Speak Now!

Tips on Proposal Writing for Tech Conferences

by Alli Treman

Speak Day focused primarily on speaking at tech conferences, and the way you become a speaker at a tech conference is by submitting a proposal. If you’re familiar with academic proposals, tech proposals are quite different. Most tech conferences are looking for a title and a description, nothing more. Sometimes they ask for an abstract and/or reviewer notes. Make sure you follow the proposal submission guidelines for the talk you’re submitting your proposal to. Here are some more proposal tips from conference organizers and other experts:

  • Provide details such as the names of languages and tools you want to cover in your talk.
  • You don’t want to mislead your potential audience as to what your talk is about. (For example, don’t describe your talk as being philosophical if it’s really about shipping containers.)
  • Tell a story in your proposal and bring the organizer along with you.
  • Show that you’re saying something unique: form your own opinion in a controversial area, find a topic that your audience wouldn’t normally be interested and explain why they should, or do something instructional.
  • Do some thinking or even outlining on your topic that goes beyond your initial idea. You might find more interesting concepts and ideas to add to your proposal.
  • If the conference has a template for proposals, follow it. It will show you how specific to be.
  • Make your talk sound like something people would want to see!

Women interested in speaking are encouraged to follow @callbackwomen on twitter to receive notifications when conferences are looking for proposals. Conference organizers like to reach out to people they’ve seen talk before, but there are plenty of ways for newbie speakers to get started. You can get experience talking at some conferences that are more open to new speakers. Some have shorter slots available. Participating with meetup groups is another great way to get started. Barcamps and unconferences are great opportunities for speaking as they encourage (or even sometimes require) attendees to speak. Local hackerspaces often do short lightning talks where they welcome new speakers. You don’t have to start by giving a big presentation at a national conference, but of course, you can.