Why Do You Go To Conferences?

Recently @maaret shared a blog post Why Do I Go to Conferences?

I used to get learning from conferences, but now my “being aware of techniques” learning quota feels full.

This is something I’ve heard from many people. “I don’t go to conferences because I wouldn’t learn anything”. I agree that perhaps once you’ve been in testing for a while, you won’t take away vast quantities of learning from every single talk that you attend. You might just take away something you never thought you would though :wink:

The flip side of that is:

I’ve come back from those with new colleagues in the community to learn with, even friends.

Someone recently said to me that they don’t go to conferences for the talks. They go for the talks about the talks. That’s an excellent way to learn from people in the community and make friends, as Maaret mentions.

For me, there’s many reasons I go to conferences:

  • It’s a way for me to meet old testing friends from around the world that I wouldn’t normally get to meet in person.
  • I get to meet new people who then become old friends with each conference we attend together.
  • I learn something from everything I hear (a talk, a talk about a talk, a conversation I hear as I pass a group).
  • I meet people who may be interested in coming to Dublin or Belfast to speak at the meetups and I help them to get in touch with the right people.

Why do you go to conferences? Or if you don’t go: what’s stopping you from going to conferences?

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Why I go:

I love meeting people, and hearing different testing experiences!
I love catching up with old friends
I love learning things!
I kind of enjoy networking - I like seeing who’s out there and connecting people who can do awesome things together
I find podcast topics and guests :wink:

Why I don’t go:
I do not travel well at all, so even going Manchester > London is a slog for me. I tend to save those trips up for Testbash Brighton and maybe another meetup down there a year
I’ve been slowly learning to say no - I do a lot of stuff, and I want to keep on top of all of it as best I can without burning out entirely, which means doing less extracurriculars

The free online events are a great way to do the meetup without the travel, so they’re great, as well as slack/twitter/here.


I like to go for a few reasons:

  1. As a speaker - to share my experiences in the hope that it will help and benefit others, and to have some good Q&A’s at the end where I can learn something new or take on board a different viewpoint relating to the subject that I hadn’t considered.
  2. As a participant - to meet new people, network, chat, find out what people are doing, how their role differs in their organisation etc.
  3. As a participant - to learn from the speakers on subjects I know a little or not much about, to be challenged in my knowledge or assumptions and to make me go away and think about things in a different (and more open minded) way.
  4. As a testing professional - to do all of the above as I care about my career, about testing, and I love the fact that there are so many other people who also care, like to share and want to be good at their jobs too.

Basically, testers rock!


I’ve only ever been to three testing conferences (and spoken at two) however I have started to get the “conference bug.” I watch a lot of conference talks online as well.

  1. The chance to meet people with different stories of testing practice in different industries.

  2. The chance to meet in person those whose twitter accounts I follow and blogs I read.

  3. The chance to watch and learn in person from the great speakers we have in the industry, and to find new areas of practice and tech that interest me enough to learn on my own.

  4. The opportunity to talk about testing and geek out with people who also know what it’s like to be a tester.

What was really unexpected, especially since I am not exactly famous in the community, is the number of people (including other speakers) the last few conferences who have said “Paul! I follow your blog/Testing Rants Twitter and wanted to meet/chat with you!” I felt quite pleasantly surprised and honoured by that!


A big part of why I go to conferences is the atmosphere. I could read a blog or even watch a video afterwards, but being there and hearing it first hand, and then being ale to talk with people about it afterwards makes it more tangible.

Every time I have gone to a conference I have come away with ideas, things I want to try, suggest to others, and have a general buzz that is invigorating. Being surrounded by the same people at work can get repetitive, and reading online can help, it isn’t the same as being at an event.

Also, for the conferences I have been to, no-one seemed like they were forced to go and didn’t want to be there, so I wasn’t alone in having a passion for being there, and wanting to get new ideas to take back to where I work.

