Why Are You Here?

cheek to cheek mentoring session

Besides being leader and matchmaker for SpeakEasy initiative (we are looking for mentors, talk to me if you are interested), I also have two mentees. Both happens to live in India, both are already experienced testing professionals and both explore their way to public speaking. My mentees are very different personalities and their speaking journeys are very different, but this week with both of them I talked about how to engaged with audience and how to adapt/reshape talk for particular group.

 

My work, giving trainings, and my hobby, giving talks and workshops, complement each other in a nice way. At conferences I can experiment new ideas or fulfill my personal goals and talk about topics I care, at work I have to deliver. As a trainer I have my routine. Every training I start with two questions: 

1)    Who you are?

2)    Why you are here? 

 

About the first question – I am curious and really want to know with whom I will spend next few days. Second question is my way to find out background story. Why you have chosen to be here, what is your exit criteria for this training? I like to put it on flipchart and keep visible during whole training. Why? It helps to stay focused. That includes that you are responsible to achieve your goals and you will give me continuous feedback how we are doing, what you are still missing. Another thing I am aware of, that sometimes people are sent to trainings, they don’t want to be there, they don’t want to learn and I need to deal with that. I always say that I do not force people to attend trainings, but my take is: we are here and, hey, let’s make the best out of it!

 

This is my trainer routine, I ask questions and explain ground rules around responsibility of outcome. I have tried few other things, but always come back to this as most effective way how to start a training.

 

Back to speaking. If I give a workshop during conference, I start in similar way as a training. If group is bigger than 10 people, then I skip the first question. For a track talk you need to play another game. To get information you need about your audience you can ask questions where people need to raise their hand. Something like this: “Raise your hand if you work as tester! OK… one third of the group. Now raise your hand if you are developer!” then continue with something like “raise your hand if you want to learn about explorative testing!”. Time to time situations happen when somebody gets up and rushes out to the door. Conferences are overwhelming and people oft mix rooms, if this happened than now is the time to fix it. 

 

Now back to mentoring to make the full circle. One of my mentees is at the beginning of talking. She has a topic and currently explores how to create an abstract and a talk. The second is going fast forward the finish line. She has topic, good abstract, slides are done, now submitting and practicing the talk. To both of them I asked my two questions. You can create a talk to one specific target group and to address their issues/problems/challenges. Or you can create one more general talk and reshape it during the presentation. To achieve that I put more pictures & less text on my slides, this gives me freedom to change it, if audience does not respond as I imagined they will. 

 

For me speaking means to be authentic me and to listen to my audience and their needs. Yes, I am standing on a stage, but this is not about me. This is about you, listening my story, taking parts, which fits to you, and making your (working) life better/easier.

So… why are you here?

3 Ideas for Beginners in Public Speaking

We at SpeakEasy get tons of requests to mentor people who wants to start public speaking. Because we all are volunteers and matchmaking is very sensitive process, sometimes it takes time until mentee is matched with a mentor. To speed it up we are looking and experimenting with new ideas.

Other bottleneck is how long time it takes for mentee to get accepted for a talk. In many cases basic understanding about public speaking and/or personal goals are missing. To fix that here is my short list what I suggest all mentees to start with:

1. Blazingly Simple Guide

Rob Lambert, who is very entertaining speaker himself, put a list “how to Submit and Speak at a Conference” together with all kind of aspects new speakers should have a thought about.

2. Practical Slide Deck

I used it for my very first talk and I still like to use it as a frame for my talks. Keeps me focused on listeners. A 15 Minute Guide : How to Create a Conference Presentation.

3. A book

Scott Berkun “Confessions of a Public Speaker” It is not a lecture, but more like a collection of stories and tips. This book helped me to lose my fear and start to enjoy public speaking.

Important

No matter what is your topic – technical, soft skill, experience story – one thing is essential. You have to be emotionally connected to your message. Talk on topics you are really passionate about.

You Are Next

November 18 is the special day for all Latvians. It is our independence day. This year(2017) we celebrated 99th and Latvian community in Berlin organized a very nice party with a variety of musical performances. The club was quite small, there was almost no backstage, in-between performances singers were among the listeners.  I was holding up my 4yo that she can better see the stage. At one moment she turned to me and said to me: “you are going up next, right?”

Amazing how simple is 4yo life… If you know what you do (I was singing along whole night) and like what you do, you go up on the stage and do it there.

Why am I tell you this story?

At conferences, I meet a lot of amazing people and we share a bunch of stories. Many people, who I met, shared their secret – they would like to share their stories from the stage, but think that no one will be interested. My answer to this is: “do not decide for me”.

If you need help to find your topic, prepare your abstract or presentation, then mentors and team behind SpeakEasy will help you. I know, because I was SpeakEasy mentee myself. Now I am helping to match mentees and mentors. Do not let your fear limit your potential.

You are next, right?

 

CFP Time!

Last week I submitted my very first conference talk. Whoop, whoop!

But before that I went through several stages: do I really need this to do? Does someone want to hear this? Do I want this?

Yes, I want!

And if nobody will want to hear my story, I will not cry, because I had quality time with myself and my testing subject. I sorted out my thoughts and ideas and I made statement to myself. I also finally wrote my bio and published link of my blog. I am proud about result of conference submitting process already! Everything what comes afterwards is an extra.

Thank you, Speak Easy, for being there and helping to find me a mentor. Thank you, Gerie, for being perfect mentor for me. If anybody of you are wondering about trying out to speak in a conference, go and contact Speak Easy! It is really easy!

But I have one more link for you – Maaret was so brave to write about the dark side of being conference speaker. This profession has space of improvement in many of aspects. It is sad that we do not appreciate people, who invest so much their free time, to help testing community get better and stronger. And to be honest if our both presentations will be accepted for the same conference, I do not think that it is fair, that Maaret and me would rewarded equally. At the moment I am just happy to learn and find my international testing voice. To be honest, I do not know will I have a voice on stage at all… I was a school teacher once, so I now how it is to stand in front of bunch of  thirsty for knowledge people, but any way – stage is a little bit of scary place.

To end this post on positive tune – work, local meet-ups, conferences, webinars, slack & skype groups – that’s all great, but I like what Liz Ryan says:

Life comes first, work comes second.