Tips for Submitting to A Testing Conference

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    Ronan Healy

    So after the Hangout we had last week on Huddle on how to submit to a testing conference and with the EuroSTAR 2016 Submission deadline fast approaching, I thought it would be a good time to go over any tips anyone had about submitting to a testing conference.

    Based on @sgershon and @ruudteunissen suggestions last week, some tips would include:

    Submit on a topic you care about Know your subject and be passionate about it

    Shape Your Submission Like A Fish Ruud suggested that a submission should look like a fish; strong but short opening, a wider middle to expand and a short but clear end.

    Don’t just stick the Theme into Your Submission If the conference has a theme you are submitting to then don’t just out those words into your submission. Think about how your idea might fit in the overall theme of the Conference.

    So what other suggestions would you have for those thinking about submitting to EuroSTAR or submitting for the first time? For those of you you are regular speakers, is there a perfect formula for a successful submission?


    Here’s a video with some more tips from 2015 speakers on making a successful submission:


    I don’t know how to write a good submission. I thought I did, but then my submissions were rejected, so really I don’t.

    But I do know what issues we faced on a previous year’s Eurostar committee when reviewing submissions.

    When I was on the programme committee the common issues with proposals were:

        There was no information in the proposal.

    The proposal is not the ‘teaser blurb’ that is posted to the conference site. So ‘hinting’ that you’ll provide ‘5 secret tips’ will not get your proposal accepted. You have to say, in the proposal, what the 5 secret tips are.

        There was no benefit to the attendees.

    It’s great that you want to describe your project and what you learned, but what will the attendees learn from it. Why should they turn up to listen to you. Describe the key points you want to try and get across.

        Testing is like X, but you have no experience of X.

    There are a lot of proposals that come in of the form, “I’ll compare testing to slug farming, and much hilarity will ensue” This might be a great submission if you are a part time slug farmer, but otherwise I suspect you’ll just be regurgitating points from slug farmer’s weekly, and less hilarity will ensue than you think. Draw the talk from your experience for big committee points.

        The proposal went on for pages, and pages, and pages, and…

    Get to the point. If you can’t describe your proposal succinctly and clearly, then the committee are likely to believe you will not present it clearly and run the risk of boring the attendees.

    It can be hard when writing submissions, because you probably have not written the talk at this point. So I try and outline the talk and the basic areas of the talk prior to writing the submission. Then the submission will have the detail it needs, and when it is accepted and comes time to write the talk, you can live up to the expectations you submitted.

    Finally… remember that you are writing a sales pitch. So it might help to read some books on copywriting and advertising. e.g. Ogilvy on Advertising, The Adweek Copywriting Handbook


    The key factor, as far as I am concerned, when submitting a proposal is whether or not it provides an answer to the age old question asked by conference attendees everywhere: “How does this help me in my day to day work?”

    In all the talks I’ve given (the princely total of about 9 or 10) I tend to leave out the theory and go straight to the practice. The biggest grumble I hear from attendees coming out from talks if that they can’t tie the talk to anything practical. It’s common that Managers ask the attendees to give presentations on what they learned at the conference when they go back to work so always try to have at least one ‘take home’ item that the attendees (and, by proxy, the proposal reviewers) can latch onto.

    As Alan mentioned above, it can be a little tricky to submit a proposal on a talk you haven’t written yet so it pays to flesh out your idea first and then condense it down into a proposal rather than the other way around.

    Other than that, keeping it original (go back over previous conference schedules and check that you’re not covering old ground) and topical will ultimately increase your chances of standing out among all the proposals …


    Here are my tips for submitting (from a former Programme Chair and presenter):

    1. Your experience should be helpful to others.
    If you are presenting about your own experience, remember that you are the expert about that. But focus on what would be most useful to other people from your experience. Knowing what you know now, what do you wish you knew when you started out?. What lessons did you learn through your experience? What were your greatest successes? What were your greatest challenges, and how did you overcome them (or not!). Often people learn the most from what went wrong, even when things never did get perfectly sorted out in the end.

    2. Pick a few really important points and focus on them.
    Have a very clear idea of what the people listening to you will gain by your talk. Focus on only a few of the most important points, and illustrate each of them with your own experience, both of things going well, and things not going so well. You can’t successfully explain, illustrate and inspire about 17 points, but you could about a few or half a dozen.

    3. Try writing the presentation before the proposal
    Some people have made the point that you don’t have to write the presentation before you submit your proposal. This is true, but it doesn’t work for me. This might be an alternative approach:

    Write the presentation first. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but get the main points, and put some slides in with the “bones” of what you will want to say. Then try to give the presentation to somebody. Maybe you can walk through it with a friend (or understanding spouse or partner). If you do this with a non-colleague, you may find things that you need to explain more fully (that people from your company would already know). Trying to “tell the story” can also help to identify points that, however good in themselves, don’t actually contribute directly to the main message(s) of your talk. Then write your abstract and proposal after you know what you think will be in the presentation.

    4. Tend toward the generic, rather than technology-specific
    You might have learned some really deeply technical things, specific to your environment, platform, company or applications. But the EuroStar audience will come from a huge variety of different organisations, with varying team sizes, a wide variation in technical know-how, and different types of software and systems. Something that is great for a financial institution may not be relevant at all for embedded systems, and vice versa. So to be most useful to the most people, try to focus on more generic and general issues. Of course, there may be specific highly technical talks that might be very useful to a number of people attending the conference, but the more technical your talk, the more limited your audience will be.

