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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Wait. Eventually you’ll receive a call or email. Sound competent. Know your topic and be prepared to answer tough questions about it.
- 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.
BTW - Speaking at conferences has both advantages and disadvantages to consider.
- 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.
- 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.