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Looking back at Sprint 16

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Events, Guidance

Image taken at Sprint 16 showing a stage with a full audience looking at the speaker

Why we do Sprint

Every year, our Sprint event allows GDS to take look back at the work we did in the last 12 months, and to look at the new goals and challenges in the coming year.

Sprint allows us to communicate how GDS and our colleagues in government departments are working together to transform government, collaborate, and deliver together for the benefit of public services and users.

We share our successes, challenges, thoughts, and lessons learned with our colleagues and stakeholders through varied formats and sessions, including small workshops, live demos, and presentations. We keep the format as interactive as possible with time for people to network and problem share.

Our audience includes government ministers, civil servants, media, suppliers, stakeholders  and representatives from international governments.

Bigger and better than last time  

It’s important that we listen to our audience which is something I discussed in my previous blog post about crowdsourcing and audience engagement. To make sure our content was relevant and useful, we crowdsourced the agenda. The feedback influenced the topics and format on the day, and resulted in our most popular workshop session.

We also ran a live Periscope of that session so we could reach a wider audience with the insights shared.

This was the biggest and most attended Sprint we’ve produced, with almost 600 attendees including all our extra guests, and a waiting list of over 200.

Making it happen

As one of our speakers said at Sprint 16: “Great technology is something you hardly notice.”

A great event should look effortless - but behind the scenes, there’s a lot of work to make sure the day goes smoothly.

A lot of technology and coordination is involved to allow more content and speakers into a tight schedule. We also radically changed the existing venue setup. In just one day, the space was transformed, and we’re sure no one visiting the three separate and unique areas we created for different sessions were part of a dining area only hours before.

We provide a wide range of content and formats - including video broadcasts, small workshops, large keynote presentations, and live content. We try to not just put everyone in a room and talk at them but engage and share information in different and more effective ways. Good WiFi is essential and we build in additional bandwidth to provide reliable coverage and reliable platforms to share our work.

All this was achieved by a small events team, which tried new approaches to make Sprint 16 a major success.

We use social media, blogs, videos and strong visuals to help communicate the messaging, so that anyone who isn’t attending the event, can follow the action. Take a look at the visual identity work here, and our team will be blogging more about the production and social media area soon.

The fundamental principles behind our Sprint events are:

User first: This is the primary starting point for every event Sprint event. It’s a main objective and theme throughout the event narrative. It should be interactive, engaging, and content should be sculpted by the needs of the audience.

Collaboration: making sure the content is not just driven by GDS and reflects the bigger picture with departmental engagement and ministerial input.

Accessibility: ensuring the venue is equipped with disabled access throughout, sharing information pre and post event on different channels  and trying to engage with everyone including live content.

Narrative:  the story and objectives of the events set out through a narrative which also helps structure the event. Ensuring content is on point, messages and information delivered in a useful and engaging way for the audience.

Diversity: commitment to ensuring there is an equal and diverse representation across all of our event platforms.

Audience engagement: Giving the audience a chance to shape the content and what is helpful for them via social media platforms and live content.  Post event information sharing and collaboration with departments and services external to GDS. Giving delegates the chance to get together in one space and discuss future goals and problem sharing with those already into the journey.

Delegate experience: Ensuring delegate engagement is clear and helpful, WiFi is accessible, our registration and arrival systems are easy to use. We want to, provide the audience with an environment to engage and learn, structured in a way that is best suited to the needs of the delegates.

Impact and feedback

On top of our record attendance in person, we also had our best media impact with lots of articles and press coverage, including national publications.

The live coverage resulted in a high level of social media engagement: 50% higher than last year.

To make sure we continually improve we asked attendees to give us feedback through a brief survey straight after the event. 98% of respondents were happy with the venue and its location, and 100% were interested in future events.

Looking ahead to Sprint 17

The dust has barely settled on Sprint 16, but learning and improving is central to everything we do, so we’re already thinking about how we can build on the successes of this year’s event.

We want Sprint 17 to be even more inclusive, collaborative, and diverse. We want to expand on the collaborative, crowdsourced approach to creating our content and format, and find ways to make the day itself more collaborative and conversational with our attendees.

We will locate a larger venue to accommodate a greater number of delegates, and create a lineup that is diverse and in keeping with the guidelines and objectives set out by Stephen Foreshew-Cain in his recent blog post about ‘diversity at conferences and events’.

The live coverage had such a big impact on overall engagement, we hope to expand on this even further next time.

And, as we already fit so much into just a half day event, we will consider lengthening Sprint 17 to make sure we get to show the best of all our speakers and topics. We want to give everyone the time they need to convey their message and give delegates a full learning experience with time to network with people working on the same projects but rarely get to meet.

Lastly, we will be bold and continue to develop the Sprint showcase, exploring new technologies and ways to share information and listening to the feedback we receive.

So do follow us on Twitter and our blogs to keep up to date with plans for Sprint 17 next year.

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  1. Comment by Adam posted on

    It is good to invite delegates that are diverse as well as having a speaker list that is diverse. Given GDS are committed to working in the open, please could the numbers showing the percentage of delegates who were disabled and the percentage of delegates who were from a BAME background at Sprint 16 be published?

    • Replies to Adam>

      Comment by Natalie Wootton posted on

      Hi Adam,

      Thanks for the comment.

      We don’t record this type of information from delegates. So I’m afraid we aren’t able to provide that information.

      We always use venues that are accessible friendly for our events. And when requested in the past, including at Sprint 16, we accommodate delegates with special needs.

      Thank you.