Volunteering at Conferences

Volunteering at conferences can be a rewarding experience. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people and learn a lot of new stuff.

Here are some things you should be aware of:

  • Look at conference program ahead of time and make sure you’re not scheduled to work during a Keynote or session you’re really interested in.  If so, ask to swap with someone.
  • Don’t get too consumed with trying to attend all the sessions you want.  Some of the best sessions I’ve seen were the ones where I had no expectation.
  • Help others out.  If they want to swap, volunteer to do so.


  • You will increase your chances of getting selected in the future
  • It’s a great way to offset the cost especially if your employer isn’t paying for it
  • You’ll make instant connections
  • Likely to be inspired to contribute to the community in other ways
  • A sense of accomplishment


  • Can be difficult to attend certain sessions (e.g. Celebrity Keynote Speaker)
  • There are times where it can be exhausting
  • There’s likely to be chaos in the beginning



FTC 2017

This was my first Future Technologies Conference so I didn’t know what to expect.

Being a smaller conference in Vancouver I expected the attendees to mostly consist of Canadians and Americans. However, that was not the case. There was a lot of representation from across the globe (over 50 countries were represented).

In terms of attendee types, there were definitely more academics than practitioners.

My presentation, “Pair Programming: Collocated vs. Distributed” lasted about 20 minutes. I was only allotted 14 minutes but there were a few no shows so I was able to go a bit longer. The presentation ended with excellent questions and insight.

I really enjoyed learning about some of the ground breaking research that is currently going on. I don’t know how they come up with this stuff.


Having attended previous PMI-SAC PDC conferences, I must say this one was quite different.

The Winsport venue had a much different ambience compared to the BMO Centre, and I mean that in a good way.

Also, the attendance had noticeably diminished from previous years which is expected considering the downturn in Calgary’s economy.

The keynotes that I was able to attend were fantastic, especially the one on Brain Science. The point on visualization made complete sense to me. I heard Hayley Wickenheiser’s keynote was also inspiring but unfortunately I was unable to attend.

My first presentation, “Scaling Agile @ FCC” went well. Everything worked as expected. The audience seemed to enjoy all 3 short video clips. However, the presentation almost lasted the entire hour which didn’t leave a whole lot of time for questions and I wasn’t able to stick around because I had to head off to my next presentation which was in a different room. Thankfully my co-presenter was able to entertain one-on-one questions after I departed.

The second presentation, “Agile Product Rescue” also went well. The only hiccup I had was with the audio went it came time to show my YouTube clip. The audience could hear the audio but it was very faint. I didn’t have any questions during Q&A but a few individuals approached me afterwards.

It was great to see a lot of familiar faces. Hope to be in attendance next year!



It’s been 4 years since my last Agile Alliance conference so while I kinda knew what to expect I was very curious as to what had changed. The format seemed fairly similar to what I recall.  There were 4 keynotes, various stalwarts sessions, lightning talks, etc. So I can’t say a whole lot has changed, and that’s not a bad thing.

This time around the experience was completely different mostly because I was a volunteer. I really enjoyed volunteering. It’s a great way to meet people and network. With that said, it can be difficult to attend the sessions you’re yearning for. While the volunteer duties can be plentiful at times, it is a lot of fun. You’re never alone and the people you’re surrounded with are awesome.

I was careful not to repeat the mistakes of the past. At the 2013 conference I tried to take in too much and was overloaded by the end of the week. This time around I made sure to take breaks and make time to socialize.

Orlando was a fantastic venue. Most people were able to take in Universal or Disney or both. With that said, the conference hotel was spectacular just in case you didn’t have time to escape the event.

Next year it’s in San Diego. I hope to be there!

XP 2016

This was my first XP conference. It was a 4 day event that was very different than most conferences I’ve attended.  In the past I’ve attended practitioner based conferences. This conference was a combination of practitioners and researchers (which I knew going in). What surprised me was the collaboration, especially when it came to the workshops. Practitioners had the opportunity to get a preview of what researchers are researching and researchers had the opportunity to get feedback from the practitioners.

Another reason I enjoyed this conference is because I presented my experience report on the 2nd day.  There was a decent turnout and some excellent questions.  I am hoping there are more papers to come in the near future.

In terms of the quality of presenters and session topics, I would rate this conference a 9 out of 10.  For me, the most interesting session was Modern XP.  However, I have to admit that I stumbled upon it as I arrived late to another session that had filled up quite quickly.

Hopefully I have the opportunity to attend XP 2017.

TEDxCalgary: (r)Evolutions

So this was my first TED event.  Even though I’m well versed in TED Talks, I didn’t know quite what to expect and from the first minute I was being educated.  Apparently, a TEDx event is an independently organized TED style event.  Furthermore, Calgary supports TEDx by providing TEDxCalgary & TEDxYYC.

Overall, I was very impressed and here’s why:

  • The event was well organized.  It was obvious it took months and months of preparation.
  • The quality of the speakers and their topics were excellent.
  • There were interactive booths during the breaks.
  • It was easy to attend.  Holding the event on a Saturday makes is much easier to attend for many people.
  • It was affordable.  With the downturn in Alberta’s economy it’s easy for many to shy away from these events.  In my opinion, the cost was easily worth it.  Also, most people will never have the opportunity to attend a full blown TED event because of the exorbitant cost.  This type of venue is an excellent replacement.

The most practical talk was actually a clip from TEDxConcordiaUPortland.  It was an entertaining talk on how to use a paper towel.  Have a look:


The talk I could most closely relate to was Perfection vs. Excellence by Kyle Shewfelt (Olympic Legend and revolutions and master).  I think there was something that everyone could relate to.

Do I plan on attending future TEDx events?  Absolutely.



The Project Management Institute Southern Alberta Chapter Professional Development Conference was fantastic for the 2nd year in a row.

Even with a downturn in the economy there was a tremendous turnout with many returning sponsors.

I volunteered as a session host on the first day.  My responsibilities included 2 concurrent sessions.  The 2 speakers for the concurrent sessions were quite knowledgeable and experienced presenters.

All keynote speakers did a really good job.  There was even a common theme around “comfort zone”.  The message was that we should strive to look outside our comfort zone so much so that our discomfort zone becomes our comfort zone.


Looking forward to next year.