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Still connected: How the Sketch Community hosted 100 events in 12 months — during a pandemic

We speak to Community members to find out what they learned and how they adapted after a year of remote meetups

The design community has always been at the heart of Sketch. We first created our Mac app to solve problems that we knew other designers struggled with. And as we grew, and more people joined us, we began to form our own community of Sketch users around the world.

The past year has been… a lot. We couldn’t sum it up in a dedicated blog post, let alone a paragraph. But in the face of incredible, world-altering challenges, there was light among the darkness. Despite a global pandemic, stay-at-home orders, and social distancing rules, our Ambassadors and Advocates continued to do what they do so well. They brought together people with a shared love for design. In 2020 our inspirational community hosted 100 awesome events around the globe.

To find out more about what they learned from hosting these events as the world changed around them, we chatted to some of those who just kept things going. And with a few more months of remote working on the horizon for many of us, we thought you might want to hear their insights.

What made you carry on holding events throughout 2020?

Marianka Cilliers, Sketch Johannesburg:

In a year where people were experiencing potential loneliness as they adjusted to remote life, it was really important to us that we stayed connected. Hosting Sketch Meetups gave us the platform to share design skills, tips and techniques with others in the community.

A screenshot taken from a Zoom call showing lots of users taking part in a meetup.

Silvia Bormüller - Design Friends Meetup

How did you adapt your events to work in the new format?

Sangyong Lee, Sketch South Korea:

One phrase feels very applicable — “if you do something a lot, you become an expert.”

To be honest, I’m still adapting now because I haven’t held many online events. I always look back and find ways to improve on past events — and I think I’ve learned a lot. By this summer, I think our events will be better than ever. Right now, we’re making an effort to hold events that let us enjoy each other’s company and be more immersed. So that might mean watching viewer responses through the camera, or focusing on interaction with audience.

What were the challenges of moving your events to a digital space?

Helena Bukovac, Sketch Croatia:

Honestly, since most of my work is remote anyway, there were very few technical challenges to switching events into a digital space. From a humane perspective, encouraging interaction is a challenge, because some people can be camera-shy.

That said, one big opportunity with online events is reaching bigger audiences. My meetup went international! I find that really interesting because our meetup is growing unexpectedly, and I am curious to see what 2021 will bring.

Another screenshot taken from a Zoom call showing lots of users taking part in a meetup.

What do you think made your events a success?

Sangyong Lee, Sketch South Korea:

I really like to give out prizes for licenses and goods, and I miss those days. One of the goals of our event is to have fun like a party rather than a presentation. The in-person events I host also typically include food — pizza, sandwiches, stuff like that. I hope that offline events will return as soon as possible — ideally with pizza!

That said, I think presentation contents are the first priority of all events. We try to give them a special experience that they can only get from our events — something like solving a problem through design. I remember everyone enjoyed when we covered hidden design tips and techniques that you can’t get anywhere else.

What did you learn from the events you hosted in 2020?

Marianka Cilliers, Sketch Johannesburg:

We learnt that hosting online meetups allows for a worldwide audience. It gave us the opportunity to connect with more Advocates, Ambassadors and people from around the world.

Based on the feedback we received, people were (understandably!) missing the social aspect of a real world meetup. We solved this by inviting all attendees to a separate video call after each webinar, where we had the opportunity to talk with them directly.

Now we’re looking forward to hosting potential collaborative sessions with other Sketch Advocates and Ambassadors in 2021.

Another screenshot taken from a Zoom call showing lots of sers taking part in a digital meetup.

Helena Bukovac, Sketch Croatia:

As corny as this may sound, one sentence rings true: “The sky’s the limit”.

With online meetups, I can reach anyone and invite anyone to give talks. These meetups helped me grow personally as well. I found myself interacting with more people than ever and contacting them to see if they are willing to share knowledge.

This year hasn’t made it easy to stay positive and motivated, but this keeps my motivation very high. Shooting for the stars sometimes fails, but hey — we tried! And it’s amazing to feel supported in our endeavors by the Sketch team (big thanks to Medet!).

A short answer would be — I learned to ask for more and trust and rely on the people around me.

Before I go, I’d like to shout-out to everyone in the Sketch & Design Zagreb community because none of this would be worth it if it weren’t for them. Thanks everyone ❤️

A big thank you

Our Ambassadors and Advocates have done an amazing job of adapting to the challenges that last year posed — and the wider community has been incredible at embracing the change, and offering support. Thank you to everyone who has hosted or attended an event in the last 12 months.

We’re all working hard to continue this effort into the new year, and you can expect many more meetups in the next few months. Don’t forget, it’s easy to find your nearest Sketch Community and make some new friends — or join an upcoming event.

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