Saturday, September 9, 2017

Talking to 120 people just for a conference

I'm doing the last two days of intensive discussions with people all around the world. Intensive in the sense that I hate small talk. These people are mostly people I have never met. It could be my worst nightmare. But it isn't. It's the best form of socializing I can personally think of.

We had 120 people submit for European Testing Conference 2018. Instead of spending time reading their abstracts, we spend time talking to the people, to hear not just their pitch but their stories and lessons. Each one gets 15 minutes. In this 15 minutes, they both introduce all their topics, but also, get feedback on what we heard (and read during the session), and as an end result, we walk out with one more connection. 

Entering the call, some people are confused on why we care so little on introduction and professional history. We assume awesome. We assume relevance. And we are right to assume that, since each and every one of us has unique perspectives worth sharing. Connection is a basic human need, and volunteering to speak on something that matters to you makes you worthy.

The discussion is then centered around what ever topic the one with a proposal brought into the discussion. It's not about small talk, but about sharing specific experiences and finding the best voice and story within those experiences to consider for the conference.

When I tell people about the way we do things for the call of collaboration, the first question tends to be around use of time. 120 people, 15 minutes, that is 30 hours! And not just that, we pair on the discussions, making it even a bigger investment. But it is so worth it.

The investment gives the conference a real idea of what the person will bring and teach, and enables us to help in avoiding overlap and build a fuller picture of what testing is about. Similarly, it gives us the best speakers, because we choose based on speaking not writing. It brings forth unique aspects of diverse perspectives that enable us to balance our selection. The conference gets an awesome program and I do not know any other mechanism to build a program like this.

The investment gives the people collaborating with us a piece of feedback they usually never get. They get to talk to organizers, hear how their talks and topics balance with the current topics people are sharing. Many people come in with one topic, and walk out with several potential talk topics. And even if they get nothing else, they get to meet new people who love testing from some angle just as much as they do. 

The investment gives most to me personally. With only 30 hours, I get to meet some of the most awesome people in the world. I get private teaching, specifically answering questions I raise on the topics we talk on. I get to see what people who want to speak share as experiences, and I get to recognize what is unique. I become yet better at being a source of all things testing, who can point out where to go for the deeper information. It improves my ability to google, and to connect things I hear into a view of world of all things testing. 

I've met awesome developers, who enforce my restored belief in the positive future of our industry. I've met testers and test managers, who work the trenches getting awesome value delivered. I've met designers and UX specialists, who want to bridge the gaps we have between professions and share great stuff. Some stories teach stuff I know with a personal slant. Some bring in perspectives I wasn't aware of. 

It's been a privilege to talk to all these people. I see a connection from what we do for collaboration calls to what we do with our speed meet session. We give every one of our participants a change to glimpse into stuff the other knows without small talk. A connection made can turn into a lifetime of mutual learning.