I’m not a design leader myself, but I have experience working with communities of business leaders to understand and address their collective needs.

So the first step in the curation process for me is to identify the hot topics for design leaders. I do this in a few ways. Our Leading Design Slack group provides lots of insights into what the main pressure points for design leaders are. This provides a great wide angle. Then I have office hours where I can have more detailed one-to-one conversations.

When I was putting together the plan for our conference in New York, almost by accident I developed a framework for the event:

Day 1 - explore what I have been referring to as the “external” side of leadership: managing teams, getting buy-in, design’s seat at the table.

Day 2 - explore the “internal/personal” side of leadership: resilience, growth, understanding your leadership style and finding your purpose.

You can check out the schedule for our New York conference to see how that took shape in more detail.

This framework worked so well that I will intentionally be using it for Leading Design London.

I’m also a natural storyteller (I blame my Film School training) and so I have applied a narrative theme across this framework.

In New York the theme was around reconnection. At the end of that conference our headline sponsor from Google described the event as a “collective healing”. When we reconvene in London we will be taking this collective healing and creating a “collective empowering”. We will look at how, as leaders, we can find stability, and perhaps even learn to embrace the ambiguity that we work within. Not just in terms of the post-covid world we find ourselves in, but as leaders we’ve always been required to have a level of comfort in ambiguity, to steady the ship.

Once the content ideas are in place the next crucial stage is finding the speakers. We don't do an open call for speakers for our conferences. Instead I turn to our community again, who are so generous in sharing their contacts and putting forward people who they would love to hear from.

And once I begin the conversation with potential speakers the collaboration continues. I don’t simply just get a speaker to submit a talk title and then not see them until the day of the event. I like to share my workings out, to let them know how I see their talk fitting into the overall tapestry of the event. I also make sure that they have a clear idea of the challenge that their talk will address. This also allows us to spot overlaps or gaps in the content.

This process also works well for the speakers. When I’m speaking at an event, there is nothing worse than looking at a schedule and not seeing how my talk fits or—even worse—seeing a talk that seems identical.

So I also share lots of information about the other talks so that they know how their talk will fit into the full tapestry of the event. The great thing about this process is that we get a lot of original content, or refreshed takes on evergreen issues. We’ve also have lovely feedback from our speakers on this process.

I can’t wait to share the schedule for Leading Design London with you very soon. In the meantime if you have any questions about the conferences, the curation process or speaker suggestions, then I’d love to hear from you.