The Dos and Don’ts of Conference Attendance – Retrospective on Agile2014 in Orlando, FL
Agile2014 marks another Agile conference this year. As usual it did not disappoint. This year was extra special because I was able to be a reviewer for the Collaboration, Culture and Teams session track and was also selected to present my session on the UX Runway. It was great to once again catch up with old friends and meet new ones; even some from my home state of Minnesota! Some Women in Agile also got together for an impromptu session in the Open Jam area and though I was not able to make it, I heard great things! Over the past year there has been great progress and I know there will continue to be (if you’re interested in participating, please reach out to me and I can help connect you – men are also welcome to get involved!).
After attending many conferences over the past few years I wanted to make a list of some of the things I’ve learned for how to get the most out of your time there.
Do go to conferences! Don’t avoid them because of work or home responsibilities. As far as home life goes, I’m not the expert on speaking to it. But with work responsibilities, people will survive without you. I find when I’m gone it’s a nice test in team empowerment – how well can they handle things like retrospectives and sprint planning by themselves? As a ScrumMaster, I hope my teams are empowered enough to do these things and as odd as it sounds, in many ways I’m hoping to work myself out of a job by them being self-organizing.
Don’t work all the time. I see many folks at conferences continually working and worrying and not taking advantage of the conference. The office won’t explode because you haven’t checked your emails for a few hours. Be fully present and participate in the sessions. If you must check something and respond, do it in between as there is generally adequate break time.
Do take a look at the sessions and plan out what you want to see beforehand. It makes it much easier to make a schedule instead of scrambling at the last minute to decide where to go. Also, do have backups because sessions can fill up. If you are attending a session that you aren’t getting much out of, do use the law of two feet and find somewhere else to attend where you can get more value.
Don’t feel like you need to attend every single session. It’s a lot of work to concentrate in sessions all day for a few days, be involved in activities and socials at night, and digest everything (including the conference food and drink), especially if you’re an introvert and need to reset by yourself or with a smaller group. Take a break, sit in the open areas and refresh; it’s ok to miss a few sessions here and there and I often find the conversations I have outside of sessions to be equally if not more valuable than what I learn in the sessions. The networking and connections you make are very important.
Don’t worry so much about taking everything in. If I come out of a conference with two or three good ideas I can implement I consider that a huge success! You don’t need to write everything down the speakers are saying (their slides will be posted). It’s generally not a good idea to implement a ton of things at once like you may want to when you get back into the office. Really thing about what could work with your teams and what you want to try and prioritize your insights. There is nothing worse than coming home from a conference jazzed up about so many new ideas and having your teams look at you like you’ve lost your marbles and are drunk on Agile Kool-Aid trying to implement anything and everything.
Finally, do go to some of the social events at night. It’s a great time to meet more people and have some fun in a more informal environment. Don’t have too much fun (something many of us, including me, can confess to from time to time), but don’t sit in your room working all night every night.
Hope to see everyone again soon!