cropped-aoflogo-narrowWe are only a few days away from our third annual Agile Open Florida conference. We have nearly doubled in size and are expecting approximately 300 people in attendance. For those new to an “open space technology” format, I often get questions on how to prepare. Those asking may be puzzled by no observable agenda and no list of speakers. A better question may be: Why is this event becoming popular?

First, it is useful to understand a little about this format called open space technology. Over 30 years ago, Harrison Owen realized that he was finding far more benefit in hallway conversations over formal presentations at the conferences he attended. He wondered if there was a way to structure a gathering that just had these meaningful conversations. Open Space Technology was the result and has been used to organize numerous gatherings from 5 to over 2000 people around the world. People want to discuss their issues and tell their stories.

Second, it is useful to understand the theme of the event. The theme defines an organizing idea, but should be broad enough to include a diverse set of topics and interests. This year’s theme is “Going, Growing, and Sustaining Agile“. As agile principles and practices become wide spread in our Agile Florida community, my fellow organizers and I recognized that we have practitioners at all levels. Some are just learning to plant the seeds of agile principles. Some are learning to spread agile principles and practices throughout the organization. Finally, some have seen great success in cultivating an agile mindset in their organization. Also, our theme recognizes the agricultural metaphor that is well known to citrus-bgour native Floridians. So whether you are just starting to plant agile concepts on your team, spreading agile success across teams or groups within your organization, or you’re seeking to sustain the benefits of agile thinking in your business, there are conversations for all.

Third, it’s important to know who is coming to Agile Open Florida. We have attendees from across Florida: from Miami to Melbourne; from Tampa to Tallahassee; and, from Jacksonville to Jupiter. Some of our attendees actually come from outside Florida. Many will arrive from the southeast United States (North Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia) and some attendees are even international. We sold out over a week in advance. People are ready to meet!

Fourth, who is supporting Agile Open Florida? Our sponsors include software tool vendors and major consultancies supporting agile organizations. We have major established businesses as well as Florida-grown start-ups. Two of our sponsor organizations are coming from Brasil. Our host organization, Wycliffe Associates, has a unique mission. We also have several sponsors continuing to support Agile Open Florida. I am deeply grateful for everyone’s support. We all sense important conversations are needed!

So how do you prepare? Within your first hour at Agile Open Florida, we will go from an open day to an abundant harvest of possible topics for discussion. Bring an open field of ideas, questions, and stories of your agile journey that you want to share. And one last thing … prepare to be surprised!