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How often do you go to conferences? Going to 2 one day conferences in a single year is my record! Although there are hundreds of tech conferences each year we often don’t get the chance to go to everyone we would like. On the positive side, most of the talks are recorded and shared online creating an opportunity for teams to watch the best talks together!

Of course, there are many benefits to attending conferences than simply watching the talks. They are a great place to network, catch up with friends and meet new ones! The live social media exchanges during the day or a particular talk can be entertaining too. You obviously miss out on the community feel by watching a talk online after the event, but the talk material is still there giving the chance to learn.

Even though talks are shared online it can be difficult to find time to watch them!

Watching conference talks online is a great way to learn, but you have to give yourself time to watch them – this isn’t always easy! Let’s face it, it’s rare that your partner or family would want to watch one of these talks with you so quiet time outside of our busy lives is needed. This is why giving your team time to watch talks at work can be a win-win.

Getting your teams together to watch a conference talk at work has a number of benefits. Firstly, they are given time to watch a talk! This is good for learning, but it’s also good for team interaction. Allowing time afterward for discussion gives an opportunity to share thoughts and if there are any takeaways! I’ve found it can also be good for moral as it’s different from the norm, they can get away from their screens and relax.

There’s no set time in the day to shows these, whatever works for you! Most talks are 45-60 minutes long which fit nicely into a lunchtime. I’ve found that lunchtime gives a chance for more teams to join. I was pleasantly surprised that people outside of the team wanted to watch with us so make the invite as visible as possible. People outside the team get a better understanding of our challenges and can even improve how people connect with us.

Finding suitable talks can be a challenge, they need to be relevant otherwise people will quickly lose interest but remember you’ll never please everyone! I have a feed to InfoQ presentations which covers a wide range of topics. If you have a topic in mind it would be easier to search directly – YouTube has plenty! It does mean listening to a few talks first to ensure the content is what you expect, there’s no quick way to do this which is why recommendations are always welcome!

A few thoughts from the talks I’ve shown:

  1. give enough time in the invite for a discussion afterwards. Talks that are 45 minutes long are perfect for a 1-hour slot otherwise, you’ll have to go longer. Try not to make the slot any longer than 90 minutes.
  2. provide food if you can or let people know it’s ok to bring lunch. We tend to go for bring you own lunch and some bring cake/chocolate to share.
  3. make sure the screen is big enough and the sound is loud enough for the number of people you’re expecting. Obviously, the room has to be big enough too so people aren’t packed together.
  4. get feedback from people, this doesn’t have to be done formally, but any tips for improvements should be appreciated. Maybe there are particular topics people are keen on.

Keep an eye out for feeds to live conference talks, they are becoming more popular. Having your team watch a live feed together could help them feel more part of the conference!

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