Welcome to the voxgig newsletter for event speakers June 29th, 2018.

Welcome to the voxgig newsletter for event speakers June 29th, 2018.

If you speak at conferences, chances are you’ve had a proposal rejected (See below summary of reasons why). Rejection stings, whatever game you’re in. Author and screenwriter Ray Bradbury is reputed to have advised writers to paper a wall in their house with their rejection letters.

You don’t have to be that dramatic, but it’s good to turn a negative into a positive. Let’s take the pain (and inevitability) of rejection and look at it as a way to learn and improve.

If the conference organizer gives reasons for rejecting your proposal—great! He or she is handing you free advice on how to up your game.  Make careful note of the reasons and use them to finesse your next proposal.  If no reasons are given, take the bull by the horns: contact the organizer and ask for the reasons (politely, of course). 

There’s also the common sense stuff. Submit only to conferences where the theme is a good fit with your expertise. You need to explicitly point this out in your proposal. (The person assessing the proposals may have several to get through; making his or her job easier by being crystal clear will score you points.)

Once you’ve gained some experience on the speaking circuit, there’s also the issue of reputation to consider. Are you polite and easy to deal with? Do you turn up on time and deliver the goods as promised? A reliable reputation can be worth a lot more than you might think.

Lastly, some comfort: it’s a numbers game. The more proposals you submit, the better you get at it, and soon, you’ll be able to  wallpaper a room in your house with your acceptances instead.


Common Reasons why Speaker Proposals are rejected

Not enough context

“Example proposal:

Are you curious about training fruit trees to grow along a lattice? Not sure how to winterize your espaliered tree once it’s been shaped? Are you worried about decreased fruit production as a result of shaping? Come to my talk!

The speaker definitely names our concerns, but has given us no idea about how they will be addressed. Will the speaker just rehash known solutions? Will they propose novel solutions? Will they cover things with sufficient depth? We couldn’t tell from an abstract like this. This proposal would have been accepted had the speaker given a few clues about how these questions would be answered.”

Sarah Gray

Proposal not adapted to intended audience

"The audience participation section feels like something that would work great in a small meetup group or a tutorial session at a larger conference, but probably won't go quite as well in a 400-person single-track event."

Alaina Kafkes

The boringly-titled talk proposal

“We have a policy at !!Con that talk titles have to include at least one exclamation point. However, an exclamation point isn’t sufficient to make a title exciting. Consider the following four titles:

The first three were accepted

  • “Bending the Laws of Physics! Or, How Wi-Fi Keeps Getting Faster.”

  • “Preserving Digital Art and Games for 100 Years!”

  • “What alien invaders, birds, and computer simulations have in common: flocking!!”

  • “Introduction to Data Analytics with Apache Spark!”

Lindsey Kuper


Niche audience topics

“Your topic is too niche or the wrong topic for the conference is usually the issue here. If you are doing something that is a bit esoteric then you need to have a good pitch for it. Also, submitting a topic that is not in the spirit of the conference will be declined.”

Niall Merrigan

Your talk has not been road-tested'

“If you have not given the talk before, larger conferences may not be willing to take the gamble. So having a run through of the talk beforehand, or saying it has been presented at a local user group will inspire some confidence. It also benefits y our user group!”

Niall Merrigan

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Voxgig Podcast

Coming Soon... 
I am delighted to announce that  voxgig is starting a podcast series! The title of the series is 'Fireside with voxgig'. In each podcast, I'll be interviewing leading experts from the events industry.  The aim is to deliver high quality insights, valuable public speaking tips and enjoyable personal success stories, all in a relaxed, informal and chatty style. Keep an eye out here for the first podcast in the series, coming soon. 


Speaker Profile

Learning from rejection with Robert DeNiro
Robert DeNiro

Robert DeNiro is no stranger to rejection. In this video, he speaks about the perspective gained through rejection and how it can open up new ideas. “A new door is opening to you. A door to a lifetime of rejection. It’s inevitable. It’s what graduates call the real world.” In the true DeNiro spirit, he delivers his speech with humour and realism. Note: there is some colorful language...because DeNiro.


Learn from the Best

What I learned from 100 days of rejection

Jia Jiang

While we may not like having our proposals rejected, we can use the rejections to channel our positivity and desensitize ourselves  so that rejection does not define us.

This very valuable lesson is delivered here with a fantastic sense of humor.


Tell me...

What is your biggest challenge as an event speaker?

This newsletter is for you. I want it to resonate with you.

So go ahead, hit reply, and tell me what you want to read about. Or email me at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig.

I’ll address the most pressing issues in each edition.


Book of the Week

Propose, Prepare, Present: How to become a successful, effective, and popular speaker at industry conferences
Alistair Croll

As an event organiser of a wide range of conferences, including O’Reilly’s Strata, Velocity, Web2Expo, and TOC Conferences, Alistair Croll is well positioned to share his know-how and help us reduce the number of rejections we get.


Blog Post

Rejection and revision: on improving conference proposals

Alaina Kafkes

“Despite the flaws of the CFP process, I have developed strategies to turn the rejections I receive into better proposals. I'll share the steps I took to turn my most recent rejections into revisions in the hopes that it will assuage the discouragement of speaker-hopefuls (like you!) and provide them with actions that they can take to improve their talk proposals.”

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Three Conferences

DroidJam 2018

Are you into Android development? You might want to check out India’s premier Android conference next month in Bangalore. This single-track event ensures you don’t miss a single talk or speaker. If you’ve not been to India, this is a good opportunity to see some sights after the conference.


DevRelCon Tokyo

Tokyo is calling your name developer relations professionals! DevRelCon is the only Developer Relations conference in Japan bringing together over 200 professionals for one day of talks covering topics related to developer relations, developer experience and developer marketing. Plus you’re in Tokyo, so it’s a no brainer, right?


Nebraska JavaScript Conference 2018

Nine amazing speakers, lunch and snacks, an informal networking event, and an after party. This is what awaits you at the Nebraska JavaScript Conference alongside your JS peers. Not sure what to do in Nebraska when it’s all done? Jump over to the conference website to get some ideas.

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CFP Calendar

These are the CFP deadline dates and submission pages.


Speaker Training

Do you speak at conferences? Want to learn how to give the very best talks? Or are you just starting out and want to overcome the fear of speaking on stage?
We are running speaker training workshops in Dublin, Ireland and London, England over the coming months.
To find out more follow the links below.

Giving great talks with Russ Miles

Dublin, Ireland - Tuesday July 17, 2018 | More Details

Public speaking with Debbie Forster

London, UK - Thursday October 18, 2018 | More Details

Giving great talks with Russ Miles

London, UK - Thursday November 8, 2018 | More Details


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A favour...

Can I ask you for a favour? 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 at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig. Thank you so much for reading!

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