Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Making a conference talk practical (for me)

I've again had the annual pleasure of talking *amazing* people from around the world, both seasoned speakers and new, and get inspired by their stories. It pains me to know that a small percentage of all the awesome people can be selected, and that our specific selection criteria of practical relevance makes it even harder for many people. Simultaneously, I'm delighted to realize that while I may say no on behalf of European Testing Conference 2018, I could help those people make their proposals stronger for other conferences.

Today, however, I wanted to write down my thoughts on what is a talk that is practical, to me.

I've had the pleasure of listening to lots of presenters on lots of topics, and over time, I've started recognizing patterns. There's one typical talk type, usually around themes such as security testing, performance testing, test automation and shifting work left that I've categorized into a talk about importance of a thing. This is one where the core message is selling an idea: "bringing testers into the whole lifecycle in agile is important". "Test automation is hard and important". "Performance testing continuously is important".

I get this. Important. But I know this. My question is, if it is important, what do I do. So here are stories I'd rather hear that make this practical.

1) I sort of knew X was important,  but we did not do it. We failed this way. And after we failed, we learned. This is specifically what we learned and how we approached solving the problem. So, learn from my mistakes and make your own.

2) I'm an expert in X, and you may be an expert or a novice. But if you try doing X, you could try doing this specific thing in X in this way, because I find that it has been helpful.  This answers your questions of how after quickly introducing what and enables you to leave this conference knowing what you can do, not just that you will need to do something.

3) Here's a concept I run into. Here's how I applied it in my project, and here's what changed. Here's some other concepts we're thinking of trying out next.

Assume important or necessary is a prerequisite. What would you say in your talk then?