Notes From Write/Speak/Code – How to Write Killer Conference Proposals

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Write/Speak/Code – How to Write Killer Conference Proposals

Thoughtworks –
Recently published Huff Post article about increasing Women in their company
Has a training/intake program for Consulting/Programming etc
57% of Grads are Women
Agile Software Best Practices, Consulting

I’m not good enough/don’t have anything to talk about

You know more than you think you do
Talk to people outside of your company/team & you will realize all the things you take for granted

The way we were recruiting was awful
Volunteered to go to campuses & tell ppl about what I did
This was her intro to speaking.
Separate Speaking at a Conference vs. Speaking
Get Experience Speaking
Monthly Lightning Talks
Calendar, Required to do One

Find the Baby Steps you can take, Facilitate, etc
Do it without being on stage with a Microphone

Someone asked me to talk at a conference.
Had started 2nd Ops job, didn’t think she had anything to say
Organizer pointed out she could share the changes she would have liked to see from her previous job
You don’t need to have In-Depth Technical Talks … People like hearing Peoples’ Stories
“How I messed up & How I learned from it”

Started Speaking to deal w/ Imposter Syndrome
2 years ago was working in Theatre & everything was going well, until I made this Big Shift – didn’t have privilege of having done this since 8 yrs. old
Speaking was a way to feel credible about being part of the Group
Wasn’t confident that she had anything to say

Write down your whims at the moment
Whatever is unique to you:
Problems you’ve faced that seem specific or important to you

Needed to Drink Coffee/Beers to submit First Proposal

How to Generate Ideas from talks:
Secret Shame Tumblr (Private)
Me proving to myself I know things
Keep a record of what I’ve learned

Keep a list of things I’ve Done/Problems I’ve run into
Look at discussions that ppl get interested in
Useful Thoughts that keep me up at night

Write It Down
Even important Book writers feel like they have Nothing to Say
“Of all the things I ever said, maybe one thing was my original thought”
If Blank Mind, start reading
Pull something out from another blog … good or bad
You can get attention on your writing by responding to something that has attention already
Best 10 Books
Best 10 Tweets
Curate Other Peoples’ Thoughts

Why didn’t they talk about X
My comment on X is Y
Put your own spin on a Big Topic
Rely on the Framework that’s already there

Topics To Avoid:
Depends on the conference itself
Taylor to what your conference is looking for
You may get rejected on fit/relevance
Pay attention to Website/CFP for Themes

Why do people Go to Conferences
To meet people
Just Be a Person.  Don’t be an advertisement/doc guide

Cultural Differences – being considerate of other cultures
Ask people how things are in advance

When someone goes off the reservation & takes over & makes it about THEM/Their Company
You’re there b/c people are getting something out of your Talk
Don’t Disrespect That – You won’t be asked back
Make a Bigger Conversation

Resources to Start To Talk/Find Events:
Kat Houston: Technically Speaking

“The Weekly CFP”:
Newsletter, Diverse, Dry

General Assembly:
ALWAYS looking for people to talk
Very Easy to get into

Create Luncheon Learns:
Topic Every Month
Giving & Receiving Good Feedback
Best Practices
Speaking, but while just sitting at a Table

At the Beginning of Write/Speak/Code we should have an Open Mic & people just do 60 second lightning talks
I could do my run = True thing

Moderating/Stage Managing an event
Look for Volunteer Opportunities at Meetups and such

When you go to conferences, follow the speakers you like/relate to on twitter – will send a workshop

Rails Bridge
Workshop every three months
Pairing – One person Speaking, One person talking

What makes a Really compelling Speech Proposal:
From the Receiving Side:
Lightning Talks – Bigger Names/Keynote
Come with “Here’s my panel/people/detailed thing” & it fits, I’ll Hug You
What’s the Story
Who are the People
Bios, etc
Make it Easy for the Conference Runners

Make Organizers lives as easy as possible
What you’re Gonna Say
Who’s the Audience
What will people get out of it
Keep it CONCISE – 2-3 Paragraphs or you’ll lose Organizer’s Attention

