If you’ve been in the tech world for some time, you might have stumbled across conferences. For those who haven’t, tech conferences are events that organizations hold with the intention of informing and educating attendees on various products / services. The process for speaking at a tech conference includes submitting a “Call for Proposal” or “CFP”. In this article, we will talk about what a CFP is and the best practices for getting a CFP accepted.
What is a CFP?
CFP, also known as a Call for Proposal, is a document proposing your presentation for a particular conference. A CFP involves submitting this idea to the conference committee to outline what your session would look like. This submission includes: a title, an abstract of your idea, a definition of how it will benefit the community, your bio, and your company's bio. Once the committee has reviewed your CFP, you will be notified via email if you have been selected for the conference. After this point you will be given a slot when the conference organizers unveil the schedule.
What steps to follow while submitting a CFP?
To get a CFP selected, you will need to follow a number of steps mentioned below:
The theme of the event and its focus
Before starting your CFP, you should read the instructions provided by the conference organizers. You will then be able to understand how the conference’s theme aligns with your skillset and base your topic on that. The instructions will also help you observe the focus of the conference and the type of audience the conference targets. Some conferences focus on business-oriented audiences while others focus entirely on tech which will impact the level of proficiency of the audience, be it a beginner, intermediate, or an expert.
The conference's focus will decide the flow of your abstract, which will ultimately shape your CFP. For example, if the conference surrounds open-source, then the projects you will be talking about in your abstract should also be related to open-source.
Title of the talk
A session's title is an essential part of the CFP. Whilst writing or deciding on a title, you must keep in mind that it should be focused and help the reader understand the topic you will be presenting. A technique for writing a good title includes writing the abstract first and basing your title off the flow of your abstract. This title needs to be concise and on point. A complex and lengthy title will not be easily scannable and can confuse a reader, potentially impacting the acceptance of your CFP and the attendance in your session.
The abstract is the heart of your CFP submission. This section will contain all the pieces of information that you intend to present in your talk. Depending on the conference, you will be given roughly 1,000 characters or words to shape your abstract. Whilst writing your abstract, you must keep in mind that the abstract should contain the entirety of the title, and the demos you will be presenting in your session.
It is best to remember that an abstract is not a summary of your talk; instead, we can compare it with a trailer for a movie. So, whilst writing your abstract, make sure not to give everything away because that will kill the surprise element for your session. One of the best ways to write an abstract is to start by telling a story and ending it with a call to action. This story can include how you and your organization have faced particular struggles while dealing with specific scenarios, and the call to action will include the things you intend to cover in the session.
The benefit to the ecosystem
While writing a CFP, you should consider how your talk can benefit the community. This can include helping people to get started with technology or supporting the community in other ways. In larger tech conferences like KubeCon, there will be several other talks that will take place at the same time as yours. For this reason, you need to mention why attendees should attend your talk instead of the others and what they will get out of it.
The resources section is one of the most critical parts of the CFP for first-time speakers at a conference. Within the resources section, you are able to add slides or recordings from previous conferences. If this is your first conference, you can upload a video to YouTube explaining a particular topic and use that video as a resource. This is helpful as the review committee uses the resource section to see how well a person can speak at a conference, which impacts the rejection or acceptance of a CFP.
After writing your CFP, revise it and get adequate feedback from industry experts (such as someone who has already spoken in conferences). This feedback is essential when it comes to the acceptance of your CFP as it helps to create a newness in your content avoiding repetition to talks done in previous years. You can find industry experts on Twitter, and directly communicate with them for feedback regarding your CFP. They can help you form a complete picture if you are using their project, and they can also help you with upcoming changes to the project, which can be included in your talk.
We can now see that a good CFP will include a concise title, an elaborated abstract piece, a topic aligning with the theme of the conference, and details on why the topic is beneficial to a particular community. As well as this, first-time speakers should emphasize the resources section, asking for feedback from industry experts. If you follow these steps when planning your CFP submission, you will have a higher chance of having your CFP selected for a particular conference.
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