Speakers and Call for Proposals

This section describes how to:

  • Manage the CFP
  • Select talks
  • Wrangle speakers before/during/after the conference

CFP Schedule

The CFP should be scheduled to end around 3 months prior to the conference. This allows for time to book travel for speakers, but also keeps the topics fresh and ensures the speakers are still passionate about them.

After the CFP ends, reviews should be given 1 week to review all the talk proposals. After this, we will have rate them following the below process, and have the final group meeting where we talk through the final schedule

How to write a CFP?

  • “Announcing [conf name] Call for Proposals”: Say hi and don’t forget to mention when is the conference and when will close the CFP.
  • “Conference Goals”: Invite everyone who care about docs to contribute!
  • “Topic ideas”: To help potential speakers find a topic, list different subjects that make good talks. Add a few links to previous talks: it will help people get a better idea of what you want.
  • “Presentation format”: Format is 30 minutes but invite people to contact you if they want to do something longer/shorter.
  • “Speaker Benefits and Logistics”: Say if you cover ticket, travel cost and lodging for speakers.
  • “Question?”: How people should contact you.
  • “Submit a Proposal”: Link or form where people can send their proposal.

Call for Proposals examples from previous WTD conferences:

Selecting Talks

You should have:

  • Access to the cfp Slack channel.
  • Access to the CFP Google Doc

How it works:

  • We allocate 2 points for every talk at the conference (eg. 30 points for 15 talks).
  • You use those points to vote for which talks you want to see.
  • We add up all the points and sort them by highest. This is the initial talk selection.
  • We then argue for & against talks that we really want to change positions. This can either be because you know the speaker/topic will be good, two talks cover similar topics and we can only have one, or other reasons.
  • We agree on a final set of 15 talks, along with 1 or 2 alternates. * If there are a ton of great talks that we want to see, we can reduce some to 15 minutes and fit 2 in a 30 minute slot.

Speaker Communication

Like everyone, most speakers don’t really read their email. This means you need to tell them everything important at least twice, and probably again in person.

Speaker Acceptance Template

Hi {name},

The Write the Docs talk selection committee has just wrapped up the review process and we'd love it if you could join us as a speaker!

Write the Docs {location} is held in {city} on {date}.

We think your '{title}' talk would be a great fit for the conference. We'd love to have you prepare it for a *30-minute* time slot. 

So, from here, your first step is to reply to this email as soon as possible, to confirm that:

* you're still interested in presenting in {city} on {date}. We'll confirm exact slots at a later date.
* you'll be attending *the whole conference*. So much of the value of Write the Docs comes from the community interactions, so it's really important to us that our speakers are around to participate.

Next, there are a few housekeeping things:

* Get your free speaker ticket at: {ticket_url}
* If you already purchased a ticket, let us know, and we will issue you a refund.
* Send us a colour 300 x 300px headshot, and optional twitter handle to accompany your talk abstract on the website.
* Send us any changes you would like to make to your abstract before we publish it. The abstract is included at the bottom of this email.
* Finally, when you're sharing the good news, make sure to tag your tweets and posts with '#writethedocs'!

Okay, now that's all out of the way, it's time for the fun part--preparing your talk! To make sure everybody's on the same page, here are a few important things to keep in mind:

* Remember that one of the biggest strengths of the Write the Docs community is that we come from a huge variety of professional and personal backgrounds. When you're writing your talk (just like you're when writing documentation), think about the diverse needs and interests of your audience, avoid (or define) any jargony language, and make sure you clearly express what people are going to learn from your talk.
* Remember this is a community conference. If you're representing your employer it's okay to mention that, but please don't treat your talk as a marketing opportunity.
* If you would be interested in having another member of the Write the Docs community mentor you through the talk preparation process, please tell us! We'll do our best to connect you with someone to bounce ideas off, to review drafts, and to help you refine your talk before the conference.
* Make sure you plan your talk to fit in the allotted time. Also, note that we will not be pausing for questions after your presentation. Instead, we encourage attendees to chat with our speakers during the breaks, or in our unconference space.
* Please review our Code of Conduct (http://writethedocs.org/code-of-conduct/) and make sure your talk content adheres to it. As a rule of thumb, if you're on the fence about whether something in your talk could be considered inappropriate or offensive, leave it out. If you have a question about the code, feel free to email us and ask!

Before you get too absorbed in talk prep, though, please send us an email confirming that you'll be joining us! :)

If you're concerned about travel details or expenses, let us know and we can discuss options. As we confirm your details, we'll publish your abstract, headshot, and information on the conference site. We'll also be emailing attendees so they can share in our excitement about the talks we'll be presenting this year!

Thanks again for submitting your talk, we look forward to seeing you up on the Write the Docs stage! Feel free to email us with any questions, concerns, or ideas.

Thanks for helping make this year's conference another great one!

The Write the Docs Team

Your submitted abstract:

{abstract}

Thunderstorm Template

Hi {name},

The Write the Docs talk selection committee has just wrapped up the review process and we'd love it if you could join us as a speaker!

Write the Docs {location} is held in {city} on {date}.

We think your '{title}' talk would be a great fit for the conference.

