Key Takeaways

”We don’t have anything to demo, so let’s skip the review.”

”I don’t have time to attend the demo, and they’re so boring anyway. You can just tell me about it later.”

”We never get the feedback we need from our stakeholders in the review, so why bother?”

Do these statements sound familiar? We thought so. Over the years, we’ve heard some version of these statements thousands and thousands of times.

Yet, as agilists, we know the importance of showing our work and getting feedback as early as we possibly can. That feedback guides what we do next. We prefer the terminology “demo & feedback,” rather than   ”sprint review”  or “iteration review” because both leave out the word feedback. We think the language is important to getting the outcomes we want to achieve, thus demo & feedback makes sense. 

Here are some ways we’ve seen teams work:

  1. Skipping the demo with stakeholders. Some teams don’t take the time to demo at the end of the sprint, either by not having a demo, or by doing a “secret” demo that is only for the team. 
  2. The demo as a Q&A session. Hosting a demo that ends with nothing other than some questions being asked by the stakeholders and answered by our team do not give us the information we need to influence where we’re going next. The team is more focused on answering the questions than really listening to the stakeholders.

While 1 and 2 might provide some value to our customers, 3 will increase our chances of providing much more value:

  1. Getting useful feedback in the demo. In order to follow the value (during and after the demo & feedback session), teams need to understand and work on what stakeholders think and want. Team members are totally focused on listening and understanding – asking open questions, and going deeper to find out what’s behind stakeholders’ questions, rather than simply answering the questions.

To get what you need to meet the desires of your stakeholders, let’s first look at the demo itself, then we’ll go into the feedback part of the session, and finally, we’ll offer our suggestions for creating an amazing demo & feedback session.

The Demo

– Excerpt from our book TOGETHER – How leaders involve & engage people to get great things done – How leaders involve & engage people to get great things done

Stating the obvious, there is no way for us to know if we are on the right path unless we show what we’ve been doing! And, of course, it’s scary sometimes, especially if we are perfectionists who don’t want to fail, or have stakeholders who do not understand the concept of earliest testable product. And, demos can also be really boring if we continue to demo in the same old way – who wants to keep coming to that?

To solve perfectionism ordeal with stakeholders-who-want-finished-product issues, you simply need to do the demos, and repeat the message that we need to show early to validate that we’re on the right track. Repeat: “This is an earliest testable (or usable) product, not the final product.” Over time, your teams and your stakeholders will get past their discomfort and realize the value of these sessions.

Addressing the complaint that stakeholders find demos boring falls on the team. You can make your demos interesting by involving and engaging stakeholders. Tell stories, make video testimonials with the people who’ve been testing your potential release, outlining the good, the bad and the ugly. And finally, involve your stakeholders hands-on. To really understand, to really get a feel for what the product is all about, your stakeholders need to touch it. To use it. To see how it works for themselves. Not to watch you do it for them. 

As stakeholders are trying to gain a better understanding of the features/product you’re demonstrating, they are also asking questions. These Q&A discussions often lead to nowhere, as noted in the sidebar.

Stakeholder: ”Why is that green button located there?”

Team member: ”We think the location works well for the user.”

Then the discussion stops. Perhaps the stakeholder is interested in learning more about the UX or how often green buttons are clicked on versus other colors. And what about the development team? Do they really know if that location works well for the user? Have they talked to users? Have users been testing it? There are so many missed opportunities to create a deeper understanding, deeper discussions about what works and what doesn’t, what to keep, what to try, and where to go next. 

Instead, ask open questions to continue the conversation and have a better chance at getting to the heart of what’s on your stakeholders’ minds. That way, you can begin to get more information that will enable you and your team to make good decisions about what to focus on in the next sprint. 

Stakeholder: ”Why is that green button located there?”

Team member: ”What are your thoughts on the location?”

Stakeholder: “I’m not sure. Maybe it’s not about the location. I’m thinking about the size or perhaps the color. I’m not sure if that is what our customers want.”

Team member: “We could look at doing some AB tests on other locations and colors. How would that work for you?”

Stakeholder: “Yes, AB tests on the location of the button works for us. And, let’s get some additional research on what colors increase customer clicks.”

