It’s been a little over a week since the Global Scrum Gathering in Orlando and our Agile Florida Slack community is still buzzing. The buzz is mostly from our volunteers! The April 2016 Global Scrum Gathering was the first time they leveraged volunteers to assist with the speakers and rooms and this group of volunteers rocked! A few people heard me talk about using some of the same approaches with the volunteers that I use with my distributed agile teams. So I wanted to take this opportunity to tell the story and brag about them.

Warning: this may be TL;DR. It’s a long post but I hope it will be useful to other conference volunteer groups.  Actually, it ended up being two posts, but still a good story.

How we got started

In late November 2015, Kate Megaw, one of the Global Scrum Gathering Orlando co-chairs asked if I would be willing to organize the volunteers. Kate knew of my work in growing the Agile Florida network of agile user groups and assumed I could “gather” a few folks. Also, this was the first time Scrum Alliance2012-02-26 17.59.23 would be using volunteers as room monitors.

What was the need?

We needed 16 volunteers total for the 8 tracks spread across two days. Each volunteer would get complementary registration if they worked 225 minutes as room monitors. This included one day of break out sessions, which included three 45 minutes sessions and one 90 minute session at the end of the day. There may be other ancillary needs that pop up (warning: if you have never volunteered for a conference, there are ALWAYS unanticipated needs).

I was eager to show off the great “can do” spirit of our Agile Florida community. With just one message on our new Slack community, I had 13 volunteers! Eventually, that number went up to 20. I then discovered that seven folks had already volunteered directly through the Scrum Alliance (SA), some of them being candidate certified Scrum trainers (CSTs). They would be stuffing bags the Saturday before the gathering and SA also offered them an opportunity to be room monitors.

How to choose the volunteers?

I wanted to be fair. The CST candidates were already putting in hours. All but two choose to room monitor. That gave me 5 people. For my 20 volunteers through Agile Florida, I took them on a “first reply, first chosen” basis. For each of them I shared a FAQ on the volunteer program.  For some I had not met before, I did a “get to know you call” using Skype or Zoom and make sure they were in agreement with the needs stated in the FAQ and clear on the benefits they would receive. Others became alternates.   A few had to drop out due to other commitments. Eventually, we ended up with a great mix of folks from Agile OrlandoTampa Bay Agile, and some far beyond Florida.

Always co-lead.

As with any complex project, I wanted a co-leader. One of the very first to raise their hand was Becky  (“Becks”) Hartman of Tampa Bay Agile. I knew Becky had volunteered at the last two Agile Alliance conferences in the USA which are twice the size and twice as long (5 days) as the Global Scrum Gathering. She immediately said yes to co-leading and provided excellent suggestions. Little did I know how much I would appreciate Becky’s help.

For the next installment, I’ll talk about how we stormed and normed to rock the gathering.  It’s the part that I hope will help volunteer conference organizers the most!