Was our internal development conference worth all the hard work?

In March Redgate held Level Up 2019, our second internal product development conference, and as I shared in my previous post, the event seemed to go very well. More than 120 Redgaters spent the day at Imperial War Museum Duxford, as 39 of their colleagues ran sessions to share their skills, knowledge and ideas. The buzz and sense of goodwill at the event was better than we could have possibly hoped for, but what did the attendees really think of the event? Did they find the content interesting? Did they learn something? Were they inspired to do something different when they returned to Redgate Towers?

On the day after the event we ran a survey with the attendees aimed at answering those questions and one more big one; was it worth the investment of time and effort to put the conference on? Thanks to the 68 awesome Redgaters who took the time to provide their candid feedback, I can now share the headline insights from the survey, including feedback on the programme, key takeaways from the conference and whether the evening event hit the mark.

rate conference
Common words from comments on survey question “how would you rate this year’s Level Up conference”

How did attendees find the content, organisation, venue and conference overall?

94% of respondents rated the quality of the session at Level Up 2019 at least 4 out of 5 (an increase over the 85% from last year’s conference). That’s an average score from respondents of 4.37 out of 5.

Respondents recognised and appreciated the amount of preparation speakers had put into their sessions. They felt the delivery of the sessions was consistently good, calling out speakers’ enthusiasm, the weaving of stories into talks and good visuals. The general sentiment was that people found the content interesting, took something useful away from most sessions and liked having Redgaters from outside our Product Development divisions present! That’s awesome feedback — thank you and well done to all our lovely speakers!

100% of respondents rated the planning and organisation of Level-Up 2019 at least 4 out of 5 (an increase over the 95% from last year’s conference), an average score from respondents of 4.68 out of 5.

Respondents felt the conference ran very smoothly and the words “slick” and “professional” were mentioned a few times, which makes us blush. The session proposal process and sharing of information before the event were called out as working very well. People enjoyed the Level Up merchandise. Timings were good, breaks were appreciated, and speakers said it easy for them to get involved and focus on presenting. While the shorter sessions worked for most people, some felt that subjects were a little rushed in a 30 minute session.

85% of respondents rated our IWM Duxford venue at least 4 out of 5 (a slight drop from the 87% from last year’s event). That’s an average score of 4.35 out of 5. We think that’s a good result, considering this is the second time we’ve used the venue (so the wow factor of seeing the exhibits may not be there for everyone) and we had 50% more people at the event than last year.

In general, people liked the food, but there could have been more of it and some of the Duxford Events staff were a bit curt with us. The rooms were good and close together, although the workshops were sometimes cramped. The venue was convenient for many respondents, but a lack of good public transport links was a real problem for some. The aviation exhibits were interesting to many, but we’ll probably need to look out for a new venue next year as we’ve seen the planes now.

98% of our respondents gave the Level-Up 2019 conference an overall rating of at least 4 out of 5. That’s a stonking average score of 4.62 out of 5!

Respondent made a point of calling out that the event was a noticeable improvement over our first attempt to run an internal product development conference in 2018. The word cloud at the top of this post gives you a flavour of what people told us in the comments section of this question.

What did people take away from Level-Up 2019?

key takeaways
Common words from comments on survey question “What was your key takeaway from the conference or what is the one thing will you do differently as a result of something you learnt?”

Respondents called out a wide variety of key takeaways or lessons learnt from the sessions they attended at the conference. We spotted the following themes:

  • We want to learn more about Docker and Kubernetes. Here’s an example comment from the survey on the subject: “I’ve felt containers are super-important for some time but wasn’t sure how we could start to do things with them without big product planning efforts. Now it feels there’s a lot we can do with them internally.”
  • There was a wide recognition of Imposter Syndrome, a realisation that loads of people feel the same way and that it’s okay not to know about something. An example comment was on this: “Sybil’s talk on Imposter Syndrome made me walk out with a bit more confidence about myself and knowing there were other people in the room who felt the same as you reassured you as well. From this I’ll go with the vibe of ‘fake it till I make it’.
  • We need to remember that experience and domain knowledge are vital as we pursuit being more data-driven. An example comment: “The importance of Joel’s talk about really knowing the domain before you use data was very interesting and has been an eye opener.”
  • New speakers took away that they can give conference talks! An example comment: “I really enjoyed being able to practice preparing a session and public speaking. That’s something that will help me in the future. This was very important to me because it was the first time I’d ever done a talk.”
  • People were encouraged to share their ideas and skills, and to break through what is holding them back from doing that: “Spalton’s talk at the end was an eye opener. Great motivation for just going out and doing it. Whatever it is.”
  • Crucial conversations in teams are important, and we should put more thought into how to conduct them well: “I want to better set my opinion and try to make the outcomes I’m looking for clearer when I’m having an important conversation.”
  • Getting things done is a useful tool for organising your tasks: “I hope to put into practice the ideas from Getting Things Done”
  • More teams should try a zero-bug policy: “I am trying to persuade my team to adopt the zero bug policy following Tom and Chris’s excellent presentation of it.”
  • How to run an Early Access Programme well: “I found the EAP talk very useful. I was particularly interested in this as my team will be running an EAP program during the next months and got lots of information on how to build it and keep customers engaged.”
  • The stories around why planes don’t crash were engaging and inspiring: “My favourite talk through was ‘Why planes don’t crash’ by Jeff Foster. I thought that was brilliant and engaging.”
  • It was insightful to learn how enterprise sales is evolving at Redgate: “Sam’s talk changed the impression I had of how sales think of these, and therefore will change the conversations I have with them.”
  • In addition to the feedback from the survey, we have already spotted some of the lessons and ideas from Level Up being spread and put into practice in new teams since the conference, which is brilliant!

How did attendees find the evening event?

When asked to rate the evening’s social event (which we called Revel Up), 75% of the respondents who attended that part of the day gave a score of at least 4 out of 5. That’s an average score of 4.06 out of 5.

Many people called out the nice, relaxed atmosphere and conversations in the early part of the evening and that it was cool to spend the evening sitting under Concorde surrounded by spectacularly-lit planes. The pizza, popcorn and sweets went down very well. But people either really loved the film — Con Air — or really, really disliked it and many would have liked more warning about what the evening event would comprise. Also, as it was a very long day and some people had a long way to travel home, an opportunity to leave part way through the evening would have been appreciated. There was also a number of logistical issues in getting the cinema screen up without accidentally removing a wing from Concorde.

Con Air under Concorde

However, despite there clearly being room for improvement, 91% of the respondents that went to Revel Up think we should run an evening event at the next Level Up. It’s fair to say, if we do have an evening event next year, we’ll probably avoid Marmite movies and huge inflatable cinema screens under priceless aircraft.

Which of our other learning & development activities would attendees be interested in taking part in?

Finally, we asked which of the other Learning and Development activities we already have available to us back at Redgate Towers would people be interested in taking part in. The results were encouraging, with many people keen to take part in a range of initiatives.

Which of our other learning & development activities would Level Up attendees be interested in taking part in

Our job now is to encourage all those people who said they were keen to take part in other L&D activities to get involved! These initiatives are open to all t Redgate and should be easy to find out more about.

Roll on Level Up 2020

Thanks again to the Redgaters who gave us their feedback and to everyone involved in making the event such a success. We certainly feel we’ve seen enough value and impact from the event to be worth the time and effort we invested in it. So, we’re already looking forward to building on what we’ve learnt from Level Up 2019 to make next year’s conference event better.

This post was initially published on ingeniouslysimple.com.

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