The Newbie’s Guide to Agile2016
Man, does time go by fast. It seems like not too long ago we were in Washington D.C. at Agile2015 enjoying the views of the Potomac and a week of international agility exposure.
But here we are again. This time in the heart of the Deep South: Atlanta, GA. It seems that every year the Agile20XX conference gets better and better, and this year promises to follow that same pattern. There are literally hundreds of sessions from industry experts coming from all over the globe. As Agile has simply become the way many organizations do business now, some of the brightest minds in software development, leadership, change management, compliance, portfolio management and business analysis come together in one place to share their latest techniques and experiences.
Attending something like this for the first time can feel a bit overwhelming. I know it was the first time I attended. And so, in the true Agile sense, I’d like to share some of my lessons learned, tips and tricks as a guide to Agile2016 in hopes it will help enhance your overall experience.
Planning Your Time
With so many sessions available, there simply isn’t enough time to get to all of them. Additionally, there are always sessions that instantly appeal to a larger group of people than the room assigned can hold. Plan your time accordingly. Try to schedule out in advance not only the sessions you REALLY want to attend (you can go on the conference website and use its scheduling system in advance which tells them how many people potentially want to be in that session for planning purposes), but also the ones you would “like” to attend.
It always happens to me that I get into at least one or two sessions I was excited about only to find out it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. The mistake I make is in not having a plan B or plan C and wind up wandering the hallways looking for something I can get into, assuming it’s not full already.
If you are coming with more than one person, create a conference plan of attack! Get together in advance and outline the sessions everyone would like to attend and then divide and conquer. If there are sessions everyone wants to attend and experience, feel free to do so as a group/team. But the more you can divide and bring back a larger wealth of knowledge, the more you will gain as a group from the conference. Cast your net wide so to speak.
By the way, get to your sessions early. Especially the ones you are most excited about. If you are excited, chances are there are another 200 people who are as well and that room only holds 180. Someone is walking away disappointed.
Network, Network, Network
Agile conferences are packed full of collaborative people; take advantage of it! You can make some great contacts at the Agile conference simply by introducing yourself to whomever you are sitting next to in a session or at lunch. Take business cards with you and be prepared to simply hand them out. Ask people about their own Agile experiences and you might be surprised at how many match up with your own. Conversely, you may also find that someone either needed to hear your experience or how they overcame an issue was exactly what you needed to hear.
Don’t sit by yourself or with the same people at lunch every day. Branch out and look for a table with one or two open spots and grab one. Introduce yourself when you get there and don’t be shy about asking where everyone is from. You won’t offend anyone. If they wanted to simply be by themselves and not have to talk to anyone…they probably meant to go to that National Institute for Exceptional Introverts conference, not Agile2016. (Lunch note: Agile20XX always goes the extra mile with food selections. Lunch lines can be long but they never run out and have really good selections. If you don’t want to wander around looking for a seat, plan accordingly.)
SWAG It Up
I am proud to admit I am a SWAG junkie (don’t judge me). My children walk around as living, breathing billboards for Agile software development organizations and consulting firms. When I come home from this conference they all get to gather around and pick out the coolest t-shirts, bouncy balls, glowing yo-yo’s, dancing robots, personal fans, hats and a never-ending supply of pens they want. My youngest always requests the little bottles of hand sanitizer. I have to admit, some of the gadgets and doodads are pretty neat. I may even keep a couple for myself.
The reason all those vendors are there, though, is a value add. In my line of work, it really helps to know and understand who the latest organizations are out there trying to make the Agile world a better place. What are the latest innovations and techniques? Are there opportunities for strategic partnerships? This is another place where the networking side of the conference comes in handy. Make use of the post-conference sessions designed to interact with the vendors sponsoring the event. It’s usually got great food and complimentary adult beverages. Can’t go wrong there…
(SHAMEFUL PLUG: Don’t forget to stop by the MATRIX booth this year…you won’t regret it!)
Take Good Notes
Anyone ever attended a great session and then after a few weeks, a situation came up that you KNOW was addressed by that one session you went to but you can’t remember the exact way they presented the solution?! Yeah, been there.
Take good notes and highlight areas you really want to remember. You are often able to get the presentations afterwards, but many times the PowerPoint doesn't give you the little anecdotal stuff that really stuck with you or the comment made by that guy in row 3 that was so on point. Or maybe you think of where something specifically applies to your situation and you have that fantastic “AHA!” moment right in the middle of a session. Write it down and make your notes a focal part of your experience.
One of the benefits of the Agile conference is the very short (5 minutes) lightning sessions out in the hallways at various times of the day. They are short snippets of great information that are easily consumed. Watch for the lightning talk schedule and see if any are worth the side time. You may find one 5-minute lightning talk that makes the entire conference worth attending.
Try – Learn – Adapt
Don’t walk away from the conference with a bunch of great stuff you learned and then not apply it; or even try it out! Be sure to take at least one thing away from the conference you are absolutely determined to try out in order to improve on your personal, team or organizational agility. Give it a shot, allow it to succeed or (even better) fail! Learn from the experience and adapt it for future success. That is at the very heart of what the Agile conference is all about.
From a MATRIX standpoint, we truly look forward to seeing everyone there. Agile2016 is in our backyard this year and we’re excited about it! Come by the MATRIX booth and just say hi. The door is always open and the sweet tea is a brewin’. It’s the southern way…