The image below was generated from the comments that Craig received in response to the survey that he sent to LAST Conference participants. He wrote about it on his site, and you can see the full responses, there. I think that it shows that the feedback was highly positive. You can also see that people had some suggestions about how we can improve if we do it again.
Grassroots Conference Lessons Learned*
After my Agile Tour experience in December, Craig and I formed a vision which was basically, to put together something with similarities to that event, that we would want to go to ourselves. As I wrote about previously, and in the FAQs on the website, the day was aimed at people who have experience, and wanted to extend their knowledge. We wanted people to go away thinking that they had done something a little different, and to take some inspiration back to their day jobs. We wanted to keep it low cost, and grassroots.
We then tested the vision, by talking to other members of the Melbourne community. There was an element of the unknown, such as, “Would we get enough good content to fill up a day of sessions?” (in the end we got more than enough), and “How many people would think this was a good idea, and come along?” (all registrations were filled with a week and a half to go”
*Borrowed from Eric Ries’ Startup Lessons Learned blog. I like to think that we organised the event using some of the ideas talked about in The Lean Startup.
Getting the word out
The first step was a website. I decided on Google Sites, as I wanted to keep it as simple as possible. WordPress (which I use on this site) was too complicated, and something like pen.io, was too simple. I also thought that Google Sites kept the grassroots feel to the event.
I then sent what I’d put together out to some trusted advisors; former colleagues in the UK and US, and asked these questions:
- Is it easy to “get” what it’s about?
- If you could attend, would it grab your interest and make you want to register?
- If you registered, does it have the information you need? Anything missing?
- Anything else…
Registration, Schedule, Social
I asked my former colleagues who run the jQuery UK, and All Your Base conferences, if they would recommend EventBrite. The response was unequivocal, so EventBrite it was. The only down side is that AmEx and Diners aren’t catered for, but because the cost was low, people instead paid, and then claimed it back on expenses.
I chose Lanyrd mainly because I’ve used it for a few years, as an event goer. It sprang out of the geek community I was a part of when I lived in Oxford, in the UK. The founders are a husband and wife team who put it together while they were on honeymoon. It also offered a good way of organising the schedule, facilitator details, and the followup coverage (blog posts, slides, videos). It is also well integrated with Twitter, and we had started Tweeting quite regularly about our progress. Another bonus was that I thought the Lanyrd mobile site, and apps would be a good way for participants to schedule their day.
To keep things as simple as possible, I didn’t want to have too much guff, like squeezy, foam light globes. In the end, we didn’t have lanyards either. I went with the adhesive name tags that you wrote your name on, instead of having to contend with a name badge swinging around a lot.
The name labels, free drink tokens, and little stickers were done by moo.com. I love Moo’s stuff, and have been using them for about 5 years. I use them for my business cards, and even used them for my wedding “Save the Date”, RSVP, and thank you cards. I would suspect that they use a lot of agile, and lean (startup) sensibilities in the product management of their business. It’s always a delight to receive an order from them. If you use the link above, you can get a 10% discount
FAQs, Catering, Directions and Conference Handbook
As I mentioned earlier, I put a lot of effort into the FAQs on the website. The same could be said for the two lead-up emails which went out 2 weeks before, and in the week leading up to the 27th July. I hope that they had all that one needed to know about, how to get to LAST, and what to expect once you were there. Something I borrowed from the Agile Tour, was the detailed photo directions on the Swinburne Campus, which were linked to in the conference handbook.
I made a point of emailing everyone who had told us about their special dietary requirements, a couple of days beforehand, about what would be served to them. I personally thought that the catering team were particularly dedicated to make plunger coffee for us!
Craig and I definitely put a lot of thought into how to make the day go smoothly, and how to keep everyone as happy as possible. I think that we did achieve that. Of course, it’s hard to keep everyone 100% happy.
For example, on one hand, someone said:
More advanced topics, a lot were aimed at Agile beginners or new Agile adopters.
on the other:
A lot of the material was geared to people already heavily invested in the agile process, which is something we have yet to adopt. The marketing material wasn’t explicit in this regard so a lot of the programs were over our heads.
The ironic thing about the event is, although we planned a day we would want to go to ourselves, we didn’t get much of a chance to get to many sessions! Luckily, quite a few of them were videoed, so at least we will get a chance to review them. I’m working through them, slowly!
Finally thanks to Craig, the session facilitators, and participants. The guys from Rally and IBM helped us out with morning registration, as well as buying drinks and the like. Readify supported us from the start, and also sent along Brett Maytom, who did a well received session about Scrum. Finally, Swinburne IT’s Paul Dealy, and his team, helped us to setup and clean up, as well as taking care of the video cameras.
The simple answer is, “We don’t know”. The best way to keep in touch with our plans, is to sign up for our email list. We will send out occasional messages, when we decide what to do next.
I’ve got to go and make some money now. If you know anyone who wants some coaching or training, then please let me know!