Q&A with Make Nice—An Unconference for Creative Women

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 9.58.14 amIf you’re a female creative in Sydney, mark your calendar for 2—4 June 2016. You won’t want to miss the inaugural Make Nice—An Unconference for Creative Women. Only 150 tickets up for grabs, so be quick! Hot tip: sign-up for their e-newsletter now for early bird rates.

The first of its kind, Make Nice is a three day event for creative women to learn from an exclusive lineup of international and homegrown industry vanguards in an intimate un-conference format. Today, we catch up with designer, illustrator, art director and Make Nice Co-Director Ngaio Parr. She fills us in on what to expect at the event, as well as some great tips for people who may clam up at events like this.

Why were you driven to launch Make Nice?

My Co-Director Alex and I both returned to Australia after studying and working as creatives in the United States for a while, and found it very difficult to feel supported, particularly by other women in the creative industries. The support networks and friends we had made in a matter of months in America took years to cultivate in Australia.

There was a generosity of knowledge and network sharing in America that we felt was lacking here. It is great to be competitive, dedicated and have drive, but not when it runs the risk of disadvantaging an industry from growing collectively or keeping other women down. We wanted to create something for women who are doing well—but perhaps working freelance, or working in a studio with few female role models, to connect with other creatives. In their own field and beyond.

So, what do you mean by “un-conference”? What can attendees expect?

An un-conference style event is an informal exchange of information and ideas between participants. Yes,we have a great lineup of presenters and panelists, but we also know that the attendees in the room have a wealth of knowledge and we want to engage with that and share. Make Nice caters for women who have experience under their belt—so they have opinions and ideas that we want to hear about. The un-conference format helps facilitate this exchange at all levels, encourages people to get to know who is in the room and is far less passive than traditional conferences. You can expect two days of programming that includes keynote presentations, panels and round-table discussions curated by those in the room. These sessions are balanced with plenty of good times—with opening drinks, breakfast, coffee and tea, and a dinner and dance party included in the ticket price.

Make Nice is an all female event—why is that important? Have you felt any kick-back about it?

Ultimately we’d like to open up Make Nice to anyone to attend, but our first priority is building a supportive female creative community in Australia, and we felt we needed to make the event for those who identify as female to achieve this.

We believe by creating a space for females in the industry to carve out their concerns and reimagine their role within the wider ecology, the event will have a much broader impact.

As Make Nice grows we can look at expanding our audience, collaborators and contributors to all. Make Nice is brand new and the first of its kind—we want to do this right, and so starting out as female only is how we have decided to move forward. Although some women have a fulfilling and supportive network of female friends, colleagues and mentors, it is definitely not the case for all – especially in the creative community where we are often viewed as competition rather than colleagues, and work can be isolated or on the fringe. We believe, and it is our professional experience, that a rising tide lifts all boats. We see the success of women as key to the success of the industry as a whole.

Tell us about the amazing line-up of speakers. Who are you especially excited to see?

We have an amazing list of women for the first Make Nice, including Leslie David (FRA), Adi Goodrich (USA), Elizabeth Weinberg (USA), Suzy Tuxen (AUS), Jess Scully (AUS), Brodie Lancaster (AUS), Niccola Phillips (AUS), and Elize Strydom (AUS). Leslie’s client list is everyone! Elizabeth just photographed Tina Fey and Amy Poehler for the New York Times! Adi’s new video for Nicolas Godin is amazing! It is all just a little exciting!

What we love about all of our speakers if that they are have stories and insights that are applicable across the creative fields, whether the listener shares the same role as them or not.

What is particularly wonderful is that because of the concept and structure behind Make Nice, all of the speakers are really excited to attend and want to participate and engage in the whole event—not just their talk. The responses we initially received from some of them brought us to tears (which admittedly isn’t a difficult task for me)!

Something we are really proud of with Make Nice is that we’ve really made sure to not only curate an amazing  group of women to present, but have made sure that we are also collaborating with women in every aspect of the event. We have amazing women-run Flour and Stone and Love Soup providing our food, Two Birds Brewing to cheer for our beer (the first female-owned and run brewery in Australia), women-led Cake Wines bringing the wine, and an all women team in the Make Nice studio. Partnering with companies that are owned by or championed by women makes our hearts happy.  

When we dreamt up Make Nice we curated an amazing list of females in a whole range of industries who we not only wanted to talk, but also wanted to collaborate with to seek sponsorship and creative support. We have been inspired by women pursuing so many different paths—some women have been unable to commit due to their schedules, others have promised us assistance in other shapes and forms, and a lot of great new connections have been made with women who we would love to program in future iterations of the event. Essentially, we’ve made a lot of really interesting and inspiring friends, all over the world!

12803035_205343946489598_103462943159812891_nAny tips for people who clam up at events like this?

Well that definitely used to be me—but I’ve found a few things that make it easier.

Look online. Look and see if there is someone attending you’d really like to meet – and send them an email asking to meet for a coffee during the event. I’ve met so many then idols who are now friends and colleagues in this way—the worst thing they can say is ‘no thank you’. This idea has actually been built into Make Nice, so each attendee will receive a list of the group before they arrive so that they can build up that confidence.

Prepare. I’d also recommend preparing some questions. Not written in your notebook or memorised verbatim, but just a normal (non-gushy) question you can ask someone who you are nervous about meeting. I sometimes work at music festivals and always ask my favourite bands ‘what should I see in <insert hometown of musician> that a guidebook wouldn’t know about?’ to stop me looking like a fool and helping me to relax a bit. It has also resulted in some awesome travel tips!

Go alone. Whenever I head to events with a friend, I find it too hard to leave my comfort zone. If I go alone—I’m already feeling a little awkward and I find it easier to push myself that little bit more to talk to people.  

Get yourself a drink. The reason we have breakfast, dinner, coffee, tea and a party built into our programming at Make Nice is so that striking up a conversation comes naturally—a coffee or wine (or some slick dance moves) can make all the different when you are nervous. At Make Nice we will also be actively encouraging women to talk to each-other (in a non-smarmy way) and ask everyone to check their egos at the door. We hope to make it as non-awkward and genuinely friendly as possible!

What do you hope attendees will take away from the weekend?

Attendees will leave Make Nice with ideas, questions, reading lists, emails, phone numbers, drawings, new companies and projects to research, sights set on a new collaboration, a new friend or professional contact, or even big picture thinking on a more clarified goal or purpose to their practice. We want Make Nice to be practical, to provide a toolkit for working towards achieving that big picture goal or purpose, as well as 150 new contacts to help make that happen.

12717541_196351700722156_6740540549549359860_nAnything else you’d like to share?

Sure! If anyone is interested they can sign up to our e-news for pre-sale and other specials offers, as well as a fortnightly roundup of everything the Make Nice team is loving. Other than that, just keep your eye out on the Vivid website March 17th for our official launch!

If anyone has ideas or would like to get in touch, give us a shout at hello@make-nice.com.au!

Learn more about Make Nice. Be sure to keep in the loop with Make Nice before the big event on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.