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Networking at Better Software East / DevOps East / Agile Dev East 2016

| by Abraham Marín Pérez Follow 9 Followers on Nov 21, 2016. Estimated reading time: 2 minutes |

After reporting on the contents of the tutorials and talks of the co-located conferences Better Software East, DevOps East and Agile Dev East, held in Orlando, Florida, it’s interesting to report on the dynamics among attendees and speakers. On top of the usual reception drinks sponsored by different companies, the triple conference included specific events and subtle organisation details that encouraged networking and conversation.

It is a common idea that one of the main benefits of attending conferences is the opportunity to network with other people; after all, useful as the talks might be, many of them are recorded and available online. However, while many conferences try to encourage the networking aspect, it seems that in this case the organisers have taken some extra steps. For instance, most conferences would provide some form of self-serving lunch, which attendees would take and then move somewhere else to eat; those who already know someone at the conference would then group together, while those who don’t know anyone many times eat by themselves. This means that, in most conferences, lunch is a networking opportunity partially unused, with most people staying in small groups.

Better Software East / DevOps East / Agile Dev East had a different approach. During the tutorial days, lunch was a three-course meal served at round tables seating eight people. As attendees arrived, staff directed them towards partially populated tables, creating an environment that encouraged conversations with new people. On the other hand, during talk days, lunch took the form of the more usual self-serving catering, however, next to the food area the same round tables were placed, which lead many people to sit with other people and, again, spark new conversations.

In a similar way, the conference also included meet-the-speakers events to try and connect the audience and presenters. These ran in two different ways: on one side, presenters would have a table assigned at lunch times during the talk days, and members of the audience who wished to engage in a conversation with them would only have to search for the relevant table and sit with the speaker. On the other side, one-to-one slots of fifteen minutes could be booked with specific speakers to have a closer conversation on specific topics. Although this was optional, and speakers certainly had the right not to participate, it seems many of them did.

As many attendees reported, these decisions prompted them to engage in conversations with people they wouldn’t have otherwise talked to, which probably helped them to get more value out of the event.

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