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PSA: If you’re applying to speak at an event, often the only thing those selecting a #speaker use to make selections is the talk title and description. So I have some #speaking tips to share when replying to a #CallforPapers or #CallForSpeakers...
1. If your title is confusing, weird, unclear, too cutesy, or it feels like you put no effort into it, that may work against you. Organizers want talks attendees will be interested in and it must be easy to understand what the talk is about based on the title alone
2. If your talk description is all about you, it’s only 1 sentence, it’s sarcastic/unprofessional, it isn’t aligned with the event focus/theme, or it’s totally self-serving, you might need to rethink things
3. It is NEVER a good idea to disparage or put down a person, job, tool, piece of software, or anyone/anything to make your point or make your topic interesting
4. Consider that someone else may submit a talk on the exact same subject. Your title and description need to convince organizers why yours should be picked
5. Consider that if you submit multiple talks, none may be selected if your titles aren’t interesting and your descriptions are not descriptive. It must be clear what the talk is about and what the takeaways are
6. Always think about how you can make the organizers’ / event planners’ jobs easier and follow instructions. For example, if they ask for bios in third-person, provide your bio in third-person. If they ask for full name, provide your full name
7. Spell the name of the conference, software, industry, etc. correctly in your application. Want to speak at a WordPress event, double check you’ve capped the P and proofread your submission
8. Look at the topics requested by the event organizers. Submit on those topics and your chances of being selected will be higher because they are telling you what they want
9. Don’t just submit the same talk you’ve submitted 10 times to other events. Put in some effort. Look at the event theme and submit something that relates, or customize the title/description to include the theme
10. Look at the past schedules/agenda/programs for the event. Look at the types of talks they accept. Look at the topics they have already had covered. Then find the gap. Find something they haven’t already heard or done
11. Steer clear of the marketing hype crap. Avoid topics related to killing it, hustling, and dominating. Don’t refer to yourself as a guru or a thought leader (that’s only cool when other people say it about you). Avoid negativity, sarcasm, and assumptions about the audience
12. If organizers ask how/why you’re qualified to talk on this topic, A) It’s okay to be new/just learning—fresh voices are awesome, and B) Don’t just copy and paste your bio into the field. They already have your bio and that’s not what they meant or what they want
13. Never assume the people reviewing your application are experts on your talk topic or have the same technical background you do.
14. Avoid submitting a talk that is all about one piece of software—i.e. one plugin—especially if the software is premium and requires an investment. Instead, consider a compare/contrast talk covering free and paid options, or a talk that introduces attendees to multiple options
15. It's okay to submit opinion pieces as talks, but be careful to NOT position your opinion or approach as the only one or the right one, when there are other options. Often there isn't one right way (unless it's technical and there is one right way)
16. Don't skip applying to speak because you don't think you know enough yet. EVERYONE has value and fresh perspectives are always appreciated. Plus, there are people who just figured out what you want to talk about exists and I guarantee you can help them.
17. Remember, organizers for events like WordCamps need to satisfy a diverse audience of experts who make a living with WordPress and newbies who just learned what WordPress is a few days ago, so talks at/for every skill level are needed and valued
18. Behind the scenes organizers WORK HARD to create a diverse group of speakers. Organizers can ask, beg, plead, & do loads of outreach, but are ultimately limited by who is willing to apply and/or who is willing to accept an invite. So say yes and apply.
19. If you don't get selected, don't get down on yourself. Often it has nothing to do with you and is simply a matter of many submissions on the same topic(s) & needing to balance topics across disciplines to serve the range of attendees/skillsets
20. When organizers make the offer to help you brainstorm talk ideas, craft a talk title/description, and even create your slide deck or watch your practice, SAY YES. Take them up on the offer. It doesn't make you any less awesome to ask for help.
21. Consider this: Events have limited space/room size. When planning the schedule, organizers need to split attendees into the rooms/tracks available, so they need talks in each room/track that will be a draw. No one wants one full room and one empty room. No one.
22. If in the submission for you're asked what audience is this talk best for? Beginner? Intermediate? Advanced? Don't pick them all. That isn't helpful. Same goes if they ask is this for designers, developers, users, etc.
23. If there is a "notes to the organizer" field, let them know you're open to suggestions or making tweaks to the talk focus to ensure it's a great fit for their audience. Often a talk is close to what they want, but it needs a small tweak
24. If the event is local, always apply. Many times event/conference organizers want to fill the speaking spots (or at least half of them) with local people from their community or region and you'll have a leg up on the out-of-towners.
25. New to a subject/topic? Just learning it? Consider submitting a talk reviewing your experience, surprises and obstacles encountered, and lessons learned. This can be hugely valuable for advanced users who forget these things and provide a different perspective
26. Want to learn a topic better? There's no better way than to teach others about it. Submit the talk, do the work to learn it, and teach it. Want to build a membership site? Submit a talk on choosing a membership plugin, document your research, and share the journey
27. Never underestimate the power of awareness. Pitch a talk that simply presents options to expand attendees awareness of what is available/possible and give them a starting place to research things further on their own
28. If something funky happened when you hit submit, don't be afraid to submit again. Organizers would rather have duplicate submissions than miss your submission. Also, it's okay to reach out to confirm your submission was received
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