Agile Open: Presentation Zen

Presentation Zen

First session in the afternoon, we did the “Presentation Zen” session. We looked at a few examples of modern presentation styles, starting from Garr ReynoldsPresentation Zen site. We formed 4 groups and asked each team to give a presentation about what they liked and disliked. The teams presented their findings, first in a rehearsal, then to the people who weren’t in the session. It was a fun session (an important part of “presentation zen”), with a lot of creativity. Let’s hope we can reduce the number of bullet points in the world. Stop reciting bullet points today; start telling stories; start answering people’s questions.

Presenting the zen way

Presentation Zen 1

Vera, Willem, Kristel and Lieven explaining that you have to structure your presentation with the audience and your goal in mind.

They started out with a distracting, dense bulleted page. Then they presented the same information in several slides, using humor, asking questions of the audience and keeping us awake with their quattro presentation technique.

They stressed the fact that slides and documentation (handouts) should be different.

Presentation Zen 2Bernard, Stijn, Hans and Paul presented themselves and what they liked and disliked in the different presentation styles.

They didn’t like the frenetic pace and many slides of a Dick Hardt or Lessig presentation. They feel it’s too intense and too easy to lose the focus of what the presenter is trying to tell.

They did like funny presentations, creativity and keeping the attention of the audience by the use of repetition, something you’ll encounter a lot in “Lessig” style presentations.

Presentation Zen 3Johan presented the idea that the slides should underline, strengthen or summarize what the presenter is saying. It’s not the slides that tell the story, it’s the presenter.

I liked the fact that this team didn’t explain the different techniques, they showed them. “Show, don’t tell” at work…

Presentation Zen 4Klaas used a “Takahashi” style (a single word per slide, in big bold letters) throughout his presentation. He explained what the different styles were about.

This is very much a presentation style where all the attention is focused on the presenter and the story they’re telling. The slides are sparse and stark. Klaas did need more words and more time than the previous team to explain what the different styles were about. Sometimes, an image does say more than a thousand words.

What’s it all about?

What is that “Presentation Zen” thing all about and why host such a session at Agile Open? It’s not about powerpoint gimmicks and who has the most slides in his deck. It’s not about getting rid of bullet points. That’s just a symptom, not the root cause.

It’s about communicating our ideas effectively; getting the story across. It’s about storytelling and fun; engaging the audience. If you want to talk to people about agility (or any other subject that you feel strongly about), you first have to make sure that they don’t fall asleep, that they listen.


Agile Open: Thinking for a Change

Thinking for a change

Marc Evers and I hosted a “Thinking for a Change” session. Not the whole session, just the “Current Reality Tree” to discover root causes of problems participants brought to the session.

Thinking for a Change 1Team 1: the build keeps failing

On the left, the first group. They analyzed a problem where a team had a failing build for days on end and didn’t do anything about it.

You have to wonder why they put the automated build and tests in place. What was their goal?

Team 2: balance between work and life

Thinking for a Change 2nd groupThe second team, on the right analyzed the root causes of a situation where the balance between work and life wasn’t right. This was due, amongst other things, to long travel times between home and workplace. We had a similar situation during the session at SPA 2006.

You can use the thinking tools for other things than technical problems.

Thinking for a Change 3rd group

Team 3: getting two teams to work together

The third team analyzed a situation where development and operations teams didn’t work well together.

This situation was quite similar to the one I present to explain the technique, except that my example talks about one team and this situation was about the whole company. I managed to resolve the problem for one team. It will take a bit more thinking and effort to solve it for the whole company.

Finding the root of all evil

The teams found some potential root causes for their problem, but they needed a bit more time than the 90 minutes we spent today. I hope the three “customers” got a bit more insight in their situation. I find the Current Reality Tree a very useful tool to concentrate on a problem. All too often, we jump directly to a solution, before we really understand the problem. The CRT steps force me to go slowly and study the problem in depth, before I can start to think about solutions, with the Future Reality Tree.

I use the Thinking Processes every day, together with the other people who are involved in the situation. I don’t need to explain the technique, we just do it. All it takes is a piece of paper, a pen and a few people who want to solve a problem.


Agile Open: Day One

Agile Open today! When we organize an event, I always feel like I did when exams started: after all that preparation, it’s finally started. No more stress, just do it!

Planning a conference

First thing in the morning, everyone briefly presents the session ideas they put on the conference site. Some sessions got invented on the spot. Usually, these are of the type “I have a problem with X. Who can help me solve this problem?”.

After that, everybody votes for their favourite session by putting stickers on the session descriptions. Then, it’s a simple matter of scheduling the sessions in 6 slots in 2 tracks, taking into account the constraints:

  • A session leader can’t do two sessions at the same time
  • We have one large room and one smaller room.
  • We have one beamer.

We made a definite schedule for today and a tentative one for tomorrow. Tomorrow we’ll revisit the schedule and may reschedule, based on the new information we’ve gained.


Agile Open 2006 coming near


We will organize the second Agile Open conference on 27 and 28 April 2006 in Mechelen, Belgium.

Early registration for Agile Open 2006 ended on Friday. As usual when you set deadlines, a lot of registrations came in on the last day. Student Syndrome at work. Or is it the “Decide at the latest responsible moment” Lean principle at work?

We’ve now got 24 early registrations, that’s as many as the total number of participants last year. For the organizers, that means we’re in the “good scenario”.

Before every event, like the XP Days Benelux, we perform “scenario planning”. We explore different alternatives and decide what we would do in each scenario. We always have at least 3 different scenarios: “bad” , “normal” and “good”. As time goes by, we compare reality with our scenarios and see which one fits best. Of course, we adapt as new information emerges. We also keep a risk list, so that we know how to react when something bad happens. Both of these practices help us to organize an event without too much stress.

Why not try some scenario planning on your next project? Try to imagine a scenario where everything goes wrong; picture another scenario where everything goes well. How will you react when the different events happen? A scenario is not a prediction, a scenario helps you to recognize important events early and to be ready to react appropriately. Of course, you keep updating your scenarios and risk list as you get more information.

If you want to attend Agile Open, don’t wait too long to register, as there are only 16 places left.

p.s. What’s that “A princess arrives…” risk about? During the second XP Day, we heard the day before the conference that a Belgian princess would attend another event in the same location. Due to security reasons, we couldn’t have one of the rooms we had booked. Unfortunately, the replacement room we were offered, was quite far away from the other rooms. In the end things got resolved and we got all the rooms we had booked.Lesson learned: even if you do risk analysis beforehand, stuff will happen. From now on, the Princess is always on our risk list: both Belgium and The Netherlands have princesses. The Princess risk stands for any event where we can’t get the rooms we booked. We’re prepared for that. What new bad stuff will happen this year? Stay tuned…

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Agile Open: Registration Open


We will organize the second Agile Open conference on 27 and 28 April 2006 in Mechelen, Belgium.

Agile Open is an open space conference about Agile topics. The idea is simple:

  • participants can submit ideas for sessions
  • at the start fo each day, we perform a quick planning game to select the sessions that will run in the two tracks

To get an idea of the range of session, take a look at the output of last year’s sessions.

Registration is now open! Don’t wait too long to register, as there are only 40 places.

Tags: agile, Agile Open,Open Space