An Interview with Luke Reed, Managing Director and Founder of Tech Circus

Hello everybody! Hope you’re doing well. I was thinking it’d be nice for our friends and followers to learn a little bit more about us and why we do what we do, and thought who better to approach other than the big cheese himself- Luke Reed. He started up Tech Circus just over six years ago and you’ve probably seen or heard him presenting a lot of the content we’ve been producing. I had a few burning questions that I wanted to know, and a few that I thought you’d be interested in knowing too, so I arranged a time for us to have a chat and this is how it went:

1. What has been your favourite event of the year so far and why?

I really enjoyed the neurodiversity event. Even though I wasn’t directly involved in the conversation, I am severely dyslexic and it resonated with me to hear their struggles. It made me think. I learnt so much about autism and realised I’d never properly understood it before- getting your head around how people think differently and how they can use their abilities can really benefit your company. I’m always having to rewrite things and concentrate a lot more, so it really hit home to hear those speakers and how they live.

2. And what are you most looking forward to when looking at the rest of the year?

Going back to UX Crunch in person. Feeling the atmosphere and the buzz of events again, I actually think it’s going to be emotional. We survived 16 months of doing this online and it’ll be a big moment to go back and do exactly what we’re supposed to do.

3. Why do we look at UX & Design specifically?

Because I used to run a recruitment company that specialised in UX design. I had already built a network and knew that there was a huge gap in the market for the tech scene, nobody was creating any events of value so I thought that I would.

4. What do you think makes a bad conference and how do you avoid these things to ensure our events are a success?

Good question. The first thing is bias. When people who work in the industry try to organise events, they have a conflict of interest. They don’t want to upset the people they know and they want to appease their clients. But we’re simply the middle man. We take feedback from everyone and use it to give the audience what they want! There’s no conflict of interest, we’re there for the community and that’s it.

The biggest thing is to get feedback and to act on that feedback. If someone says they don’t like something, you can’t take it personally. And we’re not UX experts, the best way for us to find stuff out is by listening to the feedback from our audience. We deliver the greatest events by listening.

Also, you don’t want things to be too formal. There needs to be an element of fun and comfort to the event, the content needs to be engaging and not just speakers speaking at people. At every conference we have a giant ‘snowball fight’ of drinks tokens. We do these quirky icebreakers as a fun way of trying something new and adding in some spice by doing different things! You need to make the atmosphere as exciting as you can. Interaction is important and the content always needs to be amazing- this is the most important thing.

5. In terms of speakers, who typically blows you away? What do they bring to the table?

Dan Makoski- the chief design officer for Lloyds. He’s the best speaker I’ve ever seen! I’ve never seen anyone present and move around a stage whilst producing such great words like Dan. All of his stories and messages are meaningful and have a social purpose- how does something like banking affect people's lives and how can we make positive change through UX? He’s able to communicate really well and the way he uses a stage is great, he has so much excitement and energy that a lot of other speakers don’t have!

6. If you had to sum up our events in one sentence, what would you say?

We’re trying to become the biggest tech networking company in the world- so we make cool events for the community with the highest standard of content which is all based on attendee feedback.

7. Is there anything about Tech Circus that you think our audience might not know about us?

We’re an organically grown company with no investments behind us. Our conferences have been able to grow because we’ve done this on our own backs, running successful events and taking the leftover money into the next event. We want to grow- we’re looking at doing more than 10 conferences next year!

8. A lot of those who attend our community events are practitioners just starting out in UX. But how do you think someone with a lot of experience in UX could best utilise what we have to offer?

It depends on who they are and what they do, whether they’re a director in UX or a director of a company. Senior UXers going to conferences will get a lot of senior insights, they’ll be comparing their UX to other companies that are leading their fields and sharing their examples. There's a woman I know who’s so senior and she attends all of our conferences. When I asked her why, she said that she comes to validate everything she already knows and to assess how her company’s UX compares to other industry professionals and theirs. Checking out system processes and how your strategy weighs up when compared to others. As an events company, we’d go to other events to see how they do things and if they were as good as us- it’s the same thing.

9. Following up from the last blog post about returning to physical events, how do you see our online events running in the future?

A lot of our audience members want to know what we’ll be doing next and whether or not we’ll be staying online. Simply put, yes. We’ll continue running online events because they’re accessible globally, they’re generally favoured for those who’re there strictly for educational purposes, there’s no paying for travel and it’s seen as less inconveniencing.

We’ve noticed that we’re reaching more young parents as well as more deprived and rural areas, so we’ll keep the online events because there’s a lot of people who favour them over in-person meets. Introverts who don't like networking, those with disabilities or those who would just prefer to stay at home. Online is here to stay! That being said, we can’t wait to get back to the buzz of the conference halls.

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