Now, we are getting at a deeper understanding together by listening with the intent to understand what our stakeholders are really thinking about the product we’re demoing. At the same time, we enable the team to move more quickly toward delivering value to customers – which is the purpose of the demo, right? 

But why does this matter, you might think? How important is the position or color of a button? Isn’t it just a waste of time to keep polishing the UI?

Here’s an example that shows that the UI matters more than most people think. A Danish insurance company wanted to increase their car insurance market share. They tried many different things on their car insurance product pages, talking about how amazing their car insurance was, what other customers had said about it, how reasonably priced it was, and even how it had been rated “best in test” year after year. Nothing happened. Market share remained the same. Then, someone on the car insurance team came up with this idea: “When I talk to our customers, many of them really want to talk about their car. They seem to care a lot about cars. Why don’t we start offering car maintenance tips and tricks and other editorial content about cars, and see what happens?” They did – and of course had a “Want to know more about our car insurance?” button in various places in the text. And bingo! They measured that the conversion rate from people who came from the editorial text was 35 times higher than people who started on the car insurance product page. And then they got curious: what about the price? Experiments showed that the placement of the “call to action” (on product page versus editorial text) was more important than the price. Even when adding 100% to the price for customers that came through the editorial pages, the conversion rate was still higher than people from the product pages.

So does the UI and the placement of the buttons matter?

To sum up, the only way to know whether we’re on the right track or not is to put early versions of our product in the hands of our customers. We like to think of this point in time as “the moment of truth.” There is absolutely no other way to know if we’re on the right track, AND No better way to guide our decisions about what to do next.

The Feedback

Feedback is the key to getting the information you need to direct what to do next – it is the demo´s natural partner. For those of you who have run design sprints, an entire day during the five-day sprint is devoted to getting feedback. Jake Knapp in his book Sprint-How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days, has many tips and tricks to getting feedback, including asking open-ended and “broken” questions (e.g., “So what?…. Ehmmm…?”) and repeating the message about how curious we are to hear what the customer thinks. 

The only place we diverge is where Knapp advises having an interviewer, rather than the team, run the demo and get the feedback. While we understand that this speeds things up, addresses the fact that the team may go on the defensive, and that the interviewer is objective and will not defend what’s been developed, we want to change habits in the team long term. We need to get team members used to getting feedback, to listening to understand, to asking curious questions themselves. This, we believe, creates greater sustainable value. And, we want to demo and get feedback together!

Getting feedback in demo & feedback sessions is not easy for a variety of reasons:

  1. Forgetting to get feedback. We’re in the habit of running demo sessions where we show, answer questions, and stop the conversation (as in the first example above), forgetting to actually get feedback.
  2. Not listening to understand. We tend to listen, not to understand, but to respond (perhaps even defend).
  3. Feedback = threat. Feedback inherently activates our amygdala (the brain’s threat center) so we’re wired to avoid it.
  4. No facilitation. We don’t set up the demo & feedback session to actually facilitate getting feedback.

Let’s take a look at the reasons one by one.

1. Forgetting to get feedback

To get out of the habit of running demos and not getting feedback, we need to change how we behave. Use your facilitation skills to involve and engage your stakeholders (more on that below in #4). Ask open-ended questions. Have a list of questions going in, for example:

2. Not listening to understand

It takes a lot of cognitive control to simply listen to understand, rather than preparing our response or our defense. The prefrontal cortex, the rational thinking part of the brain where listening to understand happens, can only focus on one cognitive task at a time. So, it is impossible to both listen and think about how you’ll respond at the same time. If you think you can, you are actually nano-switching between the two cognitive tasks which is exhausting and ineffective. Instead, there are things you can do to increase your ability to just listen, including: training your brain to stay focused via mindfulness; practicing staying silent and letting your stakeholder fill the silence gap with more of their thoughts on your potential release; and you can use questioning and observing techniques.

3. Feedback = threat

Feedback, in general, makes us want to run away, freeze in the moment or defend ourselves. It’s because getting feedback activates our amygdala, the threat region in the brain. Having said that, when we are in control of getting that feedback, we can mitigate that threat response. And if team members are the ones asking for feedback (and hopefully, facilitating getting the feedback) and thus in control of getting feedback, we’re minimizing the threat response and maximizing listening with the intent to understand.

