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How to write a talk proposal

There’s a tech conference or a meet-up coming up and you want to give a talk. Thus you will have to write a proposal with a title and a description for your talk. What should go into it?

Let’s recap the goals of your proposal. There are at least two:

  1. Convince the event organizers to pick your talk.
  2. Convince the event attendees to come to your talk.

The goals are well-aligned: the organizers want to have a line-up of talks that makes the potential attendees excited.

You will need to do some selling and I’ll leave that part up to you. That said, there’s some basic information that you should always include. When I’m reading a proposal, I’m always trying to answer these three questions:

  1. What is this talk about? This includes how you will talk about it. For example, if you’re going to talk about a technology, I want know to if you’re going to give a conceptual overview or do a deep dive into hairy details, or something else.
  2. Why should I learn about this? It’s cool to learn about new stuff, but I’m not going to be excited about your talk if I don’t have a clue about why it’d be interesting for me.
  3. Who is this talk for? If I’m completely new to the topic, can I still get something out of your talk? Or if I’m an expert, will I immediately get bored?

There’s no magical recipe for the perfect talk proposal, but addressing these questions should get you started. Keep in mind that there are plenty of “right” answers. For example, it’s fun is a legitimate answer for the second question for many events.

A lot has been written about this topic. If you want to read more, I recommend starting with these two links:

Name this conversation pattern

There’s an annoying conversational anti-pattern for which I’d like to have a name. It goes like this:

The crux is that it does not occur to person A that person B could legitimately disagree with them. This leads to frustrating discussions for both sides. Sometimes this is done deliberately to derail conversations, but I’ve seen people do it in good faith.

I associate this pattern with highly-privileged people arguing with marginalized people, especially if the highly-privileged person is committed to the status quo but at the same time wants to be seen as an ally. You can see this happening on Twitter every now and then.

I can’t believe I’m the only one noticing this pattern. If you know a good name for it, please let me know (e-mail me or tweet at me).

Yearnote 2017

A log in a lake in Nuuksio. Out of my photos in 2017, this is my favorite.

A log in a lake in Nuuksio. Out of my photos in 2017, this is my favorite.

It’s January, so it’s time to look both at the past and at the future! Here’s some good stuff that happened to me in 2017:

My thinking about software development evolved in small but important ways:

Here’s what I hope 2018 will bring along:

I enjoyed some things in 2017:

Finally, I can’t believe it’s 2018 and Juha Sipilä’s cabinet still hasn’t fallen apart.

For more posts, see archive.