If you’ve been to an Agile20XX event before, you know it’s an amazing conference where people from all over the world come together to discuss the latest in all things Agile — ranging from technical to management topics and everything in between.
After making the difficult decision to cancel Agile2020, we quickly began planning the next iteration of our favorite conference. Even with all of the talk of vaccines and the hope that comes along with them, we know we’re not out of the COVID-19 woods yet. In response to this, we’ve changed up the conference quite a bit for 2021 and we’re hoping this will give you an overview of some of the changes we’re making for next year.
For those of you who don’t like to read (present company included), here’s a summary of the changes outlined on this page. If you want to know the gory details, keep on reading. You’ll find them below.
We’re focusing on an entirely online experience
Agile Alliance was founded by and thrives by virtue of its community. The Agile20XX annual conference has been the primary mechanism for bringing that community together year after year to expand and promote Agile values and principles. Protecting the health and well-being of our community is critical to the success of the organization. With global cases of COVID-19 still surging, we felt it would be best to pivot the on-premise conference and go fully online for Agile2021. While we will miss meeting our new community members and re-connecting with our long-timers in person, going virtual does create new opportunities for improving the diversity of our content and building new interaction models.
Agile2021 will better represent the community we serve
As much fun as it is to bounce around the hallways of a conference venue, traveling to spend a week at an in-person event can be cost-prohibitive for many would-be attendees. Virtual conferences, on the other hand, eliminate many barriers to access — broadening the reach of the conference itself. While a virtual event certainly makes access easier, it doesn’t necessarily make it convenient. Logging on at 3:00 AM to watch your favorite speaker’s session because you live in a different area of the world isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of a good time. That’s why this year we’re taking a couple of different approaches to improve your experience. First, talks will be recorded and available to you for playback at any time during the event. This allows you to view content at your convenience rather than trying to adapt your schedule to align with that of the conference.
In addition to making the content accessible through the Agile Alliance content library after the conference [with the All Access Pass], we’re hosting live sessions in three different time zones this year and featuring local speakers in each time zone. This gives you live content from your peers available to you at a time that doesn’t require you to work strange hours. Our live events are tentatively planned to be held in the following time zones:
- US (CDT)
- UK (WEST)
- Hong Kong (HKT)
While these time zones are subject to change, one thing isn’t: Agile2021 will “follow the sun” for the first time in its history.
Combating “Zoom fatigue”
We all know how tough it is to be online for 8 hours a day, and that’s why we’re making an effort to ensure that doesn’t happen to you this year now that we’re going virtual. To combat this, we’re shortening a few things. Firstly, we’ve reduced the session length to 50 minutes from 75 minutes, with talks being shortened to 30 minutes (see the next paragraph for the details).
Same general content, format tailored for an online audience
There are still two primary types of content at the conference: Talks and workshops. We’ve tweaked the way they will be handled this year at the conference — here’s a look at how things have changed:
You’ve probably been to talks at previous Agile20XX conferences as well as others and know they’re a staple of the conference circuit. We’ll have talks again this year, but with a twist. Each talk will be 30 minutes long and pre-recorded. While the recording is playing, the speaker for that session will be live online responding to audience questions. Once the 30-minute session is complete, the speaker will host a live 20-minute Q&A session about the content. We’ve chosen this format to reduce the number of technical issues that can detract from the attendee experience while still providing the level of speaker interaction that you’ve come to expect at the Agile20XX conference.
Good old fashioned talks are great, but sometimes you just want to get your hands dirty. That’s where the workshops come into play. Workshops are activity-based sessions where attendees learn together through a series of facilitated exercises led by the presenter. Please keep in mind that we’re looking for exercises that require some sort of work and not merely, “Talk about this topic in a small group and report back.” While workshops haven’t changed much, we’ve shortened them to 50 minutes (the same duration as the talks) and they will be conducted live rather than pre-recorded. If you’re submitting a workshop to Agile2021, we strongly encourage you to clearly think through how you intend to facilitate the participants and let us know in your submission how many attendees you think you can handle.
During our in-person conferences, we’ve got all kinds of other activities including Keynotes, the Agile Alliance Lounge, Lean Coffee sessions, and more. We’re in the process of lining up these activities, so you can count on plenty of ways to interact with your peers during the event.
From tracks to playlists
In addition to the move from on-premise to virtual, we’ve made some changes to the traditional track structure you may be used to. We’ve simplified from around 15-20 tracks down to only three or four. These tracks are People, Process, Technical, and Experience Reports. We’ve made this change to simplify the submission process and, given that much of the content is online and pre-recorded, we feel that we may be able to create “playlists” after all the content has been confirmed. A playlist like “Leveling up your ScrumMaster skills” can be more tailored to an attendee’s individual learning needs than a more generic track such as “Collaboration, Culture, and Teams”. We believe that deferring track definitions until the “last responsible moment” will help us improve the experience for speakers and attendees alike.
We hope this information is useful to you when trying to figure out just how Agile2021 will compare to previous Agile20XX conferences and we can’t wait to (virtually) see you in July!
About the Author
This is an Agile Alliance community blog post. Opinions represented are personal and belong solely to the author. They do not represent opinion or policy of Agile Alliance.