The metsitaba newsletter for tech speakers, 1 Feb 2018

The metsitaba newsletter for tech speakers, 1 Feb 2018

Conference planning should be done a year in advance. That’s your life as a speaker. You’re going to be traveling so you need to know when and where, and how it’s going to impact your personal life. You will get the occasional late-breaking invitation, or have to step in to fill a gap, but then leaving spare capacity for those occurrences is also good planning.

I’ve ended up doing my conference planning in the first quarter of each year. I plan for the next five quarters. Right now I’m planning for the period April 2018 to June 2019 inclusive. This gives me enough lead time for most conferences, and means I start the year with a good schedule - a good way to reduce stress.

You’ll need a spreadsheet to keep track of the state of all your speaking proposals, invitations, travel arrangements, expenses, and last but not least, your talk title and topics. I’ll go into more depth on the planning spreadsheet and share mine with you in a few weeks—I talk a good planning game, but my planning sheet is a disgraceful mess at the moment and needs a little polishing before I share it.

In the meantime, I will talk about managing your speaking documents. There are more of these than you think. Let’s review the full life-cycle of a talk. First, you have to find the conference. You might make a few notes on the conference and possible talks. Then you decided to submit a proposal. Do you send it a pre-prepared talk proposal, or do you write up a new one? Many conferences have custom forms for proposals, so you’ll have to fill those out. But don’t just hit submit! It’s very important to store what you actually did enter for your proposal, so you need a document to record each individual submission.

Let’s say you get accepted. Wonderful! Now you need to save any specific documentation from the conference organizer. Things like travel and schedule arrangements. You also need to prepare a slide deck, or decide to use an existing one, and modify it slightly. Maybe you have a code demo that goes with the deck.

The organizer will ask you to submit a photo of yourself and a short biographical description (a “bio”). They’ll also want your talk title and abstract. These files all need to be stored somewhere. You’ll probably want to update or modify them, perhaps not for every conference, but certainly a few times a year.

After you give the talk and come home, you have follow-up paperwork. Expense and trip claims for your employer and maybe even for the conference (aren’t you lucky!). There’ll be details of all the people you met, business cards to scan, and notes to keep.

If you’re going to speak at several conferences and meetups over the course of a year, then all of this will get quickly out of hand. Many people just store it all in their email account and engage in frantic searching when they need things. That’s efficient /sarcasm. It’s easy to start drowning or at least lose lots of precious time sorting out documents.

So create a folder structure in advance for all your conference documents. Sounds like common sense, and you’d think most people would do it, but I've asked around, and most people just wing it. That’s a recipe for stress.

Here’s my approach – stir and flavor to suit your needs.

I have a top level Conferences folder in Dropbox. Inside that, I have a folder for each calendar year. I use calendar years as they are natural time units, even though my planning spans 15 months. In practice, this is not a problem as time is linear and the documents can only go in one folder!

Each year folder contains:

  • Talk Details: these are nicely formatted originals and PDFs that I can send to organizers on spec or use to circumvent tedious proposal forms. Writing them also helps you put together your talk title, abstract, and other details. I use these documents to indicate my speaking preferences (no hand-held microphones please!). I’ll discuss one of these documents in a future edition.
  • Proposals: this folder contains a folder for each conference I’ve sent a proposal to. I save the data I inputted into the form, and keep other relevant notes.
  • Meetups: contains a folder for each meetup I’m going to speak at, or have spoken at. Inside each meetup folder is a copy of the specific slide deck on the night (people often ask for this). I also use this folder for expense claim documents and other event-specific paperwork.
  • Conferences: pretty much the same content as the meetups folder, just for conferences.
  • Decks: a folder for each talk that I’m giving this cycle. These are work folders where I put all the original images and other source content. The decks in here are templates that I copy into each event folder.
  • People: each folder here is the name of a person I met at an event. It is by no means well-maintained, but there’s reasonable chance I’ll make a note of important meetings. Your work might require the use of a CRM instead. That works too, but I find personal notes can be useful as well.

The exact folder setup is not so important. What is vital is to get organized if you are planning to do a lot of speaking in the year ahead. There’s a surprising amount of paperwork ahead of you.


Thursday, March 15th 2018

This newsletter (and our company) will be supporting and hosting a World Speech Day event in Ireland on March 15th. This is a global event taking place in over 80 countries worldwide on the same day and celebrates the art of public speaking by hosting and supporting the voices of new speakers and young people all over the world.

Volunteers Needed!
If you'd like to participate, we're looking for volunteers to help make this community event happen. We need people to help with preparation, as well as participate on the night of the 15th. Everybody is welcome.

Can I ask you for a favor? If you enjoy this newsletter, and if you find it useful, please consider recommending it to a friend who is learning to give technical talks, or who aspires to do so. I meet so many cool programmers who have brilliant things to share with the world—that’s you!

Please help me to improve this newsletter - I'd love to hear your suggestions! You can email me directly: You can tweet too: @metsitaba. Thank you so much for reading!

A special thanks and shout out to TammyCora, and David for helping to make this newsletter even better!


Speaker Profile



Learn from the best


"The Law of the Land" [V]
"The Bull" McCabe
Richard Harris

"It's my field. It's my child.I nursed it. I nourished it. I dug the rocks out of it with my bare hands and I made a living thing of it."

And you thought Albus Dumbledore was a nice old man...

The character McCabe is a horrible person, and yet he becomes our protagonist. The rhetorical power of story telling to get an audience on your side is almost magical. If you're giving a talk that has no personal stories, you're just not giving a good talk.


Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management
Mark Forster

Knowing that you have to plan your conference attendance and speaking proposals is very different from actually doing something about it. Spreadsheet-based planning is very susceptible to severe procrastination. This book will help. 

How To Prepare and Write a Tech Conference Talk
Lena Reinhard

“A few weeks ago, @Charlotteis asked on Twitter about resources for preparing/giving conference talks. Their tweet reminded me that I had meant to write down my process for a very long time. So here it is.”

Three Conferences

Startup Grind Global Conference

The excitement of Startup Grind comes together in one global conference in Silicon Valley! This year promised to be the biggest Startup Grind event yet, with 5,000 founders and investors, more than 40 keynotes and fireside chats, and over 50 startup exhibitors. Great content, innovative people and many opportunities to network and collaborate ... what more can the modern entrepreneur ask for? 


Lesbians Who Tech Summit

San Francisco’s Castro Theater will be the backdrop for the Lesbians Who Tech and Allies Summit, bringing together over 5,000 lesbians, queer women, and allies across all areas of technology. You may not know that Lesbians Who Tech have 30,000 global member and 35 chapters worldwide. Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook will be among other noteworthy speakers supporting this event.



After a successful inaugural event in 2017, RebelCon is back and expanding! Join over 300 attendees for a two-day event kicking off with a full schedule of workshops, followed by a day of talks. Learn about the latest technology, cultural and development practices in the software industry from national and international speakers with a wealth of experience. Be sure to stay a day or two to explore the beautiful Southeast Irish city of Cork while you’re there!

CFP Calendar

These are the CFP deadline dates and submission pages.