Last week, at STARCanada, I met several enthusiastic testers who might make great testing conference speakers.  We need you.  Life is too short for crappy conference talks.

I’m no pro by any means.  But I have been a track speaker at STARWest,  STARCanada, STPCon, and will be speaking at STAREast in 2 weeks. 

Ready to give it a go?  Here is my advice on procuring your first speaking slot:

  1. Get some public speaking experience.  They are probably not going to pick you without speaking experience.  If you need experience, try speaking to a group of testers at your own company, at an IT group that meets within your city, volunteer for an emerging topic talk or sign up for a lightning talk at a conference that offers those, like CAST.
  2. Come up with a killer topic.  See what speakers are currently talking about and talk about something fresh.  Make sure your topic can appeal to a wider audience.  Experience reports seem appealing.
  3. Referrals – meet some speakers or industry leaders with some clout and ask them to review your talk.  If they like it, maybe they would consider putting in a good word for you.
  4. Pick one or more conferences and search for their speaker submission deadlines and forms (e.g., Speaking At SQE Conferences).  If you’ve attended conferences, you are probably already on their mailing list and may be receiving said requests.  I’m guessing the 2014 SQE conference speaker submission will open in a few months.
  5. Submit the speaker submission form.  Make sure you have an interesting sounding title.  You’ll be asked for a summary of your talk including take-aways and maybe how you intend to give it.  This is a good place to offer something creative about the way you will deliver your topic (e.g., you made a short video, you will do a hands-on group exercise).
  6. Wait.  Eventually you’ll receive a call or email.  Sound competent.  Know your topic and be prepared to answer tough questions about it.
  7. If you get rejected.  Politely ask what you could do differently to have a better chance of getting picked in the future.

It is not easy to get picked.  I was rejected several times and eventually got a nice referral from Lynn McKee, an experienced speaker with a great reputation; that helped.  One of my friends and colleagues, who is far more capable than I am, IMO, has yet to get picked up as a speaker.  So I don’t know what secret sauce they are looking for.

Good luck!

 

BTW - Speaking at conferences has both advantages and disadvantages to consider.

Advantages:

  • The opportunity to build your reputation as an expert of sorts in the testing community.
  • It helps you refine your ideas and possibly spread knowledge.
  • Free registration fees.  This makes it more likely your company will pay your hotel/travel costs and let you attend.

Disadvantages:

  • Public speaking is scary as hell for most of us.  The weeks leading up to a conference can be stressful.
  • Putting together good talks and practicing takes lots of time.  I took days off work to prepare.

12 comments:

  1. Phil said...

    Nice timing with this post as I'm thinking about doing it.
    How did you come up with your topic?

  2. Yehuda said...

    Good to know. I'm trying to think of the killer concept first. Still have to work on eliminating "um" from my dictionary. And "like" too.

  3. Dave McNulla said...

    If you are working on sounding better in your talks, try Toastmasters. It worked for me. And my powerpoint skills are much stronger now.

  4. Eric Jacobson said...

    Phil,

    Pay attention at work. Have you come up with anything on your own that can help people be better testers? Check the conference talks. Has anyone spoke on it yet?

    I loved the advice Adam Goucher gave me years ago. He said, figure out what you're good at. I'm still looking, but I think his statement helps me recognize things I may be good at, which leads me to a talk topic.

  5. Calkelpdiver said...

    I started speaking/presenting as part of my job at a consulting company. We used case studies of work we had done (good and bad) on different topics. We did that to help share our experiences, and help promote our company.

    I've kept with it the past few years because I'm working on building up my credentials, but also at times I feel that I have something really relevant to talk about or a subject that I think needs discussion on. After 20+ years of testing experience I'm trying to give some back.

    The key things for me are have a topic you are passionate about. Create a presentation that will get a message/lesson across. Learn how to speak to a group by first doing dry runs with our presentation in an empty room. Work on your breathing and pacing yourself while you talk. Be sure to keep yourself active (move around a little) and learn to project your voice.

    Then as you get better have a few friends sit in and present to them. Get used to speaking in a large room. Once that is done the number of people gets easier to handle. And right before your talk at the conference take a deep breath and relax. Visualize the empty room, and then go for it. Just remember to breath and keep your pace. Practice makes perfect.

    Jim Hazen

  6. badbud65 said...

    I got a speaker spot by pure luck at the upcoming Romanian Test Conference. All I did was enquire about tickets and one week later they offered me an hours slot.

    To say I'm scared is an understatement by a factor of millions. However to have not accepted this opportunity would have been foolish.

    I'm confident in my topic as it's mostly experiential with smatterings of facts to back my arguments, but the getting up there and talking to a huge crowd is unbelievably scary.

    I personally think it's the act of presenting in front of people that stops many from even trying but if you don't try how will you know if you like it or not?

  7. badbud65 said...

    I got extremely lucky with my first talk opportunity, all I did was enquire about tickets for the upcoming Romanian Test Conference in May. The conversations continued and within a week I was offered an hours slot in there schedule.

    I obviously accepted as I'd have been a fool not to, but the stress and fear I feel presently is immense.

    I'm confident with my topic as its mostly experiential with a smattering of facts, but actually getting up on a stage in front of up to 200 people is mind blowingly scary.

    I've never spoken in front of a huge crowd, I do run my own testing group where there are 30 to 40 people, a lot of them I know so that makes it more comfortable, but this situation is massively different.

    However I'm still doing it regardless of the nervous shakes.

  8. Yehuda Miller said...

    Eric,

    I just presented to my QA team about "not testing" scenarios. It sparked a really good discussion at the end and was a really great experience. Thanks for the source material and the ideas. It was so great hearing the ideas from you.

  9. Woodworking machinery said...

    Thanks for Sharing this article.
    I really think my Team leader Should read this post & learn something.

  10. Janelle Buskohl said...

    Have you done testing on the Responsive Web Design and could speak on this topic? I requested a topic on this for Star West in Anaheim Fall 2013 & they do not have a session on RWD testing. Any ideas on what to test for? and are there issues with a specific browser? Thank you, please reply to janelle.buskohl@swansonhealth.com

  11. Eric Jacobson said...

    Janelle, I'm not familiar with RWD and I have not seen this topic at conferences.

    So guess what? You are on to something! You've found your motivation. Here's my advice: Take a stab at testing it and propose an experience report talk at a conference. The proposed talk will motivate you to think through your testing better. The good news is, even if you fail and do a terrible job testing RWD, you'll still have a compelling story to share.

  12. Yehuda Miller said...

    Janelle,

    My company recently rolled out RWD on two of our sites and have another one rolling out soon. It's been a real challenge to test but I think we all did a pretty good job. If you'd like to check it out visit www dot giftcards dot com. You can also email me for further discussion on the topic at yehudaqa@gmail.com.

    Good luck and great idea Eric to do a talk about it.



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