What is your Ministry of Testing Meetup's Origin Story?

(T.J. Maher) #1

Are you an organizer for one of our many Ministry of Testing Meetups in the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Middle East, or elsewhere? What is your Meetup’s origin story? How did your group come to be? Was it part of a previous software testing group that rebranded? How did your group start? Is it an army of one, or do you actually have a leadership team?

As a new organizer of the Ministry of Testing - Boston, I would love to hear your story!

Organizing a Meetup is a wild ride, with a lot of ups and downs. If you don’t mind, I’d like to hear your story, and your insights, on topics such as:

  • How can software testers form their own local Ministry of Testing Meetup?
  • Recruiting new members.
  • Advertising the new group.
  • Hosting those first few events when you have a budget of zero.
  • Getting sponsors.
  • Putting together speakers, and hosts to form events.
  • Crafting events that meet the needs of the local software testing community.
  • Soliciting feedback so that the next event can be even better.
  • Community building tips.
  • Recruiting other event organizers to stave off burnout.
  • Comparing and contrasting the software testing job market in each locale.

Perhaps, we can group up and compare notes?

-T.J. Maher, @tjmaher1, tjmaher.com
Meetup Organizer, Ministry of Testing - Boston

(Jesper) #2

MoT Copenhagen, Denmark (https://www.meetup.com/Ministry-of-Testing-Copenhagen/) was started around a year ago. We have had 4 events - in the first part of the year. We (@andersdinsen) and I wanted to bring the Ministry Of Testing goodness to Copenhagen and Denmark. At the time the other local test meetup (https://www.meetup.com/TestLab/) was inactive, but have since picked up activities. Not that we are competing, it’s more or less the same people anyways…

That’s seems to be the struggle here. That few people see it as their own interest to learn more, when they are off work. Also Danes have a lot of other social things happening in the evening, and a general focus on being with the family.

We can always talk about the things that interest the two of us… finding topics that interest people is tricky too.

(Simon) #3


MoT Aylesbury started as a direct result of me attending Testbash in 2015 and loving the sense of community that conference gave. I started small, just with a LeanCoffee session in a local pub and had 7 people join. It was a great evening.

Since then, as an employee at McAfee, they allowed me to use the conference room facilities for free and i’ve tried to run an event atleast every couple of months on varying topics. But as the only organiser,i had to take a 6 month hiatus this year after the birth of my second child and i had noone else to pick up organising the events.

I don’t seem to have a shortage of willing speakers, twitter has been great at getting speakers, but organising sponsors has been difficult.

I mainly use social media to promote the events, and also promote them internally at McAfee and usually get around 20ish attendees at any given event.

(marzio) #4

We started the MoT Milan, Italy (https://www.meetup.com/it-IT/Ministry-of-Testing-Milan/) in September, and we have had 2 events 'till now, but the third is on the way to be released around January/February.
The idea of running a MoT meetup also in Milan was born at the end of a big boring&selling conference about testing, the kind of ones after you’ll be contacted for the whole year by vendors.
@cresta.federico and me met at that conference, I already knew this community, he just attempted a TestBash in Brighton, so we decided to give a try.
So far we run it as a meet in the pubs, chatting having a beer and some food. We usually start from a given topic, and let the discussions take their own way. We’d love to reach to a more structured meetup, with speakers and slides, and we are working on that. Our little community has grown 'til 70people in few months and this has really inspired us. We also joined another little local community, leaving separate our own identities, but having the same goals. We give support each other and for me this is already a little win.

(francois) #5

Bonjour! It is now our 2nd year of running the MoT in Lyon, France.

We are 3 main organizers, we met on the communication application Slack, thanks to the LyonTechHub team, a very active tech community which gathers many tech profiles from the town. We started by creating a blog with articles in English and French as a window so that people know us better: https://www.lyontesting.fr/en/

Why we created the Meetup?
Having worked 3 years in London, I really wanted to carry on all those interesting exchanges around testing that I had discovered there and which France, in my memories of previous work experiences, was terribly lacking of. The LyonTechHub community was already carrying various sessions with speakers, interactive workshops, but much more development or product owner oriented. We felt there was a gap with testing, and that people attending those sessions were keen on learning more about how to test products.

Meetup content
The type of sessions we hold are varied: lean coffees, short talks, games - TestSphere cards -, speakers - mostly French but one day by chance James Lindsay contacted us while in Lyon thanks to our blog and did a presentation which we opened to Meetup audience available during lunch time. My dream is one day to conduct a session such as the Zappers Meetup where we do hands-on testing with real device of real products, I remember it was my favourite sessions in London!

We mostly hold the Meetup in an amazing space which welcomes various events, companies, and hosts Meetup for free on specific days of the week. The place provides us the main material we need for presentation and group workshops. Once in a while, we change and go either to one of our companies which sponsors the food and drinks, either to the pub.

We chose Ministry Of Testing as a sponsor for the Meetup site window, after being approached by a testing outsourcing company which is more of the “We sell testing but we may as well sell Yogurt” type. MoT mindset is much closer to ours.
The first year, we had to find a sponsor for each event for the food and drinks, which worked fine since our companies took turns in it. This 2nd year we managed to find a new regular sponsor, another outsourcing company which we consider matches more the mindset and the goals we want to achieve. There is however no legal contract binding us, it is only moral, since we haven’t created a legal structure.

