Tips for organizing a sprint
Keep a spreadsheet of all participants. It should have columns for all key information, such as:
name, email, etc
bringing a laptop?
sprint arrival time
- flight arrival time / flight number
sprint departure time (this is essential later)
- flight departure time / flight number
hotel / accommodation with telephone
mobile phone number
For timing, plan that the people coming from far away arrive the night before (insist on this), and leave only in the evening of the last day (or the next day). This prevents chaos and disruption at the beginning and end.
Write directions from the airport, train station, by car, and so forth. The directions should be to the hotel / accommodation. Send an email with this info, and include links to a mapping site (copy the query from the browser if you can). If the sprint is far from the hotel, include a link to its location as well. If the hotel has a website, include its URL.
Locate – in advance – a hardware store or electronics store that carries electrical adapters for foreign countries.
If you're doing the organizing, think of yourself as the producer, and don't expect to get much sprinting done.
Remember that people who've travelled into town will need dinner and want to gather together on the pre-sprint night. Organize a dinner at a restaurant. Choose one that can deal with people trickling in.
Make a ‘welcome package’ and leave it at the hotel for each participant (remember that you only know when they are supposed to arrive, the actuality will be different, read: later). The package should include a map of the city (see if you can get free ones at the tourist office). On the map or a printout mark the location of the hotel, the restaurant for the first night, and the sprint location. Include a note that people are gathering at the “first night restaurant”, the dinner time, and your mobile phone number (don't assume that people already have it because you mailed it to them).
To make the sprint successful, the participants should only think about the software. All other issues (the basics of life) should be taken care of by the organizers.
The sprint space should be flexible, allowing people to move around and form groups in an ad hoc manner.
There will be an introduction or tutorial, and perhaps presentations in the course of the sprint. Create a presentation area, with beamer, projection screen, and a podium or place for a laptop. If space allows, make the presentation area central and permanent. In Rotterdam we had the luxury of four beamers, and we kept them beaming as people worked, creating an electric atmosphere.
If you can get one, have a long monitor cable for the beamer. This allows sprinters to stay in their seat and present, avoiding shuffling of people and equipment.
If the space needs it, provide a microphone / PA system (this also helps to keep the focus on the speaker, drowning out inevitable mutterings). The clip-on type of microphone is preferable to one you have to hold. Radio mikes are the best. Jim Fulton says he doesn't need a mike (tell him it makes him even more photogenic).
Make sure there are good chairs. If you're renting them, spend the extra money on quality seating.
Whiteboards are real assets to the process. Get as many as you can, and enough markers. A flip chart is a good second (have extra pads). Have some paper around too.
Try and avoid bright fluorescent lighting. Use as much daylight as possible, but filter it if it's too much. Low light levels work better for monitors and create a quiet and relaxed atmosphere.
People will need to have checkin rights in the ZC CVS. This is actually Zope Corporation's problem, and should be taken care of before people arrive. Not everybody will have it done. Help to smooth the process by having paper printouts of the contract on hand and fax access.
Don't underestimate the amount of Internet / ethernet connections. People will move around, and shouldn't have to spend time running cables, which invariably end up crossing traffic paths. Wireless is of course wonderful. If DHCP is not an option, have several lists of IP numbers and gateway / DNS settings printed out.
Try and have extra hardware and supplies (laptop power converters, push pins, tape, post-it notes).
The sprint participants will be ‘on a roll’, and many will want to work in the evening too. Sometimes evening sessions are organized, where people present / review the work of the day. If the sprint location can't stay open in the evening, try and figure something else out (a room in a restaurant, a quiet area in a hotel). If there's no other option people will work in the hotel lobby.
People should be responsible for their own equipment. Leaving things overnight at the sprint location is “at your own risk”.
In the morning there should be coffee, tea, and juice (presumably people have had breakfast at the hotel, and if they are staying at other accommodations, make sure it's taken care of).
Have lots of cola and mineral water on hand, all day.
For lunch it's best to do it in the sprint location. Going out takes too much time and splits up the group. For the Rotterdam sprint we bought sandwich makings and spread them out buffet style every day. Nobody complained, and at the end I collected a couple euros per day to cover the costs (using the spreadsheet to track who ate when). Check with vegetarians about what they eat for lunch. Always have some fruit around.
For dinner there are two ways to go. Organize a big dinner at a restaurant or let people split up into groups. It depends on the size of the group, but organizing a dinner at a restaurant becomes problematic (different tastes, costs, some people want to eat separately anyway).
If you organize a big dinner, price will be an issue. A lot of people are on low budgets. Make a reservation – and a deal – in advance at the restaurant. If people order normally (from the menu) it'll take all night. Work out a limited menu that the kitchen can serve quickly, for a low price. Include vegetarian dishes. Chinese restaurants work the best due to their platter in the middle style. Watch out for the cost of alcoholic drinks (that's where restaurants earn their profit) since some people drink much more than others.
At the restaurant, keep an eye on where people are putting their expensive laptops.
Compile a list of local restaurants with short descriptions, location (map) and price. Post this at the sprint location, allowing people to decide when and where they want to go. Locate a couple take-out restaurants too. Some people will want to work through dinner. Also find a late night option, for those who skip dinner and get hungry later. Most restaurants will let you borrow a menu.
Social types will want to go out later (bad idea, tell them everything is closed ;-) so have a couple locations in mind.
On the last day the team will inevitably run out of time. Try and keep people focused until the end. It's easy to overestimate the amount of time needed for the takedown. If everybody helps, 15 minutes is enough.
People will check out of their hotel on the morning of the last day, and many will bring their luggage with them to the sprint. Have a secure and out of the way place ready. If the hotel is close by, ask people to leave their luggage there.
Some people who have the time will want to see attractions, or do a little shopping for kids or friends.