One of the highlights of the Nomad8 calendar is always #JAFAC. Where we create and curate the conference we want to attend, and then relish the opportunity to share it with the Agile community. So it was especially exciting to be able to run the conference again after a 3 year break. It felt different and familiar at the same time. More charged with expectation, more fraught with risk, and a very different appetite for in-person events than pre-covid times. But also a great experience for our team to get together and discuss who we’d like to invite, who we’d like to hear speak, who we knew was doing exciting things in our space.
Our first tickets were out the door within minutes of announcing a date. We didn’t even have speakers. That was a beautiful affirmation for us - reinforced that we were doing something people wanted to share with us. As the shape of the conference emerged, speakers were confirmed and more tickets came through - we were all super excited to be creating an in-person event again! Ticket sales were slower than previous years - and ended up about half of what we expected. We’ve heard anecdotally that this has been the case for many events lately. People are wary, or time poor. After 3 years our mailing lists were depleted as people moved on to new jobs, and reaching people in this age of disinformation, social media overload and general malaise is harder than it used to be!
#JAFAC has never been a flashy, corporate or pricey conference. We’re here for ourselves and anyone who wants to join us. We keep the costs low and donate any profits to charity. The people who know #JAFAC love it for the vibe, the difference and the mix of people who speak and attend. The people who are expecting Hilton-level venue and catering are inevitably disappointed - and that’s ok, they usually realise they can leave their heels behind and show up in t-shirts on day 2.
So what was #JAFAC2023? Ten very different speakers across two mornings. Two afternoons of Open Space. 80 engaged attendees.
Opening day one was the inimitable Emma Kirkman of Anywhere Culture, setting us up for learning with a session on how to be as Unapologetically You AF. Moving on to Andrew Mayfield from Optimal Workshop who talked about creating a people-first, freedom-centred workplace. Then Tod Cooper from Dept of Corrections shared his vision for flexible and efficient procurement from inside Govt - who knew such a thing was possible, we can but dream. Hal Josephson of MediaSense took us on a journey we’re still trying to figure out. And finally Brian Healy, Agile Lead at Xero, brought together the concepts of the life of F16 fighter pilots and Agile practices and made everyone believe in the debrief. Whew. It was a ride.
Day two started with the inspiring Carey Campbell of Orion Health, who combined practical nursing with agile practices to develop digital tools for nurses that have revolutionised Southern Cross Hospitals. Then Simon Young of Halter shared a lot more about cows than any of us had heard before - though the one thing that stuck in everyone’s minds is that cows have best friends. It certainly impacted my lunch choices. Elina Ashimbayeva of StoryO reminded us all of our biases and the importance of diverse voices and representation in the stories we use for our work. Sandy Mamoli of Nomad8 reminded us that leaders are people too. And finally Kimble Vowless demonstrated the importance of mindfulness and meditation to get us through this tumultuous life in one piece.
The two afternoons of Open Spaces found people engaged in learning and conversation across a huge range of topics. Open Space is one of those things you think will never work and then it always does. Once that initial awkward silence is broken the ideas flow and people realise they can bring anything to the table. There’s always a taker for a topic. Whoever shows up are the right people.
There were many conversations over fabulous lunches carried on with drinks into the evening. New friends and connections were made and celebrated. The connections continue on the JAFAC slack channel, for anyone who’s interested in talking more.
We at Nomad8 are so happy with how it all came together. And 100% of the people who filled out our post-event survey said they’d come again. Can’t argue with that!
Tags: jafac2023, JAFAC, Agile conference, Auckland, Agile Community, inspiration.