About Lead Dev Live

I got across "Lead Dev" quite some time ago when a former colleague of mine did send me a link to a video from one session, think from the London based event. The way how they describe their approach on the "About Us" page is something that did stick in my mind for a while:

We are a community of software engineering leaders that come together to learn and get inspired on all things team, tech, process, and personal development.

—"About Us" on https://leaddev.com

Back then I was not really keen on adding too many conferences due to the need of travel mainly.

Still, I am a huge fan of tech conferences and similar events like meetups. After each event I tend to come back full of new energy and fresh ideas, and I like the chance to meet with some folks just for socializing.

When I discovered "Lead Dev Live" I thought that this is made for me: No travel burden, not many things to line up, easy to plug into my schedule. So I "went" there and share in this post a few thoughts and observations about the concept of a virtual conference.

Event Format

The format was fairly easy to understand:

  • One main track, all in one live stream via Youtube.
  • A side track of where sponsors did demo their products, this was done via Zoom.
  • Questions, chatting and socializing via Slack.

The main track was a mix of talks and panel discussions.

Thanks to time zones the event started for myself at 2pm in the afternoon, which made it very easy to combine this event with some work related duties.

Observations and thoughts

One main stream

Having one main stream made it easy to set up the event on my end. I did just put the main live stream on a display on it's own and was able to follow the event. I think this is a plus point, no need to worry at all about switching streams.

Text chat

The offered Slack environment was valuable to stay in touch with other participants and follow the ongoing discussions. It was easy to participate and follow, since I did not have to worry about switching tracks.

I think that having only one main track and something like Slack to bring a virtual interactive experience is a good combination.

Video format

The way of composing the various elements in the live stream changed during the event, depending on the session type being a talk or a panel discussion.

When I compare the usual talks at work to this format, then I conclude that the option to compose screen and video in custom ways adds a lot of extra value. You can focus on slides or screen when this matters, and otherwise have them equal size to the speaker video.

Overall conclusions

For now I am sold on the concept of virtual conferences. And even though I do not think that they should fully replace on-site events on the long run, I would like them to stay.

There is one point on the negative side: Socializing is limited or at least different. From tech events in the past, esp. those with a focus around open source software, I like this aspect of spontaneously forming dinner groups or all-night-hackathons.

On the positive side, there is practically zero travel and accommodation cost, which means the entry barrier is fairly low and also the stress this would put on the family is comparatively small. I hope this would just give more people access to such events, if this should turn out to be the case, then this would be a huge plus point.

Another more speculative point: I could imagine that some events could benefit from an approach to be simpler and more frequent, e.g. have one main track only, and then run twice a year or even more frequently.

For myself I took the conclusions that I will attend a few more online events this year to explore this format in more depth.

Something to learn for organizations

I also sense that there is something to learn from this format for organizations of any flavor, who are now going more into distributed and remote setups, and likely even for those who are not considering such moves.

The capability to run a virtual event with a great experience for the participants is a key element to gain the needed traction. A well working video setup seems to be equally important to a counterpart for questions and discussions via text based chat.



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