Category Archives: Speaking

Changing the Scene

Did I ever spend hours on a presentation? And my own money on traveling for this talk? On top of that vacation leave? Yes, I did.

When I talked about it with other speakers, it did not get even better: astonishment or silence.

I paid to speak.

Honour

In the second year of this century I was a volunteer at the European Juggling Convention in Rotterdam. This low budget convention needed volunteers to break even. So I paid for the convention and spent hours to help the organisation. Afterwards they paid any costs I made including the convention ticket. My badge of honour was and is the crew T shirt.

Being invited to speak at a test conference is considered an honour between testers. An invisible, but mentionable badge: I got congratulations. On a conference people shook my hand and wished me success with my talk.

There are several privileges for being a speaker. And still recognition in words may not be enough. Bills have to be paid. I was never hired, because I was a great speaker. Or an engaging blogger.

In 2015 Eindhoven University of Technology introduced the Nanny Fund to pay costs for children of employees attending conferences.

Persistence

This year I changed my lifetime goal to give a half day tutorial on a specific test conference. I am still grateful for writing all my refused proposals. I learned to make better ones, My employer will cover some conferences and trainings, but as a born Dutchman I had to look at the costs.

This bold move was possible thanks to Maaret Pyhärjärvi, who made a spreadsheet. It is an overview of costs being paid by the conferences.

The next step was to look at delegate reports. What makes this conference great? How is the atmosphere? Can I learn there something useful? Do they share the same humour?

Basically where is all the fun?

This year Eurotesting Conference will cover the travelling costs of a first time speaker to a major test conference.

Connection

During my holiday I was challenged. Just search on #30daysoftesting on Twitter.  For one task I had to find an inspiring quote. That was difficult. I could browse blogs and books from famous testers, but that would probably not lead to a unique quote.

I still had a free pdf of Derek Sivers about attracting people as a professional musician. There were advises, which could easily be adopted by testers:
“If you don’t say what you sound like, you won’t make any fans.”
“Know who you are, and have the confidence that somewhere out there, there’s a little niche of people that would like your kind of music.”

Then I used the following quote:
“Every contact with the people around your music (fans and industry) is an extension of your art.”

A month later I was writing a proposal for a workshop for TestBash Netherlands. I was questioned to describe myself. Normally I would use a lot of credentials. I remembered my Twittered quote. Now I used humour to convince the program committee.

In August I got the news, that my half day workshop was accepted for TestBash. My adjusted life goal was sooner than I thought. And a bigger challenge than I had anticipated.  Some Huib used the word awesome to describe the line up.

This year EuroTesting conference interviewed every speaker, who had sent a proposal.

A week after the announcement of TestBash on the web I met Huib Schoots, the program chair. He asked:
“Did you see the program?”
“Yes, you were not on the list.” I replied.

The fun had started.

Story delivery

“The judge will also take delivery in consideration: the way you tell it.”
A colleague about a game.

Do you understand?

“Do you know how they work at Toyota?” I asked a manager.
After a remarkable silence he responded carefully with:
“They keep their inventory low.” Then he continued to talk about it.
I nodded. “They also use Andon.”
“Andon?”
I told him, that every employee in the company was entitled to stop the process in order to improve it. Then I spoke about the benefits.
“I feel comfortable to tell you, what I think.” I added.
“I like to hear that”, he responded.

As a tester I frequently have to tell people, that something needs to be fixed. It is hard.

Why do people fail to deliver a good story outside their own company? Specifically at test conferences.

Whom did you choose?
In this paragraph I try to answer the question:
How is a good speaker selected for a test conference?

If there are two candidates with the same experience, it might be prudent to choose the one with confidence.
He is introvert, so…
So the next time there is huge chance, that the same person is chosen. He has more experience and more confidence.

Another way to create a bias in speaker selection is to use a proposal. I agree with people, that a good summary can be a good indicator for a good talk. I also want to write, that a talk is spoken and not written.
Yes, it is OK to read this blog post.
No, it is NOK to read the slides aloud.

If there is a woman eager to speak, then another bias might pop up. Most testers are men, so…

I once did an audition for a talk using my smartphone. It was a bad idea: I constantly look at the screen like child, who awkwardly observed a mirror for the first time. If I got a little help from a professional camera team, I would increase my odds twentyfold.
(But I am Dutch, so  …)

Another coloured opinion.
He has a Chinese name, but most testers I know, are white and male. So…

I am totally aware, that this is an unbalanced view of conferences.  There are test conferences, which actively promote diversity on their web sites or have a proper woman man ratio for speakers.
Last year I, a yellow male speaker, was greeted by an African European test conference organiser.
Last year I saw a conference adjusting his acceptance process within weeks.
This year a major test conference will have two female keynote speakers after a decent increase of 2.

