The Future of Agile Conferences

A black and white conference room with text over the top, "How do you see the future of agile conferences?"
Darren Hoevel, President, Leadership & Agile Coach

By: Darren Hoevel

It would be an understatement to say that the corporate landscape has changed significantly over the last four years. Regular lunch meetings, Meetups, happy hours, and a strong sense of community are but fuzzy, distant memories. And even when you try to get the band back together, it seems things aren’t quite the same.    

Agile conferences didn’t go unscathed either.  As someone who’s part of a board trying to plan an in-person agile conference, I’m finding we’re faced with a couple of new headwinds:

Dwindling Ticket Sales

The word on the street (and what we’ve observed) is that attendance is way down. Why is that? 

  • Have we all become accustomed to staying home and staying local and it no longer seems worth the effort to put on pants to attend?
  • Are we stressed and overwhelmed and have we lost our enthusiasm for any extracurricular work activities?
  • Are companies tightening their belts and no longer forking over the cash for people to attend?
  • From a pure agile conference planning perspective, have we done this to ourselves? Is the community sick of hearing the same spiel from the same speakers? Did we pick the wrong talks, tracks, or themes for our conferences? 
  • Has the agile community’s agile knowledge matured to the point that agile conferences have nothing left to give?? 
  • Did our communal knowledge not keep up with the needs of our industry?

Higher Venue Costs

With the new work-from-home reality and the open office space that goes with it, you might think it’d be easier to secure an inexpensive location to host a conference. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Apparently, venues have got their own expensive fish to fry, and we’re finding they’re charging more than ever before. Part of it comes down to supply and demand. COVID created a reduction of conference center capacity, which means space is at a premium. Agile conferences are hard-pressed to charge more when fewer tickets are being sold. Organizers just don’t want to take on that financial risk. In short, there are fewer savings (and profits, in some cases) to be had by everyone.

What's Next?

I realize I’m asking more questions than providing answers. Sorry, but I have a few more for you: How do you see the future of agile conferences? What will keep “us” together… or do we even need to stick together? Will agile conferences evolve into organizational design, change management, or product conferences? What trends do you see shaping their evolution in the coming years? Better yet, what changes in our current community and conferences would best serve YOU moving forward?

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