24 July, 2011

Foray into Public Speaking

Talk about Speaking
Here's one of those impending posts that's close to my heart.

One of the major goals for 2010 was to speak at conferences. Somehow, it got too hard. I probably didn't push enough.

Talking to a virtual audience
In October 2010, I got an opportunity to present a talk to college students across India thanks to Pradeep, Rahul Verma and the team at Edista who organized the talk. This talk was a live broadcast from M S Ramaiah Medical College to about 24 engineering colleges across India. 24 Colleges, say about 100 students in each college, which meant 2400 students from different parts of India. Numbers are amazing ego boosters. I had about a day to prepare. I was asked to talk about 'Testing as an interesting career option'. By the time I got a final confirmation for the talk, I had about 6 hrs left. I made some quick notes and it was already time to leave for the venue. I was busy rehearsing in the cab, memorizing the order in which I wanted to mention a few points, blah blah blah. Actually, my talk pretty much was blah blah blah.

Firstly, this talk was a live telecast and hence I had to be in a Recording Studio which appeared like a Bhooth Bangla (haunted place) from outside the college campus. Secondly, I had to keep staring at a defined area on the monitor to appear as if I am talking to the virtual audience. Thirdly, If someone posted questions to me on the chat window, I had to turn 45 degrees towards my left side to read those questions, again on the screen. The recording personnel was co-operative and promised to remind me where to look and when. It was a little weird to me, but I was looking forward to the talk as it was my first talk.

Even before I started the talk, I had gulped about 250 ml of water from a giant 2 litre bottle. I started with usual introduction and set the agenda. I spoke about why testing is considered a "not so sexy" career option, how this perception is changing, what's wrong with college graduates thinking testing doesn't pay as well as programming and a few other things. Most of what I spoke that day escapes my memory. Blame it on my pregnancy at the time :)

As I spoke, I could see students in conference halls of respective colleges looking at the large screens in their hallway, a few of them coming forward to type in questions and a major chunk of those walking out of the hall because the talk was on "testing". Nothing unusual. College graduates don't even want to listen what testing is all about. I was happy that at least a few students stayed back to listen to what I had to say. I very well knew I was not presenting well. I also knew that the content I had was good (which was actually not enough for a good talk anyway). I pretty much ended the presentation with my email and blog details for any impending queries. Students left and I left too. Out of curiosity, I asked the recording guy how many would have attended my talk approximately (fancy numbers again). He answered it would be around 50-100 people overall as that day fell into one of those long weekend holidays in India. I wondered, "Even if one person found my talk useful, I would be happy". I also hoped that, that one person would contact me in some way and tell me how useful it was. It did happen. That talk did help one person to be exact. It was Me.

I knew that with the time I had for preparation, that is the best I could have done. After that, I got busy with personal things, but somehow wasn't happy about the progress I made in public speaking.

Talking to a live audience 
Bangalore Testers Monthly Meets came in handy. I strongly felt I should start presenting regularly at these meetups. The day finally came. I presented on "Testimation" at Blrtmm#3. I make it a point to attend all meets and mini-conferences in and around bangalore for most part. One glaring thing about many of these is the fact that the audience is very keen on learning new tools or scripting languages. Not a single person would possibly think of skills development, optimal test documentation, how to work on new test ideas etc. I am biased towards these topics as I believe that these are perceived as major pain points in many organizations today. We need education in these areas more than ever.  Since, I had struggled with test estimation myself for a while, I thought of presenting my challenges. Luckily, most of the audience related to it. It was a good start for me as a speaker with this topic.

The feedback I received was awesome. Not that my talk was awesome. It's just that it was decent for a start. One of the common feedback I got was, "To smile more often while presenting". Second feedback was to get a strong hold on the topic that I present. There were many more like this.

These two talks will be very special to me as they helped me realise I'm not all that bad. Yeah, I crack really poor jokes.  I should probably take up some classes in Standup Comedy.

I admire Vipul Kocher and Rahul Verma when it comes to public speaking. They capture audience's attention within fraction of seconds. I don't really know how they manage. Michael Bolton cracks up the audience so often in a span of minutes. And Malcolm Gladwell! Oh! Malcolm does it so well..........apparently, he said in one of his Ted speeches that he memorizes all his speeches in advance line by line. I won't buy that argument anyway. Hopefully, I'll learn from many of these good speakers out there.

So this was a sneak preview into my speaking journey. I didn't have time to update about my talk at Blrtmm#3 to the blogging world as I was in a transition phase with my previous company and hardly had free time. Will keep you posted on new happenings as they occur.

Thank You,

1 comment:

BeStyled said...

Parimala after reading ur post I am motivated to do MANY things. One of the many things i learnt is Being more passionate to testing.