Things are changing.  For better. Diversity.

Did you consider this?
A week after the Dutch Student Championships I had karate fight in the dojo. My opponent was better than me. He beated me all the time. I was in the student team, he not. So the best are not always in the spotlights.

Last year I asked a good tester, whether he would go to a specific conference. He answered with: “The usual suspects.”
BTW it is not the movie and I did not have to translate this from Dutch to English.

At the beginning of this century I heard a story about a famous tester. He knew how to be accepted at major test events. But
“He is telling the same stuff over and over again.”

Let’s agree about a few facts:

  • There are females.
  • There are people, who use the systems you test.

Suppose you want to have some small talk with the end users. With men it looks simple: drink a pint of beer in a pub. With female end users?

Back to work. How do you know, when female users are not pleased with the application under test? For agile methodologies this is important. Let me substitute “agile” by “all”.
That sounds much better.

According to the independent Central Bureau for Statistics (www.cbs.nl) roughly the half of the Dutch population is female in 2015. So the chance, that the gender of a common Dutch computer program user is female, is 50%. Probably getting close to 95 % for an embroidery app. That’s my best guess.

As a Chinese I belong to a minority. Only 1 of 5 people on this very planet is Chinese. Even a small percentage of more than 1 billion people can be a nice niche market.(I also heard stories about companies having a hard time in China. Maybe I am also hampered with a confirmation bias. :(
I am Chinese, so…

In 2000 I had to switch planes in New York. At the airport the signs were written in 2 languages: English and Spanish.

Who can help me?

For a hesitant speaker it looks difficult to change this process. There are ways for reverse selection.

Conferences are trying to find new voices for their stages. On a regular basis I get kind requests to send in proposals. Sometimes they are personalised. Years ago I had submitted several proposals to conferences and they didn’t forget me. I don’t mind this.

There are even special speaker slots for beginning speakers. This spring I surprised my colleagues, that I was not accepted: I was too experienced.

In April one test conference teamed up with experienced female testers to increase the influx of speakers of the same gender. Twitter showed a nice increase of proposals of the targeted speaker population.

Speak Easy is one of my favourite things. It is focused on diversity. Redirecting attention to experienced female speakers. Supporting wannabe speakers with crafting abstracts and talks. Securing speaker slots for newbie speakers. The mentors have a lot of experience, which can benefit first time speakers and conferences as well.

Where can I get practice?

Did you ever speak with friends, family members, colleagues, peers, delegates of a conference, attendees of meetups, or members of Special Interest Groups about testing? Or with total strangers? That can be scary.

There is no straight stairway to practice delivery of a story, but there are ample opportunities.

Some tips

  • My father told me, that I should learn to tell a good joke. For me it was a way to start.
  • Use a diary.
  • Talk with your spouse or friend about the funniest thing that happened today. Preferably with complete transcriptions of the dialogue complemented with the right tone and faces.
  • Write spoken language next to written language.
  • Learn to ask (obnoxious) questions.
  • More and more conferences ask for twitter handles, blog posts, and other on line pieces of evidence proving, that candidate speakers can engage people. And touch them.

Related posts

Teaching = Learning
The need for new speakers
Safety first
Do you want to talk about it?
In Case of Emergency Press 1

PS the picture at the beginning of this post is nothing special. I could make it a cliff hanger for the next blog post. That is not a good idea.

Some readers would like to prod me for the special cut technique I used to split the apple. The brand of the knife or the way I hold the fruit in my hand. The next obvious step would be to practice the cut for the next hours and then taking bets from ignorant friends.
[I already hear the sound of glasses, which are filled with cool refreshing amber coloured fruit juice.]

You’re still there.
Are you ready to read further?

You’re sure?

Okay. Here you go.

I was just lucky to slice the apple in this way and mindful enough to take a picture.

I wrote you: it was not special.

Story delivery is not about the package. It is all about the content and the story teller’s view.

Teaching = Learning

This week I sent 2 proposals for the Spring Event to TestNet, the Dutch Special Interest Group in Software Testing. One was for a presentation for 3 quarters of an hour, the other one for a workshop of 1 and a 1/2 hour. The process of writing proposals was time consuming and intense. My proposals will be rated and then ranked against the other proposals. Finally I will be notified, whether I have a speaker slot.

