent gambling and tech addictions, we will be watching the flurry of CES excitement from the sidelines (er, our desks) this week.
  • Julie is vying for Crock Pot Champion this week but it’s going to take a transformational eating experience to top Tamara’s Beefy Barley Vegetable Stew from last week…
  • Steve has a To-Do list longer than anyone wants to acknowledge as he prepares for Interaction 12 in Dublin. Have you checked out the videos from the four winners of the Student Design Challenge yet? Wow.
  • In the aftermath of last week’s 2012 off-site planning meeting for Portigal, we are building a list of events, conferences, and workshops that look shiny in the new year. Please don’t be shy! Let us know if you can think of something we should attend. Better yet, is there an upcoming event where you’d like to see us present a talk or workshop? As much as we enjoy hanging out in the office together, we are ethnographers and compulsively curious so we love even more excuses to get out of the office and into the wild.

Conference Design in the State of Creativity (rated PG)

I presented a workshop, Big Ideas, Focused Action, Problem Solved, on 11.1.11 with my friend Cynthia Rolfe at the Oklahoma Creativity Forum (#OKCF2011). I was blown away by a number of things about the event (not the least of which is the fact that there is an entire organization, Creative Oklahoma, dedicated to promoting creativity in the state, with the aptly chosen website address What struck me most of all was the design and delivery of the conference experience. I have been chatting with friends and colleagues who attended the recent Service Design Conference in San Francisco and their insights coupled with my own reflections about being both a conference producer and consumer got me wondering about what it takes to design a memorable and satisfying conference experience.

Thus I arrive at the conference-as-dating metaphor and my desire to anthropomorphize the service experience of large scale events. A conference, like a potential date, must attract, entice, and engage if it wishes to become adored by the object(s) of its affection. A conference, like a date, runs the risk of being a waste of time (punctuated by free food and drink) unless it establishes a meaningful connection and lays the groundwork for deeper interactions.¬† A conference, like a date, creates dynamic tension. To use an oft-appropriated quote by JFK “When written in Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”

To help avoid the dangerous pitfalls of conference design crises (and perhaps some dating fiascoes) here are a few suggestions for optimizing various conference experience ‘touch points’:

  • Eye contact (aka Deliver seductive visual and interpersonal communication from beginning to end)

OKCF2011 has a clear mission and a solid brand to support it. The conference logo and PR elements (like videos) were pretty and clever and, most importantly, they reinforced the mission of the event to catalyze creativity & innovation in education, commerce & culture (i.e. get people thinking outside the box).

  • Flirting (aka Pique prospective interest with digestible doses of self-disclosure)

OKFC2011 speakers and breakout sessions were revealed in the weeks leading up to the conference. This created anticipation, similar to what has been done with User Experience Lisbon (aka a hot date with many of the finest minds in UX like, ahem, Steve!)

  • Foreplay (aka Set the stage and help participants warm up until they find it irresistible)

House music pumping out of the main ballroom had heads nodding while we sipped coffee and looked for seats. In lieu of a standard emcee welcome, we were consumed by a cross-cultural multi-media musical collaboration that included dancers, violins, native American flute, images from Africa via the Wishing Well program, and laser light show. Sounds cacophonous, right? It was flawless and I was smiling with my whole head before a single person stepped up to the microphone.

  • ¬†The Main Event (aka Overdeliver on expectations and attention to the, um, details)

OKCF2011 rocked out their mission and the venue was palpably packed with creativity including collaborative sculpture, young artists gallery, random and delightful antics by youth improv troupes, musical performance, photo booths and book store (to name a few).  Organizers found opportunities to weave local creative talent throughout the event. My favorites were performance poet Lauren Zuniga  (whose way with words made me drool) and the local youth from Louder Than A Bomb (whose courage and cleverness made my creativity blush!)

