TestBash: Looking after Our Speakers Through Good Communication

This blog was originally posted on Medium.

One thing you can’t really run a conference without is speakers. Even before I joined Ministry of Testing, I knew that they valued their speakers. Once I joined, I knew I would, and should, strive to keep these values for every event we hosted.

It started with Brighton. Each speaker and workshop host got an individual acceptance email. “Yea and?” I hear you say. Except for a couple of occasions, each of these people continued to get individual emails. I checked how their travel plans were coming along, did they need advice on sights or transport. Others wanted to check in regularly which was pretty cool. I felt like as we got closer to the event, I knew ones I hadn’t even met before. Or at least knew them enough to strike up a conversation with them.

This gets a bit more difficult when your speakers are in different time zones. I didn’t want these people to feel like I was any less available for help. I did adjust my schedule to make sure I was able to catch all the timezones should the speakers have any questions for me.

After the event, I got to email the speakers some more! We pay speakers expenses so it was time to get those payments sorted. Again, I emailed or slack messaged each speaker individually. By this time, I had learned which was the preferred communication method for each of the speakers. Dan Billing said, “That must take you ages”. It did take me quite a while but I thought it was a nice touch to finish out the speaker’s interactions with me. Dan agreed when I explained my thinking to him “That’s a really nice thing to do!” It doesn’t hurt to ask how the journey home went, did their family like the gifts they had bought them etc. Geoff Lokens sign off made me smile “I’ll miss our daily emails :P”.

So I decided to keep doing this. For the Netherlands and Dublin, I have done my best to keep to individual emails for everyone. It’s not always possible to send those individual emails, but let’s do our best to show our speakers that we care. Let’s encourage them to want to speak again. Let’s help them feel like the rockstars that they are for getting up there and sharing their stories and helping people learn.

What about the people who don’t get to speak? Well, this is the hard part. We go through the unsuccessful abstracts and Richard has the awful job of telling people “We’re sorry but your abstract was unsuccessful…”. This is not something that any of us enjoy doing. Richard offers that we will give feedback to people who were unsuccessful about why this might have happened and what they could do differently.

This is another thing that does take a LOT of time but it is worth it in the end. Many people who were unsuccessful in the past took feedback on board and have since been on a stage either at TestBash or another conference. We don’t have to do this, we want to. The Ministry of Testing motto has always been “co-creating smarter testers”. We can’t do that if we remove ourselves from the community or take an approach of “You didn’t get in and you’ll never know why”.

Love your speakers. Value their time. They are awesome!