2020/08/21 My experience hosting an AMA on blogging

Ahoy and welcome. I am Lee, the Pirate Tester.

This is an experiment for me, as I am recording this video, but I will also be turning this into a transcript on my blog. So you may be watching, or you may be reading me. You might be listening to me through a screen reader of my text blog, who knows.

So, today I would like to talk about an experience I had. I would like to talk about running an AMA online. So I did this on Wednesday the 17th? 19th? Wednesday the 19th of September (Note: I meant August). It was a group AMA on blogging, and I was the compere. I was the host. Compere always feels like a weird title for me, because, in the UK at least, there is a website called CompareTheMarket, which is also known as CompareTheMeerket, cos they use little meerkats. And so I always think of that. A complete tangent, and if you’re not in the UK, that probably won’t make sense to you. But, it’s in my head.

So, I did this workshop, this webinar. It was me with three others. So I had Bruce, the legend that they are. I had Chris Armstrong. And I had Louise Gibbs. Between us, for an hour, we answered 11 questions in total, pitched to us from an audience that were able to type up their questions in advance, or during the session. They would upvote ones they wanted to hear the most about from us, and we did our best to get through them.

Picture of Bruce, drawn by Bruce

I’ve never ran an online event before. I’ve participated in one, and I’ve been the speaker for an AMA, and I’ve given an online presentation, but I’ve never been the host. And, it was very very different for me.

I’ve hosted my physical meetup that I go to, I host an event called MidsTest, which is in the West Midlands of the UK, hence MidsTest. And it would be speaking with the attendees, introducing the speaker, and then letting them do their things, and afterwards helping facilitate questions, and then giving like a closing down where we would talk about various bits and pieces, like upcoming events and so forth.

But being online was very different. So I was acting as a host, but also one of the panelists, so I was also giving my experiences with blogging. But I was trying to make sure I was stepping back. I didn’t want to ask questions and then start answering them. That’s not what I was there for. I was there to help look after the other three.

Erm, before the session we had plans. So we discussed how we wanted to do it, and it went out the window. For the better, ultimately, I feel.

The plan was I would pick one person to be the primary answer giver, and then if the others had minor things they wanted to add on top they would. This was so we could try and get through a good flow, not risk getting bogged down in answering.

That didn’t happen whatsoever. And sometimes they were very polite. None of them wanted to risk speaking over the other. Or, we started getting into a flow where they would put their hand up or make a gesture they wanted to speak. And, generally I actually tried to have it where, erm, I asked each of them if they had something they wanted to add. And I felt like it worked better. It felt more natural, so if we were at a physical event and we were sat there, it would be like we were having a chat with the audience, not talking at the audience. Erm, because I prefer this more human interaction, as much as you can do with, erm, a video or some text.

Picture of Chris, drawn by Bruce

And yeah, it was very different. Erm, the idea of talking about it afterwards came about when, after the webinar, the AMA, cos I’m not sure what the best title for it is, when describing it, the four of us then chatted afterwards, for that natural high. So if you have never done any form of public speaking, it can be quite an adrenaline rush. Those who have done public speaking, or erm, hosting things, you may understand, you may empathise with us. And you can’t just do that, stop, and then go to bed. No, there’s too much adrenaline, too much excitement. It’s exciting and draining. It’s a very weird sensation. We were talking there, asking how we felt it went. We all felt it went very well, and we had feedback from people on Twitter, erm, which was very positive. Which is always lovely. I was complimented for my hosting skills, which was really nice, because several years ago I would never consider public speaking, doing videos, erm, that are more than just a personal thing for a few friends. Many many years ago I did vlogs and put them on Facebook, talking about how I was feeling, and so forth. But it was nothing like this. And, like, I ultimately, as selfish as it may sound, I hope it leads to future experiences for me, to potentially, erm, host other events, and if that could be done in a way that I get a form of reimbursement, winner. Because these days who isn’t looking for some form of side hustle. I know I am. I would like to have. Everyone would like to have more money to buy more things, be more secure, whatever it might be.

So, thinking about what it has done, is, erm, I can, I try to worry about. Sorry. I worry about speaking too fast, or if I might say things that people might not understand. I don’t want to exclude people. I think my accent is overall quite neutral. Erm, certain accents within the UK, just like I imagine everywhere in the world, some accents are stronger or more noticeable. So, I’m not too far from an area of England called, erm, Birmingham, as well as Dudley, and that has quite a strong accent. And I worry if I tried to explain it, to give an example to people, it would seem offensive to people who are from that area. You can Google English accents, like there’s Liverpudlian accent, or Scouse accent, or Cockney. So for sometimes if people aren’t used to those accents, there’s that concern that might not be able to understand it, erm, but I hope that I’m quite clear, nice and eloquent. That I don’t fluff words up, and try to use bigger words than I need to, because I do want to be approachable and understanding, and not people go “I don’t know what Lee just said. I don’t know what that word is, and I haven’t got time to Google it.”, or “He is being very pretentious.”, which is annoyingly a very big word that can also be pretentious. So, I don’t want to risk saying big words for the sake of saying big words, unless there’s no other option.

Erm, I think I tried to engage with the chat as well. So, there was the four of us speaking, there was the questions, there was also a live chat feed in, erm, so it was Crowdcast we were using. And, people were chatting in there. Sometimes they might comment on what we were saying. Generally, questions weren’t in there, there was a special method for asking us questions. But I tried to make sure people were commenting on what we were saying, or the other questions, erm, questions that were being asked that we were answering. Some people would chip in, and might either say how it inspired them, or their own experiences with it. And I would try to make sure I validated that, and reinforced it. As when it gets watched back, only the video gets kept, and not the chat, as far as I’m aware. So anything thats useful that is said in there, will be lost in time. But if I can call it out, if I can mention the person and what they said, it reinforces it is a community, wasn’t mysterious words out of nowhere asking questions, it was people. It was people who want to ask us things.