And, we are human. We don’t like it when others don’t like what we’ve made. It puts us on the defensive. Again, it takes a lot of cognitive control to simply thank people for their feedback, and then ask more open questions to find out why they might not like it, and get input for what they would like to see us deliver next. This ability happens through practice. The only way to feel truly open to any type of feedback is to get it frequently, from as many people as possible, and then afterwards, take time to reflect on that feedback together with the team – making the decisions that guide what’s to be done in the next sprint. 

4. No facilitation

Getting the feedback you need to guide decision-making depends on facilitation. The feedback part of the demo & feedback session is not just a Q&A. Team members (or one member who takes the facilitator role in the session) need(s) to put on a facilitator hat and use techniques to involve and engage stakeholders in the demo and in getting feedback. Take the time to plan your demo & feedback session, talk to stakeholders ahead of time, and figure out what techniques you will use to involve and engage at each point along the way. Facilitators create the environment to get the valuable results you need. So, don’t just show and ask, facilitate!

A guide to a great demo & feedback session


After EVERY sprint (and more often if you need feedback before).

Who should attend

In addition to the team, invite people who have an interest and influence in what you’re developing. One recommendation to note: if there’s someone who is skeptical about your product, make sure to invite them, involving them early in the process so that you build the solution together and you take advantage of that divergent perspective. And, when you invite your stakeholders to the session, make sure you explain why their feedback is so critical to delivering the right product/service faster.

Here are some tips:

Setting it up

  1. Invite for both “demo & feedback” sessions – using those words to emphasize the purpose is both demonstrating results and getting feedback.
  2. Insist on having the demo and feedback session if your team or stakeholders are challenging the value of the time spent. Make it your responsibility. Tell stories about how teams, programs and even entire companies have succeeded or failed due to demos or lack of demos.
  3. Challenge the statement “But we have nothing to show” by asking (some days before the demo), “What is closest to done?” and then prioritize finishing that one thing. This is not only good for the feedback, but also helps shorten our lead time and improve our flow.
  4. Make sure that everyone knows that we’re not prioritizing or making any decisions about the feedback during the demo and feedback session. Let people know that the prioritization will happen during the next planning session, and who to get in touch with if they want to influence the prioritization.
  5. Prepare! Prepare the storyline that ties the different parts of the demo together and connect it to what real people are doing in the real world. And do a dry-run the day before. Like a dress rehearsal, preferably at the venue and with the exact physical and tech-setup (or virtual venue), that you will use for the actual demo. We never want to hear, “It worked on my computer yesterday” during a demo.


  1. Thank your stakeholders again for coming – and tell them again how important their feedback is in getting to the results customers will find valuable. 
  2. Explain the context of the Demo & Feedback session, including the outcome: feedback that will enable the team to make decisions about what to do next.
  3. Tell the story of this product or feature. Remind everyone of the context/customer journey (we often visualize the journey as a road, and point out where the product &/or feature fits on the road). Also remind people of the rationale/requirements that have been driving the development of what we’re about to see.
  4. When it’s time to actually demo what you’ve made, make sure it’s your stakeholders who are touching it, clicking on it, whatever. Get it in their hands, if at all possible. When they use it, they better able to understand it – and share what they like and what they are missing.


