Sunday, January 12, 2014

Professional meeting? JeST DO IT

This post is about my experience of organizing Tester’s meeting. It is true  as well for any other meeting, be it Software Developers, Social workers or a meeting of Puppeteers.

The 3rd meeting of JeST – the Jerusalem workshop on SW Testing is just over. Such a meeting is a great opportunity to meet fellow testers, and share experiences and ideas.
I am the proud founder of JeST, together with Shmuel Gershon, Asher Samuels and Alon Waisbard (look in Twitter for @sgershon, @absamuels  and @awaisbard ). I am telling you that because less than a year ago, organizing such a meeting, looked to me as a distant vision, something that will happen in the far future when I will develop the complex skills necessary to organize such an event.
But it doesn’t.
A moment during JeST2

Organizing a meeting is so easy, that I must share how easy it is, with you. The main issue to overcome is the mental block and just do it. To help you overcome this block, I prepared a list of the things that you don’t need, in order to hold such a meeting:
1)      A budget
You will be able to find a place to host a short meeting. You don’t need to rent a conference hall. It can be the room in the company of one of the meeting participants, or one’s home living room. Refreshments can be brought by the host or by the participants.  If it works for you and the potential participants, you can schedule a meeting in a quiet restaurant and address the need for both the location and refreshments.
2)      Sponsors
Since you don’t need a heavy budget, you don’t need an organization to support your meeting. Although I welcome cooperation and networking, which naturally happens in such meetings, I prefer to remain independent and stay away from organizations that try to use the meeting for their own promotion.
A thank you note should be enough as a return of the hosts good will.
3)      Heavy logistics
You don’t need a full-time administrator to organize such a meeting. Split the tasks between a few friends and it will not consume too much time. Use social networks to spread the word. Meetup service can simplify the process even more, in return for a payment of a few bucks.

(Late note: there are many Meetup groups which are allready dedicated to promote events like yours. See for example: ILTechTalks group. All you need is to suggest your event in such group, free of charge)
4)      Professional presenters and presentations
Not everyone who has interesting things to say is a professional presenter and the length of a
JeST3 agenda
presentation does not make it better (most times it’s the opposite). For our meetings, we chose a format of lightning talks followed by a discussion.  One time, we had a “regular” presentation, which was great too, but the most significant part for most of the participants was the discussions that we held.
5)      A large number of participants
Rating is overrated. While it is nice to see many people come to “your” meeting, a large audience has its drawbacks too – the atmosphere is less intimate, it’s harder to facilitate the discussion, and not every participant feels free to express his opinion. When I started to organize the first JeST meeting, I was worried that the meeting would not  draw a “respectful” number of participants.  I did the “Worst case scenario” drill and came to conclusion that if only me and the other 3 folks that shared the idea of organizing the meeting would come, it would not be a waste of time.  At the end the meeting turned out to be a success, also by the number of participants.
All the above are not a “must have” in order to organize your testers meeting. All you need is Testers and a love of testing.