Crafting your Conference Talk Proposal

With the voting period over for DjangoCon Europe talk proposals I wanted to take a couple of minutes and go over what I think makes a good conference talk proposal and a couple of things that you shouldn’t do.

Keep it Informative

A lot of people try to be funny in their proposals but miss out on the key points. Your proposal should include a brief description of what you’ll be talking about, the audience that it’s intended for and anything else that you think would be useful for the audience.

Keep it Short

Conferences get a lot of talk proposals. PyCon US got 450 submissions for 114 slots. DjangoCon Europe got 74 submissions for 20 slots. With such competition the reviewers have to go over a lot of content. It’s important to keep your proposal short and sweet so you don’t bore the reviewers and risk them skipping over your talk.

I haven’t done any statistical analysis but a brief look over the proposals for DjangoCon EU makes it look like the sweet spot for proposal length is 4-7 sentences. Shorter and the reviewers can’t get enough relevant information, longer they get bored and go on to the next one.

Keep it Relevant

Development communities seem to have an almost cyclical nature when it comes to “hot topics”. One year it’ll be deploying, another year your software stack and the next year best practices for caching. Some topics, such as performance, databases and security are always fresh. Make sure your talk is relevant, both to yourself, and the community you’re presenting to.

Stop Rehashing Talks

We get it, Django sucks, this other community is better than ours, your side project is the next best thing. These talks have been done a million times and while they sometimes add a new twist or new content for the most part they’re old news. If you’re going to do a talk that’s been done before make sure it’s done in a new way with new material.

This year I submitted a proposal on “Caching Django” for DjangoCon Europe which ended up ranking 7th out of 74 proposals. I’m looking forward to hopefully going to Warsaw Poland and giving my talk.

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