What a blast. Last Thursday and Friday there were the Client Technology Days 2016 #CTD2016 an internally organized conference about client and user interface technology. This also includes database stuff like “SQL Server optimization techniques”, because every client needs a performant backend and “Blockchain” since that’s a technology every great developer should have heard of.
The conference was a great success since there were 100s of people attending and the feedback was great. People from the UK said: “I’m definitely coming back next year”.
Now, why I am telling you all this?
I have to admit, the first reason is because our CEO Philipp Sutter forced me to write this blog post in exchange for doing a Powerpoint Karaoke talk. But on the other hand also because I want to send this message to the whole world about how great an internal conference can be to:
- Share ideas
- Exchange lessons learned company wide
- Learn and Grow together as an organization
As you can see the advantages of such a conference are huge and can tremendously change the whole company culture overnight. Okay, let me settle down a little. The conference will not change your whole company, but it will definitely influence how you speak and work together.
What do you need to start your own conference?
The easiest approach would be to organize an “Unconference”. In that format you only need rooms and people, the agenda is made up in the morning of each day. I would recommend to not do that for a technology conference as there is generally not enough depth to topics.
I would recommend a little more organization as Christian and Niko did for the Zühlke Client Technology Days:
- Announce the conference date 6 months ahead so that people can block their calendars (and organize flights and their projects around it)
- Organize rooms (It would be awesome if you have enough space in your company headquarter to host the conference itself)
- Organize coffee, tea, lunch and a little apero at the end of the day
- Let people submit their topics 6 months before the conference
- Let attendees vote for their topics 3 months ahead
- That helps that the topics are interesting for the attendees
- If people complain, say “You should have submitted something. Next year you get a chance”
- Create a program for the day by using the votes and make sure that the best-voted topics are not at the same time
- Have some spare talks (maybe one of your own) up your sleeve to cover late cancellations
- Ask a designer to create a nice poster and some material for presenters slides and social media which gives the conference a professional touch
- On the day before the conference, make sure that all rooms are ready and have not only projectors but flipcharts and whiteboards ready
- Have fun
What is it not good for?
Getting a new impulse from the outside world. That is something a keynote or an external conference is good for. But internal conferences are more about sharing lessons learned and experiences.
How did this conference change our lives?
- We made friends across borders
- We know what people are up to in different projects and teams
- We had fun together and shared some great moments of laughter and fun