Tag: conference

Connect, share, engage: how to amplify your conference with an online experience (part 1 of 3)

This is part one of a three part series on creating an online presence to enhance the conference experience. In the first post, I outline needs for information and to connect conference goers which these tools can address. In part two, I’ll list my  digital tools of choice and then in the third segment I will discuss a simple strategy for using these tools.

Last year I attended Mesh 09. That was the first conference I’d been to where I think *everyone* had a Twitter account. Sessions were filled with people tweeting and live blogging. I followed the conference hash tag to keep up with what was happening, sometimes switching rooms because of what others were posting. Events that use social media like Twitter and live blogging amplify the value of the “hallway conversations” that are often the best part of conferences. The conference felt more alive, and in turn I got more value from going.

Over the past few years I’ve volunteered to help a number of events use social media to amplify their value and impact on participants. From experience I can say that with a little effort and knowledge, integrating social media into the conference experience does not have to be onerous or expensive. All the tools I use are free, and there are ways to automate part of the effort. Remember, too, once there is an environment in which everyone can participate and share, you don’t have to generate all the content – grab your paddle and jump in the content stream with others.

If I were in charge of social media for a conference, I would start first by identifying the needs people have around information and connecting. For this round of research I sat down with myself for an in-depth interview. Well, I was available and close by.

I see four stages participants go through related to a conference. For each stage I’ve identified needs. While some needs span across stages, I refer to them once to avoid unnecessary duplication. I know you’re busy.

Should I go to the party?

AKA deciding whether to attend the conference or not

  • Sessions: where can I find more detailed information about them? What do others think of them?
  • About presenters: where can I find more detailed information about them? What do others think of them? How can I contact presenters with my questions?
  • Network: who else is going that I might want to meet?

Dress up: getting ready for the party

Getting closer to the event

  • Network: contact people in advance, organize meet ups, discuss what is coming up
  • Sessions: decide which sessions to attend. What sessions are other people going to, especially people I know?
  • Accommodations: find someone to share a room, airport taxi. What lower cost alternatives are there to the conference hotel?

Party time

Ok, we’re there.

  • Network: find people to connect with in real-time, organize meet ups
  • Sessions: decide which sessions to attend. What sessions are other people going to, especially people I know?
    • last minute changes to schedule, sessions
  • Feedback: timely, useful session feedback to presenters and conference organizers
  • Conversation: what are the hot topics? What are people thinking/doing/sharing? What stories are being told by the people at the conference?

The morning after

  • Feedback / telling the story: what are people saying and sharing about their experience of the conference?
  • Network: find for those people you met but don’t have contact details for to continue discussions, follow up on opportunities, request copies of incriminating photos.

My experience is conferences not social media savvy don’t address these needs well, and miss some entirely, especially when it comes to connecting people with each other. Fortunately, all it takes is a reasonable effort and cost to bridge the gap. In the next blog post I’ll list the tools you’ll want to use to become a conference social media superstar.

How does this list compare to what you need? Have I missed anything important? Add your comment below.

This is part one of a three part series on using digital tools / social media to enhance the conference experience. In the first post, I outline informational and connecting needs conference goers have which these tools can address. In part two, I’ll list my  digital tools of choice and then in the third segment I will discuss a simple strategy for using these tools.

AYE 2009: People, process and tools, in that order

Look around you. Things don’t have to be this way. – Jerry Weinberg, session leader at AYE

Relaxing. Welcoming. Insightful. Practical. Intimate. Grounded. Those were a few of the words uttered last night by some first-time participants at the AYE conference. One person remarked, “[At the end of the conference] I woke up late for my taxi ride to the airport, and was in danger of missing my flight. Normally that would have upset me, but strangely I remained calm.”

AYE is an interactive, small conference focused on people skills and human dynamics (my words). To learn more, I decided to interview myself on the trip home. Here is the (mock) transcript:

Q. Why did you decide to attend AYE Gerry?

I attended the pre-conference session, where I had to answer that question with a drawing, so here it is. Before the conference, I chose a Frisbee to represent who I wanted to be at the conference: active, engaged, giving and taking, being open to wherever I’m directed, having fun. My hope was to be changed personally, to grow in people skills, and in turn impact myself, family, teams and the world. I’m at the point in my Agile coach journey where I realize practices only get teams and individuals so far. Hyper productivity comes not through better processes and tools, but through changed minds and hearts. My logic-driven, analytical mind needs a counterpart to work effectively with people.

Q. What resonated most with you?

Systems thinking

Esther Derby’s systems thinking simulation. This helped me gain a better understanding of the environment teams work in, and what might be impediments / opportunities to bring about desired change. Through a simple scenario of a company making pinwheels, we uncovered many levers for change. Levers come in 3 flavours: containers, differences and exchanges. Borrowing from the HSD Institute definitions

  • A container holds a system together as its parts interact to form system-wide patterns. Containers can be physical (team room, office), organizational (departments), or pyschological.
  • The significant differences within the container focus the resources of the system and establish the emerging patterns. Some differences matter, some do not. Hair colour probably not that important. Focus on the ones that matter. Look at
  • Exchanges among the agents within the container allow for individual and system-wide evolution of new learnings and patterns. Translation: look at the flow of things: resources, language (written/verbal), energy, knowledge, ideas, authority, responsibility, within and between containers.

Building rapport: structuring your conversations

On Tuesday night I had felt some disappointment that I hadn’t had more in-depth conversations with people at the conference. This is partly my own personality weaknesses, so I resolved to work on that for the remainder of the conference. Wouldn’t you know it, the next morning I wandered into Johanna’s structured conversations session, heard her 3 minute what-you’ll-learn pitch and it was as if she was talking directly to me.

