Rex Black’s advice to presenters
Rex Black intensely dislikes making cold calls. Despite this, he has built a successful software quality consulting business over the course of the last 22 years. How did he do it? Through a dozen books, many articles, webinars, blog posts and in-person presentations, he shares his thoughts about software quality and testing with the larger world—and the business comes to him.
Black is the founder and CEO of RBCS, a Texas-based consulting company. He will deliver a keynote address at PNSQC 2016 in October. Even though he hasn’t settled on a topic yet, one can be assured his presentation will be controversial and lively, spiced with his ironic sense of humor.
There are many professional, and personal, benefits to getting up in front of an audience of ones’ peers and presenting one’s ideas on a subject of interest to the group. A poor presentation doesn’t advance one’s career, however, Black notes. So learning to be an effective speaker must be a goal of those who want to go down this road.
What are some of the advantages of making a presentation? Black lists three for others who are presenting or are contemplating doing so at conferences like PNSQC.
Public exposure: “One of the major benefits of making a professional presentation is that it gives you exposure before the people you want to reach. Unlike writing a book or an article, you actually meet people. A presentation lets me have a conversation in real time about their specific problem. I can give them ideas and say, ‘This is one of the services we offer.’ It’s the self-initiated cold call. In other words, these people chose to hear me speak or to attend a webinar. I didn’t have to go looking for them.”
Remaining relevant: “One of the challenges in consulting is staying relevant and current. If I just wrote books, without interacting with clients, I would be totally irrelevant in 18 months. Presentations, along with my regular consulting working, help me stay in touch with the testing problems and best practices that are out there. Because I do this internationally and because we are not in any way business domain or technology specific, I get a really broad exposure to what goes on from a testing point of view.”
Discussing the profession’s major challenges: “Presentations offer an opportunity to address challenges in the profession. For instance, there’s an ongoing problem that we have that can be solved in the short term, if we can all get on the same page. We’ve got all these well-established best practices for engineering and testing that are practiced well by some people. Now, there are some companies, such as IBM, that adhere to these practices and turn out some very good products. But too many other companies essentially ignore these best practices. We have reached the point today where the best practices versus the typical practices are 40 to 50 years apart. Presenting at a conference offers the opportunity to bring up these kinds of lingering issues before audiences of people who can do something to change that.”