  • Post-Coital Bliss (aka Reflect on the good times and stay connected)

The OKFC2011 event included plenary sessions with individual speakers and panels plus two breakout sessions with ample options to choose from. The fastidious documentation means I can go back and experience whatever I missed or wish to revisit. Silly sidenote: OKFC2011 had great shwag- the bags were great, but I am talking about the interactive souvenir stations. There was a dedicated photographer with a conference background and props who would take whatever pictures you wanted and print them on the spot. My personal favorite was the Picstories booth where 7 seconds of silliness were instantly transformed into a personalized flip book.

  • Keeping the Fires Burning (aka Amplify the good and commit to continuous improvement)

OKCF2011 waited exactly two days to follow up with all presenters and attendees to request feedback (who doesn’t appreciate a good feedback loop when establishing committed relationships?) and offer encouragement for bringing the learning back into our daily lives. They alert me to when the site has been updated with images and video triggering a trip down memory lane that takes me to the future (of possibilities) through the past. Sadly, I can’t say that about most of the conferences I have broken up with, er, attended.

Presentation, in its entirety, is below and beckons your comments and feedback (in an “oops! I dropped my handkerchief” sort of way).

Steve Portigal teaching “Immersive Field Research Techniques” at UI16

Join me for Immersive Field Research Techniques coming up November 7 in Boston at User Interface 16.

My session will be pretty similar to the recent Rosenfeld Media workshop in Seattle, which was pretty well received 🙂

If you haven’t registered yet, you can use the code STEVEP for $300 off the whole conference, or $50 of a single day.

I hope to see you there!

Steve leading Immersive Field Research Techniques workshop at UI16

I’ll be presenting a full-day workshop on Immersive Field Research Techniques at User Interface 16 this November in Boston.

Registration gives you

  • Two full-day workshops: The UI16 experts will dive deep and get to the nitty-gritty details that make any designer into a pro.
  • One day of short talks: This is where you’ll discover the latest UX ideas and techniques from each of our expert speakers. Don’t forget Jared Spool’s entertaining and educational keynote.
  • Complete conference materials: We’ll send you the PDFs of every session and workshop just before you leave for the conference. Then you can focus on insights and not note-taking.
  • Recordings of the short talks: The benefits keeping coming after the conference. Through the recordings, you can relive every short talk at your office with your entire team.

Right now they are offering 100 registrations at a sneak-preview price of $1349. They are (as of this posting) down to 79 sneak-spots, after that it goes up $300.

I hope to see you there!

Come on out to the Seattle UIE Web App Masters Tour!

I’ll be presenting Design Fieldwork: Uncovering Innovation From The Outside In as part of the two-day UIE Web App Masters Tour, in Seattle on May 23/24. The whole agenda (which is jam packed with some smart folks talking about interesting things) is here.

Register now and use speaker code SPKSEATTLE to get $100 off the price. If you register by May 6 you’ll get the recordings of last year’s event for free.

Join me at Lift11 in Geneva

I’m very excited to have been invited to speak at Lift11 (with the tagline “What can the future do for you?). My talk is titled Discover and act on insights about people. I was interviewed by Nicolas Nova about our approach to understanding people in order to drive innovation.

I’ve got one free registration to share with a reader here.
If you think you might be in Geneva in early February (the conference runs Feb 2-4), let me know you’re interested via the comments.

Hope to see you there!

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Steve Portigal on "Discovering and acting on new insights about how people innovate" [Lift11 Conference] – [Nicolas Nova interviews me in advance of my presentation at Lift11 in Geneva in February. Thrilled to be part of it!] Q: I am always fascinated by people's creativity and their tendency to find solutions for their own needs. Is this something you A: I think the phrase “their own needs” is a crucial part of your question. Often we are asked to study people where we’ve been given a basic hypothesis of what people’s problems are, or even what the solution is going to be. Often what we end bringing back is some perspective about where our client’s products and services fit – or don’t – into people’s lives. Our clients are trying to innovate in spaces where people aren’t paying much attention, and while that’s challenging, it does help focus the problem a great deal! I’m continually fascinated by two different archetypes with people’s own solutions: the first is a massive tolerance for a non-optimized situations..The second archetype is a massive investment for a customized solution.


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