Proposal Guidelines

The topic doesn’t matter (much)

It’s important to understand that the topic itself almost never makes a difference. It doesn’t matter how important or interesting the topic is. What matters are the talk that will discuss it, and the speaker who will be doing the talking.

Do: clearly describe the topic, and say a few words about why you think it’s important - but briefly.

Don’t: provide a lot of unnecessary detail about the topic, or feel that you need to justify the topic itself.

What if you’re not an expert?

Perhaps you’re not a world-class expert on the subject. Perhaps you haven’t written a book about it, and perhaps you’re not internationally known as the creator of a famous software library or project. That’s fine! Most people are also not one of these either, so it really doesn’t matter.

There is also no guarantee that experts will give insightful or interesting talks, so just being an expert is not enough anyway. Sometimes, the most illuminating, interesting and valuable sessions are that because they are not by experts.

Do: briefly mention your level of expertise.

Don’t: feel you need to hide or excuse it if you consider yourself a beginner.

Your perspective matters

The unique thing about your proposal is… you. Whatever the topic, you will have encountered it from the particular perspective of your own unique needs, abilities and resources. That encounter, and what you have been able to take away from it, is what will interest us. Anybody can tell us about such-and-such a library or tool; only you can tell us about it from your perspective.

Do: highlight your experiences and situation.

Don’t: try to offer an objective, perspective-free account.

Dare to be different

We want to hear something new - especially if it’s about a familiar and well-known subject. Generic overviews, however expertly presented, will not stand out - but an unusual focus, approach or emphasis will.

Do: take a chance and propose something different from the expected, or that you plan to present in a different way, or from a different angle.

Don’t: play it safe, trying to come up with something generic enough to have a little interest for everyone.


Identify the really important things in your proposal, and focus on them as tightly as you can. Ignore the rest. That helps us see what the proposal is really about.

Do: be specific, focused and clear; exclude everything that isn’t essential.

Don’t: allow your focus to wander, or fill your proposal with distracting, unnecessary background information.