Thoughts on the Digital Project Manager Conference

This year's Digital Project Manager Conference -- also known as DPM:UK -- took place on the 28th and 29th January, with over 300 project management professionals from all over the UK and Europe attending the event.

Here, three of our Project Managers offer their perspective on the two-day event and share what they learned.

"Having had the opportunity to attend the DPM conference for the first time this year, I'd strongly recommend that any Project Managers reading this make sure they get themselves a ticket for next year's event. I came away with a notebook filled with gems of shared experiences and feeling re-energised about the importance of the role I play in our agency.

I could share my take on so many topics of discussion from the day but my musings below stem from two slides taken from the first talk of the day by Sam Barnes titled 'People are Weird, I'm Weird' where he compared project management to psychology.

When I talk about Project Management, or when I'm asked what I do, I often find myself describing my job in two halves: the hard skills (how I'd do my job regardless of the company I work at or who I work for) combined with the soft skills (my self-management and people management style which I'd need to adapt based on the company culture and different people I work with). I believe that achieving the right balance of the two together is the key to being a great PM.

Arguably, I'd even go so far as to suggest that the soft skills are the key to 'getting it right' and are the differentiator when it comes to being 'Senior'; it's not necessarily about your ability as such, but all about your attitude and experience. This idea was something I felt was continuously highlighted throughout the day by the various conference speakers.

You have to appreciate that you don't just manage your project, but you have to manage your team, and the more you can understand people, the better PM you can be. Then, of course, you have to overcome the challenge of making sure you're likeable without slipping into becoming a 'people pleaser'!

Here are the top five tips that I picked up from the 2015 DPM conference that I'm planning on putting into practice myself:

1. Create an environment for my team to succeed -- a great project space for the team to work in.

2. Be honest -- it brings integrity and integrity creates trust.

3. Treat change as an opportunity not an obstacle; no matter how well I think I've planned, change will happen, so I just need to embrace it.

4. Practice is how you become good at something, so accept that being brave and learning from your mistakes is a critical part of the job.

5. Have back up. In a project team, we always talk about ensuring we don't have a single point of failure and sharing knowledge across the team. But it suddenly dawned on me that if I as the PM doesn't share information/knowledge then I could quite easily become a single point of failure myself. You need to be able to delegate and create a project leadership team with the senior members of your project team.

The DPM Conference gave me so much food for thought about my own style of Project Management and I really hope that I can put these learnings into practice and continue to improve the experience of my teams."

Emma, Senior Project Manager

"Day one of this year's conference was a workshop run by Brett Harned covering project planning techniques as well as discussions around tools and dealing with common issue we face managing projects. It was a great opportunity to speak with other delegates and swap ideas, processes and, of course, a few project horror story! For me the sessions highlighted that there is no one right answer when it comes to planning projects -- we all approach it in our own way, but ultimately see very similar outcomes.

After delivering the opening remarks for day two of the conference, I was able to sit back, relax and enjoy the fantastic speakers we had in the line-up. The content this year was really great from start to finish but I'll just highlight some of my standout moments.

In 'People are Weird, I'm Weird', Sam Barnes once again delivered an outstanding talk sprinkled with his trademark humour and animated gif wisdom.

On hiring team members, his advice was to be honest with candidates about what's good and not so good about where you work -- because they'll find this out anyway if they join! He also told us never to hire 'douchebags' even if they are really talented, because they can do a lot of damage in a very short space of time, which can be fatal to a team.

Sam also spoke at length on the difference in personalities that make up a team and how you shouldn't judge what normal is by using yourself as the benchmark.

If last year's event was a celebration of Digital PMing via the medium of the animated gif, this year it was the turn of the video clip, of which Suze Haworth had plenty in her talk PM Pitfalls.

Suze spoke about how we should plan for the unknown in our projects by thinking like an action hero; an action hero knows the enemy, keeps things simple, takes on a sidekick and ensures they don't have a single point of failure -- this brilliant sketch by Sketchy DPM acts as a great summary of her ideas."

Matt, Digital Project Manager

"I wasn't quite sure what to expect of the DMP: UK conference as Project Manager meet ups I've been to in the past have often ended up more like therapy sessions! But to my delight, the conference was far from that; it was a day of discovering and recognising how great the role of Project Manager is and how vital a part we play in our agencies.

Having sort of stumbled into my career in project management, I've sometimes found it difficult to fully appreciate and have the confidence to believe that I have the right approach and insight to be a great Project Manager. So to have the opportunity to meet other PMs from around the globe and hear that they face the same challenges, the same self-doubt and have to take on the same obstacles throughout the lifecycle of a project offered a nice confidence boost and gave me a renewed energy and passion for what I do.

Project management isn't like being a great designer or developer where you have a finished concept or great piece of functionality to show for all your hard work; good project management happens without being noticed. In fact, as Meghan Wilkers from Clockwork Active Media said of Project Management at the conference: 'It's like air quality; if you can see it, it's probably killing you!'."

Lucy, Project Manager

Launching Amnesty International's new global website