Hosting DIBI

Jeremy Keith
2 min readMay 15

This was originally posted on my own site.

I was up in Edinburgh for the past few days at the Design It; Build It conference.

I was supposed to come back on Saturday but then the train strikes were announced so I changed my travel plans to avoid crossing a picket line, which gave me an extra day to explore Auld Reekie.

I spoke at DIBI last year so this time I was there in a different capacity. I was the host. That meant introducing the speakers and asking them questions after their talks.

I’m used to hosting events now, what with UX London and Leading Design. But I still get nervous beforehand. At least with a talk you can rehearse and practice. With hosting, it’s all about being nimble and thinking on your feet.

I had to pay extra close attention to each talk, scribbling down potential questions to ask. It’s similar to the feeling I get when I’m liveblogging talks.

There were some line-up changes and schedule adjustments along the way, but everything went super smoothly. I pride myself on running a tight ship so the timings were spot-on.

When it came to the questions, I tried to probe under the skin of each presentation. For some talks, that involved talking shop — the finer points of user research or the design process, say. But for the big-picture talks, I made sure to get each speaker to defend their position. So after Dan Makoski’s kumbaya-under-capitalism talk, I gave him a good grilling. Same with Philip Lockwood-Holmes who gave me permission beforehand to be merciless with him.

It was all quite entertaining. Alas, I think I may have put the fear of God into the other speakers who saw me channeling my inner Jeremy Paxman. But they needn’t have worried. I also lobbed some softballs. Like when I asked Levon Sharrow from Patagonia if there was such thing as ethical consumption under capitalism.

I had fun, but I was also aware of that fine line between being clever and being an asshole. Even though part of my role was to play devil’s advocate, I tried to make sure I was never punching down.

All in all, an excellent couple of days spent in good company.

Hosting was hard work, but very rewarding. I’ve come to realise it’s one of those activities that comes relatively easy to me, but it is very hard (and stressful) for others. And I’m pretty gosh-darned good at it too, false modesty bedamned.

So if you’re running an event but the thought of hosting it fills you with dread, we should talk.

This was originally posted on my own site.

Jeremy Keith

A web developer and author living and working in Brighton, England. Everything I post on Medium is a copy — the originals are on my own website,