Better Conferences – Revisited

Better Conferences – Revisited

As I put together my notes for the upcoming Agile Tour Latvia 2012 conference next week, I’m reflecting back on a post I wrote earlier this year (in March) titled Better Conferences. This post was based on my experiences at, and general dissatisfaction with, some number of conferences I had attended in 2011 (as an invited speaker).

Whilst very appreciate of being invited, I expressed in the post how, for me, conferences in general, and software conferences in particular – although at the better end of the spectrum – place too much emphasis on presentation sessions (“push”) and too little on interaction, dialogue, and, well, conferring:


[kuhn-fur]  verb, -ferred, -fer·ring.

verb (used without object)

  1. to consult together; compare opinions; carry on a discussion or deliberation.

[C16: from Latin conferre  to gather together, compare; from com- together + ferre to bring]

At the time of writing, quite a few folks expressed some sympathy and fellow-feeling with that point of view.

Well, my general dissatisfaction remains at about the same level, although the ACE Conference 2012, and Lean Agile Scotland 2012 were a small step in the right direction, I thought. I guess it’s just that much easier to stick with the old ways.

You may notice I’ve been at fewer conferences recently. That’s both because I’ve been invited less, and because I’ve avoided them more. The latter not least because I’ve chosen to avoid folks whose “conversations” I find entirely unidirectional, like David Snowden, Jurgen Appelo, and Stephen Parry.

I feel my level of attendance is likely to decrease further, which is a shame as each conference does at least provide some opportunities for conferral and dialogue. But the effort/reward equation – particularly as I see myself as an introvert – just seems to continue moving in the wrong direction. In a nutshell, too many presentation sessions, too few opportunities for quiet, considered, thoughtful dialogue and meaningful connections.

So if you’ll be at Agile Tour Latvia 2012, or the Scandinavian Developer Conference 2013, I’ll be so much happier if you come up to me and exchange views, tell me about yourself and your hopes, fears, feelings and issues – and generally just confer. I’ll be doing just that. In quiet corners. And, to the extent that it’s possible, in my “presentations” too.

– Bob


Adrian Segar, author of Conferences That Work, got in touch to let me know about his website, including various free downloads. Might be worth taking a look.

1 comment
  1. Thank you for your advice and for help making the ACE! conference successful. I feel there’s only so much you can do with 350 people. I’m taking another stab at a conference aimed at building connections between people, and I’m limiting tickets to 60. We’ll have a few speakers in the morning, but one of the rules is that none of the speakers can have spoken at any other conference this year (we’re looking for genuine new ideas from practitioners, not professional consultants/coaches). Otherwise, it’s all self-organizing. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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