The 4th Agile Practitioners conference took place on January 27-28, with fantastic feedback from attendees and speakers alike.
If you ever thought of arranging such a conference, here are some basic steps along a few tips you might find useful.
Step #1 - Start with a transcendent purpose
As mentioned, last week the 4th conference took place, which kind of indicates that it was preceded by three previous Agile Practitioners conferences. Prior to the first one we had a purpose - to have an agile conference like the ones you see abroad, with high quality workshops and with international and local speakers, agile enthusiasts waiting to bring high value to attendees. A conference that will be fun, with high energy and excellent content.
The purpose did not change much since. True, the theme of the conference changes from year to year, and with each conference we get more experienced. Yet the prime directive remained the same.
So if you want to start your own conference - start with what you want to give the world (you can copy the same purpose as ours, as long as it gives you these goosebumps telling you that you're doing something great).
Step #2 - Build a community
To have a successful conference you might want attendees, and one of the main tools is to have a fellowship. One of the pragmatic ways to have people following you is to create a community where people will excellent value on an ongoing basis.
We did that by slowly building Agile Practitioners IL, a lively community of agile enthusiasts. The community consists mostly of a discussion group and periodical meetings. Initially meeting cadence was intermittent, and now we have a monthly cadence of meetings on various subjects: from technical to management, hard to soft skills, practical and concrete to philosophical.
From 40 followers in 2011 the group consists of over 1150 members today, and keeps growing. Many members of the group attend almost every Meetup and conference, and the group keeps growing on a weekly basis.
Step #3 - Accept Your Mistakes
Quite naturally I don't mean to make mistakes on purpose. Keep in mind that you will be making mistakes - some will cost you money, others will make you sad or disappointed. Some will make other people angry. Whatever the mistake, as long as you keep your eyes on the original purpose and trust the process, you'll be OK. After all, you are doing your best to do good, right?
Step #4 - Get Ideas from Others That Did It
Go to conferences, ask the organizers of conferences, learn how it gets done. You'll be surprised how much help you'll get. Attend and learn from conferences like Agile Testing Days, Booster Conference, Reversim Summit, Agile Israel - you'll get great ideas from there.
Actually, this is how we got the idea for:
Step #5 - If you ask them, they will come!
When Elad came back from Booster Conference 2014, full of enthusiasm, we knew that we want Agile Practitioners 2015 to be a community led conference. So we asked the community to join in. This is what it looked like about 10 months ago:
And so the organizing committee was born. We went through the motions of most agile teams: initially the team wanted us, the experienced guys, to give tasks. And gradually the team became self organized with time. The high energies of all team members in the weeks prior to the event was awesome!
Going forward I expect this to be the future model of Agile Practitioners conference, as well as the community monthly Meetups.
Step #6 - Choose the right tools for the right time
In the first 3 conferences we hired a production firm. This year we produced the conference ourselves.
This year we started with EventBrite for tickets, and then moved to Bizzabo.
We tried out Trello. It works great for us as a company, and here it didn't work well. So we switched to Google spreadsheets.
We started with monthly meetings, and towards the end increased to by weekly and weekly meetings.
These are a few examples of changes we made along the way. Some things worked for us great, which you might find silly. And vice versa, you might find your own thing that we might not. And it can change with time, too.
The main point is: As with any agile process, one size does NOT fit all, agile conferences included.
Some Final Thoughts
Truth be told, there were times that we didn't know whether the conference will take place or not. We all wanted it badly, and possibly this is the main thing that kept us going.
It turns that the old cliches are true: if you have the right motivation, you will try your best, even facing hard obstacles.
Or, in Nietzsche's words: Those who have the right 'why' can bear almost any 'how'.
Now go get yourself a conference arranged!
And if you want to join the winning team of Agile Practitioners 2016 - drop us a line! Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org