10 Insights for Attending Agile2015

Recently I shared some insights with a few colleagues attending the annual Agile Alliance conference for the first time – I picked up most of these myself attending prior Alliance events.  The 2015 conference is coming up in Washington, DC – Agile2015 (August 3 thru 7, 2015) – the group mentioned these were helpful so I thought I would share them with anyone else who was interested.


The conference organizers do present a few first-timer orientation sessions (Sunday evening, 8/2 and Monday 8/3), which I’m sure hit a few of these things, but here’s my Top-10 list of things other than attending the regular 75 minute sessions at the conference:


#10 – Lean Coffee in the morning

If you’ve never tried Lean Coffee don’t miss your chance to experience it at Agile2015 – Look for the time and meeting location to be announced on Twitter with #agile2015.  Yes, you do have to wake up a little bit earlier, but you’ll get to meet people and discuss a variety of agile topics (and there’s coffee there to help you wake up).  Lean coffee is a small group discussion which is focused on the questions & topics participants share by writing on Post-Its – listeners are welcome, but anyone sitting at a table has an opportunity to contribute.


#9 – Check out Open Jam

Think about checking out or sharing an Open Jam session – Open Jam allows anyone to convene or present a session on a topic of their choice – all you have to do is attend the morning “Huddle” (see the program for time and location) announce your topic, sign up for a space and time on the board, and then be present to convene your session (very much like an Open Space).  In Open Jam, you’ll find sessions that sometimes focus on emerging topics, and it’s pretty common that a “rough” idea you see at Open Jam this year, may return in a more “polished” form at Agile 2016.


#8 – Stop by the Coaching Clinic

If you currently have a coaching problem, puzzle or just looking for coaching insights, the Scrum Alliance is hosting a Coaching Clinic that runs throughout the conference.  You can sign up in advance for a short session with another coach to discuss and share ideas – they also typically have capacity for walk-ups, although preference is given for people that sign up in advance.  Don’t miss your chance to get FREE advice and coaching from experts in the field.


#7 – Great Keynotes

Don’t miss the Keynotes at Agile2015

  • Monday: Luke Hohmann talks about using games to solve “SuperProblems” #AWESOME
  • Wednesday: Jessie Shternshus will have us doing Improv (high probability of a flash mob) #FUN
  • Friday: Jim Tamm closes out Agile2015 challenging us to look inside ourselves to enable better collaboration #REFLECTION


#6 – Lightning Talk Sessions

Scattered throughout the program there are Lightning Talk sessions on specific topic areas.  Lightning talks are quick 3-7 minute presentations (there are a couple different formats the presenters can choose from ) – so if you are looking for a variety ideas on a topic like “People” or “Process at Scale” – you’ll walk away from a lightning talk session with 6+ new ideas on that topic all presented real quickly.


#5 – Stalwarts

Also scattered throughout the program, the Alliance invites well-known members of the community (Dean Leffingwell, Ron Jeffries, etc) to convene a session to answer questions submitted by the audience – this is your chance to submit a question and have it answered by a well-known expert in the field.  A moderator facilitates the Q&A and works to manage time to address as many questions as possible in the time allotted.


#4 – Agile Alliance Annual Membership Meeting

Want to learn more about what the Agile Alliance does in addition to the conference, and how to get involved, run for the board, volunteer, etc – attend the annual membership meeting late Wednesday afternoon.  There’s typically food and drinks provided for those who attend.


#3 – Evening Entertainment Rundown

Here’s the summary of the evening activities, where you’ll be able to redeem your coveted drink tickets for fun beverages:

  • Sunday evening – Very Brief “Welcome” reception (1 hour)
  • Monday evening – Ice Breaker Reception – held in the Expo Hall with food & beverages available – also some kind of entertainment too.
  • Tuesday evening – The Alliance organizes a “Dinner with Agile Friends” event – sign up to go to dinner with people from the conference at a restaurant located in the resort (great option of “evening Lean Coffee” for those that don’t want to get up early) – Tuesday is also typically VENDOR party night – some events are on-site, some events are off-site, and at least one is on a boat this year (anyone renting a bridge that the boat can go under – if you were in Nashville you might remember).
  • Wednesday evening – Sponsor Reception – get stamps from the vendors in the Expo hall on the card in your program, then enter it in the drawing for a prize – food & drinks available – also, please remember to PRINT your name on your card BEFORE you submit it, last few years, they always pull out a few cards without names, so don’t miss your chance to win a prize.
  • Thursday evening – Conference Party – this year it’s super-hero themed and held on premise – food and beverages available.


#2 – Make A Post It Reflection for each session you attend

The Agile conference is like a marathon – it’s 5 days long, and only happens once a year (it can be overwhelming to some) – why does that last statement make me think of something that Winston Royce used to describe software development in a 1970 whitepaper which I seem to recall was the antithesis of agile.  Regardless, maximize what you get out of the conference by taking a minute to summarize 1 or 2 things on a Post-It note for each session you attend – you’ll find the act of writing a few quick notes on a Post-It helps your brain digest all of the information you’ll learn while attending.  Your brain (and boss) will thank you when you leave DC and want to share what you learned, you’ll be able to pull your 20+ Post-it notes (1 or 2 for each session you attend) and tell them about your experience, and/or take a picture and say “here’s my conference report”, if by chance you have to submit one of those.


#1 – Take a break

Related to the “marathon”, I have to thank David Anderson for this one – the 2015 Lean Kanban North America conference was held in Miami Beach on the beach – each afternoon David Anderson gave everyone a 3 hour break and told us to go to beach (he even gave us Flip-Flops).  Now we don’t have a beach in DC, but if you do take a “break” sometime you’ll find yourself able to attend sessions refreshed and ready to learn & your brain will thank you as well.

There you go, 10 Insights for Agile2015 – enjoy!