On proposing to conferences

Posted by Katie McLaughlin on July 30, 2019

DevRel: n. those in Developer Relations. Titles range from Developer Advocate, Developer Evangelist, Developer Programs Engineer.

CFP: n. Call for Proposals/Presentations/Papers. The process in which submissions are sent, reviewed, and optionally accepted for the conference.

Dear DevRel, from a conference organiser

Hello

I know you speak a lot. It’s probably part of your KPIs to present at so many conferences a quarter. But we need to talk about CFPs.

When you submit every talk you have prepared at a conference, you end up giving a poor impression to the conference.

When you explicitly ignore the CFP information that say “Please send us your best three talks” and submit 15 talks, you increase your chances of being completely ignored.

When you submit talks well outside of the scope of the CFP, you show that you did not read the information and that you are ignorant of the needs of the community which the conference represents.

When you submit talks that ride on the power of your name instead of the content of your abstract, you end up at the bottom of the pile in anonymous review processes.

As a conference organiser, I want the best talks that are the best fit for my audience.

As a community conference organiser, I am a volunteer, and getting 30 submissions that are less than useless adds a burden to my review team, and wastes our precious time resources.

We want what’s best for our conference schedule. It’s not about you.

Love,

a conference organiser.

Dear conference organisers, from a DevRel

Hello

I know you’ve been burnt before, but we need to talk about the submissions you’ll receive.

I know you’ve been annoyed at That Person who submits all their talks. They are sowing many seeds in the hope something will grow.

I know you’ve been frustrated by submissions that are outside of your normal remit, but consider if there are lessons from ourside your niche that your audience may learn from.

I know people don’t read the instructions. It sucks. You can have the best, well explained CFP, and people won’t listen. Even if you try and change the CFP system to force a minimum abstract, folks will enter noise to hit the limit.

I understand how getting Names at your event can encourage attendance. But don’t limit your schedule to just those people you know. Otherwise, you never get anyone new.

You want the best talks your community. I am an engineer, and I hope that what I submit to your conference is worth your consideration. But if you reject me, that’s okay, because there’s always another conference, including your conference next year.

I want to help your community. It’s all about y’all.

Love,

a Developer Advocate.

To both DevRel and Conferences

Having one person submitting many talks gives you a range of things to choose from. Having that many possible talks means the speaker has range, and that’s not a bad thing.

Talks outside your original scope could be useful, but greatly benefit from an explict explanation about why the audience should here about the topic.

Communication is so important. Write your expectations, and read the requirements.

We all want what is best for our communities.

Let’s have mutual empathy, and work towards the shared goal of continued learning and teaching.


I’m glad we had this talk.