As a conference organizer, I understand the challenge of finding speakers who represent the community. While I have personally reached out to many contacts to recruit them as potential speakers, I found that few of my cold calls and emails resulted in applications to speak at my conference. I believe that a supportive mentor would make a big difference in helping new candidates to take the risk of submitting a talk proposal to a conference. That is Speak Easy’s mission: a concerted coaching effort pairing volunteer mentors with emerging speakers.
As James Bach described, the volunteer mentors and the aspiring speakers formed a working relationship to question, to discuss, to suggest, to listen, and to build up the testing community one member at a time. An approachable and helpful mentor can make a huge difference in lowering the barrier to entry to the professional community, especially for those in demographics where we are encouraging diversity.
CAST was the first conference to partner with Speak Easy, establishing a concrete goal for the mentored speakers. This year, CAST has two Speak Easy speakers, Julie Lebo and Pete Bartlett. Check out Pete’s session Create the Change You Want in the CAST2016 schedule.
I caught up with Pete to find out more about the experience of having a Speak Easy mentor.
How did you find out about Speak Easy?
I stumbled upon the program by chance one day when I saw someone talking about it on Twitter, followed the links to their website, and liked what I read.
Why did you sign up to find a mentor through Speak Easy?
I was already interested in speaking at conferences to share my learnings and had submitted one application already to a conference. However, I knew any help I could get would be helpful to give me guidance and wisdom on what it would take to get accepted to speak at a conference. I found Speak Easy was targeting people exactly like me – a tester who wanted to work on their public speaking and start speaking at conferences – so I signed up!
Which program did you use: mentoring up develop ideas? Mentoring to fine-tune a work in progress? Mentoring on presentation format and style? Something else?
My mentor asked me to brainstorm a few ideas of topics I might like to speak about then helped me pick the strongest topics to focus on. I then created draft abstracts and she then helped me fine-tune them, improving the structure, clarity, and overall message to be ready for submission. She will also be helping to review my talk as I flesh that out.
Why did you decide to submit a proposal to CAST?
A number of years ago I completed the Foundations course with BBST and so had a fondness for the AST and their teaching style since then. So CAST had been a conference that had looked appealing to me since then, but, being based in Australia, attendance was too hard, so I hadn’t been able to attend. My mentor suggested that CAST has a good history for having first-time speakers and an encouraging and receptive audience so it made a good fit to apply to speak there. Plus it meant a chance to go to my first international conference, which is exciting!
Had you considered other conferences? Meetups? Other speaking opportunities?
Considering I was new to speaking at conferences, I wanted to give myself a good opportunity of speaking somewhere, while still limiting my search to conferences that looked appealing to me. There were 3 other conferences I applied for, however CAST was the only one I got accepted to speak at, which is great because it was the most exciting prospect.
I will be practicing my talk within my company using our public speaking group and I hope to also use the Sydney Testers Meetup to present my talk in preparation for CAST.
I saw this is your first time speaking at CAST. Have you attended the conference before?
This will also be my first time attending CAST. I live in Sydney, Australia, and going to international conferences has not been something I’ve been able to do previously. So I’m excited to get to participate this year!
What excites you the most about CAST this year?
Sharing what I’ve learnt in my career so far is the most exciting part for me as I give my first talk. Equally exciting is the chance to hear from a range of other great speakers and spend time learning from their experience.
Any suggestions for other aspiring speakers?
I definitely recommend finding someone who is experienced in speaking at conferences to help you prepare and shape your ideas into interesting and engaging abstracts. Speak Easy is a great tool for that, but if you have someone you know already, ask them. I would also recommend having a broad focus, writing multiple abstracts, and submitting to multiple conferences to give yourself the best chance of getting accepted somewhere.
You can find Pete on Twitter and read more of his work on his blog The Sneaky Tester.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Speak Easy speaker spotlight! – Claire
This is Part 1 of a 2-Part post on Speak Easy at CAST. Part 2 is here.