Taking a leaf out of the XP book and in particular test driven development I have had some successes in using this idea when doing a presentation. I have dubbed the idea ‘Test driven talks’. The basic idea is to quickly canvas the audience for things that they would like covered during the presentation. Once these have been captured on a whiteboard or flip-chart.

The next step is to filter the topics in the same way as an agile team accepts stories into an iteration it is likely that I wont be able to cover all the expectations from the audience. The nice thing about this step is that I can manage people’s expectations. If I accept a question or topic then people should expect me to satisfy them. If I reject the topic then people know that I won’t be able to satisfy their need.

If the talk is going to be repeated then each time it is done involving the ‘Test Driven Talk’ approach allows me to tune the talk to satisfy a greater proportion of the audience. It also provides inspiration for other related talks – based on audience need.

I am not sure how this approach will work for larger audiences. And I am not sure what the break point in audience size is but hopefully over time I will be able to refine the technique and gather more data about how effective it is. Given that I am not a known or popular speaker finding speaking opportunities is likely to be a challenge but maybe in the space of a year I might find enough events to gather enough data points to prove or disprove the effectiveness of the technique.

If anyone else is trying this sort of thing I would love to hear about your experiences

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