I have been working on a presentation on our automation stack for many months now. I'm finally to the point where all that's left is to practice, practice, practice. Following the Beyond Bullets approach I have spent a lot of time getting the speaker notes just right as they form the offline version of the presentation. I had intended to notecard the speaker notes into the key talking points, but very quickly I decided to just splat the entirety of each slide's paragraph onto its note card. I didn't want to leave out any of the prose I had spent so much time perfecting, you see.
Then of course I started stressing over how in the world I was ever going to memorize all that text. (I have always found memorizing hard. Which made piano recitals a challenge!) So I found all sorts of reasons to avoid practicing, which just made things worse.
But this weekend I realized how foolish I was being. I've been talking with people about this stuff for over a year now! I know what I'm talking about! I don't even need the slides really, let alone the notecards. Sure I might leave out a specific example or two, but the gist of it all would come through loud and clear.
Immediately after that realization I felt much calmer. Yes I still need lots of practice, but it doesn't matter whether I say exactly what my speaker notes say. What matters is that I connect with my audience, get my main points across, and answer their questions. Releasing my fear of missing something out let me focus on what's really important and makes for a better experience all the way around.
If I had gone on stage fearful of forgetting something, my reliance on my script would have prevented me from connecting with my audience - my fear of making a mistake would have resulted in my doing just exactly that. Similarly, if when you test you are afraid to go down a blind alley of investigation because you are afraid of wasting time and missing the big nasty bugs, guaranteed that fear will cause you to miss multiple big nasty bugs. If however you can let go your fear of wasting time by going down a blind alley, you will find that far from wasting time you are gathering important information and finding lots of gnarly bugs.
Let go your fear - you'll be amazed at what it's hiding!
*** Want a fun job on a great team? I need a tester! Interested? Let's talk: Michael dot J dot Hunter at microsoft dot com. Great coding skills required.