Winning at CFPS: How to stand out at tech conferences

Posted 3 months ago
Return to overview
Joran at JSNation Amsterdam 2023

If you've ever been to a tech conference, you know the thrill of being part of a gathering where ideas flow faster than the coffee. Whether you're a seasoned conference-goer or a first-timer, the journey from submitting a Call for Paper (CFP) to standing on stage is a rollercoaster of excitement, nerves, and hopefully, success.

So what's a CFP precisely?

Let's start with the basics: CFP stands for Call for Paper, a process where conferences invite potential speakers to submit proposals or ideas for talks. The CFP period is a battleground, and the early bird truly catches the worm.

Early birds

Submitting your topic ahead of the crowd might just score you a sweet spot on the conference agenda. Why? Because conferences love to hype up their events by announcing speakers and their intriguing topics in advance. If you're the first to submit a particular topic that interests the committee, chances are you will at least be considered, simply because of your excellent timing!

How to Stand Out

Now, imagine this: there's a conference, and they've received a mountain of CFPs, maybe even 500+. How do you ensure yours stands out? You can follow two paths.

You could go niche, but be cautious – too niche might be too risky. If you're in the web game, consider diving into accessibility, performance, or security – areas that are like hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Bonus points if you angle your talk to the conference's tech stack if applicable.

If you're not as comfortable or knowledgable about these niche topics, you may very well have a strong opinion about mainstream topics. In this case though, competition is much more fierce and you need to convey your topic in a clear way to the committee.

The Power of Reputation

Having a reputation in your field is like having a VIP pass. If you're recognised as an expert, you might even get an invitation to speak without breaking a sweat. Not everyone dares to step onto the stage, so if you do, you're already ahead of the pack.

Crafting the Perfect CFP

The title is your first impression – make it count. A clear yet creative title is your golden ticket to grabbing attention. The short description is your elevator pitch – concise, non-ambiguous, and a teaser of the knowledge bomb you're about to drop.

The longer description is your playground. If choices are tough, this is where you make the difference. Unsure? List your talk's index or slide titles to give a taste of your talk's journey to better inform the committee. If they're reading the description, they already have some interest.

Don't forget the extras – previous talks, social media profiles – they're like your CFP's credentials.

To Recycle or Not to Recycle?

We know how much time it takes to create a talk and we appreciate that practice makes perfect. It’s not a bad thing to submit a talk to multiple conferences. But when you do so, bear in mind that repeating the same topic for a similar audience, it devaluates your submission.

πŸ’‘ Pro tip: You can keep the core of a talk similar, but modify theming to better fit with the conference of choice it shows you're aware of your audience!

The Dark Side of Standing Out

Typos and readability matter. Even if English isn't your first language, clear communication builds trust. And please, resist the temptation to let AI write your description – it's like bringing a robot to a human party.

Remember, your online presence matters. Your views on social media can impact the conference's reputation, so tread carefully.

The Final Stretch

With these tips, you're armed and ready to conquer the CFP jungle. Just remember, popular conferences swim in CFPs, and rejection isn't a personal attack. If your talk doesn't make the cut, follow up for feedback – it's valuable feedback for your next CFP adventure.

Good luck out there!

Return to overview