At Code for Canada, we’re always on the hunt for events that connect us with other digital government champions.
Every year, there’s always one that stands out from the rest — FWD50. We plan our whole fall calendar around making the most of the talks, workshops and amazing connections we have there every year.
Now that we’ve been going for a few years, we’ve mastered some tips and tricks for making the most of the jam-packed conference schedule, and we thought we’d take a moment to share them with you.
Here are the five things we suggest to make the most of your ticket.
Set Some Goals
Believe us, it’s all too easy to spend the three days soaking up inspiring talks, drinking too much complimentary coffee, and chatting with old and new digital government friends.
But, if you want to make the most of your experience, it’s a good idea to sit down and establish some goals. Of course, many people have to do this to get their manager’s sign-off to attend in the first place. But we aren’t just talking about high-level departmental goals here. We also mean personal ones.
What is your top priority going into FWD50? Is it to connect with specific colleagues whose brains you’ve been meaning to pick or who you’d like to pitch an idea to? Is it to meet new people and forge connections in your community of practice? Is it to dig into a specific topic you want to champion in the new year, like inclusive user testing or digital talent recruitment?
The more specific your goals are heading into the conference, the more you’ll get out of your time there.
Do Your Research
At first glance, the FWD50 agenda can be overwhelming — three jam-packed days of talks, workshops and socials.
We recommend carefully combing through each session and doing a little research into the speakers and offerings of each one. It’s easy to spot the all-star keynotes everyone’s sure to attend and the sessions that focus on your particular area of work. But hidden among these are gems you might not expect.
Create a schedule for yourself with your must-see talks and a few off-the-beaten-track options if you find yourself with more time and energy than you expected.
For the sessions you’re particularly excited about, consider reaching out to the speakers beforehand to set up a small coffee chat. You’d be surprised how open people at FWD50 are to this compared to other conferences.
Know When to Log Off
This one might seem like a bit of a misnomer for a digital transformation conference, but hear us out.
When we say “log off,” what we really mean is, be present. Whether you’re attending online or in-person, do your best to give your full attention to the talks and workshops you choose to be part of. The main thing is that when you choose to be part of the programmed scheduling, you’ll get a lot more out of it if you’re not trying to multitask at the same time.
We know there will inevitably be emails and Teams messages to respond to over the day but set aside dedicated periods to do so. The in-person conference space has many dedicated spots for heads-down work, or you can timebox a “catch-up” session over your coffee break to ensure you’re not blocking anyone back at the office with something urgent.
Let your colleagues know your plans to be at FWD50 and work with them to ensure you can commit to your professional development while you’re there. FWD50 only comes once a year, so for those three days, set your auto-reply and do your best to get as much as you can from it while you can.
Whether you’re attending online or in-person, FWD50 is full of opportunities to connect with your fellow digital government champions.
In our experience, this can be the most meaningful part of the conference. Whether it’s spotting a friend you made last year across the room, connecting over a shared pain point with someone you’ve just met, or laughing a little too hard at an all-too-familiar story at FailFest, these interactions put fuel in our tank for the rest of the year.
They remind us that we’re not alone but instead working shoulder to shoulder with talented, dedicated people who believe in the same thing we do — that people deserve best-in-class digital public services, and we can help provide them.
Translate Learnings into Actions
After the conference, once the dust has settled and you’re back to your routine, review your goals. How did you do?
What connections are worth following up on? What learnings can you share with your colleagues? Which ones have sparked an idea that could be turned into a future action?
It can be too easy to coast into end-of-year busyness — don’t let yourself do it. Make sure you take the energy and the insights of this convening and translate it into actual change, big or small. Because that’s ultimately what FWD50 offers us — inspiration and a path towards how we might do things differently.
Code for Canada is a national nonprofit that enables governments to deliver better digital services and empowers communities to solve civic challenges.