Tips for facilitating round-table discussions

Round-table discussions can be a really useful way to discover and share direct experience with peers and colleagues. A good round-table discussion is quietly facilitated by someone who knows the subject matter enough to include interesting questions and can ensure that everyone has a voice.

Here is what I have learnt from facilitating round-table discussions and watching others, too.

  1. understand the participants
  2. understand and prepare the topic under discussion
  3. remember: this is not your platform
  4. encourage quieter people
  5. nudge the discussion to ensure all points are covered

The rest of this post goes into more detail on these points.

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How to run a good tech conference

I founded and helped to run the first PIPELINE Conference in 2014 and I have been part of the team that has run 5 of these events to date. Here are my thoughts on how to run a good tech conference based on my experience with PIPELINE and with other events I have attended and spoken at.

tl;dr: fabulous team + great attendee experience.

PIPELINE Conference team - photo by Fabienne Jung
PIPELINE Conference team – photo by Fabienne Jung

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Diversity in tech conferences and meetups – how and why

I have been helping to promote greater diversity in tech conferences and tech meetups since 2012. Here is my thinking on how to promote diversity in tech events and why I think diversity is important.

Update: please first read this post from Trisha Gee: What Can Conferences Do To Attract More Women Speakers? and then this post by Jez Humble on How To Create A More Diverse Tech Conference. Trisha and Jez make many excellent points; in this post I try to offer some additional perspectives.

Since 2012 I have been running several meetups and conferences with a technology focus: London Continuous Delivery meetup group (2500+ members with around 80 different speakers in total), PIPELINE Conference (5 events since 2014 with around 50 different speakers), CodeMill digital skills meetup, and Assembly Conference. I have been keen to attract and promote a diverse range of speakers and attendees to all these events, and I think (with help from amazing team members) we have been fairly successful in promoting diversity in these tech events.

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Much of this diversity improvement has been focused on encouraging more women to speak and attend, but of course there is more to diversity than just gender; recently, I have tried to address other aspects too, including ethnic background, social class, and also personality “type” (particularly more introverted people).

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Designing organisations for responsiveness

Key points:

  1. Set up the organisation to ‘sense’ its environment
  2. Treat internal teams (almost) as external providers
  3. Conway’s Law should shape our organisation design
  4. Promise Theory is a useful approach to organisational agility

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I have been doing quite a bit of work recently with various organisations to help them develop new capabilities for building and evolving software-rich services. Part of this work involves thinking about the responsibilities of different teams and how these evolve. This blog post captures some thoughts and links on how the more successful organisations arrange themselves for agility and responsiveness.

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Continuous Deployment is a niche practice; Continuous Delivery is more fundamental.

Summary: many people confuse continuous deployment (pushing changes to live systems many times per day) with Continuous Delivery (reliable software releases through build, test, and deployment automation). Here is why I think that Continuous Delivery is the more fundamental practice.

(Update 1, 2017-11-02: clarified ‘continuous deployment’ and the on-premises context)

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