We should never forget insurance to cover those gatherings! We pay a yearly tribute fee to LyonTechHub association in order to benefit from their legal insurance and be covered in case of any problem during the Meetups.

We decided to take turns to organise each Meetup - and for tasks around our blog - so that none of us would feel doing too much or not enough work. It is very important since we do it during our free time, it should never feel like a hassle but stay a positive incentive in our lives.

I hope this information helps other MoT organizers.

(Viv) #6

Since June 2014 I’ve organised a software development meetup aimed at all roles (dev back/frontend, test, ba, product owner, UI, UX) involved in delivering a piece of software. Whilst this isn’t a MoT meetup I thought I’d try share some ideas for what’s worked well for our meetup.

I do not work for any of the companies which I mention below or receive any freebies from them!

Recruiting new members.
I’ve tried hosting my own site for the meetup, I struggled getting people to sign up to the site and many just couldn’t find it…

EventBrite, it was great to get people to sign up to events but it lacked some of the nice features like forums, polls etc to try and build more of a community for the meetup.

Meetup.com has been the best site to attract more members. From experience Meetup.com seems to be the site that drives lots of new members to join the meetup as it recognises similar events and recommend them to members based on topics and location.

If you have over ‘x’ amount of members Meetup.com charge you for their premium plan - what you can do though is host unlimited events from that account. So for example all of your meetups could share the cost and host MoT Manchester, MoT London, MoT Swansea for example all under the one subscription fee and that way you also build up/share a member list who can see all of these events in one place - I haven’t done this but it would save costs if you have many different events (different locations but same brand) - we just have one a month.

Sponsors can help with covering costs for your site or meetup costs - EventBrite is free for free events!

Advertising the new group.
Buffer.com or IFTTT.com provide free options to allow you to automate social media to help spread the word. I did a little write up about this a while back on a zero budget (http://vivrichards.co.uk/marketing/social-media-marketing-tips-tricks)

Hosting those first few events when you have a budget of zero.
Venues: Try to reach out to co-working spaces, bars to get one for free - many have AV equiptment for you to use. Depending on what night you run the meetup, during the week many places will be empty so will give you free space to get people in the door!

Food/Drink - see below.

Getting sponsors.
Look at similar types of meetups on EventBrite or meetup.com, try to contact them and see if they would like to help out. Whilst it may seem a lot to ask somebody to cover pizza/refreshments, the £150 or whatever it may cost is pennies if they manage to connect to lots of awesome testers who may one day want to work with/for them. Many companies where I live give money if you refer people to join their company - anywhere from £500 - £2000. When you think of it like that, a meetup with 20+ testers for example with just a £150 outlay for a company is nothing.

If you struggle to find the best person to email regarding sponsorship, use LinkedIn. LinkedIn will let you find people based on industry, companies and keywords etc so you can drop people a line and let them know about your meetup.

Putting together speakers, and hosts to form events.
The first year of running the meetup it was hard to find topics I felt would be of interest to the group so it was difficult to organise speakers. I asked for feedback and ideas but the group were very shy initially to suggest things.

I decided to host a round table for the first year. The round table consisted of the first 15 minutes of each meetup asking attendees to write down topics they would like to know more about or would like to share with the group that evening. After the 15 minutes are up run through each post it and ask people to raise their hand if they’d like to hear more. Post-it’s would be grouped most to least popular and then we’d spend 20 minutes on each topic until our meetup (usually 2 hours) was up.

The great thing about not having speakers lined up initially was that running a round table means the discussions are relevant to the people who attend on that evening, quite often many people who RSVP will forget - sh*t happens. It is also a good way to gather topics/ideas for future topics/speakers once your ready to change the format.

Again, once you know topics people want to hear more about, use LinkedIn to search for people near by who have skills/knowledge in the topics. I’ve done this many times and it’s been the best way of getting people to come speak at the meetup.

Crafting events that meet the needs of the local software testing community.
Above hopefully covers this?

Soliciting feedback so that the next event can be even better.
Post-it’s and index cards are scattered near the pizza, beer and placed on attendees seats. At the beginning of the evening attendees are asked to remember to provide feedback to help improve the event. Meetup.com also has polls and a forum to help with feedback. You could also capture members email addresses using something like mail chimp and send out survey monkey or google forms for example to gather feedback?

Community building tips.
Be consistent - try to run for example the same time each month (if you meet monthly). Many members for our meetup do not RSVP but know the meetup meets the last Monday of every month at the same time and in the same place.

Recruiting other event organizers to stave off burnout.
Ask people! At each event offer people to get involved.

Ask members who attend most meetups if they would like to help out? For the first two and a half years I ran the meetup on my own which was hard work. After a while I noticed many of the attendees came every single month and so I approached them to ask them to help and they jumped at the chance. Perhaps offer a local company to help out - perhaps this could be part of the sponsorship or something that they have a say in some of the topics for example (obviously it has to be relevant and not a sales pitch!).

Comparing and contrasting the software testing job market in each locale.
We spoke with recruitment companies and asked them to give talks on trends in the software development market. This was also pretty cool as they were able to meet people and provide help for people looking for new opportunities etc.