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Struggles & Victories – My First Talk

No going back.

Back in January I received a message on Twitter. It was from Leigh asking if I would like to do a Micro Talk at the next Liverpool Tester Gathering. Now I still remember this moment as clear as yesterday. I stood staring at my phone in the Kitchen frozen. ‘How do I say no politely?’ ‘I can’t possibly do it.’ ‘Absolutely no way I can do it’ ‘It will be too terrifying’ ‘I’m a no one’. My reply – ‘That sounds absolutely terrifying but also exciting so yeah I’m in!’

I can’t say no.

So I’m going to skip a little further back now to explain why I couldn’t say no, even though every thought I in my head was telling me to say no. In October last year I attended TestBash in Manchester, at the end there is an opportunity to get up and give a 99 second talk. It can literally be about anything you want. Unfortunately, I didn’t like public speaking (still not a huge fan if we’re being honest) I had a fear of getting on that stage, a fear of people watching me, being the centre of attention. Inside my head was back and forth with ‘Just do it’ ‘You can’t do it’ and then before I knew it whilst I was having this debate with myself the time to get up had gone and my decision was made. No 99 second talk.

As soon as I left the room I was devastated, I felt like I had really let myself down. This is when I vowed to never allow myself to feel that way again. Any future opportunity that I was given to get out of my comfort zone I was going to take it, no matter how terrified I was. Hence, agreeing to give a micro talk.

What on earth am I going to talk about?! 

I genuinely had no idea what to talk about. What could I possibly tell a room full of more experienced testers? My initial thought was that I could talk about some Accessibility work I had been doing and tools I had been using to help me. I really started to take an interest in Accessibility after TestBash when James Sheasby Thomas did a talk on it. Then the line up for LTG was officially released and who was the main speaker of the night? Yes, James Sheasby Thomas. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy James was talking but there was absolutely no way I could follow an amazing talk on Accessibility with a bog standard first talk on accessibility. Back to the drawing board.

I spoke to a lot of people about my talk, getting as many ideas as possible. The piece I remember most though came from the lovely Claire Reckless. She told me to speak about my own experiences, if they’re my own then no one can disagree with them. From this advice my ‘Struggle & Victories’ micro-talk was born.

Preparation is key I’ve heard… (unless you get Flu the week before)

From when Leigh asked me until the day of the talk, I had about 6 weeks to plan and get myself ready. Now that I knew what I was going to talk about I made sure I was ready the week before to give myself the full week to practice, practice, practice. I was going to practice to myself and time myself. Then I would present it to my team, get feedback and change where required. And then low and behold the week before mother nature called and I got Flu. And not just when I’m dramatic and say I’ve got flu but really I’ve just got a sniffle and a cold. This was full on, out for the count, flu!

In the week I was off when I had a spare minute that I was awake I would try and practice and run through what I wanted to say. There wasn’t much else I could do. I went back to work on the Monday (the actual talk was Tuesday) and had a meeting booked at 2pm to present what I had. I felt sick with nerves all day, I hadn’t prepared even slightly as much as I had wanted, I still had the back end of the flu but there was nothing I could do now. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous to do something in my entire life. If this was a complete flop, I had over night to fix it and that was it.

Thankfully for me it went well, I got some good feedback and adjusted as required. Only thing left to do was do the talk!

 

D-Day!

Surprisingly, I wasn’t that nervous on the day. After the previous days nerves I don’t think I had any left in me. I tried to wipe the talk out my head until I needed to think about it. Thinking about it would only make me more nervous than I needed to be. When I arrived at the Venue I still had over 2 hours before I would talk. Those hours flew by for me and before I knew it my name was being called and it was time. Once I started I just got in to the flow and kept going until the end. I was so glad I had my team with me and so grateful for their support, it was good to have people to make eye contact with when I needed it.

Don’t get me wrong, my talk wasn’t perfect, I missed bits out and went down different routes that I had planned but only I knew that and I just kept going. Another of my downfalls was that I didn’t consider questions at the end, rookie mistake. I was on the spot and waffled about what I was asked. Over all I had such a great time!!

After it was over I got lovely positive comments. People I didn’t even know coming up to me and congratulating me. People telling me how they had the same problems when they first started and how it was great I talked so personally. I was in a little bubble and I was so happy and proud of myself. An amazing night that I will never forget.

 

Would I do it again?

Definitely!! I’d be completely terrified all over again but I know nothing disastrous is going to happen. I think I’d probably like to do a follow up on what I spoke about at Liverpool. I like it being personal. It’s nice to think that I’m maybe helping even one person who’s learning and thinks it’s only them struggling with things.

If you ever get the opportunity to talk, no matter how big or small do it!! Take that opportunity with both hands and just go for it, what’s the worst that can happen?

 

The Talk

Firstly, a HUGE thank you to Leigh, Duncan & Chris for organising Liverpool Tester Gathering. The opportunity you give to people like myself to give their first talks is incredible and at such a wonderful and friendly event. If you ever get the chance to go, make sure you do. And also as I say in my talk thanks to the Testing Community you’re all amazing!

And now after all that, should you want to watch it my talk is below. Funnily enough I still can’t bring myself to watch it back, maybe one day!

R

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