In 1992 I went to my first Dutch Juggling Convention. I was thrilled; I would be performing in the Public Show. It had taken me months to acquire the Blow Off Your Socks level of juggling. (I still dropped my juggling prop though.) The first part of the convention was a long warming up for my act.

On the first day I walked in the gym. I noticed a few people juggling, but a big white paper sheet drew my attention. It was a table. On one side time slots were mentioned, on the other workshop areas. 2 or 3 workshops had been filled in.  A marker was hanging on a string.

I am still amused, how simple it is to book a workshop for myself on a juggling convention. No rating, no ranking. Just write down my name, juggling prop, and level. Or one name and two nouns. (The only exception I experienced is an International Juggling Association convention, but that is another story.)

There are many possible reasons, why I signed up to give a workshop. I only wanted to share knowledge about juggling. My favourite juggling prop is the devilstick. Wouldn’t it be great, if there were more good jugglers with a devilstick? So this workshop was not planned. A coincidence to happen.

If there is a huge juggling convention which cannot be ignored by a mainstream juggler, then it is the European one. My first European Juggling Convention was in Leeds. This time I came fully prepared. I had rehearsed two workshops for devilsticking in English, which definitely differs from my native language Dutch. The schedule of each workshop I had written down and memorised. And the tricks and combinations were still evolving during my preparations. The most difficult part was to locate the workshop schedule. You still remember that big white thing on the wall attached to a marker. I had planned two workshops, but gave a total of 3 workshops. Good response can be a nudge in the right direction.

Looking back I notice exciting patterns:

  • Determine the biggest step people can take and still follow me.
    [Blank faces.]
  • Discover and share new tricks and combinations, because attendees love them.
    “Did you write a book?”

The most important thing I learned was to observe the attendees. A struggle with the devilstick triggered the reaction: I had either been unclear or combined too many movements. So their struggle became my struggle. By dissecting my juggling tricks for my workshop pupils I learned more than I imagined. I determined the elementary movements to make more combinations.

Once a young woman was impressed by my flurry of movements of the devilstick. Then a man remarked dryly: “He is just combining a few little tricks.”

Let’s go back to testing. It is my way to earn my living after all. In one consultancy company I had to earn my place as a teacher or workshop leader. I spoke with several colleagues about test courses. Yes, they were looking for new teachers. My pitch was: “I have more than 15 year of experience with giving workshops in juggling.”

In the meantime I started to teach mind mapping to my colleagues. The whole process of dissection repeated for me: why do you add branches clockwise? What is a fast way to make a mind map? A lot of questions, which bothered the attendees. I learned to mind map according to the rules, but also using mind map programs working around their restrictions.
BTW I wrote this post using a mind map program while commuting. I moved and added branches to make this a compelling story. Hopefully.

My pitch became: “I have experience with teaching mind maps to colleagues in our company. These are my scores from their feedback.”

Once I had a funny insight to illustrate testing Virtual Reality with juggling. I had one brilliant test idea to start with. My colleagues were supportive and a Bit sceptic (with a capital B). To everyone’s surprise my proposal was accepted in 2008. The preparation gave me lots of energy and inspiration. What is a good test idea and why? Let me break it down for you and show it to you with Real Life juggling.

Then I noticed that there were more people willing to speak than available speaker slots in a test conference. As you might have guessed: I did not speak at many test conferences.

I started to miss the thoughts in my head breaking down my testing examples and improving them. So I began to experiment on my work, but that was not enough.

Why not start a blog and write about mind mapping, SFDIPOT, and 2 screens?  Wouldn’t it be great, if there are more good testers? So this blog post was not planned. A coincidence to happen.

 

Q&A Deployment Plan Meeting Part 2

Facilitator: Thank you for joining in once again. Han Toan has already answered a lot of questions about Deployment Test Meeting over here. These questions were raised after reading his writing about his Deployment Plan Meeting.

Questions are still coming in. I’ve got green cards from numbers 38, 95, and 12. Number 38, you can ask your question.

Attendee number 38: Did you take the communication styles of the attendees in the meeting into account?

Speaker: During the preparation of the meeting I sent a concept version of the Deployment Plan to all the attendees. So the techies could study all actions and make notes on it.

The project leaders also brought their hard copy. They used it to note down important actions. I would not be surprised, that it was also used for time tracking: will all actions be discussed during the meeting? There were also managers carrying small notebooks.

One of the biggest advantages of the beamer was, that changes were shown. Next to verbal clarifications.

 

Facilitator: I’ve got green cards from numbers 95, and 12, and 23. Number 95, you can ask your question.

Attendee number 95: A Deployment Plan looks like a scripted test case. People say, that there is no need to make a test case, if it is used once. So why the hassle?