  1. Now you’ve demo’ed, it’s time for the feedback. Give your customers time to talk, think, reflect and wonder. Maybe get them out in breakouts for 10-15 minutes or out for a walk and talk, so they can talk freely – and away from you preventing you from being tempted to interrupt them in their thinking by explaining or making excuses about your product.
  2. Make sure that the customers have something physical/tangible available while they’re thinking. If your product is an IT system, have printed screen dumps or another device available where they can try it out or get access. If it’s a physical product, have it there. If it’s very small, have a bigger version there. If it’s a service or something else, be creative about making it physical.
  3. If you are demo’ing in person, have sticky notes, index cards or some other brainstorm-friendly mechanism, and make sure to capture the feedback.
  4. If you’re doing the demo online, try to mimic face-to-face as much as possible. By having screen dumps available in a tool where everyone can draw and write on the screen dumps – e.g., a collaboration tool like Miro or Mural or in MS Teams with Powerpoint.
  5. Stay away from Q&A style conversation. One way to do that is to postpone the answers and only allow questions and comments until the questions and comments are fading out. Then look for patterns, some deeper reasoning behind the questions and comments and try to understand where all the questions are coming from – and then start answering, still making sure to capture all the ideas, so they can be used as input for our way forward in the next sprints.
  6. Also stay away from questioning the feedback. Never use the word “scope creep” during a feedback session. It will shut them down instantly. And do not try to categorize inputs as errors or changes. It doesn’t matter for the success of the product. The only thing that matters is that there’s a discrepancy between how the product is working now and what would make it work successfully.
  7. Don’t worry about your plans during the feedback session. Stay confident that the prioritization of the input happens after, as a part of your next planning session. That will help you stay focused on being curious and just listen with the intend to understand.
  8. If you start to worry anyway, acknowledge that it’s okay that your stakeholders and customers do not necessarily know what they want from the beginning. Rather, they discover what they want and might change their minds during the process. And while that might feel cumbersome at times, this is the way to awesome products.
  9. Thank your stakeholders for attending and for their valuable feedback! Remind them of the next demo & feedback session (already in their calendars, we hope!).

Finally, the reason we want feedback is so that we can adjust the plan. Here’s an excerpt from our book TOGETHER on closing feedback loops:


Demo & feedback sessions are a key way to validate results together.  And of course, we must do this together. When organizations understand together, plan together, validate together, and reflect together, they create environments where people have influence, feel ownership, and get great things done. 

About the Authors

Jenni Jepsen and Ole Jepsen work as transformation advisors at Denmark-based goAgile, and are authors of the new book TOGETHER: How leaders involve & engage people to get great things done.

Jenni consults, writes and speaks worldwide about agile leadership, teams, and how to take advantage of how our brain’s function to get optimal thinking in the workplace. She runs Intent-Based Leadership™ courses together with award-winning author of Turn the Ship Around! L. David Marquet. She is also author of the Agile Leadership Mindset on 

Ole uses his expertise in Agile methodologies, Intent-Based Leadership™ and facilitation, to help get large programs back on track, and support leaders in organizations to create workplaces where people thrive and deliver value. Ole is active in the international Agile community, speaking at conferences and consulting worldwide. 

All over the world, there are classes that teach people how to flirt. A German university even requires their IT engineers take a flirting class—not to attract a partner, but to learn how to interact more effectively in the workplace. While it may sound “light” at first glance, flirting means connecting with others, and connecting is the key to good communication. That is what the first principal of the Agile Manifesto: individuals and interactions over processes and tools is all about.

Talented Agile Project Leaders know how to connect to improve understanding—getting the requirements spot on, working through crises or unreasonable demands—and, ultimately delivering the right product faster. This article explores how flirting techniques translate to use in a business setting—inspiring us to create stronger connections and greater understanding of our customers.

What is flirting and what can we learn by it?

When we talk about “flirting,” we are not talking about acting amorously without serious intent, as Webster defines it. We are talking about incorporating authenticity into the process, and in that sense, flirting is better defined as connecting with people—or better yet, making people feel valued through every interaction.

Seen from the business perspective, there is surprisingly much to learn from flirting. You can apply the same methods you would use to “score on a Friday night” to create greater understanding in the workplace. I’m not talking about romance at the office—this is simply about making connections that help you go from the “being-aware-that-you-want-to-connect” stage to the “mutual-desire-to-work-together” stage faster. A critical learning point is how you develop those relationships that make working together easier, more productive and more fun. A talented flirt asks questions, really listens for the responses and then takes action together with the person they are connecting with. Agile projects are built around this kind of great communication.

My partner, Ole Jepsen, and I have discovered there are 8 Steps to building a connection with customers to enhance communication and build business value. Flirting with your customers can create the connections that make a significant difference in a project’s success.

8 Steps to Flirting With Your Customers


Acknowledge importance of engaging the customer. Be aware that you want to connect.

Some people have their radars “on” when they go out—and some don’t. If you want to connect in either a romantic or business situation, you need to be aware of who is out there and who you need to connect with. You do that by acknowledging that you want to connect, because connecting is the first step in building a relationship and trust, both of which are extremely important in any Agile project.

