You go confer now

I’m writing this to you, who never been to a testing conference, maybe followed some online, watched some videos or only heard about that they exist. I know that you either have to work for a good enough company that will send you to one or (most times with a significant amount) invest in yourself to go to one, I know, I do both.

With Testbach* Manchester ended I’m concluding my year conference-wise. I’ve been to 6 testing conferences this year, classic ‘1-talks-rest-listens’ type, hybrid ones, entirely open space events or those that were built solely on full day workshops/tutorials. Free ones and ones that cost my monthly salary.

I’m telling you, wherever you go, you will not learn as much as you expect to. To be less shallow: you will not learn as much hands-on, immediately applicable things as you expect to. Ever had the experience of skimming through a program/agenda (of a festival, semester, anything) where titles seemed to promise so much more then they could deliver? ‘All you wanted to know about mobile testing!’, ‘Exploratory testing embedded systems.’ And we are tempted to think that we will be told about it all.

Instead, let’s look up the meaning of the verb ‘confer‘ from which conference is stemmed from: ‘to discuss something important in order to make a decision‘. Good news, this is what you are going to do on a conference! If it’s an all-talk event, then you either have to do it in the breaks or ask the speaker. You will discuss something important with testers coming from a so different context that you don’t have words for. I’ve seen people bringing a local installation of the software they test, because they wanted to find someone who works with a similar one. You will go back to your team and never look at them, your application or your job as before. You will ask questions about your own company – where you might be working for years already – that you haven’t thought of before. You will see that what you know others might be oblivious to. You can teach them and you will even learn from it.

All these could be summed up shorter: enthusiasm. That’s the primary output of a conference. Plus the feeling of community and excellent contacts that you can ask later, people are happy to help.

Okay, I can contradict myself. I’ve learnt about identifying testing skills in Bucharest, the recipe for critical thinking in Copenhagen, that if you have branches you can not possibly continuously delivering in Cluj, firing up Postman in London, tried public speaking for the first time in Rijeka or seen how to intercept traffic of a website with ZAP in Manchester. So there were some immediately applicable things. But now you think I know much more about critical thinking and Postman than I really do.

I could put a big list of links here, but instead I’ll give you only two. Look at this list and choose a conference that you will go next year:
The other one is a post from the more competent than me Željko Filipin, where he lists why you should not go to a conference: I met him on a conference. Which he helps organizing.

*that, there, is a genuine typo that I didn’t correct.

Photo is from the great


4 thoughts on “You go confer now

  1. Kristine

    Hi there! I like your summary and agree about conferences in general, but want to add my 5 cents.
    I took two workshops at TestBash Brighton. Both were amazing, I learned new stuff immediately and could use it afterwards in my daily work life. That is why in Agile Testing Days I wanted to attend workshops during the conference as well, but learned a lesson. I found out that workshop under 4 h length has less value for me. Plus I missed good lighting talks.

    Every conference has different focus and mostly you cannot read it out of programmes. Is it more about learning new skills, giving support, connecting and socialising or simply having fun together.


  2. erikhun

    Hey, yes, I saw the contradiction in my post, but I guess I didn’t want to smooth it out so it would stir more emotions in people who read it. Very true that I learned more from a full-day workshop sitting at my own laptop, than a talks-only day. Thanks for the addition and hope to see you around on conferences! : )


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