The next agile conference has just ended. Was it worthwhile? Well, a general answer is positive, although I can’t say everything was perfectly fine.
Evolution of Conferences
When we are on a general level let me start with an impression I have and which is supported over and over again this year. Thinking about conferences I see a tendency to make them more local, which is both good and bad. I mean it is definitely more convenient for people to attend an event which is close and is priced similarly to other events in the region. It also seems that the event will be more affordable as many attendees won’t need to travel and pay for hotel.
On the other hand it means we have more and more events and the calendar becomes pretty crowded. Having more events also means that it is harder to find one where a speaker lineup is exceptional. After all pretty few, if any, agile or project management thought leaders could live of public speaking, so they end up choosing carefully where they will present. Thus, statistically speaking, we end up having speaker roster sort of watered down. Anyway, it seems this trend is here to stay, so we should appreciate even more such mind-blowing events as lkce11.
Coming back to abe2011, it is yet another example showing the trend. First of all, the dates. I mean adding yet another event, and a brand new one, in September or October… You just can’t think of worse time. You already can go to the tour over the Europe during these months and probably there wouldn’t be a single week of without an agile conference. Actually you wouldn’t even have to travel over the whole continent. And I don’t buy the argument that closer to the end of the year weather in Poland is crappy. I mean do we attend conferences to catch some sunlight or something?
When I was announcing the event I was very positive about the choice of speakers, but now I think there were a few of not-so-stunning performances, just to be delicate. On the other hand there are more and more of speakers I know who are predictable in a sense that you can safely guess what kind of performance they’re going to deliver. I guess after being on the board of a couple of events choosing right speakers becomes kind of easier. Usually second year lineup is better than the one from the virgin edition too.
All in all, in terms of presentation quality AgileByExample was OK. I really liked Jutta Eckstein’s session on distributed teams, whole Product Owners slot (Marcin Maciejewski, Inbar Oren and especially Monika Konieczny, as her session was real fun) and how Pawel Lipinski tackled the subject of estimation even though I’m sort of confused when it comes to what point Pawel was trying to make exactly. From a perspective of a presenter I enjoyed my presentation as well, although, from what I’ve heard, my enthusiasm to Kanban was misinterpreted by some, so that they thought I propose Kanban as a silver bullet (which I obviously don’t). Anyway, if you were at the session I kindly ask you to rate it and leave feedback.
On a side note: as my session triggered kind of hot dispute I will write more on the subject soon.
When I was inviting you to AgileByExample I wrote: “If for nothing else consider attending #abe2011 for networking.” And if I’d made only a single good prediction it would have been the one. Networking on the event virtually ruled. The venue worked great in terms of enabling conversations and a decision to make the evening party in the venue instead of somewhere in the city was terrific. I went to bed at 3 am with a head full of stories people shared with me, which is highly appreciated since it is exactly what fuels my future presentations. Thank you guys! Hope to see you again soon.
Talking about the venue, it was… um… uncommon. If you expect all the comfort hotel gives, you wouldn’t like it but it definitely had its climate and for me personally it was a refreshing change. There was enough coffee, food was fine, wifi just worked, there were (almost) enough plugs and a back row for laptop users. No reasons to complain. I regret a bit that hosts didn’t plan any prize for the most active twitter user because it would definitely go to me.
AgileByExample is another event which follows the format which I first saw on ACE Conference, which means there is a single track and all sessions are limited to 30 minutes. I’ve already told you that but it’s worth repeating: this format works astonishingly well and I say it from both perspectives: as a speaker and as an attendee.
As a speaker I have a room full of people, which is always appreciated, and I have a chance to seed my ideas even in heads of people who weren’t super-interested in the subject in the first place. If I do a good job, that is. Since in Poland Kanban is still sort of new concept it is important for me.
As an attendee I don’t have dilemmas where to go but I’m also exposed to subjects which I wouldn’t choose otherwise. Of course if you end up on crappy session you don’t have other options to execute but go for a coffee or catch up with work backlog but I need such moments as well.
Oh, one thing which is important with such format is keeping speakers at bay. I mean not everyone limits themselves to 30 minutes sharp which means they’re stealing time either from a following speaker or Q&A session. BTW: the idea to have Q&A after the slot of 2 or 3 sessions was marvelous. When it worked, and it worked most of the time, we had sort of mini-panel on a subject covered in a slot.
It seems this relation has already become longish so… to the summary. If the event had been moved a couple of months later and the choice of speakers had been a bit different there would have been no reason to complain whatsoever. However even now I feel that these two days were a very good investment and if I’d been making the decision whether to go to abe2011 again it would have been the same. I’m looking forward to attending the next edition.