If we think about conferences in general, the traditional understanding is: people come together to share their knowledge, to learn, to discuss, to network etc. Some people expect that if they attend a conference they for sure must learn something totally new, something that will change the way they work or even their lives. Some people come to see who's out there, to network and to have some fun. In a nutshell, as many people as many reasons to attend conferences 🙂
I tend to think that with all the information we're consuming, it's very hard to come up with something totally new to a thinking and knowledgeable audience. If you're engaged in agile community, and if you're a thinking person, you thrive in the blogosphere and you practice agile - it's hardly that something will be totally new to you ("totally" is the keyword).
Recently we attended Agile Central Europe conference in Krakow. I'd say that my #1 enjoyment about this event was live cross-twittering. Broadcasting Agile CE to the Twittersphere has really been fun. I liked tweets by Andy Brandt, Marc Loeffler (aka scrumphony), Pawel Brodzinski and Robert Dempsey (for the two latter, it's not only tweets, but their presentations that I enjoyed) . As opposed to most attendees, I didn't very much like the closing show by Gwyn Morfey and Laurie Young. The guys have done a great show, but it was more about dramatic presentation of what's going on in any dynamic agile team 🙂 I've seen a bit of those "paper sword fights" 🙂
After attending Agile 2009 in Chicago, I've really got a little bit skeptical on the conferences overall because what I've seen was people talking about simple truths but with such an air as if they were uttering epiphanies. So, when going to Agile CE I wasn't expecting epiphanies. It was more about going out there with our team, watching people and taking every opportunity to enjoy everything that comes up on the way (including live jazz night in Krakow).
This approach worked better than huge expectations. Strangely, this small cosy conference has become an unexpected source of inspiration. In a sense, that it's not always you have to come up with an excellent new topic or idea no one else knows about. The main thing about conferences is confidence and freedom to express yourself, share your personal experience and absorb experience of others. Somehow someone will find it useful. There's no need to be afraid to appear too simple. People will listen and admire even if this is your first experience as a speaker.
And.. it's great that there're many more agile conferences to come 🙂