Picture of Louise, drawn by Bruce

And I hope it would lead to people either doing more blogs, erm, I mean, I haven’t properly blogged in a while, as I do the videos instead, which I’m starting to enjoy more. Or it might make people lead to changes in what they or how they blog. Erm, so I recently did a workshop with Ady Stokes. He is @CricketRulz. I can put a Twitter link to him in the YouTube text, and I will make sure it is appropriately linked on my blog. In there he talked about, erm, the length and context of links you use, especially if it’s a blog or webpage. Because if it just said Ady Stoke, and the link just pointed to Twitter, it might not have any context. Erm, as well, short links might look neat and tidy, they don’t give context to people who might be using a screen reader. But also, people might have mobility issues. If a link is very small, it can be hard to precisely click. Whereas if I have a long string of text, that says “After going to Ady’s workshop he gave me some accessibility advice”, and then I had that as one massive link, some people might go “That looks a bit bad as a big link.” But if someone’s using a screen reader to select it, it will explain what the link is in the context, and that’s very useful. If someone can find it difficult to click a link, when it’s an entire line long, suddenly, it’s not so hard to go “Ooh, I’m slightly off, or it’s a very tiny link, or a letter or two.”, no, this is gonna be a whole sentence.

So, things like that helped. It got me thinking what I would do for my blog, and I referenced that, and hopefully it might inspire other people. There were things talking about, erm, using alt images, and there was an example of, there was a screenshot of some code used, but there was no alt image. So for someone who has visual impairments, that image won’t exist, and there’s no context of it, to describe what it does. Whereas an actual snippet of code is much more valid, for example.

Erm, going back to my thoughts on, erm, running it. If you’re someone who is interested in the idea of public speaking, weirdly, being a host has pros and cons compared to being a presenter or panelist. So, I would be answering, I would be asking questions, so I wouldn’t need to be responding on the fly, which can the pressure off, and generally there’s less expectation from you. When I’m, erm, doing the meetups, I’m the one there giving the information about a fantastic topic. I’m the one going “This is who this person is”, or taking questions from an audience. So you haven’t got an expectation of “Do I know about X topic, or X experience”, that isn’t what I’m here for. But conversely, is making sure that the questions are asked if there is a group of people, like I had with the AMA on blogging, it might be saying with “Right, Chris, would like to answer this one. Louise, would you like to answer this one. Bruce, would you like to answer this one.” Or like, if two of them put their hands up at the same time, which happened a couple of times, it would be like, which one do I go for, and having a bit of a jokey tease with them. But there were links that I wanted to share in the chat. I was creating a space on the club for the unanswered questions. So as I said, we got through 11 questions, there were 18? I think 18 remaining questions? We didn’t want to ignore them, so I copied them over to the Ministry of Testing club, which will be linked, below for YouTube, actively for blog. And, we will slowly over time answer them, so I know Chris has answered some. Erm, and I mention them so the rest of us will as well.

And it’s just little things like that, that you focus on when you’re being the host. Erm, some events you might have it where the host focuses on the speaker, and someone else might focus on the chat, and links, and so forth. It doesn’t have to be one person doing everything. So it can depend on the size of the event and support group you’ve got.

Erm, but, yeah. I mean, ultimately I just wanted to talk about, it was, I really, I really really enjoyed it. It was good fun. As I said, I hope to do more things like that again in the future. And, I hope, if you weren’t able to go, once the video is available on Ministry of Testing site, if you’re interested in blogging, have a watch.

Picture of me, by Bruce

Hopefully this video lets you know how I felt doing it, what was enjoyable about it. Erm, if you want to go in touch, so, you can comment on the blog. You can comment on the video. You can contact me on Twitter @ThePirateTester. Erm, you can message me on LinkedIn, but I prefer Twitter. Erm, just because with LinkedIn, I don’t like getting connections from people I have no connection with, and when people just try to randomly add me, no message, no I context, I generally ignore it. Erm, so if you’ve ever tried to connect with me and I’ve not replied, that’s why. If I don’t know you, I haven’t got a connection, feel free to follow me, but I might not really be interested in what you’re doing, unless you give me a reason to want to be invested in you.

Erm, but we also have a Google Hangout, that me and several others, erm, appear over the day. So for me, it’s UK working hours. So normally between 9 and 4. Erm, I might turn up. We’ve had people from outside the UK turn up. So we’ve had people in Germany, and now we’ve had people from, erm, North America, I think we might have had Central America but I can’t quite recall. I think we’ve had people from as far east as India. I don’t think we have had anyone from Australasia, or like, Kora, China, Japan, anything like that. I think India is the furthest across we have got, but they might turn up when I’m not there and completely unaware of this.

So if you did want to chat with us, pick our brains, we’re on there, and that will be linked as well.

And yeah, I hope you’ve enjoyed this video / blog, depending on the medium you are taking this in. And I look forward to hearing from you and interacting with you in the future.

Thank you very much.


Addendum: After doing this I realised I haven’t actually explained what an AMA is, which is very poor context. It stands for Ask Me Anything, and normally where one person is asked questions from an audience, normally with a thing. Even though we are a group and so there isn’t a Me, the format is known as AMA.

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