7 sins of IT meetups…

Entry 18

Last time I promised to write about the meetups and their pros and cons.

I have mentioned multiple times that meetups/gatherings/conferences are one of the things that I love so much about being a QA. The sheer possibility of meeting other professionals, to learn from them, to hear what they did right/wrong, to discuss various topics with other people, may it be QAs, BAs, DEVs, Agile-rs … That is just great.

Until now, I think I have been to around 35-40 meetups/gatherings/conferences – generally speaking “meetings in real (not virtual) world when group of people from IT gather and listens to presentations, discusses, shares and exchange experiences”. When I was sitting at the last one, I started to write down what I liked about it and what was bothering me, and it got me thinking…

I try to attend 2-3 of those a month, that means – I try to find the time and pick those 2-3 from the long list of interesting things happening in the IT-related world of Wroclaw, Poland, where I live. Not to restrict myself to strictly tester-related things, I go to at least one of meetings where I can learn also about project management or Agile as a process or about something else – just as long as I know I will understand what they will be talking about.aaeaaqaaaaaaaaqkaaaajdbkzgrkodiyltvmmzmtngziys05zwu2lwvkymy3zjhjoguzoa


I know that these things bothers people because I talked to some of them and overheard other speaking to each other but usually, they only give good feedback “officially” – e.g. under on the Meetup.com page. Maybe because we do not want to be harsh? Or maybe we are afraid other will be “harsh-back” when we will talk on another meetup? Maybe we just believe that if someone organized the meeting then we should only say what was good about it? Let be honest – only positive feedback may seem nice, but you also need to know what can be done better to grow and well – GET better…

Hereby I present to you:

7 (nearly deadly) sins of IT meetups

  1. Misleading (or simply deceitful) titles and descriptions
    Ned Martin

Did it ever happen to you that the presentation had little to nothing to do with its title/descriptions? It is not that bad when there is just a slight digression or a bit more of something else mixed in but when you get something very different with no explanation it just seems like a lack of mutual respect. Maybe the “real” topic is not interesting to me and would be interesting to someone else who did not come because of the “fake” one? Double time and possibility waste. Do you really want to tell people about something else than what they came to hear about? If yes, why?

  1. General Obvious, Sir!

463153296fb3a41334dcfb281ffeeea9e8c7debe29faaf233155a942629a5192Not every presentation has to be on a specialist-level and thanks gods for that, but if the meeting is not labeled as super-entry level talking for an hour about very obvious things that are clear for everyone who has been e.g. a tester for more than a month will be plain frustrating.
If there’s a presentation titled “Quality Assurance in Medicine” would you expect to hear:

  • we should find bugs because not found bugs cost money
  • QA in medicine help medical professionals in their work
  • watch a clip where medical professionals move around and operate some machinery with digital displays
  • hear that medicine can give a QA an opportunity to gain a domain-specific knowledge that will improve your CV and you may travel to customers to see them on site working with equipment you helped to test

That’s it. You could change medicine to education, finances, or any other business domain really and you would get exactly same presentation with exactly the same level of valuable data: zero. These kinds of presentations usually happen on HR hunting-events and are also guilty of sins no. 1 and 7

  1. Specifically specific

That’s the opposite of sin no. 2.

0213043c2680cd6a7dad73df5359c75ce089262b3b86476a62e6564f54c40c08Technical topics are great and I love to hear about the use of a specific framework to solve a very specific problem.  Sometimes though, the main topic of a talk/presentation/moderated discussion is so specific that only two people in the room of over 30 understand what it is all about (sometimes it is just the one person who gave the talk, who knows).

One time a person, visibly very passionate about his job (kudos for that), was giving a talk even his teammates, who were sitting behind me, did not get it. It was a shame because the presenter tried hard and clearly cared about what he was doing.

  1. Crouching recruiter, hidden HR

maxresdefaultSome of those events are organized by companies who see it as an opportunity to get people interested in working for them. That is totally fine and understandable as long as a tech meetup is still a tech meetup, not just an HR event, baiting people with talks/ presentations of questionable quality designed to show people how awesome this company is (and usually getting the exact opposite result). Usually connected with sin 2. There is nothing bad with using this opportunity to tell people how some project went and what did the company accomplish. The problem occurs when you don’t say anything of substantial value, opting to go for praising the company for just being generally awesome.

  1. Yyyyy….. unprepared

Everybody gets jitters sometimes, nothing new there. However, there is a difference between getting jitters and being clearly unprepared. There can be some technical malfunctions or you can just forget something, but usually, it is a lack of planning and training that ruins presenters.

the_unprepared_frog_480585I always feel uneasy when I see someone struggling with the talk/presentation because they simply did not spend enough time to prepare both the topic and the presentation itself. Sloppy slides, saying “yyy…” every second word, and being unprepared is just being impolite to the listeners. Giving great talks takes a while, that’s true, but it usually a question of just making the effort.

When I was giving my first talk I got a great help from our HR department – they listened, offered advice, and taught me the value of telling the story “to the mirror” or recording and listening to yourself.

Also, when you decide to use another language, please, please, make sure listeners will not have to use 70% of their attention to decipher what you are trying to say. You do not have to be perfect, even native speakers rarely are, but for heaven’s sake, you need to be communicative.

  1. Wrong time and wrong place

Meeting in a popular café seems like a good idea and usually, it is. Unless the rest of the jl1apcafé is still open and each time somebody orders a coffee the discussion is interrupted by coffeemaker going psssshhhh. Or every time the door open there sounds from the street jam the words and a bell rings to add to it.
More common problem is space – sometimes there is more people than space can simply accommodate. It’s a problem to go to the toilet (well, sometimes you just have to!) and the atmosphere gets hot and heavy in a sleepy way.

This may seem like nagging but try to concentrate when there is nearly 27*C and the oxygen seems to be gone 😉

  1. And let me just tell you one more thing”

There are actually two sub-sins here.

One is committed by those who either committed sin no. 5, and halfway through the talk, they realize they used all of the time already (could have known if you tried it at home ;)) or they simply have a hard time when it comes to grasping the concept of time. And they just keep talking…

brace-yourselves-boring-discussion-is-comingThe second possibility usually happens during discussion panels or Q&A sessions. There are 30+ people in the room. 10 them would want to add something to the discussion. There are 2 or 3 that talk only between themselves, not letting anyone else to chime in. Bonus, if those 2-3 talkers have known each other before and are in fact continuing the discussion they already had some time ago on similar topic…

If there is no moderator both of those can quickly turn into a very boring experience.

And a bonus:

People who say “that is actually not interesting”. In their own presentation or talk. About the topic, that they chose to talk about. In regards to something, they had put there themselves.
Why are you saying something if it is not interesting? Why did you put it on your agenda? So many questions…

I once went to a presentation where a guy said that literary every other slide and then skipped those.  I felt sorry for him in the end. He looked miserable talking about such boring things.

Of course, most of those have a full range – from “a little bit of” to “totally blown” and most of those can be avoided with good planning and thinking things through.

Next time: 7 virtues of IT meetups or why I love it anyway…

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