Insight into getting conference proposals accepted..

Recently in a conversation on Twitter the topic of what a successful conference proposal – one that gets accepted – looks like, came up. I thought I would expand upon the conversation and the “3 key takeaways” advice I gave, by providing the raw submissions I entered, in this case, to PHP Tek 12, as well as some lessons learned and additional commentary.

What it takes to get accepted.

  • Luck – Yes this is a huge factor, and in the case of PHP-Tek, they make a concerted effort to include a percentage of new presenters each year.
  • Exposure – You need to flush out your ideas at your local user groups and online. Build up not only your presentation skills, but hone what you present to your audience.
  • Relevance – Stay recent and don’t be afraid to cross (programming language) boundaries.

What my proposals looked like:

The format for PHP-Tek 2012 consisted of a web-based submission system which allowed you to enter proposals under the following inputs:

  • Title
  • Description
  • Notes (for the organizers)
  • Keywords
  • Talk Type (regular or Training)
  • Difficulty Level (Beginner, Intermediate, Expert)

Here (from the text file I used to gather my thoughts) are my submissions:

Moving in for the kill – how to position yourself for the job market, what to focus on, what to look out for.
desc: Moving in for the kill – how to position yourself for the job market, what to focus on, what to look out for. This will be a talk covering the current state of the job market (with a focus on PHP developers) and a walk-through of how to super-charge you job search, including some tips and tricks, and also what to watch out for. I will also focus on the social networking aspects and working with recruiters.

notes: Discussing some tips and tricks and things to look out for based on my experiences while looking for a job on the market.

keywords: job, recruiter, tips & tricks talk

type: Regular Talk (1hr)

difficulty level: Beginner

Graphing real-time performance with Graphite –
desc: Graphing real-time performance with Graphite – This presentation will take an existing open-source project (done in php) and cover how to integrate performance monitoring to identify areas that could be improved through code refactoring or database tweaks.

notes: Going to take a open source project and show how to integrate graphite to identify performance bottleneck

keywords: performance, graphs, integration

talk type: Regular (1hr) difficulty

level: Beginner

php://memory and streams for scaling
desc: php://memory and streams for scaling This presentation will be an overview of using php://memory to store data during application runtime. We will cover the benefits over traditional methods and also some drawbacks.

notes: Would like to play around with php://memory to show how it can be used to improve performance – just thought this was a neat feature that most folks wouldnt know about.

keywords: php, memory, performance, streams

talk type: Regular (1hr)

difficulty level: Intermediate

Devops: Silver bullet or pending disaster? – What to lookout for.
desc: Devops: Silver bullet or pending disaster? – What to lookout for. DevOps is all the rage in many circles but is this approach a silver bullet or a Titanic failure for your organization? We will cover some of the pros and cons of integrating cross-functional teams and how it can help your employees and your business grow – or fail miserably.

notes: Thought I would take my previous experience from the ops/support side and highlight things to consider when building out teams, how to integrate monitoring and performance, etc.

keywords: performance, monitoring, devops, support

talk type: Regular (1hr)

difficulty level: Beginner


You’ll notice that the details are very high-level. That is for two reasons (In my case):

  • You don’t want to overwhelm the organizers with too much information.
  • In some cases your presentations might be still be in the ‘idea’ stage.

Conference Jitters.

One of the lessons I came away with from this experience was:

  • Have material ready. You can *never* have enough.
  • Be prepared to show up and rework your entire presentation.
  • If you think your presentation is too ‘code’ heavy then have high-level slides ready.
  • If you find yourself coming up with time left over, have code ready.
  • Engage your audience with every slide. Ask questions, take questions.

Feedback and Postmortem.

For me the most inspiring aspect was being “on the other side” of the conference. I’ve always been an attendee and this was my first time presenting. Be prepared to take (critical) feedback and be humbled by it all. Also: Remember, In most cases you are there on the dime of the organizers and the attendees. They came there to see you and others like you. Make sure you are accessible not only to the feedback you give during your presentations, but during the conference as well.

So how do you get accepted?

The best advice I can give is to practice, practice, practice. Get out and present at local user groups, do a screen-cast or online presentation, expand upon an idea. Attend other presentations not only for ideas but for hints on what works and what doesn’t.  Contribute to an open-source project. Blog. Tweet. These are the in-roads to being successful in the (php) community and at conferences.