Agile 2011: Live Speaker Feedback

by Jeff Langr

August 18, 2011

I delivered a talk on “The Only Agile Tools You’ll Ever Need” at Agile 2011, and had a great time doing so. Most of the written feedback from the session indicated that people were very happy with the talk. Negative feedback, received from a handful or so of the ~60 attendees: It didn’t necessarily meet expectations based on what the session summary said. I apologize for that–I’d prepared the summary months before putting together the talk, and what I’d felt important to say changed during that time.

I also muffed a bit–I made a forward reference to the notion that task tracking is a smell, but didn’t quite fully close that thought out as I talked about limiting work in process. If it wasn’t clear, the key point was: if you minimize work in process, the need for tracking tasks in a software tool diminishes significantly.

I handed out index cards at the outset of the session, with the intent of gathering names so I could give out a couple copies of Agile in a Flash. But that’s boring! What else could I have people do with the cards (to bolster my contention that they’re wonderful tools)?

Aha. I gave the following instructions:

“I’m looking to get live feedback during my session. On one side of the index card, draw a big fat smiley face. If you’re happy with what I’m saying, or you think I’m making an astute point, hold up the smiley face. On the other side, let’s see. If you think the believability of what I’m saying is suspect, put something down to represent that. Hmm. Believability Suspect, just abbreviate that, and write down ‘BS‘ in big fat letters. Finally, put your name below the smiley face for the drawing.”

I got a number of smiley faces throughout, but no BS cards. One guy looked like he was about to hold up a BS sign, but changed his mind–probably the one guy who hated the talk. So, my takeaway is that the silly mechanism worked in terms of getting positive feedback–but I suspect that it’s probably a bit too intimidating for most people to challenge a speaker with negative feedback.


Michael “Doc” Norton August 18, 2011 at 12:52 pm

First of all, I thought your presentation was well done.

Second, I do wonder if the card had been a smile on one side and a frown on the other, if you would have received different results. Might be worth an experiment in future talks.

– Doc

Jeff Langr August 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm

thanks Doc! Yeah, great point. I went for humor at the potential expense of honest feedback.

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Samantha Laing August 22, 2011 at 2:59 am

Wow – I think thats an awesome idea! I agree that perhaps a sad face would have been easier to raise than a BS card. Still an awesome way to get quick feedback, I will definitely be using this at my next talk 🙂

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Jeff Langr

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Jeff Langr has been building software for 40 years and writing about it heavily for 20. You can find out more about Jeff, learn from the many helpful articles and books he's written, or read one of his 1000+ combined blog (including Agile in a Flash) and public posts.