The show and tell: what it’s for and how to do it right

Mark Dalgarno
4 min readJan 11, 2018


The show and tell (also known as sprint review, sprint demo, team review or iteration review) is an important agile practice. It’s a regular meeting that allows teams to celebrate their work and talk about what they’ve learned. It’s also a chance to:

  • bring the team together, helping stakeholders and others bond with the team by sharing success and improving collaboration
  • let teams you’re working with know what you’re up to, highlight progress where dependencies exist and keep teams connected
  • tell stakeholders what you’ve been doing and take their questions and feedback — a form of governance

Having stakeholders come to you and participate in the meeting — we call this ‘Go see for yourself’ — is the best form of governance. It encourages transparency. Reports can be massaged; it’s harder to hide problems when you have to talk about what you’ve learned and show your work.

Show and tells are about showing the work done in the past increment. The point is to solicit feedback, so you should include work in progress as well as finished products. Use them to give people a glimpse ‘behind the curtain’ — to humanise the work.

How to run a great show and tell

  • Don’t ad lib: 30–60 minutes of preparation to decide what to focus on is ideal, but don’t prepare extra material just for the show and tell
  • Spread the work of running and presenting the show and tell across the team
  • The delivery manager or product owner typically leads the meeting, but this needn’t be the case (the issue is often the confidence of others to do it)
  • If show and tells are a new thing at your organisation, remind people what they are and why you do them (also mention this in the meeting invitation)
  • Start by recapping on why you’re doing the work (vision, goals) and what you’ve been focusing on in the past increment (tying that back to the goals if it isn’t clear)
  • Show — software, user research, prototypes, clickable screens, content, analytics data (anything that makes sense to show)
  • Show your work in progress — get feedback — but make it clear it’s not yet shippable
  • Talk about what you’ve learned, new insights, (in)validated hypotheses — don’t just show your artefacts
  • Do it at your team’s wall or in a separate room
  • Minimise technology and other dependencies — rehearse technology (screens, mics, video conferencing etc) ahead of time if needed
  • Invite stakeholders, people you’re collaborating with, interested parties

Tips for better show and tells

  • Be mindful of your audience needs — what’s in it for them to participate — as well as what you need to get out of their involvement
  • Remember that some people may be new to agile ways of working and how Show&Tells work as well as being new to your project
  • Don’t spend a long time preparing for a show and tell — it shouldn’t be a theatrical production
  • Don’t just talk about the work — show it! Tell a story about how you did it; what you’ve learned — make the meeting engaging and tie what you’ve done to stakeholder or user needs
  • If you’ve done ‘backend’ work talk about what it enables that your stakeholders or users care about. This can be a difficult sometimes so you may have to do extra work to ‘spice up’ how you present that
  • Talk about what you’ve learned: show user research clips, prototype interfaces, your analytics data
  • Talk about stuff you tried but that didn’t work out — explain why it didn’t work out
  • Take questions throughout — but be prepared to take long discussions offline and keep the questioning focused
  • Make sure everyone knows their role in the meeting
  • Explain to your audience ahead of time what’s expected of them if they are unfamiliar with the purpose of the meeting
  • As an audience member, be supportive, ask questions, offer praise, thanks and constructive criticism
  • Keep the audience engaged, get their feedback — during the meeting, ask stakeholders to demo or talk about what you’ve learned to make them feel part of the work
  • Create a “How to do show and tells” guide for your organisation, including technology set-up, and evolve it as you learn more

Show and tells must be done regularly for them to be effective. Not doing them regularly could be a sign that:

  • the team isn’t focusing enough on delivering value in each increment
  • the team isn’t getting value from them
  • stakeholders are not participating

Thanks to Beck Thompson for content design assistance on this article.


An epiphany about sprint review demos during a wine tasting — Craig Boxall

GOV.UK Service Manual — Show&Tells

A sprint review should be much more than just a demo — Agil8

Show and Tell: Connecting as a Team — Hootsuite

Update 16-Jun-2018
Emily Webber has written a good article on remote Show&Tells:

Update 14th September 2022

Circulating a recording of your Show&Tell so that people can watch at their leisure is a good way of extending the reach of your team and allowing for part-time workers schedules.

I’ve worked with many teams that do this but I think our team at DCMS takes it a little further with a couple of things you might try — one is straightforward with the right recording tools and this is captioning the recording, which makes it more accessible, the second is to include a time breakdown of the Show&Tell in the email (or Slack message) circulating the recording. Listing what happens at different points of the recording allows people who are not interested in the whole recording just to dip into that bit, making it more efficient for them and generating more engagement for your team. I’ve already stolen this tip for other Create/Change teams…