Build your experience and profile by offering to speak at local meetups.
Building your profile can help organisers find you, however whether you are a new or an established speaker, actively finding events and applying to them is often part of the job. In this article I’ll share some tips for finding and applying to events and conferences.
A really great place to get started with public speaking is any local meetups and events that happen for your industry. These will often have a few slots available for people to speak, you’ll get the chance to be in front of an audience and also to contribute to a community-led meetup. Check Meetup for local groups from tech to business and everything else! It is also worth looking out for local interest groups on Facebook, as often they will post if they are looking for speakers.
If you are new to speaking these groups can be a great way to build up your profile, which will help when you apply to Call for Papers and are asked to provide details of past events you have spoken at.
Responding to Call for Papers
Many events find some or all of their speaking lineup through a Call for Papers, or Call for Proposals. Searching the web for the phrase “call for papers” along with industry specific keywords will usually turn a few up, or try searching Twitter with the hashtag #cfp. There are also sites and Twitter accounts which aggregate CfPs, such as the following suggestions:
- Mozilla Tech Speakers CfP Calendar
- Callback Women on Twitter
- PHP Call for Papers on Twitter
- List of DevOps Conferences
- CFP for Security Conferences
- Academic Conferences in Literature and the Humanities
- the cfplist
- WikiCFP for Science and Technology
- PaperCrowd - research and academic conferences
When responding to a Call for Papers your Notist profile can help you to provide everything the organiser needs to understand who you are and your speaking background. Once you have videos of previous events listed, your video page becomes a reference for your ability to present and entertain or inform an audience, being able to link to a page like this one is something I’ve wanted for a long time. You can also store your bio and photograph, either in order to end them a link, or to easily copy and paste that information into a form. If you are applying to many Call for Papers then having everything to hand on Notist will hopefully save you a lot of time when entering the same information repeatedly!
Your personal information is only part of the story however, it is there to back up the real star of your proposal, your talk idea. Some conferences even run a blind CfP process, at least initially, so that well known speakers don’t become unfairly prioritised just because of their name.
The following links can help you to craft a good proposal. They are biased towards my own industry - I’d be happy to add advice links for academic proposals or other industries - let @benotist know on Twitter if you have some additional links to add.
- How to write a successful conference proposal, Karolina Szczur
- A process for writing an abstract, Cate Huston
- How to write a compelling proposal, We Are All Awesome
I also wrote an article for Smashing Magazine for Global Diversity Call for Papers Day, which has additional links and information on writing proposals and public speakers, aimed at new speakers - Getting Started in Public Speaking.
Contacting conference organisers directly
If a conference doesn’t have a CfP then you could always contact them directly with an idea. If doing this, do your research first, a mass email sent to all events in your industry just looks like spam. If you have attended before, and enjoyed the event - let them know. Send a link to your Notist profile, but don’t forget to explain the talk you would like them to consider, and why it would be a great fit for their event. It is also work remembering that people invite speakers many months before an event takes place, contacting an organiser early is always a good idea. They might tell you to get in touch later to remind them, but emailing a few weeks before an event takes place is unlikely to get you the gig!
Don’t worry about rejections!
I’ve spoken at hundreds of conferences, and still get rejections from the CfP process. Perhaps the talk I’m proposing isn’t a great fit, or they want a new speaker to cover a similar topic to the one I propose. Ultimately events have a finite number of slots, and you won’t fit into all of them. If you have worked to put in a decent proposal then it is unlikely to be anything about you personally, it just wasn’t the gig for you this time. Keep working on your speaking skills, taking part in smaller events, and getting those applications in, and you will find the acceptances start to happen.