This step sounds easy. Believe me, it’s not. You need to open yourself up to the possibilities of connecting. That takes confidence and awareness. Confidence comes from inside: knowing who you are and knowing that you are good at what you do. If you don’t always feel that way, there are some things you can do to increase your confidence level: exercise everyday, wear a clean shirt, pop a breath mint in your mouth, practice an opening line, smile. Prepare like you would for a blind date. Don’t change who you are, just make yourself even better—that increases confidence.

As for awareness…I just returned from the Agile2009 conference, where I spent nearly half an hour talking with some folks who sell Agile tools. The next morning, the two sales guys walked right by, completely unaware of me or any of the people around them (most of whom were also conference attendees—and potential customers). They simply walked with their eyes glazed over oblivious to what was happening around them. It was not on purpose, but it definitely was a missed opportunity to connect!


Find the power in the organization. Determine who you want to connect with.

The next step is to figure out who it is you need to connect with. If you need more detail on user requirements, having a connection with the business customer makes getting that information much easier. Know what you want to achieve by creating the connection. Is it to get a clearer picture of the project? Is it to deliver in shorter iterations? Is it to vent your frustration with the work? The purpose of the connection determines who the target is.

Sometimes the appointed user-representatives are not the ones with the real knowledge or the real power to help the project succeed. As an Agile project leader, you need to find out who you really need to connect with and then do so. If you don’t, chances are they will pop up when all decisions have been made and the product is being developed. And if they are strong enough, the can destroy the value that you just created.


Show and prove your interest in their perspectives. Show openness and interest.

Here’s your chance to practice your opening line…perhaps it’s something like this: “I’m working hard on this particular requirement and I’ve heard you made a difference on a similar project. Could we get a cup of coffee and talk more about what you did?”

This works the same way a good opening line works in a romantic situation. You want to make the other person feel noticed and valued. Don’t overdo it or you come off like the sleazy guy hitting on all the women in the bar. Make sure that when you show your interest, you have done your research. (Google your target if you need to.) You must genuinely compliment the one you are “moving in on.”

Remember too, that there’s a big difference between stopping by someone’s workspace to pass along information and stopping by to pass along information AND to ask them how their daughter’s swim meet turned out. If you are friendly and interested in the other person, your interactions become richer. People are more likely to share vital information with people they feel they are friends with.


Stand back and see what happens. Let the other have a chance to show that they are interested.

Connecting is a two-way. You must listen to understand where the person you want to connect with is coming from. Since I’m an American living in Denmark, I think it is appropriate to quote both Søren Kierkegaard, a prolific Danish philosopher, and Abraham Lincoln, a great American president, both living around the same time in the 1800s.

Kierkegaard said, “If one is truly to succeed in leading a person to a specific place, one must first and foremost take care to find him where he is and begin there.”

Lincoln said nearly the same with, ”When I’m getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say, and two-thirds thinking about him and what he is going to say.”

The next step to connecting is to give the other person a chance to come to you, and for you to listen.

But what if he or she doesn’t indicate interest? There are obstacles to creating valuable relationships. The biggest obstacle is that you may be talking too much, using up all the interaction time with what you have to say. The other person doesn’t have a chance to get a word in. Stop talking. Start listening. If you need help with this, I highly recommend using the Agile Analysis/9 Boxes questioning technique. It’s a great way to get people to talk with you. You can read more about it on Portia Tung’s blog: (This technique was developed by Solution Selling® as a tool to help avoid customer rejection.)

In the event that the other person truly shows no interest, just as you would in the bar, move on. Repeat steps #2-4. Determine the next best person to connect with in order to create the understanding you desire.


Share more. Be open.

In order to really understand customer requirements, it is critical to have an open and honest, and probably deep conversation about what is happening between the business and the project. Conversation like that only happens between people who have a close relationship. Sharing more about yourself, about your concerns and successes with the project, about whatever else is relevant will help create these close relationships.

It’s important too, to acknowledge “The Grey Zone.” Ole, my partner in all of this flirting business, is a firm believer in this. It helps lay everything out on the table. The grey zone, as Ole puts it, is the difference between what the customer hopes to get out of the project – and what the supplier hopes to get away with. It’s like buying oil-lamps in a Jerusalem bazaar: The tourist wants to get as many lamps as possible for his money. The salesman wants to get as much money for his lamps as possible. They are both valid viewpoints.

