By the Testing Community
Recently on Twitter, Bruce (The Legend) @BruceOnlyBruce shared this question to get advice from the testing community on public speaking at conferences:
What are your best conference speaking tips?— Bruce (the legend) ✨ (@BruceOnlyBruce) November 3, 2021
Anything from beating nerves, bringing your coolest self, structuring slides, accessibility, preparedness, what’ve you got?
Tell me your secrets, speakers of twitter…
The result was some fantastic advice around a range of topics when it comes to creating, practising and delivering a talk. So let’s take a look at some of the excellent ideas that were suggested:
Preparing a talk
One of the hardest parts of putting a talk together can be putting it all together. We might know the main goals of our talk, but how should we structure it? How should we arrange our slides? Fortunately, @mattwynne had some great advice for getting started:
Prepare your slides weeks ahead with a backbone of outlined points, one word / phrase per slide. Do that in one sitting so you nkow you're "ready" then iterate to make them fancier over the coming weeks.— Matt Wynne ✊🏿 (@mattwynne) November 3, 2021
Try and find a meetup or brown-bag session to run through and get feedback.
@Simon_tomes shared a great way to frame a talk and kick start it with a bang:
Tip Idea 1: Jump straight in with a story that amplifies your key message. The audience will know you by the end of your talk - if not before via the schedule – so no intro required. Wrap up with your key message again to bookend the talk. It's all about that one message.— Simon Tomes (@simon_tomes) November 3, 2021
@A11y_Ady also shared this point about ensuring your slides don’t get too cluttered:
I try to follow the 6 items or less for slides, pictures are good prompts for subjects. Also include your main contact info that way if someone takes a picture you are credited.— Ady Stokes (@A11y_Ady) November 3, 2021
Remember to pause. I say, does that make sense to give me a pause / let folks think about your point
He also raised a point that a @heather_reiduff and @the_qa_guy also recommend about promoting yourself through your slides, making your talk more accessible and how to deal with those nervous sweats 😬
Twitter handle on every slide!— Heather Reid (@heather_reiduff) November 3, 2021
If you're prone to sweating when you're nervous (I am!) Wear looser fitting clothes and possibly have a spare tee or a scent to spray in the bag for after for freshening up.
You'll be awesome, legendary in fact 😉
For the slides:— Tobias Geyer (@the_qa_guy) November 3, 2021
- I have a https://t.co/B2xu6tAQlZ link to the slides on the cover slide so people can follow on their own devices
- Also I have everything I say in the slide notes to help people with hearing issues
- Twitter handle and conference hashtag on every slide
Practising a talk
Practising a talk before delivering it not only helps to familiarise ourselves with what we want to talk about. It can also help our confidence when we deliver it, or as @HannesLindblom shares:
Spend some extra time preparing and rehearsing the first few minutes of your presentation so you are sure to nail that. In that way, the initial nervosity have faded once you are into the rest of the talk.— Hannes Lindblom (@HannesLindblom) November 3, 2021
Tip Idea 5: I think this can be a super personal choice). Practice your talk as much as you can. In front of yourself in a mirror. In front of a camera to watch it back. In front of someone else. Capture it on audio tape. Practice can be a huge help to test in pre-production.— Simon Tomes (@simon_tomes) November 3, 2021
Get a friendly pal/s and give that presentation to them over and over! You get comfortable, can get feedback and start to find cool improvs with your content. It also helps with nerves as you’ve done this before, a few times!— Callum Akehurst-Ryan (@CAkehurstRyan) November 3, 2021
@Simon_tomes also shared another benefit of practising around working out the best way to deliver our talks:
Tip Idea 3: Use your voice in various ways. Go fast, go slow, be loud, be quiet. Take on a different persona for a bit and see what happens. Find out how your arms and body move with your voice and see what's comfortable.— Simon Tomes (@simon_tomes) November 3, 2021
Getting ready to speak
So the talk is ready and rehearsed, the time is come to speak and the nerves are starting to kick in. Here are some great tips to handle the nerves, from @EskoLuontola:
Before going on stage, tighten the muscles in your arms and upper body with all your strength, for example by trying to lift the chair you’re sitting on. Hold that for a minute or five, and then relax.— Esko Luontola (@EskoLuontola) November 4, 2021
That should get rid of the physiological effects of nervousness.
@FionaCCharles shares a very practical, and important, piece of advice before getting ready:
If your slides have embedded video/audio, test it *yourself* in the presentation venue, preferably the day you present. Also, if (like me) you have issues with standing to speak ask for a high stool with a back & foot rest, plus a monitor you can easily see to track your slides.— Fiona Charles (@FionaCCharles) November 3, 2021
And finally, @Simon_tomes suggests an idea that embraces the energy and nerves…
Tip Idea 4: Guzzle down a chocolate brownie and/or a tin of sugary delight as fast as possible about 15 minutes before your talk. The sugar buzz can be fun and kick in just when you need it! 😅— Simon Tomes (@simon_tomes) November 3, 2021
Delivering the talk
Talking in front of a group of people, regardless of size, can be overwhelming. So it’s important to remember that it’s ok to make mistakes and that the audience is there to support you and learn. Which is exactly @m3tomlins and @FriendlyTester suggest:
For your own self-empowerment, it is acceptable to:— Mark Tomlinson (@m3tomlins) November 4, 2021
- not fully answer a question from the audience
- invite a disruptive audience member to stop or leave the room
- take a long pause while people view your slide content
- not share all your slides
- not have slides at all
No one in the audience knows what you are going to say. So, if you make a mistake, they don’t know that, so, just run with it.— Richard Bradshaw (@FriendlyTester) November 3, 2021
Pick 2-3 objects across the back of the room and use them to look at.
If you have a stage, use it, even if you just move between a few dif spots
put your phone somewhere not on your body, because notifications will pile in from people mentioning you on twitter. You will almost definitely need to wear something with pockets for the mic pack.— Gem Hill (@Gem_Hill) November 3, 2021
Take a breath between slides to help you slow down.
Talk slowly. Gives brain time to process werds— Ben Williamson (@Tazee_k) November 3, 2021
What to do after speaking
Finally, @villabone has a great piece of advice to keep in mind wants the talk is over to let the dust settle and to take some time for yourself.
Get some 'you' time. Everyone will want a bit of you after the talk, it's perfectly OK to go off and find some 'you' time— VillaBone (@villabone) November 3, 2021
Also, just be you, don't try to copy anyone, just be you, they've come to see you
All of the tips and tricks shared are incredibly useful when speaking, but there were also a lot of additional resources shared which can be found below:
About the authors
This article is a co-curation effort based on ideas shared by:
This article was curated by Mark Winteringham.
Mark Winteringham is a tester, toolsmith and the Ministry of Testing OpsBoss with over 10 years experience providing testing expertise on award-winning projects across a wide range of technology sectors including BBC, Barclays, UK Government and Thomson Reuters. He is an advocate for modern risk-based testing practices and trains teams in Automation in Testing, Behaviour Driven Development and Exploratory testing techniques. He is also the co-founder of Ministry of Testing Essentials a community raising awareness of careers in testing and improving testing education. You can find him on Twitter @2bittester or at mwtestconsultancy.co.uk / automationintesting.com