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Let’s Test – ER on My First Presentation (Road Less Tested)

On June 15, 2014, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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This is my third post about Let’s Test Conference in Sweden. In the first I talked about my thoughts still at the venue, just after the conference finished. The second was all about the people. This post is my experience report (ER) on my presentation at Let’s Test, more of a reflection really.

This was my first ever presentation. After many anxious nights preparing my presentation, thinking about what it was going to be like, worrying about not doing a good job – its all over. My first track presentation at a conference is behind me now. But there is still a lot of reflecting I want to do on the experience. This is my first attempt to do so.

Preparing for the journey…

There were a few reasons I couldn’t wait to go to Let’s Test, meeting awesome testers I only knew via Twitter, conferring and exchanging ideas with great minds in testing were at the top of the list, but the reason I couldn’t stop thinking about the conference (the most dreaded reason) was to get a first presentation under my belt. Even though most of the material was about my own experiences, I spent a lot of time preparing for it, including countless hours on Prezi making it look good – maybe as compensation for the fear of not presenting well. I’m glad I did that as it was one less thing to worry about during the presentation.

I was lucky enough to be paired with and amazing presentation mentor via the A Line in the Ladies Room program: Dawn Haynes. Dawn has many years experience as a presenter and teacher so having her help was amazing! Especially when last minute nerves hit me on Sunday after I got to Runo. Thanks Dawn for all your support, it meant the world to me. I had lots of other lovely people supporting me there like Scott Barber, David Greenless, Lee Hawkins, Martin Hynie to name a few, and there were many more lovely people there cheering me on, too many to list here but although that whole day was much of a blur to me, I really appreciate your support.

The moment of truth arrives…

Of course there had to be technical difficulties just before the start – don’t all first timers have that? My computer went to sleep and somehow lost the connection to the projector and we couldn’t make it work. It was a few minutes after the presentation was meant to start that the projector decided to work again. Phew…

So, after the technical issues, I have to admit I was nervous. Very nervous. That is when James Bach enters the room. Needless to say I was even more nervous then! The pressure of having one of the biggest names in testing on my first presentation was huge*. But there I was and there was nothing much I could do – apart from presenting. I have to say tho that jumping out of the window (One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest style) did cross my mind more than once.

*Note: James was kind enough to ask me if I was OK with him being there, the day before the presentation, so I had the opportunity to say no, but I thought his feedback would be invaluable so I decided to say yes, and I’m glad I did. He did give me very kind and constructive feedback, for which I’m very grateful.

After I decided that jumping out wasn’t the best idea, I proceeded to present the material I had rehearsed so many times before. I knew what time I should be moving to the next slide not to go over time, but on the day I completely forgot to look at the watch until the second last slide. To my horror I realized that the presentation had only gone for 30 minutes, and I had a 45 minutes presentation – which meant I was going to have to stretch the last two slides for 15 more minutes. Needless to say that didn’t happen, so I finished early. Luckily there were lots of questions so we had a lively discussing for the remainder of the time.

Interestingly enough, I felt much more comfortable during the question time then during the presentation. I think it is because I prefer to interact with people one-on-one, and during open season it felt more personal as I was directing myself to the one person asking the question. There were other takeaways for me (and I’m sure as I process and think about the experience many more will pop up!). Here are some of them:

Takeaways…

  • Preparation is crucial. Prepare, prepare, prepare – when you think you have prepared enough, put the presentation down for a few days and then prepare some more. Try to anticipate the questions that will be asked and ask yourself if you’d know the answer (thanks Dawn Haynes for the tip)
  • We can be our harshest critics. And I don’t think that is an entirely bad thing
  • You don’t need to know all the answers. But you will need to know the material. Being humble and admitting you don’t know the answer to a question is much better than the alternative
  • You are the expert in your own experiences – don’t be afraid to share them with the authority that you have (thanks James Bach for your feedback)
  • Ask for feedback. Learn from your mistakes. Improve on your qualities. There’s always room to improve.
  • Focus on your motive. Why are you presenting that specific topic? Remember that when you are about to quit, or too nervous, there is a reason you are doing this, and whatever it is, it is worth it! Keep at it.
  • Those who were trying to help me told me it will get better with time, the more presentations you do the easier it gets. I don’t know that yet, but I’ll let you know when I do!

Test Art…

And finally here are scketchnotes from two very talented testers that pretty much summarize my talk better than I could ever do:

Finally, I just wanted to encourage everyone out there that has an idea or an experience (good or bad) worth sharing – to get out there and to do it. I was absolutely out of my comfort zone presenting, and if I can do it, believe me, anyone can! And if you need help, drop me a line, I’d love to help you on your journey.

 

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