Talk proposalling

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A few months ago I and a few others read over a hundred talk proposals to find the perfect lineup for eurucamp.

This made me realize a few things about proposals I wanted to share here. A few simple rules that will make your proposal better.

1. This is advertisement

The proposal you are writing is an ad for a talk. A talk that might not even exist yet in your mind. Write it that way. The people selecting the talk will read hundreds of them. Yours should be the one sticking in their heads. Use clear and short sentences, try to minimize three letter acronyms.

2. Find the perfect length

No car company would put a 1000 word ad somewhere and expect everyone to read all of it. You need to be concise. Finding the perfect length is hard. But as a rule of thumb: one sentence is always too short. A paragraph with a couple of sentences should work. And if you can’t write an abstract of your talk in a couple of sentences, you need to refine the talk anyway :wink: .

3. Do some research on the conference

What did the conference select in the last years? Did they say what they are searching this year? What is the atmosphere on the conference? All this could be helpful for you. If they had the same talk last year, try to find another angle or explain why your talk is different.

3. Find an unusual way to show it

This depends on where you want to show the talk. If the conference has a fun vibe to it, you definitely should try to find an unusual way to talk about your topic. The current eurucamp lineup is a good example for this.

Fair warning: don’t go overboard and hire pantomimes. You need to balance this. A too far fetched story will work against you.

4. Respect the cfp process

A good conference has a page describing their cfp process. What they expect from you and what you can expect from them. Read it all. Carefully. And try to apply it.

Some conferences have a blind selection process (in fact every conference should have one). Those blind selections also mean that you should not put your name or gender into your abstract. Please pay attention to these details.

5. Don’t rely on your “fame”

Don’t be the asshole saying “I am known in the * community. Just give me a slot, I will talk about whatever I want”. Even **if you are a well known person and talked on lots of conferences, you need to respect the process and all the other people who actually work hard for their slot.

6. Try your proposals with your friends

Good code is reviewed, proposals too! Don’t just write it down and press submit. Show it to a few friends. And if you don’t know someone who could proof read it, reach out to usergroups or twitter. There will be someone who wants to proofread it for you. And if you don’t find one: contact me.


A nice twitter thread with some nice resources by VM (Vicky) Brasseur can be found here.

Portrait photo of Bodo Tasche
Bodo Tasche
Polyglot Developer

I am a freelance polyglot developer and love HTML5, testing, JavaScript, Ruby and Elixir. In the last 20 years I have been in lots of different roles, from Java to Elixir, from backend developer at a 3 people team in an early phase startup to the CTO of a web agency. Some of my work can be seen on my projects page.

Need help developing your MVP or to add new features into your current app? Need a CTO or a front/backend developer for hire? Send me an email.