Speaker: I consider the Deployment Plan as a checklist of ordered and dependent actions. Still people might consider it as a time consuming artifact or test case.

Due to the complexity of the system and the number of involved parties it is handy to have some kind of script ready for use. Weeks before the deployment there was enough time to think things over.

Let’s assume I have the idea to have a dinner with my team. There are practical things like the location and time period. But there are also other things to take into account: is the food not too hot by the use of peppers? Or is vegetarian food available? If this is the first time, then it takes some time to arrange it.

 

Facilitator: I’ve got green cards from numbers 12 and 23. Number 12, you can ask your question.

Attendee number 12: At the beginning of the meeting I would start with introductions. I missed that part in your story.

Speaker: To me it is a logical step, so I skipped it in my writing. But I agree with you, that a round of introductions is needed. I think, that it is good to realise, that you work with human beings with needs and feelings.

 

Facilitator: Number 23

Attendee number 23: Were enough technical people attending?

Speaker: It was a prerequisite for the meeting. Technical actions had to be discussed. A manager can be helpful, but a techie knows the implications.

To be frank with you, I have to add, that one system administrator was not present. I talked with him about all relevant actions for him. Then I got the assurance, that I could call him during the meeting.

 

Facilitator: A yellow card from number 38.

Attendee number 38: Were all involved managers involved?

Speaker: Yes, they were. It was relevant to get fast approval for additional actions. During the meeting a techie could look at his manager for approval.

 

Facilitator: At the moment there are no more questions on the stack. This is your last chance. Okay. I see number 2. Number 7 and number 9. Number 2.

Attendee number 2: What was your Lesson Learned from this meeting?

Speaker: During the meeting I also updated the Deployment Plan myself. This way costed me a lot of energy, because I also wanted to see, how people reacted. The next time I let someone else update the Deployment Plan.

 

Facilitator: Number 7.

Attendee number 7: Why do you share this story?

Speaker: For me it was a logical step to set up a meeting and be a chairman. It looked effortless to lead this process. It was not completely the case. What is important, that I want to share the steps and actions I took.

 

Facilitator: Number 2.

Attendee number 2: Why do you share this QA?

Speaker: This is my way to exercise answering questions. It is a quite thorough one, because it can strengthen my story. Sometimes I use the answers, the next time I tell my story.

Furthermore it shows, how K-cards can be used.

 

Facilitator: There are no more cards on the stack. I hope you had some refreshing blog posts about a deployment plan and a meeting. Next time there will a blog post about more technical stuff.

Have a nice day (and fruitful Deployment Plan Meeting:).

 

A look behind the scenes – In Runö

When I mentioned at Let’s Test Conference in  2015, that I came from the Netherlands, the following question was likely to be asked:
“Do you know Huib Schoots?”
My standard answer was:
“Yes. And he knows me.”

At Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam I was waiting to check in my suitcase. Behind my back I heard: “Hey ugly man” I turned around. Ready to confront this man. Huib was looking at me with his characteristic wide grin.

When I arrived at the belt to pick up my suitcase at Arlanda Airport, Huib was talking with Bill Matthews:
“Do you know him?”
“The juggler.”
Huub confirmed that with an
“A huh”.

Shifting gears

On Sunday May 24 I arrived for the Let’s Test conference in Runö. In the conference centre one of the first testers I talked to, was Henrik Andersson.
“You asked me to do an extra juggling workshop. When would you like me to give this workshop?”
“This evening would be great.”
I agreed. On Twitter I had already seen a suitcase of Paul Holland packed with games.

That evening I packed 6 devilsticks with 12 hand sticks. When I arrived at the hall, Henrik saw me. He smiled and gave a thumbs up. I chose the bar room, because there was a lot of traffic. The chance, that people would join me juggling, was great. Henrik joined in. Even a man with a ponytail started juggling. The following moment I noticed, that Michael Bolton was juggling with one of my devilsticks. I did not believe my eyes. I thought about one of my advices in my conference workshop:
Don’t fear your peer.

I was so focused on my workshop, that I forgot to exercise answering the standard questions like

  • What is the name of your company?
  • What kind of products or services does your firm offer?

I was completely in the presentation mode: I had not practiced my small talk English. The proper translation of the Dutch word patiënt is patient?!

Flirting with disaster

On Monday morning I could not sleep any more. It was the early sun rise. So I opened my laptop to add another bug for my exercise. For some reason testers like to find bugs. The modification went well. Within 30 minutes I had finished it and tested the program. The last thing, that I had to do, was uploading the file to a server. I opened a connection. I got confirmation, that the upload was successful followed by a cryptic message about a data connection. I looked on the server: the old file was removed and it was not replaced by the new one.

