Running a Conference Playbook

So You Want to Host an Internal Conference? You’ve come to the right place. Below I share all my lesson’s learned when hosting an internal Software Test Conference 2021.

Establish a Planning Committee

Pulling off a multi day conference is hard, and will require a lot of energy. It’s best to share that load with a trusted team. Identify the team and call your first meeting. During your first meeting establish the why you are hosting this conference. Also during this meeting assign out the below responsibilities. YOU NEED A TEAM, DON’T TRY THIS ALONE.

  • Responsibilities for content selection
  • Responsibilities for speaker selection
  • Responsibilities for game ideas or conference activities
  • Nail down a date/time with group, and set clear expectations
  • Action item to send out calendar invites as place holders until content/speakers are nailed down.

Information Gathering (Poll the audience)

I’ve found it best to poll the audience to get ideas for what they want to learn: technologies, strategies, theory, etc, but as a leader, it’s your final call to make the decision for what would be best for the team. Google forms or survey monkey is great for gathering this feedback.

Build Out the Schedule

Remember to kick off the Conference with a nice intro, challenge the group to step outside of their comfort zones, and meet some new people. Make it safe to ask questions (no dumb questions only dumb answers).

Remember to plan for and take lots of breaks. These don’t have to be super long breaks, but this could give people to deal with any distractions or have healthy adhoc interactions with other team members.

Try and balance the content with ‘Talks’ and ‘Interactive Activities/Workshops’

Publish the schedule (even if incomplete, it won’t be perfect until day of conference). I included the why, and where as well on the below page, along with any breakout groups or links to prerequisite work. (Served as my source of truth).

Example: Software Testing Conference 2021

Market Market Market

Once topics have been decided and speakers selected, it’s time to market, market, market. The conference will be no fun if no one shows up. If your not 100% of speaker selection and spots, it’s still ok to go ahead and start, let there be suprise/mystery speakers that get revealed leading up the conference.

Create a Logo! This will be used in emails and just give a good look to the team, that extra polish to make it awesome. In communication calendar invites use 🔥 emoji as it is cool. Establish a place for the team to communicate before and after the conference Save all videos, slides, links diagrams, and upload to a main landing page for future reference. Send surveys to attendees after each presentation to get instant/good feedback.

Establish who it is for?

Example: For 2021 Test Team Professional Development, the Test Team will be hosting our own conference for learning.

This conference has been organized internally and is available for any team member within Daxko to join (though targeted for Test Engineers and aspiring Test Engineers).

Establish a Why

Example: The goals for this conference are:

  • Investment in Daxko team members careers, giving them a dedicated opportunity to learn and grow
  • Build stronger relationships within the individual testers all over the world
  • Give an opportunity for individuals to present and share ideas with the broader team
  • Have fun through team building activities

Establish a Where?

Example: Toucan Events is a great platform for collaboration, so is zoom for only presenting.

Make sure you can record sessions either through the tool itself or through something like OBS. This should be a 2nd computer not the main computer you are using to facilitate/host.

Establish a When? Day, Topic / Activity, Presenter, Duration, Timezone, Link to pre-work, link to join, additional info if needed

Workshops should be interactive. If you need a tool to help create groups for you: Random Team Generator - Keamk Workshops should have learning outcomes.

Execute

It’s game time! The conference is here, make sure that you bring the energy, and fun! Here is a link to a soundboard that could be useful - Fun. Try to keep on time Make sure that people feel safe to ask questions At the end of the conference, get Feedback. Create a survey for the team to fill out so you can get feedback on the event and make it better. Also at the end of the event challenge the team in some way to start applying what they learned in their day to day work.Execute

Games

There are some good games at https://quagmatic.com/games

Tools to help with Engagement

  • Miro Lite - to get real time participation
  • Google Docs - Forms - to capture feedback after event
  • Mentimeter - lots of ways to interact with groups through presentations, real time surveys, word clouds, etc.