I learned the value of building rapport, of connecting on a personal level with someone. Without rapport, you’ll struggle to get to more substantive discussion. My tendency is to want to dive in right away.

People come in many flavours, 16 actually

Underpinning the conference sessions are the work of Virginia Satir, and the Myers-Briggs personality types. Types describe people’s preferences in

  • where they get their energy from (extrovert / introvert)
  • how they gather information (sensing / intuiting)
  • how they evaluate information (thinking / feeling)
  • and how they act (judging / perceiving)

My wife will benefit more than anyone from my greater appreciation and respect for people whose preferences are different than mine. I’d like to think I will be more accepting of those differences now. Time will tell.

Meeting Jerry

Two months ago I didn’t know who Jerry Weinberg was. Since then, people have shared how much his writings and workshops have influenced their lives. I valued Jerry Weinberg’s words of wisdom, his challenging questions and quick wit humour. His sessions were shaped more like counseling sessions between himself and a willing participant, with the rest of us listening in, like a reality TV therapy episode. Perhaps the lack of full group engagement was due to his weakening health.

Q. What surprised you?

Most of the participants came from Europe, or so it seemed. Majority of people were there to experience Jerry Weinberg, someone I didn’t know about two months ago. I’m glad I had the chance to be touched by his presence and wise words.

No one except big hotels and fancy homes have green grass. Yards consist of dirt, rocks and cacti.

You can see dry desert, canyons, mountains, forest and snow within 2 hours’ drive of Phoenix.

Q. Was it all good or were some parts meh?

Some simulations felt too abstract to teach me anything. The Satir congruence model didn’t resonate, nor did the session on the Satir change model, which turned into a mini rumble. Felt too meta. Saddened fancy hotels don’t know what vegetarian means, no different than every other non-vegetarian place. When I organize my first conference lentils, beans and tofu shall rule.

Q. Gerry, is there anything else you would like the world to know?

Thank-you to Esther, Steve, Don, Jerry and Johanna (wherever you are standing) for having the courage to be the change you wanted to see 10 years ago by creating AYE. This will not be my last AYE experience.

Everyone at the conference who expressed interest in couch surfing should go there RIGHT NOW and sign up. No excuses. I had a great time staying with Joel and his family, including taking a tour of the country side.

Plone Conf 2008: The unofficial social calendar

Plone plays frisbee too
Plone plays frisbee too

Part of what makes conferences like Plone Conf 2008 so great is the chance to meet and hang out with many of the people we only “see” online from a distance. This is especially true for me. I’ve been involved with Plone since 2002 but have yet to attend any conference / sprint. Thankfully, that will soon change!

My organizational personality twitch wants me to make it easier for people to meet and do stuff, so I created a page for people to suggest and sign up for activities to do, things like ultimate frisbee (maybe we can design a Plone disc – yeah!).

Maybe you want to visit the Smithsonian, tour the national monuments, or go for a walk up Mt. Vernon after sitting on your butt all day in sessions.

To add something to the page, request access to the project.

Agile 2008: Thursday & Friday Session Picks

Okay, round 3 of the Agile 2008 session picks. Agile 2008 is the premier conference of the Agile world. There are about 400 different sessions to attend, which is why I’ve taken about 2 days to wade through all the options. Earlier I posted my faves for Tuesday and Wednesday.


Early Morning

Tough choices. Leaning towards Eric and the panel in the next session, otherwise user story mapping.

Before Lunch

  • From High-performing to Hyper-performing Agile teams, panel discussion. Presentation of 3 unique case studies, by 3 top notch agile guys, each showcasing how to crank up the agile performance.I want to hear “techniques for working with many and varied clients simultaneously: how to maintain consistent and predictable velocity, how to scale teams without losing efficiency,and how to move developers fluidly between multiple teams and multiple products.”

After Lunch

  • From Concept to Product Backlog – What Happens Before Iteration 0? by Gerard Meszaros, Janice Aston. “This tutorial provides an overview of what needs to go on “behind the scenes” between when a project is conceived and when development can start in earnest. It identifies the artifacts that may need to be produced, whether and when they should be produced, which activities can be used to produce them and who should be involved in those activities.” ‘Nuff said.

Late Afternoon


Agile 2008: Wednesday Sessions I’d Like To Attend

My last post covered sessions I’d like to attend at the Agile 2008 conference on Tuesday, the opening day. Here is the short list for Wednesday:

Early Morning

Before Lunch

After Lunch

Late Afternoon

Agile 2008: Tuesday sessions I want to attend

Following Mark’s lead, I am posting sessions I would like to attend at the Agile 2008 conference. There are so many good ones to choose from, it’s hard to decide! If you are planning to go to any of these sessions, post a comment and let’s get in touch. Also check out the Agile 2008 Friendfeed room for others attending.



  • Expanding Agile Horizons: The Five Dimensions of Systems by Mary Poppendick. I’ve read from a few people she is an amazing speaker worth listening to, regardless of topic. I’m interested in learning where Agile may be heading next.
  • Agile Distributed Teams by Douglas Shimp. At ifPeople, all developers work for partner companies in South America, mostly Argentina. I’m based in Canada and the rest are in Atlanta. So yeah, distributed is a big topic for us. 🙂
  • Leadership Success Recipes for Agile in the 21st Century by Jean Tabaka, Chris Louvion. Jean is another amazing speaker. I’m particularly interested in leadership as a project manager trying to become a scrum master. Only down side is talk seems focused on large organizational issues, though not 100% sure about that.

After Lunch

Late Afternoon