It has also allowed me to actually meet and speak with people that I have only interacted with online, be it here, Slack, or Twitter. Being able to see them in the flesh makes it all more real, and when I talk to them about how their testing is, what they have been doing, it feels like it has more substance behind it. They are not just another post, another message online, but I person I have met, shared a meal with.

One big thing for me is that I have personally paid for 3/4 conferences so far (would be 4/4 but they agreed to reimburse me for one of them), and I see it as paying to invest in improving myself. I know not everyone can afford to, and circumstances may change where I won’t be able to keep doing that, but if I’m not willing to invest in me, why should anyone else?


I don’t attend many conferences for a couple of reasons. I find nearly every testing conference geared towards the more ‘popular’ end of testing like web, mobile or computer system based software (before anyone kills me there are some useful more generic talks about testing on agendas usually), which is just not where my team and I operate. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (although it can make a large part of agendas difficult to relate to sometimes) - but does make securing funding more difficult.

Secondly I find social interaction difficult - and so the talking to strangers part is really difficult and hence I don’t get much from a conference in that way.

So I think overall I find them value limited - although I do think they are still useful.

Hi @simon.deacon I’d be interested to know what subjects at the ‘unpopular’ end of testing you would like to see? Do you mean testing legacy software for example? Cheers, Ady

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Embedded (not IoT - so many non-connected embedded systems are out there and will remain so at least in the medium term), safety critical that kind of thing. It’s purely selfish because that’s where I operate and have done for the last 12 years. I see myself as continuing in that area of software testing and so fresh insights and ideas are always welcome. Integration with H/W systems (not PCs, but sensors, motors, the physical world) that kind of stuff.

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When I was applying for jobs in 2016, I had a few leads for embedded testing in a number of different industries; mainly that was down to poor targeting by recruitment agencies. I did end up interviewi8ng for a civil engineering firm who were looking for a test engineer in every sense of the word! The role involved designing both test hardware and its embedded software, APIs and front ends for collecting test data for railway track alignment confirmation testing. Despite my saying that this wasn’t my skill set area, they kept making encouraging noises and were willing to put time and effort into training someone who they thought would have the potential to grow into the role. In the end, after a couple of rounds of interviewing, it turned out that it wasn’t me.

It did show me that there are a number of crossover areas between generic software testing for IT systems and different degrees of “embeddedness” which I think are the sort of areas that Simon is thinking of. It’s just a question of actually identifying those topics, and the testing community won’t be able to do that until someone bites that particular bullet and actually sits down to think about what those areas and topics might be.

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Robert - that sounds like it. I’m a test engineer in a more traditional sense I think. I perform software testing from a user perspective, where embedded software has an HMI as part of a piece of equipment. I see that as the kind of area that gets covered at conferences to a fair degree. Then there is software test engineering where I am required to design, implement and qualify test solutions that are a mix of hardware and software. I think it kind of depends. I moved from hardware / software development into software testing. The kind of role you mentioned above is often difficult to fill as developers want to develop and testers want to test. Finding someone with a suitable grasp and motivation across the two disciplines - especially in the embedded arena - seems to be tough. The emergence of the software engineer in test is cool - but they do often seem to be that, software engineer only without embedded hardware / electronics.

Maybe I’m just a grump, maybe there is no suitable way to present this as of enough general interest. Like I say - this is a purely selfish reason for not attending.

Ah, so that’s probably why the employer kept making encouraging noises even when I kept saying “Are you really sure I might be the person you’re looking for?” - that I had the gumption to even consider the role and seemed to grasp what they were about.

(I suppose the fact that I’d had a regulatory role in the utilities sector and so also had some sort of grasp of what civils were about generally might have helped.)

That would also be possibly a reason why no-one’s really addressed this sort of topic in testing conferences generally - there aren’t really enough people doing the broader, all-encompassing thinking.

Nothing wrong with being in touch with your Inner Grump :smiley: