So you want to start conference speaking? Submit that CFP!

3 min readPublished January 11, 2020Updated May 02, 2022

This is the seventh and final post in a series on getting started as a conference speaker. This post focuses on submitting the CFP. Links to other posts in the series can be found at the end of this post.

You have done so much prep work up to this point that this should be the easiest step. 🙌

Read the guidelines

When filling out the actual CFP, the golden rule is to read and follow all of the guidelines. Every conference and every CFP is different. Some want things formatted a certain way. Some want you to remove identifying information. Some want you to include past speaking experience and videos so they can take a look. Some have very interesting submission deadlines (I’m looking at you PyCon 👀 who has a deadline of Anywhere on Earth (AoE) instead of 11:59 PM EST like many conferences). To ensure that your proposal makes it past the first round of cuts, make sure that you meet all of their submission criteria.

Easy to understand title

The next tip for submitting a strong proposal is to pick a title that tells the audience exactly what your talk is about. Quirky and punny titles can be fun, but if an attendee wouldn’t be able to tell on the program what your talk is about, they probably won’t attend and the organizing committee wants to select talks that their attendees want to see.

Don't make the selection committee think too hard

Finally, remember that the organizing committee is reviewing hundreds (if not thousands) of talk submissions on a deadline. If they can’t figure out what your talk is about quickly, they don’t have time to put in the effort. Don’t make the organizing committee think too hard. Show that you are organized and prepared. Clearly outline what the talk is about and why it is important. There are often extra questions and response areas in addition to the abstract so that you can demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about and will give a stellar talk for your audience.

Make sure that you submit to as many different conferences as you can. Experienced speakers average a 20% or less acceptance rate on their talks. You have to play the numbers—the more you submit, the more conferences you will get accepted at.

Don’t get discouraged if your talk did not get selected. Most often, it was not because your submission was bad but because the programming committee had to make a decision and could only accept a small number of talks. That conference just happened to be in the 80% that you didn’t get picked for.

You are great and you have so much to share with your community! I can’t wait to see what you put together. And if you are looking for feedback, please reach out! I’d be happy to help if I can 🤗

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