You’re trying to cultivate confidence in the Organizer that your proposal is good
Write what people are interested in.  behind the scenes, write WHY You should be accepted
Consider Tones
Gandalf The Wizard – not looking for Terse Lectures
Katherine: “Dungeons & Dev Ops”

I practice Selling & Networking daily
I don’t write code, not a dev, I get talks accepted
I approach it as a Sale & Networking Opportunity

Try to have a 5-10 minute conversation w/ The Organizer
“I’m gonna take the time to do it Right”
What’s gonna sell tickets?  Give me a Few buzz words
I’ll send 5 names of Talks, tell me which two you’d like & I’ll do one of those
This means that you already have a connection/an In

If you don’t make it, “I’m gonna come, I’m gonna listen & For Next Year”
Keep an ongoing Connection

If you don’t have a connection or you’re not comfortable reaching out:
Apply Early
Talk won’t get better b/c you procrastinate
But the organizer might have time/interest in helping you improve concept
Also, if someone has your idea & you submit it 2nd, you might not get in

How does Being a Women Affect Perception of You When Giving Talks:

I’ve only seen it as a Positive
Most of the time I’m one of 2 Women
One company had 50% Women Speakers & It was Amazing

We judge people when we see them
5 seconds in, people judge you
When you’re giving a Talk, show up as your Best Self that day & really Show Off
Don’t be the Woman in the Sweatpants
Use peoples’ impressions to make yourself more successful
Wear Solid Colors
Shows up better on Camera
Kyla: Don’t wear a Logo, b/c they’ll run into Licensing Issues
Kyla: Be Comfortable, Be Honest
If you’re gonna be in your Sweatpants OWN IT

First Conference – Only Women in attendance were the Speakers
I befriended someone who looked like me
I was wearing Denim Shirt & Black Jeans
She was dressed Very Girl “I normally Dress Girlier than this & then dropping Serious Knowledge”
Speaking makes me feel more comfortable at a conference as a Woman
When Feeling Weird:
Someone Invited Me, I belong Here

If you’re a Speaker, it makes making Small Talk Easier
“Oh I liked your Talk”
Ops tends to be Male & Neckbeard
Had to Deal with Mansplaining
“If you knew more than me, you would be up there speaking about it”
Don’t let it impact your confidence
Many Guys feel threatened

From an Organizer Perspective, being a Woman works in your favor.
Presenters are concerned with being conclusive
Even Men see it sometimes
We’re still a Minority, but it’s getting better
Gender Balancing is extremely important

Conferences where people have to take Q&A makes that a little more difficult
When there’s been WEIRD at Q&A I say “I’m not going to take questions, find me on twitter”

Katherine: I time my talks so I don’t have time for questions “Find me 1 on 1”

“I have no experience, BUT”

How do you prepare for a big talk:
I make Bear Arms
Find the Right Amount of Practice
Too Much vs. Too Little
For Me: No more than 3 complete Run-Throughs
Do Dry Runs with Coworkers

I don’t like to rehearse a Whole Ton
Major Control Freak about Technical Specifications
What’s happening
Conference Organizer wants the Talk to go well

Find out Slide Resolution
Laptop Connectors
Bring EVERY SINGLE Connector Dongle with me
If I don’t need it, someone else will

First I write the Blog
I will publish this the day I give the Talk
Go through until I have 1 word that I memorize for each slide that kicks off each thing I’m gonna say
Then I practice Each Slide & Not Worry About Length
Then do 1 Timed Run
1 Slide per Minute (and then it evens out)
Timing it so it fits within the 20 minutes

I find writing a Blog Post or outline really helps with Flow

Upload To Speaker Deck (After)
Prepare yourself for the conversations around your talk

Be prepared that there may not be ANY Visual Support
One Speaker dealt with this by just Sitting down & Talking for 40 minutes
Be able to JUST ROLL with things

It can be tempting to rely on Speaker Notes
Be able to do talk independent of notes

There was a Speaker & the Deck Randomly started going in Reverse
He Realized he was embarrassed & he kept fixing it
CTOs couldn’t fix it
Eventually he was just like “Fuck It”

Know the Story
Be able to Tell The Story no matter what

Here’s this problem I had & Here’s How i learned & solved this thing
Have a compelling Flow