At that very moment I realised, that I had made a major error. I assumed, that the connection was safe. So I did not take any precautionary measures like renaming the file, which had to be removed. So I gave it another few tries to no avail. In plain English I had just ruined an exercise.

Then I looked on the internet. The plausible cause was the firewall of the hotel computer network, which did not support uploading files. So I used my smartphone (with a mobile provider) instead to upload the file and everything was all right at the end.

Speaker‘s Corner

After the Monday morning sessions I was tired. So I went to my hotel room and had a long nap. Then I returned to the main building. I saw Ruud Cox, who was listening to Huib Schoots. The latter was talking about the building blocks of his workshop the next day and the time estimates of these blocks.

During his workshop on Tuesday Huib said:
“I always ask feedback.” And
“Tell every day to a colleague, what you have done that day. ”
“If you cannot find someone, place a rubber duck on your desk and start talking.” 

So I went to an empty table. Then I noticed, that more speakers were gathered in the same room: Jean-Paul Varwijk, Joep Schuurkens, Michael Bolton, Laurent Bossavit (?). Probably improving their talks. I went through my slides of “What I learned from juggling as a tester” on my smart phone and juggled a little bit.

Sharing the fun

My facilitator was Duncan Nisbet. The familiar question popped up: “How shall I introduce you?”I mentioned 3 things, which should be included. Then I referred to this blog for additional information. Then Duncan introduced me as a “good storyteller”.

I had never told him a story before. I was just sharing some on this blog. Anyways … 

Then I started with a story about a boy missing a foot and most of his fingers, who wanted to learn juggling from me.

On my ride to Runö I was sharing a cab with Bill Matthews, Chris Grant, and Dan Billing. The latter said something about the inner tester. The following morning I knew I had the perfect example for a story. Just before the keynote of Ben Simo I asked Dan permission to use this single sentence in my workshop. He agreed. On the last evening of the conference I told him, how I used it. This lead to a wonderful conversation about “needs, values and relationships”.

There’s a mismatch

On one of my sheets I am wearing a dark and a white sock. Nobody mentioned it.  Maybe you do notice now.

On the other hand two unexpected bugs surfaced during my exercise: there was a huge error in a sentence. The second one was, that my exercise was not usable on an iPhone. I forgot the portability test.

Oops sorry

During my workshop Henrik Andersson had entered the room. I was so concentrated on my presentation, that it looked to me he appeared out of nothing. I started talking about discovering a juggling trick. On the sheet the following text was shown:
“Create a framework to correct errors”.

“I did not discover this trick [helicopter], because my framework was too strict.”
Then I apologised to Henrik:
“Yesterday evening I gave a workshop. Henrik Andersson was present.
[Turning my attention to Henrik] If you cannot learn the helicopter, it is, because I gave you a too rigid framework. So I apologise for this.”

A question, which back fired

I showed a sheet with frequently asked questions about juggling to the audience. One of the questions was: “Do you juggle with fire?” I repeated this question aloud, followed by:
“This question was asked right before this workshop.”
One of the delegates got a red face and laughed hard.

Thanks for the workshop

While I waited for my cab, Kristjan Uba came personally to me to thank me for the workshop. I recognised him, because the evening before he was intensely observing Tobias Fors (?) and me solving the dice game. This was hosted by Michael Bolton. Kristjan wanted to learn the finer details of coaching this game.

Trying to look friendly I searched my memory for this man. Luckily Kristjan helped me by telling about juggling the devilstick himself. Then I noticed the ponytail. It was the juggling workshop on Sunday evening. So I juggled with 2 famous testers and a speaker.

An Interview With a Juggling Speaker – The way to Runö part 4

Interviewer: Hello, welcome to Mindful Tester News. I am Han Toan Lim. Today I have the pleasure to interview Han Toan Lim, who happens to be me.
[Turning his attention to interviewee] Hello Han Toan. Thank you for coming to your own room.
Interviewee: It is my pleasure. Nothing has changed in this room since the last time I was here.

Interviewer: The reason for this interview is your workshop for Let’s Test next week. The readers would love to read, what you are doing in the following days.
Interviewee: At the moment I am still modifying my workshop. The slides are almost ready, but my story is constantly changing. I try to add jokes and that is quite challenging.

Interviewer : The name of your workshop is What I learned from juggling as a tester. That is an intriguing subject. I noticed my self, that learning to juggle has a lot in common with learning to test.
Interviewee: I fully agree with you. It is about becoming a craftsman.

