This blog was inspired by a conversation that I had with Marlinda Galapon at the European Chatbot and Conversational AI Summit, held this week in Edinburgh, Scotland.
As the field of Conversational AI continues to grow and evolve, the demand for skilled conversation designers is increasing. But with this skill and talent being at the primordial stage of its evolution in the workplace, I wanted to take a look at the skills you need as a conversation designer at different stages of your career, from entry-level to experienced professionals.
Entry-Level Conversation Designer Skills
If you're just starting out as a conversation designer, there are several skills you need to develop to succeed in this field. Here are some of the most essential skills you should focus on:
Language and Linguistics
As a conversation designer, you'll be working with language on a daily basis, so it's important to have a solid understanding of language and linguistics. This includes knowledge of grammar, syntax, and semantics, as well as an understanding of how people use language to communicate.
One of the most important skills for any conversation designer is user-centred design. This means putting the user at the centre of the design process and creating conversational experiences that meet their needs and expectations. You'll need to be able to conduct user research, create user personas, and develop user flows that reflect the user's goals and preferences.
As a conversation designer, you'll be working alongside a range of technologies, including natural language processing (NLP), machine learning, Large Language Models (LLMs) and artificial intelligence (AI). You don't need to be an expert in these technologies, but you should have a basic understanding of how they work and how they can be applied to create conversational experiences.
Creativity and Innovation
To succeed as a conversation designer, you need to be creative and innovative. You'll be tasked with creating engaging and compelling conversational experiences that capture the user's attention and keep them engaged. This requires a willingness to experiment with new ideas and take risks.
Finally, as a conversation designer, you'll be working with a range of stakeholders, including developers, product managers, and UX designers. You need to be able to communicate your ideas clearly and effectively, both verbally and in writing. This includes the ability to write clear and concise dialogue and to explain complex technical concepts in plain language.
Mid-Level Conversation Designer Skills
As you progress in your career as a conversation designer, you'll need to develop a different set of skills to take on more complex projects and responsibilities. Here are some of the key skills you should focus on at this stage:
As a mid-level conversation designer, you'll likely be leading projects and managing teams of designers and developers. This requires strong project management skills, including the ability to create project plans, manage timelines and budgets, and communicate effectively with stakeholders.
To create effective conversational experiences, you need to be able to analyse data to understand user behaviour and preferences. This includes the ability to conduct user testing, analyse user feedback, and use analytics tools to measure the effectiveness of your conversational experiences.
Collaboration and Teamwork
As a mid-level conversation designer, you'll be working with a range of stakeholders, including developers, product managers, and UX designers. You need to be able to collaborate effectively with these stakeholders to create cohesive and effective conversational experiences. This requires strong interpersonal skills, including the ability to listen, compromise, and work towards common goals.
To be successful as a conversation designer at this level, you need to be able to think strategically about how conversational experiences fit into broader product and business goals. This includes the ability to identify opportunities for conversational AI and to develop strategies for leveraging conversational experiences to achieve business objectives.
Finally, as a mid-level conversation designer, you must be committed to continuous learning. The field of Conversational AI is constantly evolving, with new technologies, tools, and best practices emerging all the time. To stay ahead of the curve, you need to be curious and open-minded, and willing to learn new skills and techniques as they become available.
Experienced Conversation Designer Skills
At the experienced level, conversation designers are expected to have a broad range of skills and expertise that enable them to take on complex projects and challenges. Here are some of the key skills you need to focus on at this stage:
As an experienced conversation designer, you'll be expected to take on leadership roles within your organisation, including managing teams of designers and developers and guiding the direction of conversational AI projects. This requires strong leadership skills, including inspiring and motivating others, communicating effectively, and making tough decisions.
To be successful at this level, you need to have a deep understanding of the business context in which conversational experiences operate. This includes knowledge of market trends, customer behaviour, and competitive landscapes, as well as an understanding of how conversational experiences can be used to drive business outcomes, including being comfortable with creating business and investment cases for Conversational AI projects.
As an experienced conversation designer, you should have a deep understanding of user experience (UX) design principles, including usability, accessibility, and user engagement. You need to be able to create conversational experiences that are intuitive and easy to use, and that provide value to users.
At this level, you should have a deep understanding of the technical underpinnings of conversational AI, including natural language processing (NLP), machine learning, and AI algorithms. As well as new technologies such as Large Language Models (LLMs) and Generative AI (GenAI). You should be able to work effectively with developers and data scientists to create advanced conversational experiences that incorporate these technologies.
Finally, as an experienced conversation designer, you should have industry-specific knowledge and expertise that enable you to create conversational experiences that meet the unique needs of your organisation and its customers. This may include knowledge of specific domains, such as HR, finance, healthcare, or retail, as well as an understanding of regulatory requirements and compliance issues.
As the field of Conversational AI continues to evolve, the demand for skilled conversation designers is increasing. Whether you're just starting out in your career or you're an experienced professional, there are different skills you need to develop to succeed (or progress) at each stage of your career.
At the entry-level, conversation designers should focus on developing a solid understanding of language and linguistics, user-centred design, technical skills, creativity, and communication skills. As you progress to the mid-level, you should develop skills in project management, data analysis, collaboration, strategic thinking, and continuous learning.
Finally, at the experienced level, conversation designers should focus on developing leadership skills, business acumen, UX design expertise, technical expertise, and industry-specific knowledge. By developing these skills and expertise, you can become a valuable asset to your organisation and help to drive the success of conversational AI projects.