How to Attend an Agile Conference (without actually attending).

Hello and welcome to the first blog, presented by our by our very own Agile Evangelist, Zack Brown. The first video in his series titled, “Level Up” Zack takes us through a journey of how to attend a conference without actually attending in person. This series is meant to help Agile Practitioners –take your game to the next level. Whether you are a Scrum Master, an Agile Coach, an Organizational Design or Transformation Coach – or someone who one day wants to become one of those things, Zack is making these videos to help you out. His goal with this series is to give you free, real, helpful information that might not be obvious, in a format you can pick it up and do something with it.  

Watch the video here, or read the captions below.

Agile conferences can be a great touchstone to take you out of your day to day routine and explore ways other people are trying to (or have) addressed the same problems you may face in your day-to-day. They are usually organized in tracks, based on industry, role, or experience level, and are designed to create opportunities for interactions with like-minded individuals.  

Conferences can be expensive, and as someone on a journey of continuous self-improvement you might not always have the organizational support to attend; nor, the personal capital to invest in attending. If you want help making the case to attend a conference, they generally have supporting information on their site packaged nicely that you can give to decision-makers.  

Conferences are points in time that collect the most well-respected thought-leaders and newest ideas in the Agile world, but there are more ways to get more out of them and to hear about these ideas sooner, so let’s talk about three things that you can use right now to arm yourself with more information: 

  1. First: I’ll tell you about the main conferences in the Agile world at the time of making this video and how you can get an incredible amount of value out of these conferences without the ability to attend.  
  2. Second: Let’s talk about how you can use social media to regularly keep up-to-date on how  
  3. Third: Let’s talk about other avenues to get more specific learning, using Meetup.com or chapter organizations 

Ok, the main Agile conferences to consider are Agile (Agile2019 was the most recent), run by AgileAlliance.org, the Global Scrum Gathering (run by Scrum Alliance), and the SAFe Summit, run by Scaled Agile, Inc.  

Each of these conferences are run by membership organizations who, generally speaking, provide training and certification paths to Agile practitioners. They run between 1600-1750 at their cheapest for registration and require membership for full access to content in those presentations. 

Let’s talk about each real quick – Agile 2019  

The website that Agile 2019 (and the previous conferences) use and that you will want to look at is called Sched

These sessions were run, organized by track or search individually, and you can see which sessions were popular.  

But the best and most valuable part of this site is that they attach the presentations from MOST of the sessions to the page, and you can access or download. One of the things that I do and that I highly recommend is download as many as you can consume, and search through them for at least one insight that you might be able to apply to your current situation. I tend to put these in a database so I can reference them later, or track who I might want to send them to, in order to answer a question that they asked me one time, or that I might get asked a lot. You certainly cannot always get the context or value of a presentation from the documents themselves, but there is often a lot you CAN learn. This site has dozens if not hundreds of presentations available each year, all available for free. 

On top of that, Agile Alliance offers some full videos of presentations for free on their main site, and many more videos through a paid yearly membership. 

SAFe Summit 

The SAFe Summit presentations are a little bit harder to find, but also online and freely available for download. While it is more narrow in nature, if you are operating using Scaled Agile Framework, or you anticipate you might someday, this is going to be one of the best sources of information for you. 

I’ll put the link to the 2018 and 2019 Summit presentations here. Additionally, this year they did an amazing job capturing and publishing video of many of the sessions.  

If you hold a SAFe Certification, the links to these presentations and videos will likely be sent to you via email, but even if you aren’t, you can expect that within a month after the Summit, the information will continue to be available 

Global Scrum Gathering 

The Global Scrum Gathering is probably the most difficult to find.  The presentations from their gatherings are not easily findable on their site, and they may be archived, but what you can do is go to the event site and take a look at the program from previous years, get the details and key points of sessions, and find out who the speakers are. You can then take that information and search for the presentations, many of which the authors post on their own, or other publicly available sites for free consumption 

If you take the time to look at the information from the above sites each year, not only will you be armed with a ton of relevant information to the role you are in or are pursuing; but you’ll also be well ahead of your peer group in terms of understanding and incorporating the newest thinking or techniques  

Ok next let’s talk about social media – there are two things you can do to give yourself even more context of attending a conference without being there. The first of which is that conferences usually have a promoted hashtag. #Agile2019 as an example. If you follow this hashtag search on Twitter while the conferences are going on you can get a sense of what sessions or ideas really stuck out. You can also interact with presenters or attendees. 

The second is – after you review all of the information we just talked about, is to go on LinkedIn and find the presenters whose content you enjoyed and connect with or follow them. You may even have questions that they are willing to answer. On a broader scale, if there is a group of practitioners or idea you want to follow, there may be a LinkedIn group you can join to talk more about this 

Finally, I want to talk about how to have the experience of a conference on a local level, for cheaper or for free.  Meetup.com is a great way to find user groups that put on events that you can attend for little to no cost. There may be few or no groups in your area doing exactly what you want to do, but there also may be many, as is the case in the greater DC area where I live. If not, that could be an opportunity for you to bring people together to share or work on your ideas. Another way to get engaged regularly is through your local PMI chapter, which will often have a recurring Agile meeting in addition to its regular members meetings.  

Alright – I hope that talking through this has been helpful for you in taking that next step to level up your Agile practitioner knowledge. If you have any questions or ideas to add on top of these, post those in the comments and I will respond. You can also reach out to me at the information below. 

In the next video in this series, I am going to dig a few levels deep into Agile metrics – what are they? Why should you use them? How do you make them better? And how do you get people to really care about them.   

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Zack is friendly and loves to help! Don’t be shy – reach out to him through the following channels below.