‘Tis the eve before the second Mini XP Days conference and I find myself thinking back to the first time I came across the XP Days Benelux conference. It was around 2 years ago. Pascal and I had just begun pairing on conference sessions and he happened to mention that XP Days Benelux as something he was involved in.
Needless to say, I had lots of questions such as ‘What makes the conference different from other conferences? What value could I add? How could I contribute?’ To which Pascal replied in his usual matter-of-fact way, ‘Vera and I started the conference because we needed a conference we wanted to go to near where we lived. You could help by making it a conference you want to go to, too.’
I accepted the invitation and began to contribute with baby steps, first by reviewing conference sessions, then by submitting my own and by helping out on the days of the conference. I’ve learnt so many things through helping out over the years.
What makes a high value conference?
1. A conference tells you a lot about the people who organise it. It’s difficult to distinguish between the organisers and the participants at XP Days Benelux. This is intentional. It highlights the fact that we all have something to learn from each other. Some presenters say that the feedback they get from the participants go a long way to amplify and accelerate their own learning.
2. Effective learning begins in an environment where everyone can be courageous. Many of the participants are equally as helpful and enthusiastic as those who organise the conference. It’s this sense of camaraderie, willingness to muck in and courage to expand one’s comfort zone, that has made this conference the kind of conference I thrive on participating in.
3. Self-organisation is a key characteristic of a successful team. I was able to witness self-organisation firsthand by working as part of the group of diverse volunteers. I noticed there was no one telling the others what to do. When I mentioned this to Pascal, he said, ‘It’s up to all of us to decide and agree on what we want to get out of the conference. Then we can decide how much and what we put in.’ That’s when I realised that there isn’t just one leader in a group. Everyone’s a leader. To be a good leader, you have to lead yourself first. It sounds simple, but it’s not easy.
A Gathering of Adventurers
Participants of XP Days Benelux share a few common traits:
- Open-minded – ‘Aikido breathing exercises to start off the day? Go on then, I’m willing to give anything a go!’
- Good listeners who question everything – ‘Will you qualify your approach? What makes you describe people as “blockers”? What can you do to help?’
- Continuously Learning – ‘What works well? What’s going wrong? Lessons Learnt? And puzzles?’
- Continuously Improving – ‘Thanks to our conversation at the last conference, I’ve helped introduce pairing to my team. What else can I do to improve? How can I add more value?’
If you’re ready for this kind of learning, we hope to see you on Monday and, of course, at the 2-day XP Days Benelux conference on 25 – 26 November!