To many software professionals, a conference is something those "other" people do-you know, the ones who work at companies with free lunch buffets, afternoon massages and the mini-lap pool. Conferences cost thousands of dollars and days away from the office work. You and I may agree they are worth every penny, but convincing the boss is another matter.
Agile and Beyond is one of many conferences offering an alternative-you can go on your own, as I did, or your company can send an entire team for less than the out-of-pocket cost to send one person to a major for-profit conference. These events are also common. In addition to Agile and Beyond, my neck of the woods features the Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference (Grand Rapids, Mich.), CodeMash (Sandusky, Ohio) and That Conference (Wisconsin Dells, Wis.).
Don't let a lack of funds or time off from work stop you from attending a conference, either. You can start small-at a free Saturday conference, for example-and open it up to anyone from your team who wants to go.
These conferences have benefits beyond the traditional conference session. They allow local people to connect, combine ideas and dig into the problems they face at work. You can then meet again for coffee a week later to continue the discussion.
It is at these little conferences that speakers present the new ideas and experience reports that become the extreme programming and Kanban of tomorrow.
I am planning to attend more of these events and share what I learn. You might want to consider them, too.
Matthew Heusser is a consultant and writer based in West Michigan. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mheusser, contact him by email or visit the website of his company, Excelon Development. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, on Facebook, and on Google +.
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