99 seconds – a long time and a short time!

I’d seen “99 second” talks online from TestBash conferences and, more recently, on a new section of the Ministry of Testing’s Dojo website. This length of talk sits somewhere between an elevator pitch and a lightning talk, an intriguingly short length of time in which to communicate something of value.

When I saw Rosie’s request for more 99 second talks for the website, I responded and she immediately sounded keen on the topic I proposed, so it was time to put my talk together. Really, how hard could it be to record a minute and a half? Well, as it turns out, 99 seconds is both a long time and also a short time…

My first step – perhaps erroneously – was to focus on the technology of how I would record my talk. My trusty Dell Latitude comes equipped with a webcam, but I’d never used it before so some Googling later and I was installing Windows Movie Maker to enable me to make use of the webcam for video and the laptop’s built-in microphone for audio. So that was the tech sorted (or not…).

Next it was time to refine my content to try and fit into just 99 seconds. My topic was on working with an offshored testing team in China and I’ve talked about this numerous times in arenas such as peer workshop Experience Reports and testing conference presentations. My previous talks varied in length from fifteen to forty minutes, so clearly I needed to cut to the chase with the points I wanted to make within 99 seconds.

I quickly realised that having a printed script to read from would offer me the best chance of sticking to such a strict time limit. My first cut looked good to me, nice and short. So back to Movie Maker, record, talk the script, and stop – that felt about right. Two minutes and forty seconds – 160 seconds! How could I cut this down even more to achieve the magic 99 seconds time limit?

Culling some unnecessary stuff (like introducing myself, since the clip has a bio on the website) and removing some over-wordiness resulted in my next few efforts being around the 120 seconds mark, getting closer! Some more subtle culling got me to the magic 99 seconds, albeit after a number of takes (as a few attempts saw me stumbling over words or leaving unnecessary gaps).

What I hadn’t noticed while recording my 99 seconds of pure brilliance was the fact that the laptop cooling fan would cut in every time during the recording, adding a nice whine to the already considerable background noise picked up by the mic. Not being an expert on video editing, it was time for some more research on how to repair my clip to remove this unwanted noise. The first YouTube clip I stumbled across on the topic of removing background noise nailed it – using DVDVideoSoft’s free video to MP3 converter to grab the audio from the Movie Maker file, then Audacity for audio editing (noise reduction and also amplification). After installing and using these simple free tools, I was soon happy with the video and audio quality – and it wasn’t long before Rosie had it up on the web for all to see.

My talk – titled “Working with offshore testing teams: bridging the cultural & language divide” – can be viewed on the Dojo (requires free registration) at:

My 99s talk

I learned a lot during the process of creating a 99 second talk – it’s a short amount of time to say something of value, so requires a steely focus on the key points of your message; it’s also a lot of time when you’re sitting there watching yourself over and over again while refining the clip!

Now I’ve told you how to do it (all you need is your content), what’s stopping you adding your voice to the testing community in a 99 second talk?

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One thought on “99 seconds – a long time and a short time!

  1. Pingback: Look Who’s Talking – what has happened in the past week? | bmod

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