We're hoping, though, that we might ask you to participate in something new we're trying this year -- Write the Docs thunderstorm sessions! To mix up the cadence of the conference a little, we're going to be interspersing several pairs of back-to-back 15-minute talks. We're thinking of them like a the big brother of a lightning talk (thunderstorms! get it?). So if you're game, we'd love to have you prepare the talk you proposed, just distilled down into the tightest, punchiest, *15 minute* version of itself. 

So, from here, your first step is to reply to this email as soon as possible, to confirm that:

* you're still interested in presenting in {city} on {date}. We'll confirm exact slots at a later date.
* you'll be attending *the whole conference*. So much of the value of Write the Docs comes from the community interactions, so it's really important to us that our speakers are around to participate.

Next, there are a few housekeeping things:

* Get your free speaker ticket at: {ticket_url}
* If you already purchased a ticket, let us know, and we will issue you a refund.
* Send us a colour 300 x 300px headshot, and optional twitter handle to accompany your talk abstract on the website.
* Send us any changes you would like to make to your abstract before we publish it. The abstract is included at the bottom of this email.
* Finally, when you're sharing the good news, make sure to tag your tweets and posts with '#writethedocs'!

Okay, now that's all out of the way, it's time for the fun part--preparing your talk! To make sure everybody's on the same page, here are a few important things to keep in mind:

* Remember that one of the biggest strengths of the Write the Docs community is that we come from a huge variety of professional and personal backgrounds. When you're writing your talk (just like you're when writing documentation), think about the diverse needs and interests of your audience, avoid (or define) any jargony language, and make sure you clearly express what people are going to learn from your talk.
* Remember this is a community conference. If you're representing your employer it's okay to mention that, but please don't treat your talk as a marketing opportunity.
* If you would be interested in having another member of the Write the Docs community mentor you through the talk preparation process, please tell us! We'll do our best to connect you with someone to bounce ideas off, to review drafts, and to help you refine your talk before the conference.
* Make sure you plan your talk to fit in the allotted time. Also, note that we will not be pausing for questions after your presentation. Instead, we encourage attendees to chat with our speakers during the breaks, or in our unconference space.
* Please review our Code of Conduct (http://writethedocs.org/code-of-conduct/) and make sure your talk content adheres to it. As a rule of thumb, if you're on the fence about whether something in your talk could be considered inappropriate or offensive, leave it out. If you have a question about the code, feel free to email us and ask!

Before you get too absorbed in talk prep, though, please send us an email confirming that you'll be joining us! :)

If you're concerned about travel details or expenses, let us know and we can discuss options. As we confirm your details, we'll publish your abstract, headshot, and information on the conference site. We'll also be emailing attendees so they can share in our excitement about the talks we'll be presenting this year!

Thanks again for submitting your talk, we look forward to seeing you up on the Write the Docs stage! Feel free to email us with any questions, concerns, or ideas.

Thanks for helping make this year's conference another great one!

The Write the Docs Team

Your submitted abstract:

{abstract}

Speaker Rejection Template

This template varies by the rejection. We reject folks in a couple different rounds, which I’ll document here.

Hi {name},

Thanks so much for submitting a proposal to speak at this year's Write the Docs {location}. Every year we receive a growing number of proposals, and we're always blown away by the amazing breadth of knowledge that our community brings to the table. Unfortunately, presentation spots are limited and the talk selection committee wasn't able to include your talk in our program this year.

We would still love it if you could join us in {city} on {date} though! We set aside a block of early bird tickets for anyone who took the time to submit a talk proposal. You can pick up your ticket with the following link:

{ticket_url}

During the review process, each member of the review committee considered each proposal carefully and then compared notes to make their final selections. We thought it might be useful to share a couple of the common themes for why talks may not have been included:

* The subject of the talk was too specific for a larger audience. One of the biggest strengths of the Write the Docs community is that we come from a huge variety of professional and personal backgrounds. The committee looks specifically for talks that appeal to a good mix of our attendees.
* The talk focused heavily on documentation tooling. We think these talks are important, but we tend to showcase higher-level concepts that progress the way we think in the documentation world.
* There were multiple talks on the same topic. We try to choose talks that cover a wide range of topics, which means making some hard choices between multiple great talks on similar topics.
* We just didn't have room. We receive many fantastic talks each year and have to pass up on some talks that we were really excited by.

Keep in mind that we do run several batches of lightning talks that you can sign up for at the event. Plus, we have an unconference space which is a great chance for more informal discussions. We'd love to have you, your ideas, and your passion at the conference--on stage or not, they're what make this event great!

Thanks again for your proposal, and we hope to see you at the conference!

The Write the Docs Team

Building a Schedule

There are an infinite number of ways to arrange a schedule. We’ve found it best to just randomly assign speakers to the schedule, taking into account their availability (some folks can only speak on certain days). After that, you can shuffle speakers who you know are good to the following slots:

  • Talk after lunch (should be high energy)
  • Last talk of the day (should be memorable)

After this, you send each speaker their time slot, and confirm it works for them. Give them a couple days to make changes, then we can publish the schedule.

Biases

  • New people
  • Community members
  • Previous lighting talk speakers