Best Talk You Ever Gave & Why & Some Advice:
Favorite Talks
Everything Went Well: Founder & Someone Interviewed & he was really relaxed & compelling/funny conversation – lost track of time
Everything Went Wrong: Guy who put his Laptop Down & Talked for 40 minutes.  Everyone was SUPER ENGAGED
Strong Story

Moments of Great Talks
Favorite: This one talk just all came together
People were laughing & with me.
I thought I was sharing a unique piece of information
Budgeting vs. Estimating Agile Projects

Figure out WHY you want to talk:
Make yourself more Hireable
Sell your brand
Prove Someone Wrong

Set your sight on the goal & work to achieve that

If you do it & you don’t like it, that’s ok
I Hate to code, BUT I Run a Development Shop & that works

CraftCon in Budapest: DevOps for Everyone
At Etsy: Designated Ops
People work closely to understand Operating Concerns
Threw in Good Cat Pictures
Storytelling mixed with Practical Advice
I cared about, knew enough to do a good job
Don’t talk about something you don’t like

Most proud of the first one I gave in the room full of 400 guys
Was convinced that the only reasons I was picked was my gender
Took a lot of care to make it relevant to people being onboarded & doing the onboarding
It was my story as I was living it, but it had Actionable Steps
Afterwards, People with Diverse Experiences who I didn’t think would have talked to me before actually thought I had something to say.
There are a lot of people who don’t have colleagues like you – so you do have something to say

Importance of Twitter – I don’t get it, it’s overwhelming:
I’ve been on Twitter for a Really Long Time
I don’t Tweet a lot & only have 400+ followers
I really like my twitter – it’s a scrapbook of the ppl I like listening to
I Read more than I tweet
Find the people you like listening to & figure out who they listen to

Supposedly I’m “good” at Twitter
I started it as a way to vent to ppl who wouldn’t tell my manager
This let me meet people in the community who had similar problems/experiences
Many of my closest friends came from this

Creating Lists is important so you can group people

More than 90% of the ppl I follow are people I actually know
I have conversations with them
This is how I keep in touch w/ ppl from

Stream of Consciousness thoughts

News App that sends Top Stories/Highlights

Responding to Peoples’ Blog Posts – Do you make a comment linking to your response, or just let people find it on their own:
Depends on Volume of Comments, Where, How Close of Community

If it’s a tech community & I know the ettiquete I’ll just post some stuff

In Huff POst or NY Times, I’ll link

On smaller local blogs, I’ll say my piece

I try to have a personal ratio:
9:1 For every 10 things I say, 1 will link back to me
The rest is for the community
Help others primarily and then sometimes help yourself
You don’t want to Spam

When & Why does it make sense to speak at conferences – what are the tangible/intangible benefits
Etsy – If you’re speaking at a conference, Etsy will pay you to go
Apply to speak at conferences at Countries I want to visit
You meet awesome ppl in the industry/meet your heroes
Grow Network, People start to respect you

Kickstarter has a similar policy
I looked for conferences in Warm Weather
As someone who came to the industry post-college, it’s great for networking/credibility

Suz – gave an amazing talk at Brooklyn JS – How did you get there:

Done a few talks before
New to NY at the time.  That meetup was fun
Wanted to talk about Hardware – How to talk about Robots & make ppl not Switch Off
I put in Animations & told a self-deprecating story to make it more accessible

Talking at Conferences where you don’t know the vibe before:
You try to pull some vids & they don’t really show you what the culture of the conference is … how do you gauge this

Twitter is valuable for this … you can ask publicly or privately for that

If someone asks you to talk & you have no interest in being there DON’T DO IT

Look at the sessions/agenda
Use Topsy – Archive Site for Social Media & search Twitter Tags/etc
Panels, Networking Parties etc

Do you usually have a talk first or find a conference first:
I’ve done both
You Can give the same talk multiple times
MANY people in the world – doesn’t matter if it’s on the Internet
Give a talk 4-5 times, Shop it Around – you can get it a Year or Two

I don’t do that b/c I have a short attention span & will get bored with things I’ve said previously
I do 50/50%

I get a lot of work done in Conference Proposals
It forces you to pull from those ideas on the BackBurner

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