April 6, 2024

I want to host events again

I discovered local design-related events in my final year of college. Before that, I had never met another UX professional besides my coworkers at my internship. This was in 2019, and I went to EVERY SINGLE EVENT I could find. The content was refreshing. I didn’t network much because my goal was knowledge and to be around other professional designers and practitioners.

I wanted to host an event too!

I reached out to Thomas Ewart of Figma Austin (pre-Friends of Figma), who showed me the ropes a bit and got me in contact with the right people, and I launched Figma Houston. The first event was at a coffee shop, and we had a surprisingly good turnout. It gave me a confidence boost to start hosting more events.

I started looking into companies offering their office space to groups like mine. Luckily, I found a few that would even sponsor food by providing pizza and drinks. I hosted my second official event at a WeWork, where the Flatiron coding boot camp provided space and food.

Second event could have been better

It was my first time designing in front of a large group of people, and I was the most nervous I had ever been. I talked too fast and stammered a lot, and I could see the audience wasn’t really feeling it. After the event, I apologized to the attendees and asked my friend what I could have done better. I knew I had to do something different for the next event.

Always get feedback from your audience on how to do better

I needed to think bigger for my next event.

I wanted to do an event about getting a job as a UX Designer. Luckily, I made a recruiter friend, Kate, who I thought would be perfect for presenting on this. This was hosted at Improving, and once again, they provided us with the space and pizza. The turnout was amazing, and a lot of important people in the Houston UX community showed up.

To my knowledge, no one had done an event like this in Houston in 2019, and no one has done anything similar since then either.

Proudest moment of my life.

I had big ambitions

It went so well and I was pumped. I had all these ideas on the types of events I wanted to host that had not been hosted by any other group in Houston. Portfolio reviews. Case Study presentation to get designers ready for interviews. Even co-designing sessions where junior folks will partner with senior folks for 30 minutes to work on a particular problem. If I couldn’t find someone to help me host these, I would do it myself and work with the attendees on the activities.

Then COVID hit

It killed my momentum. It also stopped all the events by other groups in Houston and only a few have recovered. The saddest thing is no one remembers the events that I hosted, except for one friend. With the whole job market and depression, I couldn’t focus on Figma Houston. So it shut down.

It’s 2024.

I want to start hosting events again. Not Figma Houston, though. Figma rebranded their events as Friends of Figma, and some amazing people are running it now in Houston. I try to go to every event, and it’s a lot of fun. Check them out here.

All the types of events I wanted to do before? No one is doing it. People want these events. Whether they take place after work on a weekday, or early mornings on weekends. People want an opportunity to go out, network, learn, and have a good time.

Event planning can be very simple.

If you want people to come to your events, it’s all proper marketing. Announce the event 3-4 weeks in advance. Post consistently across social media every week and 2-3 times before the day of the event. Post your events in groups you are a part of and reach out to organizers in other groups. You aren’t taking the audience away from them; you are growing together.

The hardest part is figuring out the topics for the events, finding speakers, and planning activities. But here’s the thing. You don’t have to host an event every month.

If January covers the basics of information architecture, February could be a Design Social at a boba place or trendy coffee shop. You can use the downtime to plan a panel for March and so on.

That way, you are interacting with your community regularly without pressuring yourself too much.

That all sounds great. So why am I not doing it?

I’m unemployed.

When I got my last job in 2021, I was excited to start hosting again but it was still peak COVID and no one else was hosting. Then I got laid off, which is when everyone else started hosting events again. I just have really bad luck.

Right now, I have this cloud of despair hanging above me. I am unable to do the things I love. If I was employed, it would give me the confidence boost I need to start hosting these events. I wouldn’t feel like a failure. I want to be genuinely happy when I host.

Being unemployed means I always have a negative aura, and it will show when I get in front of people. That will result in a substandard event, ruining the experience for the attendees and add to my depression.

The intention of this blog post is not to be a cry for help or to get a job. The regret had been building up as I started attending events again. I am writing things down—all the things I want to do once I am in a positive mental state.

Do I have to be the one to host these? Absolutely not. I am willing to help anyone interested in hosting events like these however I can, whether it is introductions to companies that will sponsor a space and food, marketing them, and increasing attendees. I just want these events to happen because I genuinely enjoy it so much.

About me

Hi, I'm Nabil

I'm a Houston-based Product Designer. I enjoy working on new problems, doing my research, and trying my best to understand the concerns of the business so I can help them grow their business through design.

Photo of Nabil holding a Zoro doll