A Newbie’s Guide to Adobe MAX
Last year, I went to Adobe MAX, the annual gathering of creative people, for the first time. I met some of my heroes, made friends and business contacts, and learned a ton. It was a great experience, but I wish I had known a few things to make it even better. If you're thinking about going to MAX, take a second to benefit from my experience as a rookie traveling solo last year.
1. REGISTER EARLY
Adobe MAX isn't just about inspiring keynote speeches and previews of cool tech. The real meat is the stuff that happens in the conference rooms. As soon as you sign up for MAX, immediately go to the scheduling page so you can get your pick of the small group offerings. Labs and workshops fill up especially quickly, so get the jump on those before all the spots are taken. Seriously, do it now.
2. ALWAYS PICK THE LAB
Can’t decide whether you want the Illustrator Lab or the session? Labs are hands-on trainings with Adobe experts on computers loaded with all the necessary files and software. Sessions are more like lectures, where creative luminaries share best practices in seventy-five-minute presentations followed by a Q & A at the end. Workshops are for off-computer experiences, such as hand-lettering techniques, and are between one to three hours.
If you have to make a tough choice, register for the lab every time. There’s nothing like getting face-to-face training with your Adobe heroes. You can sometimes snag a spot in a lab by lining up at the door and hoping that a registered attendee accidentally overslept, but it's not a guarantee.
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3. ACCEPT THAT YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL
There's so much happening simultaneously that you need a time machine to do it all. And be sure to consider transit time. Running across the LA Convention Center through a crowd of sleepy, star-struck creatives will slow you down. Unless you can teleport, leave gaps in your schedule for walking from point A to point B.
Also, video of the keynotes and sessions will be available on the Adobe MAX site after the conference is over. Labs and workshops, not so much. Nothing beats being there in person, but if you miss a session you can catch up on the slides and the audio when you get home.
4. CONSIDER TAKING PRE-CONFERENCE COURSES, OR AT LEAST SHOW UP EARLY
It’s worth arriving before the conference is in full swing. If you add on a half-day or full-day pre-conference course, you can make the most out of your MAX experience. That, and you can get your conference badge before the lines start forming.
5. KEEP AN EYE ON SOCIAL MEDIA FOR NEWS, INFO, AND NETWORKING
Make sure to follow Adobe MAX’s social media channels and the official blog. It’s the best way to keep abreast of what's going on and to see what's happening next.
As for finding conference buddies, social media is your friend. In addition to the official channels, my most important networking resource was the Adobe MAX Facebook community group run by Dax Castro. Join the 2018 group right now; you can tell them I sent you.
6. SAVE TIME (AND SUITCASE SPACE) FOR THE COMMUNITY PAVILION
Any MAX veteran will tell you that there's never enough time for the pavilion. Vendors run contests, presentations, and on-the-spot lessons every day, and the networking opportunities are endless. Enter every contest you can, especially on day one when there are fewer entrants and the competition is less cutthroat. There's also a mixer with the Adobe teams at the pavilion with great food and an open bar. Don't miss it.
7. YOU WON’T BE THE SAME WHEN IT’S OVER
Nuts and bolts aside, prepare to walk out of your first Adobe MAX experience a different person than when you walked in. I signed up because I wanted to learn useful things, meet cool people, and take home Adobe-related stuff. I wasn’t ready for what happened to my brain after a week of immersing myself in a sea of people from all over the world who were just like me. I’m an illustrator, and the quality of my work grew by leaps and bounds because of the things I learned and the people I met. I made tons of new friends and contacts, some of whom have already led me to increased professional recognition, new creative opportunities, and even a few job offers. Robzilla praised my work, and Annie Griffiths called me “fabulous.” You can’t get that by following them on Instagram.