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make nice might be the world's friendliest creative conference

We spoke to co-director Ngaio Parr about learning from failure, resisting the urge to compete with other women and the value of a polite email.

Briony Wright

Image courtesy of Make Nice Conference

This year will see the first ever Make Nice conference take place as part of the Vivid Festival of ideas. Pitched as an un-conference, the idea is to gather 150 creative women in a space for three days, add keynotes from a inspiring talents, throw in some drinks and let the discussion, learning, networking and ideas flow.

In terms of speakers, internationally there's French designer Leslie David, set designer and art director Adi Goodrich and photographer Elizabeth Weinberg, who are both from America. Local speakers include Suzy Tuxen of A Friend Of Mine Design Studio, Jess Scully who is Vivid's hard working festival director, photographer and radio journalist Elize Strydom, editor and writer Brodie Lancaster and finally art director and artist at M&C Saatchi Niccola Phillips. They represent a cross section of clever creatives willing to share what they've learnt on their journeys.

One of the brightest minds behind the conference is co-director Ngaio Parr, a multidisciplinary designer, illustrator and curator who gave us some more insight into this generous event.

We're very excited for Make Nice. It's so well curated and seems like a good size for this format.
Yes, it's limited to 150 people. I think that's a good number so it's not too overwhelming but that, over the three days, it's big enough that there are a lot of conversations going on.

You've mentioned that the intention with this conference is for everyone to be honest about their careers and experiences and share the parts they probably rarely admit to.
Yes, we'll see their work but also hear about their lessons and the issues they've overcome in a way that can practically help the audience. We wanted to make sure that, regardless of your industry, their advice is relevant. For instance Elizabeth Wineberg, who is an amazing photographer, has a female photographer mentorship group and she made a big move from NY to LA for family-associated reasons. I think these kind of life lessons are applicable regardless of whether you're a photographer or not.

Do you feel people are more likely to share ideas and support each other now than in the past?
I'm not sure. One of the reasons we decided to do this is that I was teaching and found that it's almost built into the system to compete with each other, particularly with women. There is a sense that women are taught to compete from childhood and we're trying to turn that around.

How did you choose the speakers?
Ultimately we chose people who weren't a lot older than the people who'll be attending. Often we hear from great women who have achieved so much that it seems unattainable. Our speakers are still doing amazing things but they're a bit younger and within reach.

I like the idea that despite it being an all-female conference, the focus won't be on gender.
We want to make sure that we're discussing things that are important to a creative's career regardless of gender. By virtue of it being a female conference, it's inherently gendered in a way but the tips and ideas will be universal. I think we'll organically create a community and address ideas like the fact that women are underrepresented in leadership roles in creative industries. I think that our meeting, collaborating and creating support networks with these women will help those things without it needing to be focussed on the negatives.

What would be your advice for someone wanting to get ahead in a creative role?
No one thinks they have it together. It's important to remember that we're all human and even our heroes have had issues in their careers. It gives you confidence to know that everyone has those battles. I'd also say that if you want to speak to someone, or work with them, send them a polite email. The worst thing that can happen is they don't answer, but most of the time they will. Who doesn't like getting a compliment?

Tickets available here. Add the code IDMAKENICE for 10% off.

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Image courtesy of Make Nice Conference