This natural conflict of interest exists in all development projects, even when there are “precise and complete specifications” – because there is always room for interpretation and misunderstandings. Requirements are “rubber bands sold by the meter.”

Even though this grey zone is always there, it is usually not talked about openly.

If we talk with the customers about this early in the project, then we share some honest and open thoughts with the customer, and chances are that the customer will do the same – even admitting that he is usually asking for more than he actually wants because he knows that he will probably not get everything he is asking for.

If you’re open, you are more likely to create an atmosphere that is equal and honest. People respond to openness. Sharing more with another person is risky, however. Opening up means making yourself vulnerable to being hurt. But if you are willing to take the risk, offering yourself up to someone shows trust—and most times that trust is returned. These trust-based relationships create value in your organization by allowing you to get the right information sooner to deliver the right product faster.

Enhancing the richness of the connection, increases understanding and business value.


Go out with the customer. Have some fun.

Strong relationships are multi-dimensional. To see the more relaxed side of a person and get to know them better, you need to go out and have some fun! We playfully say “dance,” because you’ve had your drink at the bar and shared some experiences, now it’s time to go out on the dance floor. Fun does have a purpose.

Spend some time out of the office, it can be as simple as going out to a bar, mingling with your team and your customers. Don’t sit down. Maintain your ability to move around and connect with the folks you want to connect with. Your fun activities should enhance the opportunity to communicate. The opposite happens if you have a “Paintball War,” or go to the shooting range. Even bowling inhibits conversation, because just as you get started connecting, it’s your turn to bowl. You can’t connect in the 30 seconds between turns.

If you come up with activities like playing board games, or going to an art class, or any activity that allows on-to-one communication, you build your relationship. You see another side, and that makes your connection richer.


Work through a crisis together. Get real with the one you’re connecting with.

Nothing solidifies a relationship more than having survived a crisis together. The key to this is surviving the crisis. Many romantic relationships fall apart when the couple has an issue that one or both parties cannot deal with. On the other hand, if they get through their difficulties, the relationship becomes stronger. There is a feeling of “we survived this, we can survive anything.” The same happens in a business relationship.

A few years back I worked as a project manager for a large public relations agency. Our team was given two weeks to deliver a multi-faceted program for our client who specialized in international risk management. After one week, the client called and said he was going to Paris the next day and needed whatever we had. Panic struck. This would be impossible. Anthony, the graphic designer on our team was the one who had to produce the mock-up our client would show in Paris. He told me he could not get it done. I said, “We have exactly 20 hours before Allan, our customer, gets on that plane. What can I do to help you make this happen?” I got in my car, drove around getting all the supplies we needed, and then headed to Anthony’s home office where we worked through the night developing the product. We were dead-tired when we finished, but proud of what we had accomplished. Anthony called me as I drove to the airport to deliver the materials. He thought what we had just done “rocked” and he hoped I never asked him to do that again. However, if I did, he knew I’d be there right in the trenches with him to make it happen. Needless to say, our client was also delighted by the speedy results.

I was able to convince Anthony by laying the cards on the table: this was our next-to-impossible task. Then by staying positive through all the doubts and solving the “crisis” together, we developed an even closer working relationship. We created trust, and this in turn created great value for our company.


Enjoy the relationship with the customer. Take advantage of the mutual desire to be together.

Congratulations, now you are connected! It’s not all light and fun. It’s impossible to deliver the right product on time without help. You depend on others for your mutual success. It’s a mindset: you approach a situation differently if you believe you cannot succeed by yourself.

Creating these connections is truly a way to build value in your organization. You learn how to understand your customers and the subtleties of their needs. Keep connecting. Like all good relationships, maintaining it and finding new ways to keep things fresh strengthens your connection even more.

Flirting with your customers is important. It helps build relationships that create business value—and these relationships don’t just happen by themselves. It requires desire and commitment—in other words, it takes work.

To help people get through the pain of change, be available for your team members, and transparent in how you share information. Watch Jenni’s Leadership Nudge on why leaders must support and encourage people through change.

Chunking work into shorter complete cycles by scheduling a pause gives us a chance to reflect on the completed work and decide on the next step. The added benefit of many completes within the scope of a project allows for improvements to take place.