Putting Together a Conference Talk Proposal

Please note – this has been expanded and moved to GitHub.

Never given a conference talk before, but would like to try?
Here are some quick hints on how to get started, so you’re all ready for your vJUG24 submission: https://www.papercall.io/vjug24

Topics

But I don’t know what to talk about!

“Everyone has a conference talk in them” – what’s yours? Think about your job/ hobby/ project and the things that had a big impact, or really stood out for you.

Do you have a good team dynamic? A bad one? What problems did you solve? What problems can’t you solve? What should have been easy, but wasn’t? What made your experience interesting and unique?

Have a look at what people speak about at other related conferences – look on YouTube, or conference websites. From Docker how-tos, to design patterns, to how to successfully work remotely, the chances are you will have a story that will resonate, and maybe inspire and educate other people.

Ok I have some ideas

Great! Now we’ve got a sense of what you could talk about, look at the major topics at conferences in the last 2 years. What are the trends? What are people interested in learning about? And crucially, is there anything that you think isn’t being spoken about enough?

Submissions tend to be either:
1) Something people really need to know about, no matter if it has been spoken about a lot already, or
2) A different perspective, take on, or advancement of an existing idea, or
3) Something new, groundbreaking and interesting.

How can I tell if people will be interested?

Ask yourself the following questions:
  •  Will this topic help people?
  •  Is it already being done by other, more experienced speakers?
  •  In which case, do you have a different angle?

Things to consider

The tricky thing to judge is the submission that people need to know about, but everyone else is doing it to death. The problem with this path, and especially for a new speaker, is that if program committees are choosing between 10 Docker talks, the one that gets chosen has to be really very good.

Either way, you need to sell your proposal and your qualifications. Why are you the right person to present the talk? Do you have any recordings of you speaking before? If not, try making a 3 minute video of you speaking over slides, to give a kind of trailer for the program committee.

The proposal

There are (at least!) 2 good styles of proposal. One is informative: like “How to set up Docker within Kubernetes”, with an abstract that outlines exactly what the talk will be about. The other one is provocative: like “Chasing dreams”, with an abstract that captures your imagination.

Again, look at talks at conferences past – what caught your eye? Why?

Please help!

Have some advice to add and/or anything you think might help others? Also – any questions that you would like answering? Please DM me on Twitter and I will add your suggestions 🙂
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