Bye Bye AgileIndia2012, Welcome AgileIndia2013

by Sampath Prahalad

I attended Agile India 2012  in February this year. Three full days of talks and discussions about different streams within Agile (Agile Product Management, Agile Testing, Agile Coaching, etc), the different flavors of Agile (Scrum, Kanban, very little of XP, etc). Many talks were great,  tweets and related blogs were nice. There was enough food for thought and for the tummy as well. I made new friends and met up with lots of friends and like minded people. Here are my experiences from day 1, day 2 and day 3. So, Agile India 2012 was a success by any yardstick, the organizers deserve many pats on the back for organizing and pulling off an event of such a magnitude. They had done their due diligence and it showed.

Now, here comes Agile India 2013 . I don’t want the 2013 version to be a similar success, I want it to be much bigger and better. Yeh dil definitely maange more (Translates to ‘The heart yearns for more’)

For this, there are some tweaks and changes that the organizers need to make. I have tried to list some of them here.

Conference Duration: When I say, it needs to be bigger, please don’t get me wrong that it should be longer than 3 days. There was considerable fatigue at the end for everyone involved (including the participants) in Agile India 2012 and making the 2013 version any longer would cross over to ‘too much of a good thing’. I see that the organizers have split it to 2 halves targeting different audiences. This is definitely a good thing, but still tiring for anyone who would be attending all 4 days.

Case studies: There was a speaker who I remember talking about a case study for best practices which they followed. It became an over confident brag talk during which,  he exposed himself as a command and control task master, he was not answering questions properly, getting angry with the audience and was not convincing to even the most amateur Agilist in the room. I would never want to be on his project. It was really a case study for ‘how not to present’.

Dry run for each stream: It will really be great if the organizers are able to own one stream each and go through some of the content or dry run with the speakers before their talk. The idea is to make some small tweaks to keep the audience engaged and engrossed. I understand that it is not possible for all speakers, but some clear expectations need to be set.

Logistics: Is it possible to have all talks on the same floor? Please…. ?? My legs ached last year from the running up and down the stairs that I had to do.

The right rooms for the right talks: There were some talks in large rooms which were running empty (or 30% full) while some interesting ones were assigned small rooms and were overflowing with people. I know that it is a difficult task to determine which one would pull more crowds, but it needs serious thought.
There were a slot when I attended a boring afternoon session and by the time I walked out, half the talk of IBM’s Scott Ambler had got over.

Agile and Fun: Make the afternoon sessions more interesting. Can we have sessions with some fun Agile exercises from 2-3 rather than from 5-5:30? Maybe a lightning talk too? I loved the High 5 Driven development lightning talk.

Repetition: Some amount of repetition will be there, but some serious thought is needed on how we can avoid large repetition?

Timely completion: Some speakers were scrambling to complete on time. The organizers were doing a good job of keeping the speakers aware of the time that they have in hand, so that was a good thing. But this left the speakers with having to cut down on some of the planned content. The dry run should help here.

Early completion: If a speaker finishes ahead of time, can we have one of the organizers stepping in and putting in a small filler activity for the audience? Talk to Vibhu Srinivasan of Solutions IQ. He has many up his sleeve.

Corporate Social responsibility: And yes, the talk from Freeset’s founder was great. It was a distraction from the Agile conference, but it kept us well grounded in reality. Can we have a similar opening talk for one of the days this time too?

These are what I can think of at this time. Again, I reiterate that Agile India 2012 was one great conference and now, the bar is set higher. The organizers have a good 6 months before the conference kicks off and I am sure they will do all it takes to come up triumphant.

Please feel free to put in your views.

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3 Comments to “Bye Bye AgileIndia2012, Welcome AgileIndia2013”

  1. Thanks for the feedback Sampath. If you don’t mind I would love to pick your brains on a few topics. My questions below:

    Regarding the Conference Duration, I’m not sure what you are suggesting. We have a diverse set of audience, attendees don’t want more than 4 parallel tracks and we have so many important topics to present. How do we strike a balance?

    Regarding the poor quality of some sessions, if you remember, speaker selection was done over a period of 4 months by a global program committee of 101 members. The proposals were public, there were public comments and reviews. In spite of all this transparency and ceremony, bad speakers slipped thru. In fact in one session, the topic presented had nothing to do with what was proposed. How can we avoid such problems? For sure we’ll not select that speaker, but there will always be new speakers that we don’t know and we would like to give new speakers an opportunity to present.

    As far as dry run and adding more rigidly to the selection process: I hope you understand that this is a community run conference where everyone is a volunteer. This is our after-work job. Plus how many speakers will have the time and will be willing to do a dry run?

    Logistics: Next year we’ve booked hotel Sheraton. All the halls are on the same floor within 50 meters walking distance.

    Right room for the right talk: How do we predict which talk will have how many people? We can only guess. We had run a survey asking people to let us know which talks they are interested in, only 10% people responded to it. (the solution was also not good.) But people will always change mind during the conference. Also another important thing to consider is speakers have some requirements: like some speakers want round tables, some want a lot of space to stick things up. We can’t have every room with round tables right?

    Look forward to hearing your views. Thanks again and look forward to meeting you at Agile India 2013 if not before.

    • Sure, Naresh. Thanks for the response.

      Conference duration: There were times in Agile India 2012 when there was more than 1 interesting talk going on in parallel. So, 4 tracks in parallel is good enough, I think. Also, I saw that you have split the conference into 2 parts. This is good. Will a participant have an option of purchasing tickets only for one of the 2 parts? Just curious to know.
      Poor quality of some sessions: I agree Naresh that there really is only that much check that can be done. I was not aware that you guys had done a lot of background screening for the talks. Just keep the screening on and it should be good.
      Logistics: The Sheraton with all conferences on the same floor will be a relief. Thanks.
      Right room for the right talk: I agree that with some exercises and audience interaction, the requirement from the presenters will be different than others. There is a tendency that these additional equipment (round tables, boards, charts, etc) will occupy more space. Maybe we should try and have the bigger rooms for these interactive ones.

      Again, I would like to say that Agile India 2012 was a great conference and my inputs were with a view to make it even better, next time.

      • Yes, if someone wishes they can attend all the 4 days.

        Regarding the room size, we are limited by the capacity available at the hotels. IME Bangalore is one of the worst cities in the world as far as conference hotels go.

        We’ll try our best, not to let you down :)

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