Review: TestCon 2016 – speaking abroad for the first time

Last week I experienced another ‘first’ in my career as a consultant: my first speaking gig abroad. The event: TestCon 2016. Location: Vilnius, Lithuania. Another first there: I’d never been to Lithuania before! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but hey, the best things in life happen when you least expect them, so I was happy to jump to the opportunity when my friends at Parasoft called me to ask me if I could act as a stand-in for one of their guys who couldn’t make it to the conference.

The conference
TestCon 2016 was the first edition of this conference, but you wouldn’t be able to tell this if you hadn’t known that before. The event was very well organized, with a good venue (the University of Applied Sciences) and excellent speaker treatment. A separate room for speakers to prepare for their presentation and to wind down afterwards was a first for me, although granted, I am nowhere near an experienced public speaker yet… And don’t forget full travel and lodging expenses were covered upfront, something that a lot of conferences could learn from. Another remarkable feat is that the organization managed to attract around 600 (yes, six hundred) attendees to this first edition. For a relatively small country with no established testing community, that is absolutely amazing. I think a lot of other conference organizers would consider themselves extremely lucky to get such a turnout. The only thing that could use some improvement next year is the number of local speakers. Of the 25 speakers, only 3 or 4 were from Lithuania. In comparison, there were 6 from the Netherlands.. I talked to one of the organizers afterwards and we agreed that hopefully this first event, which was a major success, leads to more local speakers next year.

My talk
The talk that was originally proposed by Parasoft was called ‘Deploy and Destroy Complete Test Environments: Service Virtualization, Containers and Cloud’. As this is an area that interests me as well, and in which I have experience as well as have done some writing and speaking work before, I decided to keep it and construct a story based on my own experience around it. For those of you that are interested in what I talked about, you can see the slides here:

I think my talk went pretty well, although there wasn’t too much feedback or reaction from the audience. Later I heard that more speakers experienced this (but some didn’t), so it might not just have been me, at least I hope not. It confirmed my preference for delivering workshops rather than talks though, since you let a lot more interaction and feedback from workshops due to the smaller groups and the hands-on work rather than just me broadcasting information (or sound, at least). Still, I got some questions and had a couple of good discussions afterwards, so the overall feeling I have looking back on my talk is a positive one.

Looking back
As I said, this has been my first experience as a speaker abroad, but as far as I’m concerned it will not have been my last one. Travelling, speaking and meeting interesting and fun people has been a very rewarding experience, although an exhausting one as well. The conference itself couldn’t have been organized any better (except for a couple of minor details, maybe). Also, the organization and all volunteers I have had the pleasure of meeting couldn’t have been nicer and more welcoming, and Vilnius has been an interesting city to spend a couple of days in. I’m already looking forward to the next trip, even though it hasn’t been planned yet. I’ll try and make it a workshop gig as that’s where my interests and strengths are, I believe, but I won’t say no to delivering another talk, either.