Attendee-led Conversations

This year, to help experienced Lean Startup practitioners share knowledge,  we’re experimenting with attendee-led conversations and dedicating several breakout sessions each day for you to hold focused conversations with each other.

We’ve gathered topic suggestions from attendees registered through December 4 and received nearly 100 submissions for just 12 slots. The topics, times and rooms are listed here; most sessions allow for advanced discussion.

While we’ll train dedicated attendees to facilitate these conversations, we also hope and expect that everyone who attends them will participate. These sessions are designed to be discussions rather than presentations, and their quality will depend on your pooled knowledge. Below are the guidelines we ask all conversation leaders and participants to follow.

If you plan to attend a conversation, please come prepared to participate. We’ve worked with the conversation leaders (all of whom are conference attendees) to establish guidelines for the content and format of each session — so you should expect a discussion that basically follows the points below. All attendee-led sessions are 40 minutes.

The Content

The session will open with about two minutes from the conversation leader on the topic they’d like to discuss and why they suggested it. Then they’ll explain how the format works, and the conversation will cover these points. Before you arrive, spend a few minutes thinking about them, so that you can contribute to the conversation:

  • Challenges everyone has faced on the topic
  • Solutions everyone has tried
  • Tools everyone has used and how you’ve used them
  • Deeper issues, or second-order issues, everyone in the room has discovered

The Format

In a conversation with a group of strangers, there are two issues that may prevent everyone in the room from sharing their experiences and thus generating the most ideas that the whole group can benefit from:

We’re going to proactively address those issues by using a technique called “taking stack.” The stack is a list of participants who want to speak. If you want to say something, you raise your hand, and the session leader puts your name at the bottom of the stack. (If they don’t know your name or can’t see it on your badge, they may identify you by a piece of clothing, like “green sweater” or “blue shirt.”) When the person at the top of stack has finished speaking, the session leader crosses their names off and motions for the next person on the list. Note that the person who keeps the stack does not have to be the session leader. If you want to help out a session leader and volunteer to take stack, feel free.

The stack itself looks like this:

Yellow scarf
White shirt

If somebody in the room winds up on the stack a lot, the session leader can choose to bump up others in order to balance out the conversation. The session leader can also designate a time limit of one or two minutes for all comments.

We ask that as part of our experiment in attendee-led conversations, you follow this system and refrain from interrupting, too. (We know quite intimately how hard that will be.)