Speak the Future: Interview with Karri Ojanen, User Experience Designer


Conferize’s “Speak the Future” series features speakers who are currently changing the conference world. For more info check out our “Speak the Future” Manifesto.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? 

I’m a user experience designer, creative director, team lead and speaker. In my spare time I run marathons and ultra marathons, sometimes barefoot, and I produce electronic music, though I haven’t had much time for that in the past couple of years.

What is your favorite area of expertise to present?

I like to talk about the role and value of user experience design as part of the broader design process, the intersection between digital and the “real” physical world, and the future of mobile. In November last year, I was in Helsinki, Finland at a startup conference to talk about design thinking to current and aspiring startup leaders. Most recently I ran a 3-hour workshop on wireframing and prototyping techniques in Toronto.

How did you find public speaking? 

I think I’ve always been one to speak out and express myself in various ways, and as a teenager I started deejaying at parties. It’s not the same as public speaking but there are some similarities, and it’s taught me how to get in front of an audience and react to the feedback they give me at an early age. I’ve played music all over the world from Europe to Japan to North America, and in high school I was often the one to give the student speech at the end of the school year. 

What have been some of the key conferences you’ve attended or participated in?

I was at the first UX Lx conference in Lisbon, Portugal in 2010, and really enjoyed it – it was a very well organized event and a great chance for me to see my friends in Europe. I was worried I wouldn’t make it there as the ash cloud from Iceland kept many transatlantic flights on the ground then, but managed to get there from New York and landed just a couple hours before I was due to start my talk. I also really enjoyed Slush, the startup conference I mentioned above, in Helsinki in November last year.

Why do you think conferences are important today? 

This may sound too simple, but I think conferences are (still) really important as places where people can actually meet each other in a physical space, mingle, and get inspired. That stuff just doesn’t happen the same way when people talk online. When I’m at a conference, I get at least as much out of the informal hallway conversations as I get from the actual presentations and workshops.

Have you noticed any significant trends in the Meeting Industry in the wake of digital/mobile developments? 

I think, and certainly hope, that it’s now easier for conference organizers to find a wider range of speakers than the usual, well-known keynote types. In terms of presentation techniques, hardware and software I find there’s been very little significant change.

How would you like to see conferences change more in the future?

I’d like to see more workshop type stuff than simple presentations, smaller groups, and encouraging discussion and participation in innovative ways.

As a speaker, what do you feel you need right now to strengthen your profile in the conference world?

First I need to get more active writing in my blog (and promoting it) again. I’ve been too lazy, and/or busy, lately to do it. Second I need to keep getting out there more, attend more conferences, and meet more people. Simple things. 

Advice to aspiring speakers?

Spend some time on SlideShare flipping through the presentation decks that others have shared, and not just on the topics that you know about and/or love. It’s a good way to learn how other people present and make their points clear. And start writing, if you aren’t already. Becoming a great writer is a great way to become a great speaker.