Interviewer: I just got a signal from the director (or my self), that it is time to finish this monologue. So I have one last question. What kind of audience for the workshop you are aiming at?
Interviewee: The silent and concentrated testers.
Interviewer [looking surprised]: So you are allowed to say not a single word during the workshop?!
Interviewee [nods]
Interviewer [makes a fist and extends his index finger for closed lips]
Interviewee [smiles and puts thumb up]
Interviewer [smiles back, extends right arm to shake hands and then realizes, that he has only one right hand.]

Safety first – The Way To Runö part 3

When I started juggling, I juggled above my bed. This had some advantages: my juggling props did not break fast and my neighbours downstairs did not complain about the drops. Unconsciously I created a safe environment. An environment, where no one laughed, when I dropped a ball. An environment, where no one ridiculed me, when I let my juggling balls collide against each other .

Open session
One of the finest tools for review is Skype. For my repetitions of my presentation it was great. I could show my PowerPoint to my reviewer. At the same time I could see the reactions on the face. The tool enabled me to observe the reviewer struggling with a small exercise program, which I especially wrote for my workshop.

The first session was horrible. In the second half I had to force myself to finish the story. There were too many slides. It hurt me, that I had to cut them out of presentation. One exercise was so big, that it would cost me at least a half hour to execute it properly. Too big to be included.

Nevertheless I got the compliment, that it was a personal story. Particulary the part about the safe environment was good:

What do you think, what safe environment looks like? What are the characteristics of a safe environment? (Silence of 2 seconds) For me it is an environment, where I can make errors.

The second session went more smoothly than the first one. I had been able to reduce the number of  sheets. The feedback was: “This is you”.

Once I talked with a delegate about the experiences of events of TestNet, the Dutch Special Interest Group in Software Testing.  The answer was, that the test knowledge was not that important. I was surprised: there was so much knowledge and experience in the Congress Centre, The delegate must have noticed my astonishment and explained to me, that it was a big comfort, that other testers were having the same problems. Somehow this peer conference provided a safe environment to exchange experiences.

Time 2 Juggle

In my abstract I stated, that live juggling will be included in my workshop. But for me it had been a while ago, that I performed for an audience. So it was time to practice the juggling tricks. You might wonder where. Above the bed in my bedroom :)

The next step was to juggle, where people would notice me juggling. Preferably a group people with a technical background. So I chose my colleagues, who were having lunch on a bench in the sun. And eager testers at Tasting Let’s Test in Breda.

In 2008 my family went to the European Juggling Convention in Karlsruhe. More than two thousand people gathered in this place to share the joy of juggling. It was the first time, that my wife went to an European Juggling Convention. She was familiar with the Dutch Juggling Convention, so she considered the European one a safe place. Families with little children were camping on the convention site. There was a relaxed atmosphere.

Exercising the exercises

I love to play games. Therefore I consider exercises as small games. There is a set rules and the players have to figure out a way to win it. So I talked about the exercises with a family member, who is a teacher. I let a colleague wrestle with a program. For good measures I let my small Dutch kids explore an English program and they loved it.

So

I increased my zone of comfort in the last months. By talking, by playing, and by being in a safe environment.

BTW if you are interested to attend my workshop What I learned from juggling as a tester? at Let’s Test 2015, it would be great, when you bring juggling balls, clubs, and other interesting juggling props with you. Maybe you know a friend or colleague, who juggles or juggled. You might lend some juggling gadgets for the duration of the conference.

From Mindmaps To Powerpoints – The Way To Runo part 2

For a company training, which I followed, the trainer used a flip over, a whiteboard with markers, and a set of binders with hand outs. No PowerPoint, so no time was spent on editing and reediting the presentation. It looked lean to me.

Your proposal rocks

Last November I was regularly looking in my mail box. There was a small chance, that I would be invited to speak at the Let’s Test conference 2015. But nevertheless it was worth the try. According to the tweets of the conference the speakers would be invited soon. And then …. I got the invitation. I did not shout as I had planned. But I was ecstatic.

In 2014 there was Tasting Let’s Test in Utrecht. I noticed, that Huib gave the same presentation of Let’s Test 2014. So I prepared my wife, that there was a small chance, that I would give my presentation at Tasting Let’s Test Benelux in March and May. Instead other speakers were invited, which gave me more room to prepare my workshop.

Get. Set. Mind map.

After this surprising news I was busy notifying people. Then I realized, that my proposal was written from the jugglers’ point of view. The name of my 2 hour workshop is What I learned from juggling as a tester? So what’s in it for the testers, who would attend? That gave me a brief moment of panic. Luckily I had my mind map for the proposal. This became my starting point for my workshop.

