2016 is the year in which I start speaking at Software Testing Conferences. And now that we’re reaching the end of November (and thus the end of 2015), the reality is starting to hit me and I’m getting more than a tad nervous.

I’m very excited to have been accepted to speak at two conferences in the first half of 2016: Let’s Test (through the Speak Easy Program with the support and encouragement of my mentor Maria) and TestBash.

Here, I’d like to go into why I’ve decided to start speaking at conferences. To be honest, there’s no one clear reason which has led me to this point – but a bunch of things that have added up. In writing this I hope to inspire people who have wishfully thought about presenting at a conference, but doubted themselves thinking “Why would anyone want to hear from me? Why would anyone want to hear what I have to say?” I also want to simply share my experience in deciding to speak. Other people who have spoken at conferences, no doubt have their own reasons – some of which may be similar to mine.

My Public Speaking Background

I have a bit of experience public speaking – while I like to think I can go up in front of an audience and speak on a topic in a seemingly confident way, the thought still freaks me out considerably.

In bullet point format this is a rough outline of my public speaking experience:

  • Drama in high school for two years 
  • Debating at university for two years
  • Theatresports (Improv Comedy) in high school for a year 
  • Gave a 15min talk at a Software Testing Meetup in 2014 (in front of about 30 testers)
  • Toastmasters for two and a half years
  • Gave a 1 hour talk with Morris on Software Testing to over 100 university students

The ten minutes or so before I need to get up in front of people are the worst. I feel it’s the anticipation that bothers me the most – not the public speaking itself.

Why even bother in the first place?

Put simply – because I want to be part of the conversation. I refuse to be a witness to how the software testing profession evolves and is perceived.

Part of me is scared because I know I won’t be the best/smartest/most efficient/most experienced tester in the room when I present and that someone may call me up on it. And I’m ok with that. Nervous, but ok.

I’m the only person who has lived through my experiences and I simply want to share them. I hope that the audience comes away from my talks with something so that I don’t feel like I have wasted their time.

I think attending conferences is a great way of expanding your reality on what your profession is like – by sharing your experiences at these conferences, you are also helping expand other people’s realities on the software testing profession.

Why now?

A conversation with Richard at Let’s Test 2015 was the trigger. At that point, I was keen on the idea but didn’t exactly start looking up conferences to send in proposals for when I got home. I guess the best way to describe it was that something started working in the background and it took a few months before I actually did something about it.
To be honest, I don’t think I could’ve started applying for conferences sooner. 
There are two key reasons for this:

Up until now, I haven’t had the confidence 
  • The past 3.5 years I’ve been working on my skills as a software tester but also building up my confidence in those skills. This might sound a bit strange – but there’s no way I would’ve put myself in the situation of applying for conferences if I thought I had zero chance of being accepted or if I thought nobody would ever want to listen to me.
Up until now, I didn’t feel like I had experiences worth sharing
  • Now this reason isn’t exactly as it appears. I’m not saying I didn’t have experiences worth sharing before now – but after going to testing conferences, attending testing meet-ups, my understanding of what is worth sharing changed.  

Going Forward

If you are reading this and are thinking about applying to speak at your first conference – then take the first step. Find someone who can mentor you and give you honest, encouraging feedback on your proposal. I, for one, know that the testing community is extremely supportive. Even better – sign up to Speak Easy There are some talented, supportive mentors, some of which I know personally, who can help you present at your first conference.
If you are reading this and have more questions as to why I’m putting myself in this situation or want to know how it goes – then please reach out 🙂