When Annie first let me know that Move Summit was coming up in Edinburgh and asked if I wanted to go, the answer was easy peasy. Geeking out over animation production processes is something I legitimately love to do. Also this. Here is a summary of what I learned at Move Summit 2019, along with some tips I found helpful for getting the most out of the two days.
Before The Event
In addition to having a grand ol’ time, I wanted to learn as much as I could, not just for me but for Annie and the team, too. As the day got closer, nerves started to set in alongside the excitement—this would be my first conference of its kind. Being as introverted as they come, the prospect of two days of uninterrupted ‘Social Susie Mode’ - networking, note-taking, social media posting and name-recalling - was beginning to dawn on me.
So I decided to take a couple of steps to prepare and manage any jitters.
These are some things you can do as well for your future conferences and networking events:
Doing some homework on the companies that will be attending as well as on the speakers themselves.
Looking at the schedule ahead of time and noting down which talks sound the most interesting and useful. (At Move Summit, many of the talks overlapped, forcing some selectivity. Considering our enthusiasm, this was probably a good thing).
Define what it is you’re aiming to get from the event (Are you looking to make sales? Build your network? Learn about new technology? Or just to be super inspired by what’s out there?) - for me, it was to learn about the wider industry and find inspiration from different specialities that could be applied to medical animation.
Becoming familiar with the simple things, like conference registration times, the location and the general timetable. Making sure you know when to leave the house, what train to get, etc. are all things that seem obvious, but can be easily overlooked.
In addition to showcasing some serious slide design skills and beautiful artwork, he emphasised the importance of telling a believable and authentic story in animation, covering points such as:
Embracing animation not as a genre, but as a medium that can be used across all genres.
Telling relatable stories that audiences can empathise with.
Creating believable worlds and environments.
Creating work you personally believe in, rather than what you ‘think’ people want to see.
Some useful insights into the creative process behind his new book, ‘Cloud Country’ including not being afraid to cut out key elements (like main characters) if they are not truly serving the story.
The rest of the day included talks by the clever people over at ISO Design and Found Studio, who offered fascinating insights into their production processes for installation work and how they squeeze in time for innovation within their regular pipelines. Overall, the key themes of the day included:
A continued emphasis on story - whatever your medium or specialty.
Emphasis on the importance of collaboration and building healthy networks and relationships, within and outside of your company/profession.
Making time for play and innovation.
The day finished off with a free drink and buffet (an excellent ice-breaker for a 300-strong group of introverted animators, as it turns out) followed by a quick transfer to the pub for the ‘Drink and Draw’, which was a fun way to meet other artists and decompress after taking in all that information.
Friday at Move Summit was even more jam-packed, with talks from the likes of Buck Design and Framestore IA. Uses for emerging technologies such as VR, AR and real-time video game rendering engines as production tools were also introduced and showcased.
I was also ridiculously excited to get to try out one of the latest releases by Axis Studios. ‘The Bond’ is an animated short created entirely in VR. Soaring above a fantasy landscape and watching the action from a crab’s eye view are just a couple of the insane experiences that make up this very cool film.
Key takeaways from the second day of talks included:
Not being afraid to experiment and try new techniques/directions in your work. In fact, actively making time for this is vital for professional development. Key quote: “If you’re standing still, you’re moving backwards.”
Again, there was a strong emphasis on prioritising the story and key messaging over making a ‘pretty picture’.
Nurturing a free and collaborative culture within a company is vital for innovation.
In addition to the incredible amount of information and insights on offer, I was also thrilled to get to meet and spend time with some fantastic professionals and students working in the animation and VFX industries.
Striking up a conversation with strangers is always something that I have found to be pretty terrifying. I’m sure a lot of you reading this will also have experience of this, and, like me, find that the discomfort compounds in unfamiliar situations. Embracing that initial wall of fear and approaching people for a chat is something I’ve been working on, and Move Summit provided an excellent environment for practicing this. It turns out that ‘the fear’ is something that a lot of animators also contend with and frequently we’d get to joking about our mutual social awkwardness (“your vibe attracts your tribe” as they say). I was thrilled to find such a concentration of genuinely lovely people in one place.
Here are some of of the things I was doing at Move Summit that you could try out during your next event:
Listen to the talks and record as much as you can (seriously, you’re going to want to refer back to notes later).
Chat to people.
Get active on social media. Use the event’s hashtag and retweet other attendee’s posts, write your thoughts about a particular talk, post instagram stories about the cool technology on show. I connected with so many new people through this.
Most importantly - jump in and let yourself have fun. It’s not often you get such a concentration of passionate, like-minded people eager to show off their projects. Try everything out. Engage with the talks. Enjoy the freebies. Eat the food!
Remembering someone’s name is top of the list in Networking 101, but it’s something a lot of us have trouble with. When someone tells you their name, parrot it back to them. Say: “nice to meet you, [X]”. I put this to the test at Move Summit and found it really helped. Go ahead and try it out to see if it works for you.
After The Event
The following week after Move Summit, I wanted to follow-up with everyone I met and made connections with. A simple “it was great to meet you!” will always go a long way and I wanted to let them know how much I valued the time they spent talking to me.
Here are some things I did after coming home that can help you get the most out of professional events after they are done and dusted:
Dropping a quick message to the people you meet is a nice way to round things off. Hopefully you get to meet them again sometime!
Collecting those notes and writing them up. This really helped in digesting and remembering all that information.
Using all of this to create some action points, such as looking deeper into interesting topics or figuring out a new technique.
Evaluating the experience; what I thought went well and what I would like to do differently next time.
Following on from there, here are some things I would do differently next time:
Do even more prep before the conference (I am finding that there is not really such a thing as ‘too much’ prep)
Define some more specific goals, based on what I now know a conference environment is like.
Bring a portable phone charger, and more snacks (note-taking is hungry work).
Overall, attending Move Summit 2019 was a very cool experience and I was so glad to be able to learn a lot that could also be applied to medical animation just as much as VFX and film.
Hope to see you there next year!
Susie is a Junior Medical Illustrator and Multimedia Designer at Campbell Medical Illustration. Having worked with organisations including NHS Wales and Kenhub, Susie is passionate about lifelong learning and bringing this through into her work.