The first mind map contained the five branches with takeaways:

  • Small tricks lead to nice combinations
  • Create a flow
  • Learning by teaching
  • €Find your own style
  • €Have an open mind

In the takeaway mind map I made sub branches Juggle and Test under the 5 branches. Under these branches I brainstormed.

The second one was my outline mind map for the presentation. It described, when which takeaway would be presented .

One evening my wife asked me, whether I was preparing my workshop. I confirmed that. I mind mapped on my smartphone.

Episode Mind Maps

Looking to my outline mind map I split my presentation in episode mind maps. The first episode mind map I called first year. This was my abbreviation for the first year I was juggling. For each slide I created a branch. I added branches for the content of the slide, things I would tell and sometimes a title of the slide. This all lead to a Slides mind map, which contained the title and the text of all the slides in the right order.

Test Slide Story
In the movie industry first the scenario is written, then the story board. This board contains images of the movie, so all involved film crew members have a better idea, how the scenes will look. I used this idea to create my slide board, a serie of rough sketches of the slides. Every slide was created using the slide board, my pictures mind map, and my titles mind map.

I used a pen and lined paper for the first version. Then came the fun part: I used a coloured fine pointed marker to make changes. I noticed, that I still missed some titles and pictures. This process I repeated another time. Images were popping up in my head. So I had to take action to make pictures for the presentation.

One of the challenges I faced was to get nice pictures. For my presentation at TestNet Voorjaarsevenement 2014 I used my own pictures instead of stock photos. There were 2 pictures of some else I really loved to use. So I formally asked for permission and I got it in both cases.

From Mind Maps To PowerPoints

The making of the PowerPoint was uneventful: just copy and paste. Even after all the editing steps pieces were missing. I added mind maps like additions, research, and demo. On one point I did not like the order. So I made Order Mind Map, which I reedited several times. When I was happy with the order, I changed the slides in the Powerpoint.

A few weeks before Tasting Let’s Test Benelux I played with the idea: what would I do, if I got a request to speak? I focused on the big errors in my presentation.

 A few days before Tasting Let’s Test I realised, that I had to make differences in the presentation. If the presentation would be the same like the one in the conference, then people might be disappointed. So I modified a few slides and also decided to change some juggling props. One slide had only title. It was good enough.

The day before Tasting Let’s Test I loaded the latest version of my presentation on my laptop. I had my MVP, Minimal Viable Presentation.

PS

The story continues here.

Do you want to talk about it?

Sometimes I need to talk, sometimes I need to write.

A few good speakers?

There are test conferences, which are always looking for new bright speakers. One way to find them is the Call For Proposals or CFP. In the past I had serious doubts, whether my proposal would be accepted. Today I pose my self two simple questions:

  • Was this subject presented on this test conference?
  • If this is the case, can I present it in another way?

Sometimes I have to repeat these questions several times to pinpoint my subject.

A few years ago TestNet, The Dutch SIGIST (Special Interest Group in Software Testing), asked for subjects for their peer meetings. I suggested mind mapping. A few months later I noticed, that the subject was put on the calendar, so I volunteered to speak about it. The reply was, that TestNet needed proposals. I made two: one about the basics of mind mapping and another one about the use of mind mapping during testing. The latter was accepted.

A word of comfort for starters

I once read an article about the 100 Man Kumite. One man had to fight 100 man in an extreme short time. One Dutchman wrote, that he feared two types of fighters: the beginners and the experts. The beginners did unexpected things.

During one of her theater workshops Franki Anderson asked:
“Is every voice heard?”

Give me 5 minutes more

There might be a misconception, that an idea must be presented in 5 minutes. In the office 5 minutes of full attention of your manager, team lead or product owner can be a known restriction. You either learn or learned, how to squeeze your message or request to the bare minimum.

If I talk to my peer testers on a conference, I have enough room to sketch the situation. I have enough time to tell them about the problems I had to tackle. This can take about 20 minutes. Then I switch to the actions I took, taking 10 minutes. I end with 5 minutes looking at the results and lessons learned. In the Netherlands STAR is used: Situation Tasks Actions Results.

So, what would really trigger the organisers to accept your proposal and invite you as speaker to their test conferences? Exercises. Delegates or visitors of the conference go back home (to the office) with new ideas and real hands on experience. If you have any doubts about it, just look at TestLab. This popular activity is scheduled on different test conferences for years.

