Tag Archives: agile2015

Bonus Round – A few more insights for attending Agile2015

I was asked at Agile Coach Camp in DC (prior to Agile2015) if I had any “runner up” items for my Top 10 list of insights for maximizing your conference experience.  It turns out I did, so for fun here they are (you can let me know if any of these should have been on the original list):


What to do if you forgot your business cards (or run out or want to save them or a tree)

I predict that not too long after Paul Hammond welcomes everyone to Agile2015, he will probably remind everyone to “Wear your badges” (necessary for security & access control) – this is good as snapping a quick badge photo is a quick way to capture the name of someone that you’d like to follow up with – once you have a badge photo, you can look your new colleague on LinkedIn or Twitter.  Think of all the trees you can help save!


Please Please Please take a moment to leave session feedback

One of the greatest value that presenters (either on the formal program or in OpenJam) receive from participation and sharing ideas at the conference is feedback to help them improve their future sessions.  While you can give direct feedback to the presenters (some may include a feedback door or wall in their session and ask for input), you’ll also have an option to leave feedback for any session you attend via the online conference schedule (use your mobile device or access via the web).  In advance, all of the presenters will thank you, as it helps them improve.


Thank (maybe even hug) all the volunteers you see (and don’t see too)

The agile conference is made possible largely by the efforts of volunteers who are there to assist presenters and handle all of the behind the scenes logistical tasks.  The volunteers are easy to find (usually wearing a nice bright colored T-shirt – at the time of writing, I don’t what the color is this year) and they will answer questions you may have.  Without volunteers donating their time to support the planning and execution of the conference, the event would not be feasible without significant additional cost.  Also ask around if anyone you meet was a “Submission Coach” or “Track Reviewer” – these are people that donated their time in late 2014 thru early 2015 to help presenters improve their sessions, and then gave input to help select quality sessions to create the conference program – please thank all of these people for their efforts!


Be transparent about your needs

I’ll forgo the various metaphors between the complexity of planning, building, integrating and releasing a conference and running an agile release train (trust me they exist), but executing a 5-day conference with 200+ sessions is a complex task and some things are bound to go wrong – sessions run out of handouts, rooms become over crowded, etc.  Here’s a tip, if you end up missing a handout or can’t make it into a crowded session, connect with the presenter (Twitter works best for most) and more than likely they can accommodate your need – handouts can be sent electronically and each year, I know there are always several “popular” session for which the presenters offer “encore” presentations in the OpenJam if requested.  Control your destiny – make your need / request / idea known and be prepared to be surprised.


Use the Law of Two Feet

From “Open Space Technology” the Law of Two Feet, provides the freedom to people that if they are attending a discussion or session for which they are not receiving value, you are empowered to leave and go elsewhere to find value.  While Agile2015 is not a full open space event (it does have an Open Space component via OpenJam), I would suggest that the Law of Two feet is in effect.  If you head into a session and it quickly pivots into something that you aren’t interested in, don’t be afraid to exercise your option to leave and head to another session where you might receive greater value.  You are responsible for maximizing the value you get out of the time you invest to attend a lengthy conference such as Agile2015 so you should exercise your empowerment to maximize your return from time invested (ROTI).


Try Out The “Surprise Rule”

I learned this trick from a colleague attending conferences in another industry – since Agile2015 is a week-long conference, give yourself a treat at least once or twice and go to a session that has NOTHING to do with what your normally do (exposing yourself to new ideas so as to perhaps learn about a future career pivot) – you’ll know if you’re picking a good session since you may even feel a bit anxious walking into the room (how on earth am I going to relate to anything that is discussed / presented in this session) – example: if you’re a scrum master, go to a session about coding and refactoring (hands on keyboard) – if you despise budgets, financials and Enterprise Governance, go to a session on the Portfolio track – specific for this year, if you work at a startup or a private-sector organization, go to a session on the Government track.  Sometimes hearing information and ideas that is tangentially related to what you normally do will give you greater insights on how to improve vs. listening to ideas in your current area of focus / expertise.


Don’t be afraid of friendly agile people

Conference attendees have achieved nearly 100% occupancy for all the hotels in National Harbor for the entire week so you will be surrounded by community members – I dare say that we’re a highly inclusive and welcoming group, so don’t be shy to make friends and strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you at the bar or at a restaurant.  Many resort to Twitter to look for people who are “hanging out” but from personal experience the old fashion “just show up” techniques work just as well.


Silence is Golden

I’ll describe the annual Agile Alliance conference as a “loud” conference – first, there’s a ton of people attending (SOLD OUT), there’s lots of chatter between sessions, dialogue during sessions, and of course after hours socialization, and even BEFORE hours socialization for the Lean Coffee crew (which everyone should check out).  Believe it or not, the physiology of your brain determines your tolerance for prolonged exposure to “loud” (yet non-deafening – less than 90 dB) environments.  Your brain will appreciate some quiet time and some people need more of this than others, so don’t be afraid to seek out some quiet time – your choice to refrain from conversations (or even socialization) will be respected.


Go Outside

This insight is of particular importance for people staying at the Gaylord – with all of the conference sessions behind held on premise this year (including the party), it is possible to enter the Gaylord on Sunday and NOT exit the building until Friday.  This is not recommended!  Fresh air rejuvenates your brain, and taking a break to go for a walk outside (along the river) will provide some of the “Silence” mentioned above to balance against the overall “loud” environment of the conference.


Twitter is useful even if you don’t post – #agile2015

While not everyone is a frequent poster on Twitter (nor do you have to be), many attendees and presenters at Agile2015 use Twitter extensively, it’s highly recommended and useful to follow the #agile2015 hashtag.  You don’t have to have a Twitter ID to follow along, and you can even just use a browser without needing to install a Twitter app (just go to www.twitter.com/hashtag/agile2015) – this is your best stream for up to date information about what’s going on and late breaking ideas or sessions that you might want to check out.


That’s all for now – Enjoy the journey!

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!