Agile Open FLThe first Agile Open Space conference is coming to Florida on June 27!

Since I attended my first open space at XP Universe 2001, I have been hooked on the open space concept.  Never attended an “open space” or a Un-conference?  Wondering what it is like?

Think back to one of the best conferences you ever attended.  You checked the schedule of events.  You struggled to pick one of many interesting events in each time slot.  You may have picked a good talk that inspired you or perhaps it was not so interesting and you walked out to find something else that surprised you.  But what do you remember the most about that conference?  I’ll bet it was the people you met;  It was conversations you had outside the scheduled sessions.  It was the “unscheduled” topics discussed with peers: sharing stories, asking questions, or sharing concerns and realizing they were similar to your own.  This is the part of the conference that you remember and were likely to take action on.

What if you could organize an entire conference this way?  What if you could have the attendees set the agenda?  To have the conversations that they want to have.

This is the concept of Open Space.  There is no agenda in advance.  There is a theme and people passionate about that theme come to the Open Space.  In the first hour, the primary open space facilitator describes the spaces available to meet and the time slots available.  More important, they describe the guiding principles and one law of open space.  Then the marketplace of topics opens where everyone has an opportunity to pitch their topic for 30 seconds and announce a time and place.  Those topics then goes up on the marketplace, a big visible agenda where others can sign up to attend.  There may even be some negotiations between some of the topic facilitators for time and place.  Within that first 30-60 minutes, a complete conference agenda emerges through the power of a self-organizing group who are passionate about the theme that gathered them.  I’ve seen open space events that shared great ideas, launched new user communities and businesses, and helped form long-term partnerships.  In open space, you get out of it what you put into it.

While an open space event is self-organizing, it does require some work to set up the “space”.  The folks at Tampa Bay Agile and Agile Orlando are working to get that space ready for you.  I especially want to thank Stephanie Stewart of Valpak and Ryan Dorrell of Agile Thought for organizing this event.   I’ve been helping out, but they have been doing the heavy lifting of gathering sponsors, launching the website, and working on the details.  I am very grateful for their effort.

If you are ready to connect, learn and share with your fellow agilists in Florida, you should join us.  Hope to see you there!