Let’s go back to my suggestion for mind mapping for the TestNet peer meeting. If I just talk about mind mapping, I can fill one hour. Participants get the idea, tell about it and forget it eventually. Exercises spice up the whole participant experience. I used to give 3 hour workshops about mind mapping for colleagues, who work in the IT. They made two mind maps during the workshop. The only thing I had to do, was to narrow the workshop down to testers. Instead of an one hour talk I now had an highly interactive workshop of 3 hours.

If you might have noticed: test conference organisers are looking for special sessions. I would suggest the following format for the workshop:

  • Describe the Situation and Tasks.
  • Let the participants perform the Actions.
  • Discuss the Actions and Results.
  • And repeat the STAR.
  • At the end share your own Actions and Results.

Getting to Stockholm

On my quest for knowledge I stumbled upon Peers with Beers on Friday October 24th 2014. Some participants are well known in the international testing community. For a ridiculous low price I could spend all office hours with them. I also joined the dinner, so I extended the time with another 5 hours.

During this peer meeting the participants were expected to present their ideas about testing in the future. The presentations were chosen based on the title. My presentation was not chosen. I realized, that I had a bad title. Too generic. Joris agreed with me:
“A good title is important.”

After each presentation the contents was discussed using K cards. I primarily observed the other peers: the way they discussed and the jokes they made. It was difficult for me to get in the right gear to exchange ideas. Huib remarked, that I was a bit silent.

During the dinner that evening the call for proposals of Let’s Test 2015 was discussed. Two days later was the deadline. Derk-Jan told a story about a rented car.  “We should make proposal for it.” We had a lot of fun about it. In the call for proposals there were no restrictions for the sessions. So this was totally acceptable. At the end of the evening Joep gave me a final advice:
“‘Do not forget the takeaways. ”

Weeks earlier I noticed on one of the pictures of Let’s Test 2014, that people were juggling with balls. I thought:
“I can teach them this easily”.
I gave many juggling workshops.

On the day of the deadline for Let’s Test 2015 I went to my PC and opened my mind map with the attached notes: What I learned from juggling as a tester?. I think, that creativity is necessary to become a good tester. As a juggler I have to amaze my public with my creativity. In my proposal I added a remark, that I would be able to extend the lecture with an one hour juggling workshop.

On November 6th I got the exhilarating news, that my proposal for a 2 hour workshop about juggling and testing was accepted. A total of seven proposals from Peers with Beers were accepted for Let’s Test 2015. So apparently, I was in good company.

[Updated:  Ard had a special Crime Investigation Game. This was held secret until the first day of the conference. So I increased the number of accepted proposals.]

Do you really need it?

Drooling about it

Paul knocked a few times on the door. And opened it slowly.
“Are you busy?”
“Yes, but I can make time for you.”
“We’ve got an open door policy, but your door was closed. So..”
Paul waited a few moments.
He gestured to George.
“George said, that I have to bring something to your attention. And ..”
George’s mobile phone went off.
“Excuse me.”
George left the room with the phone to his ear.

“Yes Paul.”
He looked to the door with a desperate look.
“I can wait.”
“What is that piece of paper? You want to show it to me?”
“Actually ..”, Paul started.
He showed it to his manager.
“That’s funny: the phone booth cannot be used.”

Paul pulled himself together:
“Within a month our company will release the car call service. So customers can call their cars and ask, whether enough fuel is in the gas tank.”
Paul’s manager nodded.
“At the moment we are focused on apps on smart phones. We are also testing normal phones. Why not test phone booths?”
“How big is the chance, that a business man calls his car from a phone booth?”
“Pretty small”, Paul admitted. “But there are enough people, who would like to publish a bug about the service on the Web.”
“So your point is…”
“Our slogan is: Your Drive Is Our Drive. People do not like to think about a slow walk to the gas station. Especially after a failed call from a phone booth.”

Ten minutes later George asked Paul:”How did it go?”
“Fine. I have budget to hire a phone booth.”
“How did your phone call go?”
“Nobody called.”
“You mean: no one.”
“Yes” George smiled.
Paul began with: “You are …”
“I am your coach, not your spokesman.”
Paul objected with: “I might not find the proper words to express myself or not find the right arguments. I might miss my drive.”
George just raised an eye brow.

Testing in it

During the training introduction of software testing I told the delegates about a special object in the neighbourhood.
“If you drive your car from Rijswijk to Rotterdam, then you see a huge building next to the highway near Delft. It is blue and yellow.”

I continued with telling, what most people thought. That it was just another furniture shop of a well known brand.
“It is a concept center. In this building ideas for this brand are developed and tested.”