    5. Do your research
    Do investigate what is “out there” related to what you want to talk about. An idea may be totally new to you, but if it is something that other people have known about for a while, your proposal may come across as “same old, same old”. Check for articles, blogs, books and previous presentations at EuroStar related to your topic.

    Hope these tips are useful – all the best with your submissions!


    I have been speaking for the last 7 years now, with a mix of proposal accepts and some rejects. In 1-2 cases, the proposal submitted for a speaking slot was chosen for a paper presentation (instead). Here are my 2 cents of having been involved in the test evangelism space, including helping others in my organization with their proposals:

    1. Firstly, it is a great step forward that you are even exploring to submit a proposal. Eurostar is a wonderful platform to share what you have to say. Please do not be intimidated by what the outcome may be. Feel excited that you are one amongst the set of people who want to learn and also share what you have to say
    2. That said, articulation of all of what you have to say in the limited real estate you have on the form is certainly a challenge. To get this done, remember that the crux of your message is what reviewers are looking for. Does it align with the conference’s theme this year? Is this a solution that a large number of attendees would be interested in, able to learn from and apply back in their organizations? Is this known information that is already available easily online or something new and exciting, waiting to change how we test, make us more productive and efficient? Are you bringing in your practical knowledge where you are very convinced about what you are going to share and will be able to answer questions that audience may have for you? Try answering these questions and shaping your abstract from these responses,
    3. Think through the sections of the submission form. There is a reason why questions such as presentation format, key things audience can take back etc. are asked. Put yourself in the audience’s shoes to see if such a proposal was shown to you, if you would be interested in attending the session
    4. Remember that you don’t have to detail out everything you want to say in your session, at this stage. You may not even have all the information ready yet. At this time, it is important for you to come in with a clear idea of what you want to present, why and for whom.
    5. With the above in mind, try to also phrase your title to be a little catchy. For instance, if your topic is around, how exciting software testing is as a career, it could be something like, “Why I still love what I do, after xyz years”, as opposed to “Software Testing is an Exciting Career”. Feel free to get your proposal reviewed internally in your team by someone who can give you candid / constructive feedback.

    And finally, do not take it personally, if your proposal is not accepted. It does not mean you are not fit for it – it only means, there were better submissions that were more compelling. If possible, you can try connecting with your conference co-ordinator to see if you can get some anonymous feedback to help you do better the next time around. After every conference that I speak at (whether a keynote, tutorial or a concurrent session), I ensure I reach out to the organizers to see if I can get feedback / evaluation from the audience, to see where I did well and where I could have done better. Continuous Learning it is! Good luck!

    Jan Jaap

    The question what makes a proposal a good proposal is a difficult one. At some conferences about all my proposals are accepted, at other conference non. What I mostly do it think carefully what is my main message, what is it the attendees should remember after the presentation. My submissions mostly start with this main message. Then I explain the trend or underlying problem why this is important, then I explain shortly the content of the presentation and I end with the main message.
    Does this always work? No, but it works for me quite often.


    Some great tips there. Thanks @janjaap, @rajini, @dorothy, @colm-harrington, @laurent-bossavit and @eviltester – great to get inputs from previous speakers, committee members and programme chair.

    Here are some more tips from Graham Thomas, another regular EuroSTAR contributor. Graham was on the Committee for EuroSTAR 2011 in Manchester.

    Hopefully the collection of tips prove useful to newcomers and people who have tried in the past but were not successful.

    Good luck to all!


    Only a few days for deadline, have you already submitted or are you still thinking? As many people I like to work towards a deadline, so I will send another submission to EuroStar. But how can I improve my proposal? It sound quite simple but I find it immense important: ask for feedback!
    When I have written my proposal I look friendly at my wife and ask her: do you time for a review?
    She is great in looking at my proposal, because if I haven’t made my point clear she will tell me. She doesn’t have a IT background but has experience in writing abstracts before she became a PhD. So she is critical on the message (she wants to understand what I am trying to say) but also on my English language.

    I remembered once that I wrote a brilliant article, I thought. My teacher at university made perfectly clear that it wasn’t brilliant at all. Then I learned the importance of feedback.

    So you have still some days, look at the tips above then you will be going in the right direction, but please ask for feedback !

    the Ard of testing


    My tip at this moment ( 15:00 on the deadline day) is:

    When you are reading this tips to be able to submit and still have to write down your first words: YOU SHOULD HAVE BEGUN SOONER!

    Besides the great tips that have already been given:
    – Take your time to write your submission; don’t expect people to spend more time on reviewing, correcting etc. than you have writing it. Reviewers mostly spend 10 – 15 minutes, in some cases 30 mins to read it.
    – A submission shouldn’t be an idea alone that will materialise during the year so that you will have a piece when you have to send in the slides
    – Non-native English; be aware that your English isn’t that good. Proper use of grammar and other choice of words is not that easy as you might think. For example: “I thank you from the bottom of my heart and my husband’s bottom also” is hilarious for our English speaking co-testers 😆 and I won’t even think about mentioning our brilliant ‘Denglish’ speaking ‘Louis van Gaal’ , he got a whole bisquit of his own dough 😉
    – Be authentic, don’t be a poser (don’t write something that you think might be popular just to get on the program)

    Ronan Healy

    Some great tips guys. I think the reply’s here show the spirit of the testing community. It can be hard to take that first step to app[y but once you do but it really is worth it. Best of luck to anyone submitting to EuroSTAR.

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