Been a week that I am back from an enthralling experience at STPcon Spring 2015 held at San Diego in the week of 30th March – 2nd April. I have attended a few conferences in past – this one being the best so far and plan to attend more in future . And always have a set of expectations and goals with each of them. Majority of which is learning, meeting new people, meeting people I have otherwise known and followed and liked in the online world (thanks to Facebook / Twitter / Linkedin), business networking, making friends. One of my favorite thing to do is to buy items from India that Indian women relish as fashion accessories and gift them to my favorite people when I see them. Makes me happy.
I truly enjoyed meeting so many of my favorite peeps at the STP conf and since I was meeting most of them not for the 1st time, it was easier to have fun and talk more freely. Knowing them from before, following them online and having previous interactions helped me know what subjects could we discuss to make the best of those precious moments of being face to face.
Going back to expectations and goals that we have with any event, in this case conferences – lets call it “Purpose” for the lack of a better term. I would like to think everyone going to a conference, builds a purpose in their mind which keeps getting refined at each step – say for an attendee, as they are choosing a conference, a particular package and as they put their preferred sessions on the program. How well you choose your sessions will be a major factor on how meaningful was your experience at the conference.
When I am speaking at a conference, my key purposes with which I measure my success ( how meaningful was my experience) would include – how well I connected with my audience, how much could I impart and if they could learn any bit or atleast get the basics and the approach, even if they take time to ingest all at once and we discuss them (post conference too) over next couple of weeks or months. Another purpose for me is what I learn from the attendees and can I takeaway some new perspectives.
I had an experience this last week at one of my classes that drove me to write about “Purpose” with respect to conferences. IMO – Conferences are one of the best places to learn, experience and network. And it really pained me to see an attendee sitting through the class for 8 hours and then say “I am a technical tester and am not sure if this session is of much use to me” . It pains me because that attendee paid for something that he felt he could not make much use of. Paid not only in terms of money but in terms of time that he can never earn back. Pained me more because I felt inadequate as a teacher. I should have been able to see through his adaptive camouflage during the sessions. I think i did somewhat. But there was so much to cover with respect to my subject that I could not have focused on that 1 out of 30 odd and fixed it right then in the class.
On a side note, I am thankful to STP for sharing each and every feedback and putting so much effort in compiling all of them, for me to come to a relative score that also helps me see if i am improving as a speaker. Back to topic – When I look back, I still believe it would be difficult on me to help this attendee if the same situation repeated. I assessed the attendee over the exercises and realized he needed to learn more of “testing” before he went to understand role of business domains in testing.
I am happy that I could help rest of the class – I got some raving remarks too and overall got rated as 4.42 on a scale of 5. Helps my soul.
But how must that attendee be feeling after the tutorial.Are we at a risk of losing a potential learner? How can we avoid such situations – What can you do to define your purposes better and feel more content with your learnings ?
I encourage you to share your thoughts too on this, while I am sharing a few from my end:
- Build Purpose by knowing –
- What skills do you need for your current job
- What skills would you like to develop for future perspectives
- What topics interest you
- What is the direction your organization taking – would you need some new skill to support your firm
- Map Purpose to Abstract –
- Read the topic well (but sometimes with a pinch of salt)
- Read the abstracts carefully – in detail
- Look at “key takeaways” – almost all conferences have these upfront on their program details
- Find contact details of the speakers – if in doubt – talk to him/ her in advance to understand what will be taught / discussed
- Ask speakers to suggest some background study , if possible.
- After Party
- Connect with others in the class
- Stay in touch and discuss how each is implementing the learnings
- Go back to the speaker for clarifications and more help
Looking forward to your suggestions too. Hope this helps someone. And one last thought – DO NOT GIVE UP LEARNING BECAUSE A PARTICULAR TEACHER OR CLASS COULD NOT TEACH YOU. I AM SURE THERE IS SOMEONE OUT THERE TO HELP YOU.